March 9, 2012-- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Waterfowl Section, in partnership with LSU’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, has begun a survey of resident waterfowl hunters which asks for input on waterfowl hunting zones, zone boundaries, and season dates for future waterfowl hunting seasons.
“We are mailing surveys to 6,400 randomly selected waterfowl hunters -- 1,600 in each of four major regions of the state -- to gather information on their satisfaction with last year’s hunting and with the zones and splits we have been using for many years, as well as preferences for proposed changes in those zone boundaries,” said Larry Reynolds, LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader. “The survey also asks about hunters’ preferred timing of the regular waterfowl season and the Youth waterfowl hunting days, along with questions about Catahoula Lake.”
The same survey is also offered on LDWF’s website at www.wlf.louisiana.gov  and all interested waterfowl hunters can provide input. “We know that results from Internet-based surveys can be biased because participants tend to be the more dedicated and active hunters,” Reynolds said. “However, in our 2010 Waterfowl Hunter Survey, we received similar responses to most attitude and preference questions from both surveys.”
The department is encouraging all waterfowl hunters, especially those who receive a survey in the mail, to participate in the survey and convey their preferences to better inform decisions on waterfowl harvest regulations.
States have the opportunity to change waterfowl hunting zones and splits every five years, which was scheduled for 2011. However, additional zones/splits options from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were approved very late in last year’s regulatory cycle, and not all states could take advantage of them. For that reason, the opportunity to make changes was extended to this year, and selected zones/splits will be in effect for the 2012-2015 waterfowl hunting seasons.
Season dates can be changed every year; only zones/splits selections are set for five years. Specifically, the new options include four zones with straight seasons (no split) and three zones with split seasons. Until this year, states had to choose between three zones with straight seasons, two zones with split seasons, or a statewide season (no zones) with two splits (three season segments).
For 31 years, Louisiana has used two zones (East and West) with split seasons, but the department is considering a change to three zones with split seasons to potentially provide additional hunting opportunity and regulatory flexibility. Maps of the proposed new waterfowl hunting zones, explanation of the proposed boundary changes, and a short Power Point presentation with the considerations for selecting zones, splits, and season dates can be found at: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/migratory-and-waterfowl  .
In addition, a short presentation will be made and public comment collected on zones/splits and the Waterfowl Hunter survey at six public meetings scheduled around the state over the next two weeks. Those dates and sites are:
- March 13 at 6 p.m., Alexandria Convention Hall located at 915 Third St.
- March 13 at 6:30 p.m., LDWF Office in Minden located at 9961 Hwy. 80.
- March 14 at 6:30 p.m., Yambilee Festival Bldg., 1939 W. Landry, Opelousas
- March 15 at 6 p.m., Bastrop Visitor Center, 124 N. Washington St.
- March 15 at 6:30 p.m., LSU Ag Center, 7101 Gulf Hwy., Lake Charles.
- March 21 at 6 p.m., St. John Parish Council Chambers, 1801 W. Airline Hwy., Laplace
For more information please contact Larry Reynolds at Lreynolds@wlf.la.gov  or 225-765-0456.