OK folks, clean out your freezers

With a push to top last year’s record collection, Hunters for the Hungry is launching its 2020 effort next Sunday, Sept. 20, with the annual Clean Out Your Freezer Day.

Beginning in 1994 with the leadership of Richard Campbell and a handful of Baton Rouge area outdoorsmen, H4H has become a statewide network of volunteers working to supply wholesome protein to local food banks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

“Thanks to all of the sportsmen who shared and donated to Clean Out Your Freezer Day 2019, we set a record by collecting more than 30,000 pounds of protein throughout the state. This provided 120,000 meals to the needy,” H4H executive director Julie Grunewald said.

The Baton Rouge area collection locations — you can find all collection spots, dates and times at cleanoutyourfreezer.com — will remain near the same with most collecting donations of frozen game and fish between 1-4 p.m. next Sunday.

The idea behind this special collection is to allow sportsmen to “clean out their freezers” before the hunting season, and H4H asks that any donation be “properly packaged, labeled and dated game, fish, or other protein.”

Donations in the Baton Rouge area to to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank for distribution in a 12-parish area.

Grunewald said more drop-off locations have been added this year, and the area list has swelled to include Acadiana, Covington, New Orleans, Slidell, Alexandria, Monroe, Natchitoches, Minden, Ruston and Shreveport.

For more, email Grunewald at julie@h4hla.org.

Teal count

Aerial surveys Tuesday and Wednesday led to a count of some 202,000 bluewing teal in the southwestern parishes, about 16,000 in the southeast marshes and 18,000 on Catahoula Lake, state Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds said Friday, the day before the opening of the 16-day special teal season.

There were few greenwing teal in the count — fewer than 1,000 birds — and an estimate of 18,000 mottled ducks in the southwest and 13,000 in the southeast survey areas. Also noted was a count of nearly 1,000 pintails in the southeast.

Reynolds said the estimate of 236,000 bluewings is nearly double last year’s count, is four times more than paltry 59,000 in the 2018 survey, and is “slightly higher than the long-term average of 227,000.”

The southwest bluewing count is nearly 50% higher than the average of the 10 seasons.

The downside came later: “Marsh habitats in this (southwest) region were greatly impacted by (Hurricane) Laura with high water, blocked drainages from extensive debris, and vegetation damage from storm surge and salinity. We saw virtually no bluewing teal and very few waterfowl of any species in the marsh along established transects.

“However, flocks of bluewings were seen in a number of rice fields including those southwest of Gueydan, south of Jennings, and the largest concentration just north of the transect line (thus not included in our estimate) west of Crowley,” Reynolds wrote.

But, there was a positive, a “noticeable absence of invasive aquatics in the marsh described in past reports south of White Lake, west of Hwy 27, north of Rockefeller Refuge, and in the intermediate marsh north of Grand Chenier. Wind, storm surge, and flooding with saltwater appear to have nearly greatly reduced water hyacinth and giant salvinia in those areas to the point that we saw virtually none from the air.”

The largest bluewing concentrations in the southwest were seen in marshes east of Venice, and Reynolds noted habitat across these marshes “appeared only slightly impacted by the storm with about average submerged aquatic vegetation cover in most areas. Habitat near the mouth of the Mississippi River looks improved over last year with notable submerged aquatic vegetation, larger stands of delta duck potato, and expanses of southern wild rice despite some evidence of mild vegetation damage from elevated water levels and salinity.”

The Catahoula Lake count is more than three times higher than 2019’s, and the mottled duck survey showed more than twice the numbers (15,000) seen in 2019.

Caution!

Late Friday afternoon, Wildlife and Fisheries warned hunters about traveling to Cameron Parish for the 16-day teal season. Parish officials have in place a parishwide 8 p.m.-7 a.m. daily curfew.

That advisory came with a warning about hurricane-strewn debris and other hazardous materials in waterways across this coastal parish, and that, if needed, emergency services are limited and there are no up-and-running hospitals.

Oops!

The map on last Sunday’s Advocate Outdoors details the new five-year two-zone framework beginning for the 2021-2022 waterfowl season. This season is the last year for the three-zone setup.

For our wetlands

News from D.C. last week is the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission — Interior secretary David Bernhardt chairs this body — will send $1 million to Louisiana for the 3,950-acre Chenier Plain Marsh Enhancement project.

It’s part of the $130 million in wetland conservation projects from the 2020 North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants earmarked for waterfowl “and other birds” habitat restoration and enhancement.

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