From Decoys to Duck Leases
Waterfowl Hunting is Big Business in Louisiana
by Trey Iles, LDWF Public Information
Waterfowl hunting in Louisiana is an enjoyable pastime that tens of thousands of state citizens and non-residents take part in each year. But it is also an important business on which many people rely.
Waterfowl hunters spend money that, according to estimates, results in more than $4 million in state tax revenue annually.
And that doesn’t include federal taxes that circulate back into Louisiana from the Pittman-Robertson Act. Also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, Pittman-Robertson generates revenue from excise taxes from firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, which are apportioned to state wildlife agencies for their wildlife conservation efforts and hunter education programs.
Nationally, waterfowl hunters spend about $958 per season, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of that, about $546 is for trip-related expenses such as food and lodging. They spend about $320 on average for hunting equipment such as firearms and ammunition and $68 for auxiliary equipment such as camping equipment.
Louisiana has about 54,000 waterfowl hunters, which equates to about 35 percent of hunters in the state. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates about 46,900 are considered active hunters. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries license sales and annual surveys of harvest activity suggest there are likely more than that.
The state’s reputation for waterfowl hunting is nationally known. Louisiana is one of the nation’s top duck hunting spots. For the 2017-18 year, waterfowl hunters in Louisiana harvested 23.1 birds on average for the season. That is second nationally to only California, which has a longer season and a larger bag limit. Louisiana waterfowl hunting is the envy of most states along the Mississippi Flyway.
About 3,200 non-resident waterfowl hunters come to the state each year and another 1,000 former Louisiana residents make their way back to bag ducks and geese. The 3,200 number is about 80 percent of the non-resident hunting licenses the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries sells each year.
Consider, too, the amount of state land leased to waterfowl hunters. According to statistics from the LSU AgCenter, a total of 1,505 waterfowl leases encompassing more than 1.9 million acres were available in 2016-17. The value of those leases was $55.2 million.
Though the primary aim of state waterfowl hunters is to bag ducks and geese, it certainly isn’t the only ambition they share. Many are very concerned about conservation of this precious resource and take up membership in organizations like Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited, which are non-profit groups that work to conserve wetlands and upland habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife.
One thing that is required of all waterfowl hunters 16 and older is a federal duck stamp, which costs $25. The duck stamp program was created in 1934 and has raised more than $1 billion to conserve and protect more than 6 million acres of prime waterfowl habitat throughout the nation. The stamp must be purchased by waterfowl hunters. But waterfowl hunters aren’t the only ones buying the stamp as more than 20 percent of the purchasers aren’t hunters, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In addition, LDWF has provided funding to support conservation of breeding grounds habitat for migratory waterfowl through a state statute that allocates 10 percent of fees collected from hunting license sales. The funding began in 1965 and in the last eight years, an average of about $320,000 annually has been used to support breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl, primarily in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada, where a large portion of the ducks harvested by Louisiana hunters are raised.
Another revenue producer aiding state waterfowl habitat comes from the Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp, a program authorized by the Louisiana Legislature in 1988. It was created to bring in money for conservation and enhancement of waterfowl populations and habitats in Louisiana. Since 1989, more than $14 million has been generated with approximately $6 million spent on land acquisition alone.
The stamp is an optional buy for hunters and can be purchased by the general public.