Outdoor Corner: Ups and Downs

Lyle Johnson

I am 68 years old and have spent a fair amount of my time trying to figure things out about the outdoors. I’m sure some of the people who read this and enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities have done the same thing.

I don’t recall seeing as many deer pictures on social media as I have this year. Without any research, I’d dare to say that this is one of the best hunting years I’ve ever seen. But a friend had a conversation with me about the lack of deer they are seeing on their lease. His story is “Man, this is the worse I’ve ever seen it.” I’ve had similar discussions with other folks as well, so what’s the deal?

Local anglers David Cavell and Corey Wheat with their five-bass limit fishing False River in the Fishers of Men South Louisiana Tournament Trail last Saturday.

The forces of nature play a big role also. Hurricanes deal devastating consequences to our freshwater fisheries. Last year’s fish kills after Ida were without a doubt the worst, with record numbers. It’s probably going to be about a year and a half before “keeper” sized bass will be caught in any numbers to talk about.

It’s usually the opposite in the saltwater arena. The La. 1 corridor down to the coast had a lack of fishermen after the storm for quite a while. At first the roads couldn’t be traveled. Even if you could, everything was nearly destroyed, so there was no place to launch, no place to stay and nothing to eat.  

Chris Dufour caught this nice bluegill fishing lake Larto in central Louisiana spider rigging with live minnows.

Most of the fishing guides were either repairing their places or helping out friends and family fixing their stuff. Some even took off a little time and did repair work full time, making a living that way. It gave the fish a break, and now those getting out are catching pretty good.

Hunters and fishermen have always been the world’s worst for trying to “figure it out.” “Why don’t we catch fish or take game like we used to?” I know habitat figures into some of the hunting issues, as it’s disappearing in some places, and fishing pressure can figure into catch ratios. Limits on length of fish, numbers of animals, whether male or female, all sorts of things figure into the conservation part of the equation.

On the hunting side of things as of late is the less-than-stellar duck hunting seasons we’ve had for the past few years in parts of our state. Many theories have been debated as to the cause of this, such as how much water we have in the northern nesting grounds -- surely that must be the problem. How about predators eating all the eggs? There’s no more trapping of furbearing animals because fur is not the thing to be wearing anymore. More predators; fewer eggs!

Mild winters sometimes have taken their share of the blame also. If the lakes, ponds and rivers don’t freeze over, the ducks have a place to rest. Hey, then there’s the group that’s been accused of “short-stopping the ducks.” Theories abounded about how crops have been planted to keep the ducks from flying farther south. Keep ‘em fat and full, and they’ll just stay put.

Then there’s the fish. Saltwater, freshwater, it doesn’t matter; we always seem to try and figure out why it’s not it used to be. Many more people fish these days than ever before, so I’m sure that’s a factor. Just like hunting, habitat changes affect fishing patterns also.

Just the other day I was involved in a conversation about the Atchafalaya Basin and how the fishing was. We talked about a lot of things, but one topic was the grass. “What happened to all the grass?,” was one of the questions I was asked. I remember times when there was so much grass that you couldn’t hardly get a boat through some of the places, the grass was so thick. What’s up with that?

The worst possible thing we can do is overreact. Our first reaction is usually, “Man, what can we do?” We think we can fix it, but what happens when we didn’t do anything to cause it? Usually that is a sure-fire recipe for a bad decision and lots of unintended consequences that are usually worse that the original event.

So, just what is the deal? How can we fix all this stuff? We surely spend a lot of time fretting over what we can do to change it. I think a lot of the reasons are simply that life is experienced in cycles. That’s right; ups and downs. Life is full of them.

If we take time to look even at our personal lives, we experience times of plenty and times of lack. Sometimes our relationships are as full as they can be, other times there is strife. Sometimes life in general is just great and other times it’s not so good. Because of the past two years of very unexpected issues and the reactions, I really don’t know how to classify it.

Now certainly there are things that we can adjust to correct our responsibilities that may have things out of whack. We can adjust the numbers that we are allowed to harvest; times we can and can’t catch fish or take game along with many other things. Sometimes we may just have to wait until it comes back around.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says it best, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” So, until next time, keep out the slack and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m., third Monday each month in the meeting room upstairs at Cabela’s. Supper will be served. 
  • Krewe of Diversion St Jude Boat Parade: Noon Saturday leaving bridge over Diversion travelling to Manny’s on the Amite River. Grand Marshal Rep. Clay Schexnayder. Contact David (225 939-2135) or Vivian Stevens (225 324-5659) for details.
  • South Louisiana Highpower Club Match: Feb. 27: 7:30 a.m., squadding; 8 a.m. on the range, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Email Rick Mol:
  • Ducks Unlimited Banquet: 5 to 9 p.m. March 5 at Cabela’s. Firearm frenzy raffle for 50 guns. Purchase tickets at, any purchase gets you ticket entry includes food, beer, wine and a DU membership.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at