Hunters lucky enough to flip on a pump to flood fields and green timber should be excited about Arkansas’ upcoming opening weekend. Recent scouting efforts on the Grand Prairie in Lonoke, Prairie and Arkansas counties show a good contingent of early season waterfowl in and around farms holding water. The cold front a couple of weeks ago pushed a fair amount of mallards, gadwalls and pintails into the state with more migrating in daily.
Bad news is the obvious lack of natural water in places like Bayou Meto and the important Cache, White and Black Rivers. The White, which has a flood stage of 26 feet at Clarendon, is currently sitting at 11.3 feet. The Black River at Corning is under one foot with a flood stage of 15. The 2010-2011 duck season may be a complete non-event for folks relying on these waterways for their hunting holes.
Once the shooting starts, the ducks bunched up on the existing water will scatter but where are they going to go? Louisiana’s duck season starts this weekend and when the guns go blazing tomorrow morning, Arkansas should see an influx of ducks coming back north. The question is how far north will they go. Water conditions for waterfowl in Missouri are better than Arkansas and the trend of ducks stopping short of Arkansas will increase due to the water situation.
Long range weather forecasts call for a significant artic blast headed our way around Thanksgiving that will place some early winter weather on the state’s north of Arkansas. Hunters have to hope we get some rainfall between now and then to hold whatever ducks get pushed our way. Lots of rainfall.
So goes duck hunting. The rains last Christmas pushed water as high as I have ever seen it in 28 years of hunting at Geridge, Arkansas. Water was cresting on top of Highway 165 with coots swimming on the shoulder of the road. Fast forward to this fall and there are reservoirs and ditches that are dry enough to walk through in tennis shoes. I am sure we all wonder what an Arkansas duck season would be like with perfect conditions because it never, ever happens.
The 2010-2011 season is going to be a grind with more complaining than shooting if the water levels don’t improve. Many hunters aren’t even thinking ducks as its a foregone conclusion they won’t have enough water to hunt before Christmas, at the earliest.
The inability to control mother nature’s efforts is frustrating and challenging to a duck hunter. Always has been, always will be. Arkansas waterfowlers will have to hang in there, be resourceful and just see what happens.
As the saying goes, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it”. This season isn’t going to be easy.
NOTE: If you have a scouting report from your area, please let us know. Wet or dry, good or bad.