Now, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s weekly waterfowl report is out, and it’s not the kind of thing you want to read on the eve of waterfowl season. Yep, it’s dry, dry, dry out there, and duck numbers are low.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission waterfowl biologist Luke Naylor said last year’s record flooding provided extensive habitat across much of the state, including private land and wildlife management areas.
“The same rainfall and natural runoff that provided ample hunting opportunity last season has been notably absent this year,” Naylor said. “As a result, wetland water conditions and duck numbers have taken a noticeable downturn.”
The vast majority of the state’s WMAs are almost entirely dependent on natural flooding to provide waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunity. Both will be in short supply for the 2010 duck season opener.
“The same is true on many private lands managed for waterfowl, with even some areas traditionally artificially flooded at this time remaining dry,” Naylor said.
Ugh. Tell us something we don’t know.
On a scouting trip through the farmlands of east Arkansas last week, we saw not one single duck. Rivers like the Cache and White remain low. Conventional wisdom suggests that if you’re hunting on property flooded by landowners (which hasn’t been easy for some this year), you might be in the catbird seat, as it might be the one of the few significant bodies of water around to attract ducks.
But the Game & Fish report seems to indiciate that even that might not be enough. It suggests that habitat conditions “on a landscape scale” are neccessary to bring in large numbers of birds, and as a state, Arkansas is just too dry to make it happen.
“Last year, Arkansas provided a landscape with abundant waterfowl habitat, and duck numbers were very high as a result. The opposite appears to be occurring so far this year.”
There’s always hope that more rain later in the season will improve conditions. This season’s dates are Nov. 20-28, Dec. 7-Jan. 17 and Jan. 22-30.
So the question: Who’s going out on opening weekend, and who’s going to wait out the early weeks, watch football and hope for more ducks in December?