Mother Nature wasn’t kind to Arkansas duck hunters this season. With all the hype built up this past Spring and Summer regarding the huge hatch and the hopes of a massive fall flight, things didn’t work out for a consistent, quality Arkansas duck season. Too much rain early and a ridiculously mild winter thus far won’t incent ducks to make a push this far south by the end of January.
I am sitting at my desk typing this post in a short sleeve polo shirt. The temps in Stuttgart the past two days have touched 70. Didn’t realize Arkansas’ weather would mimic Florida in January. Last night, we turned our heat off at my house. Not down. OFF. Can’t remember the last time that happened.
The little cold snap Arkansas received last week didn’t do much to push ducks our direction as the cold didn’t last long. Same thing happens tonight where Arkansas gets to more normal this time of year temps for a couple of days then back to mid 60s by the weekend. If there is any good news, its singles digits in the Dakotas today. The big, bitter cold hard freeze never came and won’t based on the forecasts out to the end of duck season. This time last year nearly the entire state was frozen solid and had been for a week.
The mild Winter we are experiencing is happening on the breeding grounds as well which spells trouble for this Spring’s hatch. Without big snowfalls where runoff provides habitat for the breeding pairs, a dry year could put a halt to the run of successful hatches we have experienced.
Our Neighbors to the North
The Missouri Department of Conservation released their latest habitat survey and as of January 13 reporting over 656,000 ducks still in the state. Yes, that is a record for this late in the year. The five year average for the first week of January is 242,000. The current population eclipses Missouri’s previous record high by around 152,000. Want to know why you aren’t seeing any ducks…there you go.
The weather in Missouri is almost as mild as here and nobody in the northern half of the state can hunt them given their season is closed. So ducks can loaf and eat basically without anyone disturbing them. No incentive to migrate whatsoever.
Prior to the cold snap last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission flew their aerial survey and noted half as many ducks in the state compared to their early December survey. With the White River falling out, ducks have high tailed it out of the bottoms or scattered out too much. There is some spotty success within the state but not much in the way of consistency or widespread positive results. Pockets of hunters doing well here and there. But a discouraging, tough season for most hunters.
Hopefully some ducks ride this latest cold front into the state. Surely there are some of the whimpy mallards still north of us that don’t like the cold and are ready to move on. Or maybe Missouri is almost out of food. Or maybe their biological clock goes off and just tells them its time to move a little more South.
Ever the optimist.