Dry conditions still hampering hunters
LITTLE ROCK – It’s another verse to the same sad song for Arkansas waterfowl hunters: Dry conditions are causing difficult hunting conditions across The Natural State.
While hunters with access to water have reported fair to excellent hunting in some areas, the vast majority of the state’s traditional waterfowl hunting areas remain much drier than usual. Likewise, water levels on many of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife management areas remain well below target levels.
According to the National Weather Service, much of southern and eastern Arkansas, including the traditional waterfowl wintering areas of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, remain under severe to extreme drought. Precipitation deficits are greater than 16 inches in Pine Bluff, Texarkana and El Dorado. Although some parts of eastern and southern Arkansas experienced above-average precipitation during November - leading to better moisture levels in the soil, more groundwater and better stream flows - the benefits of the November rains were reversed by below-average precipitation through the first two weeks of December, with totals of less than a quarter of an inch common in many parts of the state.
Looking ahead, the weather service forecasts better chances of rainfall in late winter (January and February), as a La Nina event strengthens. Of course, that may be too late to make a lot of difference for duck hunting this season.
However, a little drought relief could be on the way later this week, with weather service forecasters calling for rain or a mix of rain and frozen precipitation Friday night into Saturday morning. But because the front will move swiftly across the state, rainfall totals aren’t expected to be large.
AGFC observers took to the skies earlier this month for December aerial waterfowl surveys. Preliminary figures indicate an estimate of about 1.8 million total ducks in the Delta region, including about 1.2 million mallards.
“These surveys took place during a week when there was some extremely cold air in place, so I think we got a snapshot of a pretty significant influx of birds during this survey period,” said AGFC waterfowl program coordinator Luke Naylor. “Since temperatures have moderated since the survey, it’s likely some of those birds have moved out of the state since that time.”
Surveys in the Arkansas River Valley counted an estimated 28,000 ducks, mostly mallards, while surveys in southwest Arkansas estimated about 21,000 ducks, including roughly 2,400 mallards and 9,000 gadwalls, with the balance comprised of an even mix of green-winged teal and northern shovelers.
To assist waterfowl hunters with the latest information, he AGFC provides links to sources on waterfowl location and abundance in Arkansas and other states. The links are available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingWaterfowlReport.aspx#1.
This waterfowl report provides capsule information from agency staff in all corners of Arkansas and is updated each Wednesday throughout waterfowl season. To receive the report each week on your computer, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and type "Waterfowl Report" in the subject line.