Rainfall comes just in time for Saturday’s season opener
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas duck hunters have been looking forward to the season ever since wildlife officials announced this summer that breeding duck populations were at record levels. After this week’s substantial rainfall, there’s even more reason to be excited.
With dry conditions persisting across much of the state in recent months, this week’s rainfall came just in time for Saturday’s opener, setting the stage for the state’s 14th consecutive 60-day season with a 6-duck daily bag limit.
“We certainly needed the rain,” said Luke Naylor, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission waterfowl program coordinator. “This should really improve habitat conditions across many parts of the state.”
Much like the past several years, this year’s season will be split into three segments: Saturday-Nov. 27, Dec. 8-23 and Dec. 26-Jan. 29, 2012. Reports from the U.S. and Canadian breeding grounds point to the potential for an impressive fall flight this fall and winter. Observers estimated this summer’s total breeding duck population at 45.6 million birds, an 11 percent increase over last year’s count and 35 percent above the long-term average. It was the highest population estimate since the annual survey began in 1955.
But high duck counts on the breeding grounds don’t necessarily translate to ducks in Arkansas. Numerous factors, including weather and habitat conditions throughout the Central and Mississippi flyways, affect duck abundance in The Natural State.
Arkansas received much needed rainfall earlier this week, with some areas experiencing as much as four to five inches of rain. The rainfall should improve habitat conditions on many of the state’s wildlife management areas, which largely are dependent on rainfall for flooding. The rain also figures to bolster habitat conditions on private lands managed for waterfowl. The rainfall is being followed by cooler air, which traditionally brings more ducks into the state.
Several wildlife management areas in northeastern Arkansas received too much rain in a short period of time, forcing the AGFC to manipulate water-control structures at several WMAs. The measures are necessary to prevent damage or failure of infrastructure such as levees and water-control structures. The good news for duck hunters is that affected areas still should be at or near full pool for Saturday’s opener.
Rains didn’t fall as heavily in other parts of eastern Arkansas, and other popular waterfowl areas such as Dagmar WMA and Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA will need more rain to reach full pool. Bayou Meto WMA in southeastern Arkansas received much less rain and also will need more rainfall to fully flood impoundments.
AGFC observers are flying the state’s first aerial waterfowl survey of the season this week. Initial reports indicate a dramatic increase in waterfowl habitat as a result of this week’s rainfall. More detailed aerial survey information, including estimated duck abundance, will be available next week.
While this waterfowl report seeks to provide information that is as timely as possible, hunters should keep in mind there’s often a lag of two or three days between the time field reports are received and this report is published. Thus, actual water levels and percentage of flooded habitat may differ from what’s reported here. The AGFC encourages hunters to check stream gauges (links are provided at the end of this report) and physically scout potential hunting areas to determine actual field conditions.
To assist waterfowl hunters with the latest information, the 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.