LITTLE ROCK – For the second year in a row, Arkansas duck hunters will find relatively dry conditions when they go afield for Saturday’s season opener. Although precipitation is slightly above average for the year, most of the state’s public duck hunting areas remain fairly dry.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists have been flying the season’s first aerial waterfowl surveys this week, but numbers aren’t yet available. Still, anecdotal reports from around the state show that some ducks have made their way into The Natural State ahead of opening day.
Several cold fronts over the past few weeks likely pushed ducks into Arkansas from more northern latitudes, and a cold front predicted to pass through the state Friday could provide another push of ducks just in time for opening weekend.
Continental duck populations remain at historic highs, with last summer’s breeding population count down about six percent from last year’s record population estimate but still far above long-term averages. In fact, this past summer’s count was the second-highest estimate behind only last year’s record population estimate. Observers reported more than 10 million mallards among the total, the fifth-highest mallard count on record since surveys began in 1955.
But dry conditions could limit hunting opportunity in the early stages of the season, especially on public lands, including AGFC wildlife management areas and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wildlife refuges. Private land hunters with artificially flooded habitat likely will have some success during the first segment of the season.
Preliminary reports from the AGFC’s aerial survey team show about 25,000 ducks, about half of which are mallards, on Lake Ashbaugh waterfowl rest area at Dave Donaldson Black River WMA, and another 4,000 ducks of various species at Wrape Plantation and Halowell Reservoir rest areas at Bayou Meto WMA.
This year’s duck season runs from Saturday through Dec. 1, Dec. 5-23 and Dec. 26-Jan. 26.
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.
Information on river levels can be found at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lmrfc/ or http://water.usgs.gov/realtime.html
Sunrise/sunset tables are available at: http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/rs-one-day-us and in the Arkansas Waterfowl Regulations Guide.