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Jan. 16, 2019

Jim Harris

Duck Numbers Align With Long-Term Average, But Mallard Counts Are Down

LITTLE ROCK  Last week's annual midwinter waterfowl survey by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists resulted in an estimate of 1 million total ducks in the Delta, a figure on par with recent years. However,  mallard numbers were noticeably down for this period. 
The aerial survey was conducted Jan. 7-9 in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (the Delta), the Arkansas River Valley and in southwest Arkansas. About half of the 1 million total ducks estimated in the Delta were mallards. The Delta's total number was above the 2009-2018 long-term midwinter average, but the mallard estimate was only about 64 percent of the long-term average. Mallards typically account for 71 percent of all ducks during the midwinter survey but in this most recent count were only 53 percent of all ducks in the Delta.
"Ducks were spread widely across the Delta, presumably in response to widespread habitat made available by a relatively wet fall and early winter," said Luke Naylor, the AGFC's waterfowl program director. The highest mallard concentration in the survey was found in the Lower St. Francis. "That is not typically a hot spot," he said. "More typical mallard strongholds accounted for a large portion of the remaining mallards." Naylor said those zones include the Bayou Meto-Lower Arkansas, Black-Upper White and Lower White rivers.
Observers in the Delta again estimated high numbers of arctic-nesting geese (as was noted in this space last week before the survey), including over 1 million light (lesser snow and Ross's) geese and nearly 270,000 greater white-fronted geese. 
Duck population estimates in the Arkansas River Valley were about average for total ducks but low for mallards, with an estimated 39,620 ducks (18,237 mallards). Cruise surveys in southwest Arkansas indicated low mallards numbers
observers counted 30,973 total ducks but just 3,507 mallards. The River Valley duck total numbers took a big jump from December (75 percent over the December count), but mallards only increased by 3,000 ducks. Both estimates were lower than average midwinter counts since formal surveys began in 2013, Naylor said. As in December, roughly half the mallards observed in the Arkansas River Valley were seen in the Point Remove-Plumerville survey zone, with fair numbers in the West Dardanelle Reservoir survey zone. However, Naylor noted, the highest concentration of ducks in the Point Remove-Plumerville zone was in the waterfowl rest area (not in huntable areas) at Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA.
"Habitat conditions were good for ducks during this survey period," Naylor said. "Key rivers such as the Black, Cache, St. Francis and White were flooded out of their banks in some locations, creating widespread habitat." Along with those flooded rivers, Naylor said, additional habitat was created by water pooling in flooded agricultural fields, and observers noted many ducks in these areas.
"Ducks appeared to be responding to hunting pressure by concentrating in habitat that appeared not to be hunted," he said. "In contrast, duck use seemingly declined some in managed public waterfowl rest areas, in all likelihood because ducks found refuge in an abundance of unmanaged habitats. Comments from hunters continue to suggest lackluster hunting success this season, surely impacted by relatively high habitat availability and weather conditions not conducive to duck movement and persistent hunting success in a single location. Ducks have lots of options, little need to move and quickly respond to hunting pressure by finding alternative habitats."
Observers in the survey were J.J. Abernathy, Jason Carbaugh, Jason Jackson, Cameron Tatom and Alex Zachary.
Arkansas's third split of the 60-day waterfowl season continues through Sunday, Jan. 27. The second of two youth waterfowl hunt days is Saturday, Feb. 2

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Northeast Arkansas

Big Lake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
When the Ditch 81 extension gauge near Manila (upstream of the Big Lake north-end control structure) reads 17.5 feet, water is beginning to come over the north levee degrade on Big Lake WMA. When the Ditch 81 Extension gauge reads 18.0 feet or higher, the water level on the WMA will rise quickly and hunters should exercise caution while on the area. Be aware of underwater logs in boat runs and hangers in trees.

Big Lake NWR is holding a low number of ducks for this time of year.

North Woods GTR
Habitat: Mast production is fair.
Water Level: Bo Dock gauge currently reads 237.5 feet msl. Target level is 235.5 feet with 100% flooded.

South Woods GTR
Habitat: Mast production is fair.
Water Level: The 7-Mile gauge is currently at 236.2 feet msl. Target level is 234.5 feet with 100% flooded.

Simmons Field
Habitat: A good amount of millet, smartweed and sedge is present. Seed production is very good in north unit, middle field was planted in Chawapa millet coverage is fair, south field was stripped in Chawapa millet fair with strips of smartweed that did extremely well.
Water Level: 100% coverage.


Dave Donaldson Black River WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. Please remember to keep boats off the levees so AGFC personnel can access the area. Boats blocking access will be moved. Unattended trailers are not to be left overnight on parking areas.

Upper Island GTR
Habitat: Below-average abundance of mast crop within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 270.38 feet msl. Target level is 269.5 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Lower Island GTR
Habitat: Below-average abundance of mast crop within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 269.65 feet msl. Target level is 268.0 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Upper Reyno GTR
Habitat: Below-average abundance of mast crop within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 268.05 feet msl. Target level is 266.9 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Lower Reyno GTR
Habitat: Below-average abundance of mast crop within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 267.45 feet msl. Target level is 266.3 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Winchester GTR
Habitat: Below-average abundance of mast crop within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 264.85 feet msl. Target level is 263.7 feet msl. 100% flooded.


Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Boaters should use caution while using the Thompson Tract boat run. A few ducks and geese are moving through the area.

South Oliver GTR
Habitat: Mast production has been good.
Water Level: 100% flooded with a current gauge reading of 1.9 feet.

Thompson Tract GTR
Habitat: Mast production has been good.
Water Level: 100% flooded with a current gauge reading of 1.6 feet.

Lake Hogue WRA
Habitat: Primarily deep open water habitat.
Water Level: Normal pool level.


Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. In addition, hunters should allow safe passage when parking vehicles along roadsides. Vehicles blocking access will be moved.

Adam Brake GTR
Habitat: Good abundance of mast crop within the GTR.
Water Level: Water level is 240.0 feet msl with a target level of 240.0 msl. 100% flooded.

Rainey Brake GTR
Habitat: Good abundance of mast crop within the GTR.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Eagle Pond GTR
Habitat: Good abundance of mast crop within the GTR.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Phase III Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Charles Crisp Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Ward Field Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

River Field Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Mast production is average within the hunt area.
Water Level: Water levels on St. Francis Sunken Lands for waterfowl season are dependent on flows from St. Francis River. The target level for providing huntable timber is 212.0 feet msl read from the Oak Donnick gauge. As of Jan. 14, levels were 214.05 feet msl. New numbers of geese are in the area but very few ducks.

Snowden WRA
Habitat: There was a small green-up response of wetland plants after the growing season burns throughout the unit.
Water Level: 10% flooded, mostly in the low-lying areas due to rain.

Payneway WRA
Habitat: Pool D has 14 acres of buckwheat providing good bugging areas when water becomes available. A,B,C pools have sunflowers left standing with some smartweed response underneath. Barrows have been mowed for open-water use.
Water Level: Pool A is at 10%. Pool B is at 15% coverage. Pool C is at 15%. Pool D is at 50%.
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East-Central Arkansas

Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

North GTR
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: The current Glaise Creek reading is 194.16 feet msl.
Note: All structures on the North GTR are closed.

South GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop.
Water Level: The current Glaise Creek reading is 194.16 feet msl.
Note: All structures on the South GTR are open.


Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

Main WMA
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 75-80% coverage. (Currently the Cache River is at 8.56 feet on the Patterson Gauge and is projected to rise to 9 feet bgy Jan. 17.)

Wyeville Unit
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 95% coverage.


Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
The Conway George units are available by applying for online permits. Please visit www.agfc.com for maps, special regulations, permit application and draw dates. Hunters should call the Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 for current road closures.

Note: The Cache River at Brasfield has crested and is currently 23.05 feet; the Cache River at Cotton Plant is currently 14.35 feet; the White River at Clarendon is currently 26.12 feet.

Mud Slough GTR
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 50% coverage.

Apple Lake WRA
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 100%.

Conway George Waterfowl Unit A
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Conway George Waterfowl Unit B
Habitat: Natural slough area with beneficial wetland plants.
Water Level: 100%

Conway George Waterfowl Unit C
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%


Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

NOTE: The White River at Georgetown is currently 19.11 feet and is forecast to rise to 19.5 feet by Friday, Jan. 18; 19 feet will inundate the western section of Jones Island Road and it will be impassable.

Unit A
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100% coverage.

Unit B
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit C
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit D (Youth Area)
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit E
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit F
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit G
Habitat: Fair stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit H (Mobility-impaired blind)
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit I
Habitat: Habitat conditions are poor.
Water Level: 100%

Unit J (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit K (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Excellent stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 80%

Unit L (Cypert Tract)
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 15%

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Central Arkansas

Bell Slough WMA

Map | Weather Report
The Bell Slough GTR is primarily rainfall dependent with the exception of a limited amount of water that the AGFC can back in and catch from Palarm Creek.

Bell Slough GTR
Habitat: Poor mast crop.
Water Level: 100%.

Palarm Creek WRA
Habitat: Millet was planted as a cover crop this year following disking within the moist-soil units.
Water Level: 100%


Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir

Map | Weather Report
Habitat and water levels are normal on both Pierce and Dix creeks.


Cypress Bayou WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 55% coverage.

Red Cut Slough Tract
Unit 1
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 75%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 90%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 90%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 75%

Unit 6
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation.
Water Level: 75%


Harris Brake WMA

Map | Weather Report

Harris Brake Upper Unit
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Harris Brake Lower Unit
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%


Holland Bottoms WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 65% coverage.

Lake Pickthorne WRA
Habitat: Excellent.
Water Level: East cell is 100% coverage. West cell is 100%.

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Northwest Arkansas

Dardanelle WMA

Map | Weather Report

McKennon Bottoms (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Good stand of native moist-soil vegetation.
Water Level: 100%.

Potter's Pothole Hartman Waterfowl Unit (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet.
Water Level: 100%


Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA

Map | Weather Report
All waterfowl impoundments on Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA are at full pool at this time. Duck use on the area has been low and hunter success has been poor.

Little Hole (Unit 1)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Willow Island (Unit 2)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Red Gate (Unit 3)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Pig Trough (Units 4 and 5)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Cedar Ridge (Unit 6)
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7a
Habitat: Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7b
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Duck Trap (Units 8a, 8b and 8c)
8a
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

8b
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

8c
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 9
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa Millet.
Water Level: 100%

Controversy Corner (Unit 10)
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Remmel Marsh
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Mud Pond (Unit 12)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Turkey Pond (Units 13a, 13b and 13c)
13a
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

13b
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

13c
Habitat: Natural vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

Teeny Pond (Unit 14)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Salt Lick (Unit 15)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Bobby's Pond (Unit 16)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Race Track (Unit 17)
Habitat: Natural vegetation.
Water Level: 100%


Frog Bayou WMA (half-day hunting)

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Sprangle top crabgrass, wild millet and smartweed.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Poor moist-soil response due to August flood.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 3
Habitat: Smartweed, toothcup, wild millet and sprangle top.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 4
Habitat: Wild millet, sprangle top, smartweed, nut sedge and crabgrass.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 5
Habitat: Sprangle top, wild millet and smartweed.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 6
Habitat: Wild millet, smartweed and crabgrass.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7
Habitat: Smartweed, wild millet and sprangle top.
Water Level: 100%
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Galla Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

Galla Creek GTR
Habitat: Excellent stand of natural vegetation, including a mixture of barnyard and smartweed.
Water Level: 100%, staged flooding of the impoundment began on Nov. 15. Duck use and hunter success on the WMA have been generally poor.


Nimrod Lloyd Millwood WMA

Map | Weather Report

Nimrod GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%.


Ozark Lake WMA/Dyer Lake Water Unit

Weather Report

Dyer Lake Cells (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Soy been stubble and native vegetation.
Water Level: Units 1 and 2, 100%. Units 3 and 4 are rainfall dependent.


Petit Jean River WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Santa Fe GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Olin Cain/Sore Head Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Black Lands Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Slaty Crossing Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Fair stand of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Pullen Pond
Habitat: Half of area has a fair stand of native vegetation, other half of area has 100 acres of Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%.

Pond Creek GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%.

Slaty Pond GTR
Habitat: Fair mast crop mixed in with native vegetation.
Water Level: 50%

Black Lands Duck Area
Habitat: Millet mixed in with good native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

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Southwest Arkansas

Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc WMA

Map | Weather Report

Bois d'Arc Lake WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: Normal

Red Slough WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: 60%

GTR
Habitat: Good mast production.
Water Level: 100%.

Little Grassy
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 100%


Millwood Lake

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 260.13 feet msl.


Ozan WMA

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 70%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 90%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 90%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 80%


Sulphur River WMA

Map | Weather Report

Mercer Bayou
Habitat: Fair
Water Level: 201.5 feet msl (full pool is 199.0 feet msl).

Henry Moore WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: 95%

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Southeast Arkansas

Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA

Map | Weather Report
Habitat: The WMA has a good hard mast production.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Cut-Off Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 100% flooded, high creek levels.

Pigeon Creek WRA
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA Deer Research Area

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Habitat conditions are good. Flooding is river dependent. Click on the Water Gauge link above for current Mississippi River levels. Use extreme caution when boating in river.


George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto WMA

Map | Weather Report

Upper Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 180.1 feet msl, full pool at 180 feet msl.

Lower Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 179.7 feet msl, full pool at 179 feet msl. Use extreme caution around water control structures.

Government Cypress GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 179.7 feet msl, full pool at 179 feet msl.

Buckingham Flats GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Temple Island GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 100% flooded, access road flooded.

Canon Brake
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 100% flooded. Use extreme caution around water-control structures.

Halowell WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units. 100% flooded, good duck usage on all units.

Wrape Plantation WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units,100% flooded, good duck usage.


Seven Devils WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 100% flooded, high creek levels.


Trusten Holder WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Habitat conditions are good. Flooding is river dependent. Click on the Water Gauge link above for current Arkansas River levels.