Site Menu
News

Jan. 8, 2020

Jim Harris

Spring-like conditions, static habitat affecting duck hunting

LITTLE ROCK – Spring has sprung early in Arkansas as far as the waterfowl season goes. While the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's waterfowl biologists are flying for the annual Midwinter Aerial Survey this week, they have related to Luke Naylor, the AGFC's waterfowl program coordinator, a noticeable increase in pintails and shovelers in their observations.
That, Naylor said, is indicative of ducks beginning their move back north to spring breeding grounds. "Spring is here," he said.

Waterfowl in Arkansas have been in a holding pattern for more than a month, he said, as habitat conditions have had little change. There has been little major rainfall over the past month and typical midday temperatures have been in the 50s to as high as the upper 60s in much of the state, as seen last Sunday. There have been no hard freezes. "That's the thing about duck hunting in Arkansas, it's still the best, but every year is just different," Naylor said.
He figures that Arkansans are still harvesting ducks, and he expects that at the end of the season the state will still have harvested more mallards than anywhere else. "People still are having success duck hunting here," he said. "People who are limiting pressure and have decent habitat coverage on their property are probably doing as well as they usually do."
Naylor was hoping that the forecast of a major front this weekend with up to 4 to 6 inches of rainfall might change the landscape and bring more mallards into Arkansas, or spread them out with increased habitat, which is what is typically seen after a significant rainfall. However, the forecast also shows that after a brief temperature tumble around Saturday, the warming trend seen over the past few weeks will return. Ducks don't have to travel far for food, can avoid hunting pressure in the current habitat situation and aren't stressed and needing to fuel up as much anyway, he said.
A scan of the surrounding states, their duck numbers and their current habitat conditions also tell Naylor, "There aren't any ducks waiting to come from the north."
The Midwinter Aerial Survey and estimates of ducks and geese on the Arkansas horizon will be available next week. The biologists will fly another survey count in two weeks.
"Usually we see our highest percentage of mallards in the state during hte Midwinter survey period," Naylor said. "I'm not sure that will be the case this time. Everything in terms of habitat has been static for quite some time.
"Most people would tell you they like to hunt waterfowl when the water is rising and the habitat is changing. That gets the ducks moving around a lot. We haven't had that."
The last survey, conducted in the middle of December, revealed that most ducks were found in the 
eastern to northeastern part of the state, but the estimate was slightly less than 900,000 total ducks. More than half of the mallards counted in the Delta, nearly 450,000, were in the Cache, Black-Upper White and Little River survey zones and, like in November, many of these ducks were in the northern portions of these zones. Mallard hot spots were limited to portions of southern Jackson and western Craighead counties along with Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Big Lake Wildlife Management Area, according to the mid-December report.
The last survey taken did not include the southwest portion of the state. Biologists were planning to include that region in this week's flights. There have been no significant changes in the water in that region in some time. Eley Talley, biologist in the region, said southwest Arkansas needed a 3- to 4-inch rain event, like the one forecast for this weekend. How it affects the waterfowl there, though, remains to be seen.
"Hunter reports here seem to be mixed with 1 out of 3 hunts offering decent shooting," Talley said.
Habitat conditions on the central Delta are reminiscent of the last survey period, Naylor noted.
Jacob Bokker, a biologist out of Brinkley, said, "With 60 to 70 degree temperatures and White River falling, no new push of ducks have been observed."

* * *
Arkansas's regular waterfowl season will run through Jan. 31. Shooting times are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset (shooting times are available for Little Rock in the AGFC's Waterfowl Guidebook; subtract 1 minute for every 9 miles eastward, add 1 minute for every 9 miles westward). The daily duck bag limit is 6, which may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 3 scaup, 3 wood ducks, 1 pintail (a change from last year's limit of 2), 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks (a change from last year's limit of 1), 2 black ducks and 1 mottled duck. Coot daily bag limit is 15. Merganser daily bag limit is 5, of which only 2 may be hooded mergansers. Daily bag limit for snow, blue and Ross's geese is 20; daily limit for white-fronted geese is 3 and for Canada geese the limit is 2.

*  *  *

Check out the current habitat conditions for the AGFC's managed areas for waterfowl (all conditions were reported as of Jan. 6; real-time water levels are available through the USGS for George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA, follow the water gauge link listed for the WMA):

bar
bar

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.

North Woods GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: Bo Dock guage currently reads 237.4 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 236.5 feet msl; target level is 234.5 feet with 100% flooded.

Simmons Field
Habitat: Good production of millet and sedge. Native vegetation is very good in north unit middle fields with 5 acres of millet planted in the north field. The south field was strip planted in Japanese millet leaving strips of wild millet and sedge that did extremely well. On Nov. 22, one-third of the north field and one-third of the middle field were stripped-rolled with a cleated roller.
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. River level is 8.11 feet and falling as of Monday, Jan. 6.

Upper Island GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 270.15 feet msl. Target level is 269.5, 100% flooded.

Lower Island GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 268.85 feet msl. Target level is 268.0. 100% flooded.

Upper Reyno GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 267.55 feet msl. Target level is 266.9. 100% flooded.

Lower Reyno GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 266.85 feet msl. Target level is 266.3 feet msl. 100% flooded.

Winchester GTR
Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 264.05 feet msl. Target level is 263.7. 100% flooded.


Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report
Boaters should use caution while using the Thompson Tract boat run. 

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

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: Mast production is good.
Water Level: Water level is 240.4 feet msl with a target level of 240.0 msl. 100% flooded.

Rainey Brake GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Eagle Pond GTR
Habitat: Mast production is good.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

Phase III Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 45% flooded.

Charles Crisp Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Good wetland-type vegetation.
Water Level: 95% 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 good 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 reading from the Oak Donnick gauge. Current level is 213.25 feet msl. 

Snowden WRA
Habitat: Mixed grasses.
Water Level: 15% flooded, mostly in the low-lying areas due to rain.

Payneway WRA
Habitat: A, B, C D pools have mixed smartweed and barnyard grasses. Mowing was completed for waterfowl use in pools B and C. Moderate mast is available within pools A, B and C as well.
Water Level: Pool A is at 5% coverage. Pool B is at 5%. Pool C is at 20%. Pool D is at 40%.
bar

bar

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 193.42 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 193.42 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: 50% coverage (currently, the Cache River level is 9.5 feet on the Patterson Gauge).

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

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

Apple Lake WRA
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 75%

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 palnts.
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 the Georgetown gauge is at 15.37 feet and falling as of Jan. 6.

Unit A
Habitat: Excellent stand of 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 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: 90%

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

Unit I
Habitat: Habitat conditions are poor.
Water Level: 90%

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

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

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

bar

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: Moderate mast crop.
Water Level: 100% flooded.

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


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: 85% coverage.

Red Cut Slough Tract
Unit 1
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 55%

Unit 2
Habitat: Excellent stand of millet and native vegatation.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 100%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 
Water Level: 100%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good stand of native vegetation. 
Water Level: 50%

Unit 6
Habitat: Good stand native vegetation. 
Water Level: 50%


Harris Brake WMA

Map | Weather Report

Harris Brake Upper Unit
Habitat: Good hard mast production within the GTR.
Water Level: 100%

Harris Brake Lower Unit
Habitat: Good hard mast production within the GTR.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Holland Bottoms WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Good mast crop.
Water Level: 35%

Lake Pickthorne WRA
Habitat: Excellent.
Water Level: East cell is 100% coverage. West cell is 90%.

bar

Northwest Arkansas

Dardanelle WMA

Map | Weather Report

McKennon Bottoms (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Heavy stand of perennial vegetation due for disking next spring.
Water Level: 100%

Potter's Pothole Hartman Waterfowl Unit (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Some planted millet, good stand of native millet, sprangletop, panic grasses.
Water Level: 100%


Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA

Map | Weather Report

All waterfowl impoundments on Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA remain at full pool. Duck use and hunter success on the WMA has been poor to moderate.

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

Willow Island (Unit 2)
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

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

Pig Trough (Units 4 and 5)
Habitat: Native vegetation and Japanese and Chiwappa millet.
Water Level: 100%

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

Unit 7a
Habitat: Japanese millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

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

Duck Trap (Units 8a, 8b and 8c)
8a
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

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

8c
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 9
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

Controversy Corner (Unit 10)
Habitat: Native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Remmel Marsh
Habitat: Planted Japanese millet, native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobby's Pond (Unit 16)
Habitat: Japanese millet.
Water Level: 100%

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


Frog Bayou WMA (half-day hunting)

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Sprangletop, wild millet, smartweed and nutsedge
Water Level: 100%

Unit 2
Habitat: Good stand of barnyard grass and nutsedge.
Water Level: 50%

Unit 3
Habitat: Smartweed, toothcup, nutsedge, barnyard grass, sprangle top and duck potato.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 4
Habitat: Barnyard grass, sprangletop, annual smartweed, nutsedge and crabgrass.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 5
Habitat: Sprangletop, wild millet, smartweed, knotgrass, nutsedge and duck potato..
Water Level: 100%

Unit 6
Habitat: Barnyard grass, smartweed, crabgrass and sprangletop.
Water Level: 100%

Unit 7
Habitat: Lower end of unit planted with millet, upper end with barnyard grass, sprangle top and smartweed.
Water Level: 100%
bar


Galla Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

Galla Creek GTR
Habitat: Moderate stand of native vegetation, including a mixture of barnyard grass and sprangletop. Duck use and hunter success on the WMA has been low to moderate.
Water Level: 100%, staged flooding of the impoundment began on Nov. 12 and the waterfowl impoundment is now at full pool.


Nimrod Lloyd Millwood WMA

Map | Weather Report

Nimrod GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year with a mix of moderate to good stands of desirable native vegetation throughout the open lands.
Water Level: 100% flooded.


Ozark Lake WMA/Dyer Lake Water Unit

Weather Report

Dyer Lake Cells (half-day hunting)
Habitat: Fair stand of  nutsedge, toothcup, smartweed and sprangletop. Unit 3 was impacted by summer flooding and is in need of disturbance, which is scheduled for next year.
Water Level: Units 1 and 2, 100%. Units 3 (rainfall dependent) 100%.


Petit Jean River WMA

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Sorehead Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: This unit contains a mix of moderate to good stands of desirable native vegetation throughout..
Water Level: 100%

Blacklands Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: This area contains a mix of poor to great stands of desirable native vegetation throughout. The wooded areas inside the unit produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 100%

Slaty Crossing Moist-Soil Unit
Habitat: Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, this unit has only small stands of native vegetation. The majority of this unit is bare ground.
Water Level: 90%

Blacklands Duck Area
Habitat: The wooded sections of this area produced a great mast crop this year. This area also contains a mix of moderate to great stands of desirable native vegetation mixed throughout.
Water Level: 100%

Pullen Pond Marsh
Habitat: Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, parts of the southern and western sections of this area are bare ground. The western section of this area has spotted sections of great desirable native vegetation. The northern section of the area only produced poor stands of native vegetation.
Water Level: 100%

Pond Creek GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year with great stands of desirable mative vegetation in the open lands within this area,
Water Level: 0%

Slaty GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 10%

Santa Fe GTR
Habitat: This area produced a great mast crop this year.
Water Level: 100%

 

bar

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: 55%

GTR
Habitat: Good mast production.
Water Level: 75%.

Little Grassy
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 60%


Millwood Lake

Map | Water Gauge | Weather Report

Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: 259.46 feet msl.


Ozan WMA

Map | Weather Report

Unit 1
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 2
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 3
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 4
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%

Unit 5
Habitat: Good
Water Level: 0%


Sulphur River WMA

Map | Weather Report

Mercer Bayou
Habitat: Fair
Water Level: Low, no boat access.

Henry Moore WRA
Habitat: Closed to hunting.
Water Level: 30%

bar

Southeast Arkansas

Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA

Map | Weather Report
Habitat: The WMA has a good hard mast production.
Water Level: The only water on the WMA currently is in the sloughs and in the oxbow lakes.


Cut-Off Creek WMA

Map | Weather Report

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

Pigeon Creek WRA
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: Fully 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 | Water Gauge | Weather Report

The UGSG is now reporting real-time water gauge readings at the headwater at each GTR within the George H. Dunklin Bayou Meto WMA. Click the Water Gauge link above for the WMA, and search for the particular GTR as noted. As of Jan. 6, all gauges in all GTRs were at full pool.

Upper Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Upper Vallier Headwater)

Lower Vallier GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Lower Vallier Headwater)

Government Cypress GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Government Cypress Headwater)

Buckingham Flats GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: Pumping complete. See Gauge Link (Buckingham Flats Headwater).

Temple Island GTR
Habitat: Good
Water Level: Pumping complete. See Gauge Link (Temple Island Headwater).

Canon Brake
Habitat: Good
Water Level: See Gauge Link (Canon Brake Headwater).

Halowell WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units, 75% flooded.

Wrape Plantation WRA
Habitat: Excellent
Water Level: Staggered flooding of units.


Seven Devils WMA

Map | Weather Report

Hunt Area
Habitat: Habitat conditions are good.
Water Level: Fully 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.