Arkansas will experience the coldest air of the season on Jan. 13, causing most shallow waterways to freeze and forcing ducks to find alternate habitats with open water.
Large reservoirs and flowing waters, including rivers such as the Arkansas, White and Mississippi, may provide some of the only available hunting opportunities over the next couple of days, and finding any available open water will be crucial to hunting success.
Water levels on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas have risen in some areas, but many green tree reservoirs still remain well below target water levels.
AGFC observers flew aerial waterfowl surveys last week as part of the annual Mississippi Flyway
mid-winter waterfowl survey, but technical difficulties have prevented waterfowl managers from compiling population estimates in time for this week's waterfowl report.
"We hope to have the issues resolved and have some numbers to release next week," said AGFC waterfowl program coordinator Luke Naylor.
DU Biologist's breakdown
Craig Hilburn, regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited in Arkansas
has heard great things from Arkansas hunters this season and expects much of the same after the shallow water thaws. "The current situation has been like much of the year – those with water have been doing fairly well with ducks this season. Recent rainfall over the past month or so has helped the situation, with more options for ducks. Hunters need to realize that these birds have been hunted since September, and as such are masters of avoiding too much pressure."
Hilburn explains that the recent snowfall in southeast Arkansas won't do much to move ducks out of the state, given the snow will melt quickly. The bitter cold weather in the coming days will freeze shallow water areas, moving ducks to larger bodies of water – such as large reservoirs and rivers.
"Those willing to challenge the bitter cold might try the lower White or Arkansas River. Be sure to have personal flotation for all parties and be extremely cautious when navigating any waterway," stresses Hilburn. "There are unnecessary and tragic accidents every year due to poor planning and improper gear."