By Wade Bourne
Prospects for duck hunting at Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee are improving, thanks to a new influx of birds and a forecast for a strong cold front pushing through by the first of next week.
Reelfoot guides Billy Blakely (www.bluebankresort.com) and Ben Parker (www.parkersoutfitting.com) confirm that a flight of new ducks – mostly mallards – hit the lake on Dec. 5.
"We've had a few ducks on the refuge, but yesterday we had a lot more come in from the west (from the direction of the Mississippi River)," Blakely reports. "I had seven hunters in my blind behind Katy's Gourd. We came out with 37 ducks. They worked real well."
Parker offers similar comments. He guides in the Walnut Gap area of Reelfoot. On Dec. 5 his party of six hunters bagged 12 ducks – mostly mallards – in a half-day of hunting. "We had a weak cold front blow through the day before, and we started seeing evidence of new birds yesterday," Parker says. "It didn't appear to be a major migration, but there were a lot more ducks than we've been seeing."
Reelfoot Lake is suffering from exceptionally low water due to a prolonged drought in the west Tennessee area. The lake is approximately two feet below normal winter pool of just over five feet. Many holes in the lake's shallow areas have little or no water. Parker estimates that half the blinds on Reelfoot are unhuntable.
"I've got only 3 inches of water in my hole," Blakely adds. "I wouldn't have had that if I hadn't taken an airboat in there before the season and packed the mud down. After doing this I have just enough water to float my decoys."
Still, Blakely is optimistic. "We're looking better each day. More ducks are starting to come in, and we're picking up a little more water with each new rain. Also, the deep end of the lake is covered up with diving ducks and a few puddle ducks mixed in. Blinds on the open water have been doing real well."
Parker says the best thing that could happen to Reelfoot right now would be a deluge. "We need a lot of heavy rain to raise the lake level and get some water back in the shallow holes and woods. When the woods aren't flooded, the only place on Reelfoot for the ducks to hang out is on the refuge. We always do better when they're scattered out and working in areas open to hunting.
Parker continues, "The extended weather forecast shows several chances for rain over the next few days, including a good chance Sunday and Sunday night (Dec. 9). If we get some fresh water in the lake, and the big freeze comes up north like they're predicting, then we might be setting up for some really good hunting on Reelfoot in the days just ahead."
Wade Bourne is the Editor-at-Large for Ducks Unlimited Magazine.
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