By Mallori Murphey

Waterfowl hunters in the birthplace of the blues are on the verge of singing the blues, thanks to an extreme drought that has plagued the region since this summer. Yet hope remains high as a weather system that's promising rain moves across the southeast, just in time for Mississippi's full-swing segment opener on December 9.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) Aerial Waterfowl Survey Report for November set the stage and gave hunters a glimpse of what to expect for the start of the 2023–24 season. It's dry, and most harvested agricultural fields have been disked, so intensely managed wetland areas are key for incoming ducks and geese. According to the survey results, total duck numbers in the region were well below the long-term average (LTA) for November. Mallards (16,446) were 57 percent below LTA; other dabbling ducks (39,438) were 70 percent below LTA; diving ducks (30,152) were 63 percent below LTA; and total ducks (86,035) were 66 percent below LTA.

However disheartening the duck numbers were prior to the first two segments of the season, it hasn't slowed down waterfowlers. Even state-owned wildlife management areas (WMA) reported good harvest results for the two splits. 

"In areas that have quality managed habitat and that have been able to pump and catch the recent rainfall, we do have decent numbers of ducks," states MDWFP Waterfowl Program Coordinator Houston Havens. "Our wildlife management areas have been good as far as ducks-per-hunter-per-day average. Anytime we're looking at above three ducks-per-hunter-per-day, that's really good."  

"During opening weekend, our club had average success even though ducks on the property were below average numbers," notes Carter Bryant, an avid waterfowler and farmer in southern Tunica County. "Many ducks in my area are using natural bayous, brakes, and oxbow lakes during the day and feeding in our ag fields at night."

Hunters have been having some success with mixed-bag results of gadwalls, northern shovelers, green-winged teal, and wood ducks. During this past week, white-fronted geese and snow geese have appeared in some portions of the region.

"During the second split, we had a good push of gadwall that really worked well to the call," Bryant says. "You could give 'em a greeting call, and they would just stick their feet out and cup their wings, fully committed, until the shots rang out."

The excitement of the new season is still somewhat overshadowed by the looming conditions, according to Duvall Flautt, hunting guide at Tallahatchie Hunts outside of Webb, Mississippi. "Water is what's needed," he says. "We need a good soaking rain to bring some moisture to the soil and the ground, and pumping is getting expensive. We're catching as much run-off as we can when we can, as are many others, and that helps. Still, we're hoping we can hold on to what we have until the weather gives us more habitat and another push of fresh birds." Flautt also states that the appearance of specklebellies and snows has been a bright spot this week.

The past few nights have been what waterfowlers would call "migration nights," according to Havens. "Clear skies and relatively cold north winds hopefully produced benefits and are bringing more birds into the Delta," he says. 

Waterfowl are very good at adapting to changes from year to year. Although the types of foods and where they're found may be a bit different this winter, hunters, landowners, and habitat managers are optimistic that waterfowl will still find all the resources they need while wintering in Mississippi. 

A note for waterfowlers: The final segment of the regular waterfowl hunting season starts on December 9 and continues through January 31, 2024. The MDWFP's December aerial waterfowl survey is scheduled for December 11–15. For more information on hunting regulations, WMAs, other public hunting opportunities, and additional waterfowl-related questions, visit

Sign up for Migration Alerts

Stay up to date with the latest migration information.

We never share your email or mobile number, and you can unsubscribe anytime.