By Wade Bourne
Two to three inches of rain fell over eastern Arkansas
Jan.12, causing slash water to collect in previously dry fields and pushing the Cache and White Rivers into adjoining sloughs, oxbows and green timber flats. The ducks have responded by shifting from managed water areas into these freshly-flooded places where new food sources are available.
Jim Daniel of Bald Knob reports, "It's been a good year for many hunters in east-central Arkansas. Local refuges have been holding close to 400,000 birds – mallards, pintails, gadwalls, widgeons, teal
. Before the rain Saturday the best shooting was on managed fields and timber where water could be pumped and controlled.
"But the heavy rain left a lot of slash water and caused the Cache and White Rivers to overflow in some places, and the ducks have scattered into these newly flooded areas. So conditions are totally different now from what they were a week ago. It's a whole new ballgame that looks like it'll persist until the end of the season (Jan. 27). Freelance hunters and people who didn't have water before the weekend are now enjoying good shooting
Daniel adds that there has been some shift of ducks from northeastern Arkansas into the mid and lower White River bottoms. "I've heard of good shooting around Clarenden and De Vall's Bluff and on the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This is the hot area right now," Daniels notes. "The ducks follow the rising water, and this is where the best new water exists."
Daniel's report is supported by Ronnie Steinbeck of Paradise Wings Hunting Lodge (www.paradisewings.com
) between Brinkley and Clarendon. This morning Steinbeck guided two hunters who bagged 12 ducks and 1 white-fronted goose. "We've definitely picked up some new ducks the last couple of days," Steinbeck says. "We have a lot more birds in the area now than we used to, and they're working well to calls. That's something we haven't seen much of this season."
Steinbeck adds that as of Wednesday, the water level on the White River is cresting just over 23 feet on the Clarendon gauge. This is high enough to flood some low-lying areas adjacent to the river but not to cause widespread flooding.
"We've seen more ducks using the fields the last couple of days, though there are also still quite a few in the timber," Steinbeck says. "I'm optimistic for our chances for the next several days."
Ron Hollis, deputy project leader for the White River National Wildlife Refuge (St. Charles) says with the river cresting at 23 feet, there is additional water in some of the refuge's oxbows, but there's not enough water to run the bottoms in a boat. (Twenty-five feet is the magic number for this.) Hollis adds that with the river cresting, it's doubtful that significant flooding will occur in the Lower White River bottoms, thereby limiting hunting opportunity there.
Hollis adds, "I've heard that hunting has been good on Forked Lake Slough, but hunting pressure there has been fairly heavy."
One other note: Recent rains have also filled up the popular Bayou Meto WMA south of Stuttgart. Adam Newcomb, owner of the Bayou Meto Lodge (www.bayoumetolodge.com
), says the WMA is "brim full," and the Hallowell rest area is holding a large number of ducks. On the public area, some hunters are faring well while others are struggling. "You know Bayou Meto," Newcomb says. "There's a lot of hunting pressure, but it's a big area, and if you can find a little hidden spot where the ducks are coming in, you can still have some good timber shooting there."
Find migration and hunting reports in your area on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.