By Paul Davis, WF360 Mississippi Alluvial Valley Migration Editor
A record-setting cold front in mid-November helped set the stage for a strong first duck season in Arkansas, which closed on December 2. The November waterfowl survey conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) reported about 250,000 mallards in the Delta region and just under 700,000 ducks overall, which was “about average,” says AGFC Waterfowl Program Coordinator Luke Naylor.
Now, on the cusp of the second season opener, duck numbers appear to be spotty, depending on where you look. “We had a fair bump of ducks before the first duck season segment came in and we had a few hot spots, like the Big Lake WMA, Lake Ashbaugh, some of the fields around the Dave Donaldson WMA, the area north of Bayou DeView, and around Grubbs along the Cache River. Since then, I haven’t seen a strong push of ducks move in,” says Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist Jason Carbaugh, who keeps tabs on the northeast region of the state.
While the Black River to the north is falling, Jonathan Mortin, with Echo Championship Calls in Beebe, says water levels in his area are coming up. According to Mortin, the key to success under such conditions is scouting. “With the river levels up, it’s going to give ducks a lot more places to rest. You’re going to have to do your homework,” he says.
Farther south, near Stuttgart, outfitter Matt Kucala is encouraged by the number of ducks that he has seen lately. “It looks like the opener is going to be really good,” Kucala says. “There’s quite a few ducks around, and with the White River up, the birds are starting to filter into the bottoms.”
In the southwest portion of the state, around the Red, Sulfur, Saline, Caddo and Little Rivers, Mossy Oak Pro-Staffer Shane Smith is also optimistic about the second season. “We don’t have a lot of mallards yet, but we have a lot of ducks,” Smith says. “The numbers are above average for this time of year.”
Everyone agrees that what Arkansas duck hunters need is a change in the weather to get the birds moving. A powerful cold front sweeping through the state today will hopefully do just that.