LITTLE ROCK — Record dry conditions have made duck hunting nearly impossible for much of Arkansas. If you’re able to pump any water onto fields or into privately owned timber, there are some ducks available, but that number likely dropped off from opening weekend, according to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission waterfowl program director Luke Naylor.
“All I’ve heard is the typical opening nine-day scenario for the first split season,” Naylor said. “It’s been somewhat typical, that being typical for dry conditions compared to being very dry like it is. (The success for hunters) when it’s dry just kind of dwindles from there after the first weekend. Without storms and rain water to attract the ducks, you end up with the same ducks hanging out in the same places and they learn pretty quickly to avoid the gun.”
The major alerts from the National Weather Service the past week have focused on the high possibility of wildflires, rather than storms. “It’s a record dry time for us, that’s about the extent of it,” Naylor said. “There’s no new news on ducks. There’s been no influx of birds and there is no reason for them to be here. If all that mattered was cold weather, it would be all right because we’ve had plenty of cold weather since the season started. But we need water, we need rain, we need runoff and we need surface water on the landscape to get them in.”
The first rainfall won’t be a cure-all either with ground not already saturated, Naylor noted. “It doesn’t look like any major rain is in the forecast at all. It’s setting up for a pretty dry fall, the second in a row for us.”
The first split to Arkansas’s 60-day season seems to have come at the right time, assuming maybe some rainfall is in the offing later in December. The duck season closed at sunset on Sunday and will reopen 30 minutes before sunrise Thursday, Dec. 7. Hunting for geese is underway but will close for one day this weekend, Dec. 2. Geese reports remain good, as geese can fend without as much water as the ducks require, Naylor said.
The first of two special statewide waterfowl hunts for youths is Saturday, Dec. 2.
Some anecdotal evidence indicates, however, that hunters with water are still taking good numbers of ducks. McSwain Sports Center on U.S. Highway 165 east of North Little Rock, for example, reported that they have seen more ducks brought in for processing than they had anticipated due to the conditions. Anglers at Harris Brake in Perry County report hearing quite a bit of shooting nearby on the weekends for ducks.
“I’m just hearing fairly low numbers of ducks overall,” Naylor said. “You do hear a few odd reports here and there of good numbers of ducks, from areas where there is relatively a large amount of habitat where they can provide a wetland complex on their own property. By and large, though, it’s pretty slim.”
Naylor says that Mississippi has done an aerial survey recently that showed fairly high numbers of ducks for what they expect at this time of year. The AGFC will be conducting an aerial survey count of Arkansas next week, Naylor says.