this writing, Arkansas is one week away from the opening day of
waterfowl season and conditions are extreme. At the same time last
year, we had already experienced two major floods and every river,
oxbow lake, ditch and slough were full of water. However, NOAA and the
Farmer’s Almanac were both giving indications this would be a dry and
warm year for our part of the south … and it appears they were correct.
the sun came up this morning, the temperature was 54 degrees … which
would be closer to our normal high temperature this time of year.
Today’s high is supposed to be around 80 degrees! It’s been so warm
and dry the regional newscast recently announced several counties in
this area had qualified for federal aid due to extreme drought
conditions. That’s certainly not what most people consider to be good
The warm weather has created several problems that will have an impact on duck season.
usual for a dry year, the acorn crop does not appear to be very good.
Not only will that impact the deer, squirrel and turkey, it will also
have an impact on conditions for those who hunt flooded hard woods for
ducks. Fewer acorns mean less food, but the food shortage will not be
restricted to the flooded pin oak flats. Flooded grain fields will have
less food than normal as well. With temperatures well above the
average, a lot of the grain spilled during harvest has germinated. Some
of the rice fields look like they have been sowed with grass seed. For
the first time that I can remember (in northeast Arkansas) an area rice
farmer had a second harvest from one of the rice fields he had cut
earlier in the year. On a positive note, the wild grasses, weeds and
smart weed in the moist soil areas is more plentiful than normal,
resulting in part from low water in those areas.
As far as drought conditions go, if the weather doesn’t change, there will be a lot less surface water.
By “a lot less surface water” … I’m talking about a whole lot less. A
few days ago a friend told me Cache River was so low in his area, his
re-lift pump wouldn’t prime. Hopefully, he has alternate deep-water
wells he can use, but deep wells require more fuel to pull the water up
and everyone can identify with fuel prices. We unloaded a tanker truck
of off road fuel for our wells last week and by purchasing the
7,000-gallon load at one time, we got it for $2.99 a gallon. Fuel
prices alone are reason enough for a lot of people not to pump up the
ground they normally hunt, which reduces the surface acres even more.
what I understand, the public ground in this area is experiencing water
problems as well. To our north, the Black River at Corning is reported
to be around .85 feet this week. That is so low some of the local
hunters tell me an outboard motor with a jet drive would have trouble
navigating the river during daylight hours and it is not safe to
attempt before daylight. That also means there is less water for the
re-lifts and the siphon station to get water for flooding the woods.
Add the low water issues to rumors of leaking and cracked levies that
continue to seep and it doesn’t sound good for water levels in the
woods. To the southwest of Walnut Ridge, the diversion canal will no
doubt take Lake Charles down to the minimal acceptable level and
probably won’t flood the woods like they need to be. With a week until
we open, I understand the Rainey Brake WMA is a long way from having
the enough water for a good flood. The sad part is the drought
conditions and warm weather are not restricted to the northeast part of
Arkansas. With a few exceptions, it’s way to warm and dry everywhere in
the state and several of the adjoining states as well.
So what does the drought and higher than normal temperatures mean for the ducks and the migration?
First of all, it goes to show that ducks do not have to have cold
temperatures to migrate. While a hard freeze in the north does push the
birds harder and faster, the fact that the migration continues under
these conditions, reinforces the thoughts that birds start their
migration based on the length of the daylight hours … like a buck going
in the rut.
ducks have been arriving pretty well as usual and some are sitting in
areas that haven’t seen ducks in years. One oxbow lake in the area had
so many ducks on it the other day it didn’t look like you could squeeze
another one in. When I was a kid, there were a lot of times I hunted
that particular oxbow, but I can’t even remember the last time I’ve
seen a duck in it. Which shows the ducks are going to find what water
is available and they’ll use it as long as they can.
course, drought conditions and less surface water means increased
hunting pressure on what water is available. Increased pressure will
move a duck out as fast as ice and snow, which means rest areas will be
more important than ever before. Ducks have to have a place to build
back up after their flight and they’re not going to hang around an area
long if they’re getting shot at every time they fly by. Hunting
pressure will be a serious problem in a lot of areas, but for those
fortunate enough to have the ability to pump water and can justify the
cost to do so; this season may be remembered as … “Another Season For Diesel Ducks.”
Charles “HammerTime” Snapp
www.arkansaswaterfowl.com or email@example.com