Ducks were prevalent in typical November numbers in areas that had water, particularly the artificially flooded private lands, but observers noted incredible numbers of geese throughout south-central Arkansas in the first week of state’s waterfowl season.
Luke Naylor, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s waterfowl program coordinator, said, “It was the typical story for this time of year. There were some ducks around, but overall it was pretty slim. Everyone is waiting for some decent weather for them to act right. It’s kind of slow, as we’d expect without any rainfall.”
Weather models and forecasts by the National Weather Service for the remainder of November show only a trace of rainfall for the state. Temperatures took a brief tumble Sunday and Monday and again on Wednesday morning that appeared to get some movement out of the birds, observers noted. However, temperatures were expected to warm up into mid-60s in through the Thanksgiving weekend and into next week.
There were good reports of ducks in the Saline River bottoms last weekend. “That’s an area that usually has a little bit of water even now when the rest of the state is dry, and water may have been shallow in some places to concentrate some ducks,” Naylor said.
Hunters will note increased water in public areas of the northeast portion of the state where the AGFC can pump water into its GTRs, with boards now in place as of Nov. 15. “We are artificially moving water in (Dave Donaldson) Black River (WMA), Big Lake (WMA) and Shirey Bay/Rainey Brake,” Naylor said. “Those three areas represent a big, big part of the acreage that we can actually artificially flood through the infrastructure we have.”
The increased geese numbers have been an ongoing trend for the past few years. The migration pattern of the white-fronted geese has drifted further eastward from Texas as more food is available for them in Arkansas. Snow geese and Ross’s geese were observed in impressive numbers along with the specklebellies in areas of Arkansas County over the weekend, and in large flights heading between the Arkansas and White rivers. One field directly south of DeWitt on U.S. Highway 165 was covered in several thousand snow geese settling down below the heavy wind gusts that buffeted the state on Saturday. “Geese only need a little bit of water and they’re fine,” Naylor said, contrasting them to the needs for ducks. “We’ve had some good conditions for ducks with a temperature drop and a strong, cool north wind, but no rain to go with it. Without rain, we’re just sitting and waiting for the big rain to happen.”
The Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA will again have no permit draw during the weekend due to low water conditions. The WMA is open for waterfowl hunting.