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Duck hunting is poor, and the clock is running.

As I write this, the temperature is 63 degrees. I woke up this morning to the trilling of cardinals, and I have to tell you that mallard calls were not the sounds that filled my mental canvas. I expected to hear a gobbler rip loose.

Spring turkey season is a day closer with every slash on the calendar, but we still have a lot of duck season left.

One confidant said he blocked off January for duck hunting, but he has not fired a shot in his past three outings. A mutual hunting partner has not fired a shot in his past five outings. I am told that the members of a long-established hunting club near the White River National Wildlife Refuge have stopped hunting all together.

My correspondent on the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge said he saw three ducks Wednesday, an increase of one from Tuesday.

I talked to a fellow Tuesday who belongs to a club near Sherrill. He said his bunch usually kills 650 to 750 mallards by this point in the season. So far, their 2018-19 tally is 148. That gentleman said he usually shoots a case of shells per season. This season, he's fired only 15 shells.

The rumor among the members of his club is that the Missouri Department of Conservation puts out truckloads of shelled corn to feed waterfowl and discourage them from flying south. That is false. The amount of food available for waterfowl in the Show-Me State is the result of long-established, public-land-management programs that involve agricultural plantings and moist soil development.

The same is true in Oklahoma.

I hunted in Louisiana last week with a group from Minnesota. Their winter has been mild, too, and they said there is still waterfowl in that state. One prolonged arctic blast could force them into Arkansas almost overnight, but that hasn't happened yet.

Last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reported counting about 1.2 million ducks in Arkansas, about half of which were mallards.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation's weekly waterfowl report from Jan. 3, there are 667,612 ducks in Missouri, including 607,526 mallards. These numbers do not include ducks at national wildlife refuges.

That's 60 percent above the the five- and 10-year averages, which is about 370,000 ducks.

Seventy percent of the time, according to the MDC, the first week of January is so cold that numbers are typically lower than this long-term average.

Grand Pass Conservation Area, near the Kansas border, is reported to have 220,000 mallards, and Four Rivers CA has 57,000 mallards. Fountain Grove CA has 115,000 mallards. Grand Pass and Four Rivers are in Missouri's Central Zone. Fountain Grove is in the North Zone. Hunting season is closed in both zones.

The major public areas in Missouri's South Zone have few mallards.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation reports low duck numbers at its wildlife management areas in southern Oklahoma, and moderate numbers of ducks at its wildlife management areas in northern Oklahoma, especially in the northwest.

Combined, that's a lot of ducks spread across the Midwest that would otherwise be in Arkansas during a normal cold winter.

Arkansas Marine Expo

If the warm weather has you thinking about boating and fishing, or if you're in the market for a new duck boat, you can scratch those itches at the 37th annual Arkansas Marine Expo on Friday through Sunday at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Show hours will be 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. -4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, and free for children 12 and younger.

Ken Griffey, Marine Expo producer, said dealers will display nearly 200 boats, from fishing boats and duck boats to deck boats and ski boats.

"Boat shows are the premier staging site for selling and buying boats," Griffey said. "Manufacturers and local dealers deliver their best and newest boats showcasing the latest in electronic equipment, engines and gadgets for the upcoming boating season, and offering boaters the best prices of the year."

Those attending the expo can register to win a 2019 Bass Tracker Heritage aluminum bass boat with 40-horsepower and trailer valued at more than $12,000.

Anglers can find a wide selection of fishing tackle at the Marine Expo, and there's a Kid Zone for youngsters. The Museum of Discovery will have its two-person "Batman XTreme Gyro, which safely tosses, spins and turns riders to simulate the experience of weightlessness and the roll and tumble of space flight."

For more information, vist www.dgattractions.com.

Sports on 01/10/2019

Print Headline: Clock ticks on lousy duck season

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