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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Brush along the shoreline makes a natural duck blind at Beaver Lake. Waterfowl hunting is allowed along the public shoreline at the reservoir, except in Army Corps of Engineers parks. Alan Bland of Rogers watches for ducks Dec. 28 2018 at the lake.

Beaver Lake is a coffee drinker's paradise when it comes to duck hunting.

There's plenty of time to sip and chat while taking in a big-water sunrise with a hunting buddy or two. The world wakes up before your very eyes. Crows make a ruckus in that magic time between night and day. Song birds chirp. Bald eagles soar. Hot coffee is welcome warmth.

Now if only the ducks would fly.

"You don't really need to see any ducks," said Alan Bland of Rogers. "It doesn't get any better than being on the water with mother nature. We've seen bald eagles fly over. It's nice just being on the water."

Bland sat on a 5-gallon bucket with a lid, clad in camouflage from head to toe. Thick buck brush on a point of land jutting into the lake made a natural duck blind.

Four mallards circled a spread of 20 decoys at the start of legal shooting time 30 minutes before sunrise. Now the clock struck 9 a.m. with nary another duck in the sky. Time for a second cup of brew.

Duck hunting is allowed at Beaver Lake along the public shoreline, except in the developed parks. Beaver Lake Wildlife Management Area is the name of this public land. It's open for hunting, exploring, fishing and picnicking. No camping or campfires allowed.

Gray cotton candy clouds hung so low a hunter could almost reach up and grab a hunk for a sugary treat. Hunting is slow most mornings, like this one.

Bland will testify that a good hunt at Beaver Lake is if you see some ducks. A great hunt is when you get off a shot or two. It's excellent if a hunter gathers a couple of mallards for a pot of gumbo.

Then there are mornings when hunting is as good as traveling to Stuttgart, Bayou Meto or Arkansas' famed duck hunting areas to the east. The Arkansas River can provide excellent hunting closer to home.

Not this season, so far. High numbers of ducks haven't migrated to Arkansas from up north, said Richard Bowen, wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

More cold weather might give ducks a push down from Missouri, he said. A cold front that barreled in over the weekend could jump start the hunting at Beaver and elsewhere around the state.

The lake level is high. That means ducks can find food along the flood shore where water is shallow.

"We've planted some winter wheat where the shoreline is a gradual slope and it really took off," Bowen said. Planting took place mainly in the Rocky Branch and Shaddox Hollow areas.

When the lake is up, as it is now, ducks feed on the wheat, as well as grass seed that gets knocked into the water by wave action. It's not an east Arkansas rice field, but it's about the only food for ducks at Beaver.

A lot of it is timing for the lake to have good hunting, Bowen added. High water is good. When powerful cold freezes area farm ponds and small lakes, ducks flock to the open water at Beaver Lake. Hunting can be excellent.

Over coffee, Bland and his hunting buddy caught up on all the neighborhood and family news. It was time to pull the decoys when the spread caught the attention of a single mallard.

The drake circled low on whistling wings. Bland got off two shots but didn't ruffle a feather. That duck fired up the after burners and was gone in a nanosecond.

Still a great hunt by Beaver Lake standards. The hunters fired a couple of shots, but no gumbo. Better luck next hunt.

On the hunt for ducks

Arkansas’ duck season is open. It closes at sunset on Monday.

A youth waterfowl hunting day is set for Feb. 2. On this day, youths 15 and younger may shoot waterfowl. Adults can call ducks and geese, but only youths may shoot.

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Sports on 01/22/2019

Print Headline: Lakeside seat for waterfowl

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