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Arkansas duck hunters will get a longer duck season in 2019-20, but it won't be longer than usual.

How's that for mixed messaging?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed its season frameworks this year to allow states in the Mississippi Flyway to end duck season on Jan. 31.

On April 25, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission observed the later ending when it approved the 2019-20 duck season.

As always, the 60-day season will be in three segments separated by two breaks. The segments will run Nov. 23-Dec. 2, Dec. 11-23, Dec. 26 - through Jan. 31.

The days that nonresidents may hunt on wildlife management areas will be Nov. 23-Dec. 2, Dec. 27-Jan. 5, and Jan. 22-31. The nonresident WMA days are in 10-day blocks to align with the commission's five-day nonresident waterfowl hunting permit.

At the town hall meeting in Springdale, a man said the AGFC's policy for non-resident duck hunters on WMAs is detrimental to businesses near Dave Donaldson Black River WMA and Bayou Meto WMA. He also said that other states have retaliated by discriminating against Arkansas hunters.

Except in a few cases that don't involve Arkansas, nonresident hunting fees and policies in other states are not retaliatory. Besides Arkansas and Missouri -- and Virginia to a far lesser degree -- other state game and fish agencies rely entirely on hunting and fishing licenses and federal aid for all of their income. Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia get additional revenue from dedicated state conservation sales taxes.

Nonresident hunters are significant revenue sources for the states, but Arkansas treats nonresident duck hunters fairly. Many states have priced all but the very wealthy from hunting elk, moose and sheep in the Rocky Mountains, and they certainly give preferential treatment to residents, as they should.

Ducks are transient to Arkansas. The Game and Fish Commission does not limit access to a transient resource. It limits nonresident access to finite amounts of real estate. The price of access to waterfowl WMAs in Arkansas is a steal compared to a prime elk, sheep, goat or moose permit elsewhere.

The bigger threat to the duck hunting economy is persistent flooding at Bayou Meto WMA in the spring. For the third consecutive year, a large portion of Bayou Meto is flooded. The cumulative and continual stress on the red oak timber in the WMA will inevitably destroy the trees that produce the small acorns that are most beneficial to waterfowl. They will be succeeded by trees that are better adapted to a flooded environment, and that produce larger acorns that ducks can't eat.

Equipment is in place to pump water out of the WMA into the Arkansas River, but the equipment is idle. The organizations that own the equipment cite a litany of reasons for the inactivity, but duck hunters will ultimately pay the price for bureaucratic paralysis.

When the duck habitat is gone, there will be no restoring it. Think about how that might affect duck migration patterns.

The commission commented on duck migration patterns April 26 at its meeting in Rogers. Hunters in the southern part of the Mississippi Flyway complain about landowners keeping ducks from flying south by providing large quantities of food.

Luke Naylor, the commission's waterfowl biologist, said that the practice has a negligible long-term effect. Warm weather makes it possible for ducks to stay north of Arkansas longer, and those states have taken advantage of weather trends to encourage ducks to stay longer.

When weather trends shift again, it's going to be really bad if Arkansas duck habitat is so degraded that it won't hold ducks.

College bass fishing

Bethel University, the first college to offer bass fishing scholarships, won the Bassmaster College Series Tour event April 27 at Bull Shoals Lake. Carter McNeil and Cole Floyd weighed in 15 bass over three days for a cumulative weight of 48 pounds, 6 ounces.

Representing the University of Arkansas, Noah Boyett and Hunter Hanby finished in sixth place with 42-2 pounds.

High school bass fishing

At Lake Norfork on April 28, Tyner Redden and Haynes Grooms of Greenbrier High School won the Bassmaster High School Central Open by catching five bass that weighed 16-05.

Sports on 05/02/2019

Print Headline: Duck season will extend to Jan. 31

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