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Arkansas waterfowl report

January 21, 2021 at 2:30 a.m.
Mallard decoys bob on the water Dec. 28, 2018 at Beaver Lake. Hunters hope decoys will lure high-flying ducks to circle their spread, cup wings and glide into shotgun range.

Waterfowl biologists and hunters in neighboring states are reporting a similar duck season to the one we're experiencing in Arkansas. Missouri biologists noted seeing ducks migrating in October and early November. There was no real migration during the season.

This has happened at least for the past three years, according to biologists for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Based on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's midwinter waterfowl survey conducted in early January, the state's total duck numbers and mallard numbers are behind the average from the past 11 years. The Delta mallard population estimate is the second lowest since formal surveys began in the 2009-10 wintering period and represent only 45% of the 2010-21 long-term midwinter survey average of about 826,000 mallards.

Observers flying the AGFC's midwinter waterfowl survey Jan. 4-7 estimated the greatest number of mallards in the Delta in the Bayou Meto, Little River, Lower White and Black River-Upper White survey zones. Estimates for mallards and total ducks in the Arkansas River Valley were less than half their 2014-21 averages, with the vast majority of ducks observed in the West Dardanelle survey zone.

"Ducks remained concentrated on established waterfowl sanctuaries and habitats that appeared not to be actively hunted," said Luke Naylor, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's waterfowl biologist. "Rainfall preceding this survey provided a bit of a boost in habitat availability. It is unclear how much of that habitat remains on the landscape now. Ducks were uncommon in these fields during these daytime surveys. Birds are likely leaving sanctuary areas at night to take advantage of these new habitats."

AGFC observers estimated 1.08 million total ducks in the Delta, fewer than half of which were mallards (458,314). Duck population estimates in the Arkansas River Valley slightly exceed 21,000, including about 9,000 mallards. Fewer than 5,000 mallards, and about 9,000 total ducks, were counted in southwest Arkansas.

Observers in the Delta estimated around 886,000 light (lesser snow and Ross's) geese and about 221,000 greater white-fronted geese during this survey.

The bulk of ducks in many Arkansas areas, based on biologists' counts and hunter anecdotal evidence, have been gadwalls, with some pintails, green-winged teal and shovelers. Missouri waterfowl biologists said the same thing about southeast Missouri.

Many Arkansas duck hunters claim states to the north are "short-stopping" the duck migration with more available food. This year, the idea was, the derecho winds in Iowa during the summer shook so much corn to the ground there that ducks didn't have any need to move further south. Iowa biologists scoffed at that notion. Corn in August would be rotten in the field by now, they said, and ducks aren't the only animals that eat it. The derecho winds, according to Iowa sources, didn't damage the crops dramatically. After Christmas Eve, Iowa was blanketed with ice and snow. Some areas had drifts and most had 4-10 inches of snow. And yet, there was no significant duck migration.

"It is my understanding that the farmers were actually able to harvest most of that corn, so it turned out not to be as big of a deal as expected," Naylor said. "The midwinter counts in Iowa showed few noticeable duck concentrations."

Arkansas' regular waterfowl season continues uninterrupted to its close at sunset Jan. 31. Youth, veterans and active military on Feb. 6 may hunt any WMA or private land (including WRICE permitted hunts) all day.

NORTHEAST ARKANSAS

BIG LAKE WMA

North Woods GTR Mast production is good. The Bo Dock gauge currently reads 236.6. Target level is 235.7 with 100% flooded.

South Woods GTR Mast production is fair. The 7-mile gauge is currently at 235.7 feet. Target level is 234.5 feet with 100% flooded.

Simmons Field A good amount of millet and sedge is present. Seed production is very good in the North Unit, Middle and South fields. North field contains 5 acres of millet. 100% flooded.

DAVE DONALDSON BLACK RIVER WMA

Upper Island GTR Moderate mast crop. Water level is 269.55. Target level is 269.5. 100% flooded.

Lower Island GTR Moderate mast crop. Water level is 268.7. Target level is 268.5. 100% flooded.

Upper Reyno GTR Moderate mast crop. Water level is 267.3. Target level is 266.9. 100% flooded.

Lower Reyno GTR Moderate mast crop. Water level is 266.4. Target level is 266.3. 100% flooded.

Winchester GTR Moderate mast crop. Target level is 263.75.

EARL BUSS BAYOU DEVIEW WMA

South Oliver GTR Mast production has been good. The area is 50% flooded with a current gauge reading of 1.6 foot. Water is rising in the GTR.

Thompson Tract GTR Mast production has been good. The area is 100% flooded with a current gauge reading of 1.3 feet.

Lake Hogue WRA Primarily deep open water habitat. Normal pool level.

SHIREY BAY RAINEY BRAKE WMA

Adam Brake GTR Good mast crop. Water level is 240. 100% flooded.

Rainey Brake GTR Good mast crop. 100% flooded.

Eagle Pond GTR Good mast crop. 100% flooded.

Phase III Moist-Soil Unit Good wetland-type vegetation. 95% flooded.

Charles Crisp Moist-Soil Unit Good wetland-type vegetation. 95% flooded.

Ward Field Moist-Soil Unit Good wetland-type vegetation. 100% flooded.

River Field Moist-Soil Unit Good wetland-type vegetation. 100% flooded.

ST. FRANCIS SUNKEN LANDS WMA

Hunt Area Mast production is good. Water levels in the huntable areas are dependent on the St. Francis River. The water level at Oak Donnick is 212.69. The level for huntable timber is 212.

Snowden WRA Mixed grasses are present. 10% flooded.

Payneway WRA Pools A,B, C, and D have mixed smartweed and barnyard grasses, Moderate mast in Pools A,B, and C. Pool A is at 0%. Pool B is at 5%. Pool C is at 5% and Pool D is at 20%.

EAST CENTRAL ARKANSAS

HENRY GRAY HURRICANE LAKE WMA

North GTR Good mast crop. Glaise Creek gauge at 192.90. Full pool.

South GTR Fair mast crop. Glaise Creek gauge at 192.90. Full pool.

REX HANCOCK BLACK SWAMP WMA

Gregory GTR Good mast crop. 45 percent flooded.

Wyeville Unit Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% coverage.

SHEFFIELD NELSON DAGMAR WMA

Mud Slough GTR Good mast crop. 35% flooded.

Apple Lake WRA Good mast crop. 70% flooded.

Conway George Waterfowl Unit A Good millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Conway George Waterfowl Unit B Natural slough area with beneficial wetland plants. 100% flooded.

Conway George Waterfowl Unit C Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

STEVE N. WILSON RAFT CREEK BOTTOMS WMA

NOTE Raft Creek Bottoms WMA is open to waterfowl hunting Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday only. Saturday and Sunday hunting has both in-person draws and an online permit draw via www.agfc.com. On Tuesday and Thursday, permits need to be picked up before hunting and returned to the permit box kiosk after the hunt. The Youth blind, Mobility-Impaired blind and the Magellan Tract are available Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday by online draw. Online draws for other weekend duck holes are held the Thursday-Sunday before the week of hunt.

Unit A Excellent stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit B Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit C Good stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit D (Youth Area) Good stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit E Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit F Good stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit G Fair stand of millet and native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit H (Mobility-impaired blind) Excellent stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit I Poor stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit J (Cypert Tract) Excellent stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit K (Cypert Tract) Excellent stand of native vegetation. 90% flooded.

Unit L (Cypert Tract) Fair stand of native vegetation. 50% flooded.

Unit M (Magellan Tract) Fair stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS

CRAIG D. CAMPBELL LAKE CONWAY RESERVOIR

Habitat and water levels are normal on both Pierce and Dix creeks.

BELL SLOUGH WMA

Bell Slough GTR Poor to moderate mast crop. 100% flooded.

Palarm Creek WRA Natural vegetation and planted millet. 85% flooded.

CYPRESS BAYOU WMA

Hunt Area Good mast crop. 100% flooded.

Red Cut Slough Tract Unit 1 Good stand of millet and native vegetation. Water level 75%.

Unit 2 Excellent stand of millet and native vegetation. Water level 100%.

Unit 3 Good stand of millet and native vegetation. Water level 100%.

Unit 4 Good stand of native vegetation. Water level 100%.

Unit 5 Good stand of native vegetation. Water level 40%.

Unit 6 Good stand of native vegetation. Water level 30%.

HARRIS BRAKE WMA

Harris Brake Upper Unit Average mast in the GTR. 100% flooded.

Harris Brake Lower Unit Average mast in the GTR. 100% flooded.

HOLLAND BOTTOMS WMA

WRA Moist Soil Unit (East/West) Excellent conditions. 30% flooded.

Lake Pickthorne WRA Excellent conditions. East cell 100% flooded. West Cell is 100% flooded.

SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS

DR. LESTER SITZES III BOIS D' ARC WMA

Bois d'Arc Lake WRA Closed to hunting. Normal.

Red Slough WRA Closed to hunting. Water level 90%.

GTR Good mast production. Water level 100%.

Little Grassy Habitat is good. Water level 100%.

MILLWOOD LAKE Habitat is good. Water level 261.51.

OZAN WMA

Unit 1 Habitat good. 70% flooded.

Unit 2 Habitat good. 60% flooded.

Unit 3 Habitat good. 60% flooded.

Unit 4 Habitat good. 75% flooded.

Unit 5 Habitat good. 90% flooded.

SULPHUR RIVER WMA

Mercer Bayou Habitat conditions are fair. 100% flooded.

Henry Moore WRA Closed to hunting. 100% flooded.

SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS

BERYL ANTHONY LOWER OUACHITA WMA The WMA has good hard mast production. The only water on the WMA currently is in the sloughs and in the oxbow lakes. Clear Lake Road is closed to all vehicular access, including ATVs.

FREDDIE BLACK CHOCTAW ISLAND WMA DEER RESEARCH AREA Habitat conditions are good. There is variable flooding associated with the Mississippi River. Use extreme caution when boating on the river.

TRUSTEN HOLDER Habitat conditions good. Flooding is river dependent.

SEVEN DEVILS SWAMP WMA Habitat conditions good. Water levels are excessively high.

CUT-OFF CREEK WMA

Hunt Area Habitat conditions are good. Water is excessively high.

Pigeon Creek WRA Habitat conditions are good. Fully flooded.

BAYOU METO WMA

Upper Vallier GTR Good habitat. Water level 180.45 feet, full pool at 180 feet.

Lower Vallier GTR Good habitat. Water level 179.39 feet, full pool at 179 feet.

Government Cypress GTR Good habitat. Water level 179.74 feet, full pool at 179 feet.

Buckingham Flats GTR Good habitat. 176.45 msl. First phase of pumping completed.

Temple Island GTR Good habitat. Water level 184.41.

Canon Brake Good habitat.176.68 msl. Full pool at 177 msl.

Halowell WRA Excellent habitat. Staggered flooding of units.

Wrape Plantation WRA Excellent habitat. Staggered flooding of units.

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS

DARDANELLE WMA

McKennon Bottoms 8 acres of native millet. 24 acres of fallow ground. 100% flooded.

Potter's Pothole Hartman Waterfowl Unit Good stand of native vegetation. 100% flooded.

OZARK POOL

Dyer Lake Cells Fair stand of nutsedge and toothcup smartweed, and sprangle top. Units 1 and 2 are 100% flooded. Unit 3 south cell is 75% flooded. West cell 0%.

NIMROD LLOYD MILLWOOD WMA

Nimrod GTR Poor mast crop and desirable native vegetation. 100% flooded.

ED GORDON POINT REMOVE WMA

Little Hole (Unit 1) Natural vegetation. 100% flooded.

Willow Island Natural vegetation. 100% flooded.

Red Gate Native vegetation and Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Pig Trough (Units 4 and 5) Native vegetation. 95% flooded.

Cedar Ridge (Unit 6) Natural vegetation. 95% flooded.

Unit 7A Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Unit 7B Natural vegetation. 85% flooded.

Unit 8A Natural vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit 8B Native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit 8C Native vegetation. 100% flooded.

Unit 9 Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Controversy Corner (Unit 10) Natural vegetation and Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Remmel Marsh Native vegetation Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Mud Pond (Unit 12) Natural vegetation. 100% flooded.

Turkey Pond (Unit 13A) Natural vegetation and Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Turkey Pond (Unit 13B) Natural vegetation. 85% flooded.

Turkey Pond (Unit 13C) Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Teeny Pond (Unit 14) Natural vegetation and Japanese millet. 90% flooded.

Salt Lick (Unit 15) Japanese millet. Water level 100%.

Bobby's Pond (Unit 16) Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Race Track (Unit 17) Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

FROG BAYOU WMA

Unit 1 Sprangle top, wild millet, smartweed, nutsedge and Japanese millet. 100% flooded.

Unit 2 Good stand of barnyard grass and nutsedge. 100% flooded.

Unit 3 Smartweed, toothcup, nutsedge, barnyard grass, sprangle top and duck potato. 80% flooded.

Unit 4 Barnyard grass, sprangle top, annual smartweed, nutsedge and crabgrass. 100% flooded.

Unit 5 Sprangle top, wild millet, smartweed, knotgrass, nutsedge and duck potato. 100% flooded.

Unit 6 Barnyard grass, smartweed, crabgrass and sprangle top. 90% flooded and pumping.

Unit 7 Excellent stand of barnyard grass, sprangle top and smartweed. 100% flooded.

GALLA CREEK WMA

Galla Creek GTR Moderate stand of native vegetation and millet, including a mixture of barnyard grass and sprangle top. 100% flooded.

PETIT JEAN RIVER WMA

Santa Fe GTR Poor mast crop. 100% flooded.

Sore-Head Moist Soil Unit Moderate to excellent stands of desirable native vegetation throughout. 100% flooded.

Slaty Crossing Moist-Soil Unit Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, this unit did not grow a desirable native vegetation crop this year. Only about half of the unit produced a crop of millet, but the areas that did produce look amazing. 100% flooded.

Black Lands Moist-Soil Unit Excellent stand of desirable native vegetation throughout. Poor mast crop in the wooded areas. 100% flooded.

Black Lands Duck Area Poor mast in the wooded sections. Moderate to great stands of desirable native vegetation mixed throughout. 100% flooded.

Pullen Pond Due to ongoing waterfowl habitat enhancement projects, parts of the northeastern sections of this area are bare ground. Other parts of this area have spotted sections of great desirable native vegetation. The desirable native vegetation has started to become more and more prevalent with each year of ongoing management work. Water level 100%.

Pond Creek GTR Poor mast crop with good stands of desirable native vegetation in the open lands. 100% flooded.

Slaty GTR Poor mast crop. 15% flooded.

Blacklands Duck Area Millet, native vegetation. 100% flooded.

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