Due to the drought conditions prevailing in the Mid-South, some waterfowlers in Arkansas that have water are reporting large duck numbers, especially mallards, with some taking daily limits. Stuttgart is reporting the best opening season they have had in the last 10 years.
Little Rock's Scott Perry, of the Benson Lake Duck Club, located between DeWitt and Stuttgart, sends an e-mail indicating that their hunting has been incredible, with daily limits. He hunts 500 acres of old growth green timber. Their property borders between Hampton's Reservoir and Hollowell Rest Area. Scott founded and ran McAlister clothing before they sold it after five years.
Hampton's is also reporting the best duck hunting in the last 10 years, as is Five Oaks Duck Lodge. Five Oaks, owned by George Dunklin, hunts on 10,000 acres of privately owned, flooded timber and rice fields in the Bayou Meto area.
Other areas of Arkansas with pumped water are not having the same results. Pat Pitt of Memphis had a poor hunt at his club near Harrisburg on opening weekend, with few mallards. However, the Chase Hunting Club, west of Harrisburg, has plenty of ducks, while Claypool's Wild Acres, two miles north of Chase, has not hunted due to low water.
Kaneaster Hodges Jr., of Newport, reports that from the Crane farm south along the Bayou DeView all the clubs are experiencing poor hunting, as are the WMAs throughout the state. None of the major rivers are holding ducks due to the drought.
Due to the cost of fuel, many people didn't even pump, and some pumped and stopped as the ground just soaked up the water like a sponge.
Other Arkansas areas having a good season are Blackfish Lake, Mud Lake near Hughes, and the vicinity around Earle.
Mississippi is about the same as Arkansas, with some reporting great results while others are finding few birds. On opening weekend near Marks, a group of five, including myself, had very little success, seeing few ducks. We did see large numbers of snows. Farther south below Charleston, Wild Wings Hunting Club, one of the best, had few ducks, according to Jeff Owen.
At Reelfoot, Russell Caldwell, author of a wonderful book entitled Reelfoot Lake Remembered, hunts at Lost Pond, a large pocket of open water surrounded by ancient cypress trees, where he has established a permanent blind. He reports seeing more divers (canvasbacks, blackjacks and bluebills) than he has seen since 1995. The mallard numbers, however, are down, with 25,000 to 30,000 reported, compared to the 150,000 average for this time of year. At the height of their season, Reelfoot holds 250,000 ducks; last year Reelfoot tallied 100,000.
For Louisiana, I have one report of good pintail, teal and dosgris, with surprisingly few gray ducks. Considering the damage done by the hurricanes on the coast and the lack of feed, there are large numbers of ducks, due, according to many, to the lack of pressure because of fewer hunters. One has to be careful because many of the canals have silted in. Go-devils are required, especially during low tide.
An encouraging report came on Nov. 29 from the Missouri Boothill. Mallards and divers arrived in large numbers ahead of the recent storm and cold front. As a result, Caleb Davis reports great results around Hornersville Bottom, north of Big Lake.
With the present conditions, ducks are feeding in the fields at night and moving to the timber around 7a.m., with not much early action. Then they leave the timber around dark to feed. The ducks killed in the timber are loaded with soybeans, millet and corn.
For those who have water, if you'll allow me to make a suggestion, stop hunting by 9 a.m. If possible, hunt no more than four days during the week. With so little water, they'll not take the pressure before leaving your honey hole.
Wayne Capooth — outdoorsman, writer and physician — has hunted extensively in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas for 50 years and has written four books. On the Internet, go to www.waterfowling.org.