First Weekend Offers Mixed Bag for Hunters
Arkansas waters offering varying numbers of ducks in early going
Arkansas Wildlife Editor LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas duck hunters found a mixed bag of waterfowl available during the first weekend of the 60-day duck season, opening last Saturday. Anecdotally and through reports on social media, as well as reports from AGFC staff, hunters found some places such as in Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area with lots of mallards to harvest limits, while in Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, green-wing teal were plentiful and pintails also abounded, along with a few mallards. Gadwalls were prevalenty in various spots through the Delta.
Typically in late November, Arkansas sees only about 25 percent of the total migration of mallards through the state during the winter. So, the best is yet to come in terms of mallard harvest, but hunters in Arkansas no doubt would also like to see more water to go with the migration. Parts of Arkansas have received some rainfall this week, but whether it's enough to increase the available habitat for ducks still remains to be seen. Temperatures have cooled from opening day's 70-plus degrees throughout the state.
Hunters have one more weekend left in the 'first season,' before the Dec. 1-11 split where hunting will be closed, with the exception of the Dec. 5 youth hunt and veterans and active military hunt.
AGFC waterfowl biologists did not conduct a November aerial survey this year. The first aerial survey is planned for the first split, Dec. 1-10, according to Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator.
The first Youth and Veterans/Active Military special hunts are scheduled for Dec. 5 and Feb. 6. Both active duty military and veterans may hunt on those days, which are not part of the 60-day scheduled season. Youths under 16 may hunt on those days as well, as long as they are accompanied by a mentor -youths who have not completed the Hunter Education course must be accompanied by a mentor 21 or older; those who have completed the course can be accompanied by a mentor 18 or older. The mentor cannot hunt but can call the ducks, set decoys, help retrieve game and such.
On those same days, members of active duty military and military veterans may harvest ducks, geese, coots and mergansers. Active duty military includes members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training). Veterans must have served in active military, naval, air service or Reserves and National Guard on Title 32 orders in a combat zone and must have been discharged or released under honorable conditions. Hunters will need to have one of the following or copy during the hunt: DD214, Veteran Benefit Card, Retired Active Military I.D., Veteran Hunting License (VLF, VLH, VLC or VLL) or Active Duty I.D. card.
Shooting hours and bag limits are the same as regular duck and goose seasons. Hunters may hunt on wildlife management areas from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset these two days. WMA General Use permits are required for active military and veterans; they are NOT required for youth hunters.
Most areas in Dave Donaldson Black River WMA are at full water coverage this week. However, at George H. Dunklin Jr.
Bayou Meto WMA, some spots are to low to even pump for water, such as Temple Island and Buckingham Flats units.
Red Cut Slough, the nowpermit- only hunting units in Cypress Bayou WMA in central Arkansas, is too dry to hunt and therefore Red Cut Slough was kept off the permit application site on www.agfc.com the past two weeks as well as for the Youth hunt next Saturday. Unit 6 in Red Cut Slough is a lake, though, and it can be hunted on Tuesdays and Thursdays by picking up a permit at the parking lot kiosk off Loyd Henderson Road.
Otherwise, there is no hunting. However, the rest of Cypress Bayou is available without a permit. Garrick Dugger, AGFC assistant
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chief for Wildlife Management, said, 'If we see significant rainfall, AGFC staff is hoping to pump and have some water available in Red Cut Slough for the second season.'
At Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA, the North GTR is at full pool and all structures on the North GTR are closed. The access gate at Mitchell Corner is now closed. Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA saw some jumps in water coverage on its units over last week's report, but nothing is 100 percent covered as of yet. Three units at Frog Bottom WMA have 100 percent coverage and pumping will begin on Dec. 2 in some other units that currently have 50% coverage.
Remember that while state and federal stamps, license, HIP and WMA General Use permit purchases are shown online, hunters will still need to have their federal duck stamp on their possession and signed across the front, if the stamp was purchases more than 45 days ago. There is a 45-day grace period for having the federal stamp in the hunter's possession.
As for oither waterfowl, large numbers of greater white-fronted geese, as well as snows, blues and Ross's geese, were seen throughout parts of the Delta. Snow geese appeared to pick up as the waterfowl season opened.
the Ditch 81 extension gauge near Manila (upstream of the Big Lake north-end control structure) reads 17.5 feet, water is beginning to come over the north levee degrade on Big Lake WMA. When the Ditch 81 Extension gauge reads 18.0 feet or higher, the water level on the WMA will rise quickly and hunters should exercise caution while on the area.
Be aware of underwater logs in boat runs and hangers
A few ducks are moving through the area.
• North Woods GTR — Habitat: Mast production is good. Water Level: Bo Dock guage currently reads 234.0 feet msl; target level is 235.5 feet with 0% flooded. There is shallow water present within the north/south and lateral ditches.
• South Woods GTR — Habitat: Mast production is fair. Water Level: The 7-Mile gauge is currently at 232.9 feet msl; target level is 234.5 feet with 20% flooded.
• Simmons Field — Habitat: Good production of millet and sedge. Native production is very good in the north, middle and south fields with 5 acres of millet planted in the north field.
All fields were rolled with a cleated roller in April.
Water Level: 60% coverage.
• Dave Donaldson Black River WMA — Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. Please remember to keep boats off the levees so AGFC personnel can access the area. Boats blocking access will be moved. Unattended trailers are not to be left overnight on parking areas. River level is 5.97 feet msl and holding (it is 1.8 feet higher than at this time last week).
• Upper Island GTR — Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 269.8 feet msl. Target level is 269.5 feet msl.
• Lower Island GTR — Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 268.325 feet msl. Target level is 268.0 feet msl.
• Upper Reyno GTR — Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 267.0 feet msl. Target level is 266.9 feet msl.
• Lower Reyno GTR — Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Current level is 266.0 feet msl Target level is 266.3 feet msl.
• Winchester GTR — Habitat: Mast crop is moderate within the GTRs.
Water Level: Water level is 263.0 feet msl; target level is 263.7 feet msl. 15% flooded.
• Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA — Boaters should use caution while using the Thompson Tract boat run.
A few ducks are moving through the area.
• South Oliver GTR — Habitat: Mast production has been good. Water Level: 10% flooded with a current gauge reading of 0.0 foot. Water is located within the natural sloughs.
• Thompson Tract GTR — Habitat: Mast production is good. Water Level: 0% flooded with a current gauge reading of 0.0 foot.
• Lake Hogue WRA— Habitat: Primarily deep open water habitat. Water Level: Normal pool level.
• Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA — Waterfowl hunters should be aware of hangers and submerged logs within the boat runs and GTRs. Please exercise caution when accessing the area. In addition, hunters should allow safe passage when parking vehicles along roadsides. Vehicles blocking access will be moved.
• Adam Brake GTR — Habitat: Mast production is good. Water Level: Water level is 238.7 feet msl with a target level of 240.0 msl.
• Rainey Brake GTR — Habitat: Mast production is good. Water Level: 85% flooded.
• Eagle Pond GTR — Habitat: Mast production is good. Water Level: 40% flooded.
• Charles Crisp Moist-Soil Unit — Habitat: Good wetland- type vegetation.
Water Level: 60% flooded.
• Ward Field Moist-Soil Unit — Habitat: Good wetland- type vegetation. Water Level: 75% flooded.
• River Field Moist-Soil Unit — Habitat: Good wetland- type vegetation. Water Level: 60% flooded.
• St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA — Habitat: Good mast production this year within the hunt area.
Water Level: Water levels on St. Francis Sunken Lands for waterfowl season are dependent on flows from the St. Francis River.
The target level for providing huntable timber is 212.0 feet msl at the Oak Donnick gauge. As of Nov.
24, levels were 212.58 feet msl.
• Snowden WRA— Habitat: Mixed grasses.
Water Level: 0% flooded, mostly in the low-lying areas due to rain.
• Payneway WRA— Habitat: A, B, C and D pools have mixed smartweed and barnyard grasses. Moderate mast is available within pools A, B and C as well. Water Level: Pool A is at 0% coverage.
Pool B is at 0%. Pool C is at 0%. Pool D is at 0%.