LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – There were fewer ducks for hunters to pursue during the opening weekend of duck season this year, with aerial waterfowl surveys revealing a 26 percent decline in the three-year average for November surveys.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists took to the air Nov. 14-18, the week prior to the state's Nov. 19 season opener, and counted an estimated 627,481 ducks in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, commonly known as the Delta. The count revealed an estimated population of roughly 132,000 mallards.
The first segment of the state's duck season ended Nov. 27. The season reopens Dec. 8 for the season's second segment and runs through Dec. 23. The final portion of duck season opens Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 29, 2012.
This year's November count represented a significant decline from last year's November count of more than 1.1 million ducks. "It's kind of what we expected," said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator. "This survey was conducted during a period of rapidly changing conditions. It started out very dry, but there was a huge increase in available habitat during the survey period because of heavy rainfall.
"Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of immediate response to the flooding events. But we did see most ducks where we might expect to see them this time of year, including areas of the Cache, lower White and the Bayou Meto-lower Arkansas River watersheds. In all likelihood those areas had some managed water available, and a reasonable conclusion to draw is that many of the ducks that migrated early had settled into those habitats before the rainfall made more areas available."
More rainfall has hit the state since the week leading up to the season opener. And just this week, much colder temperatures have gripped the state.
"We fully expect to see significant changes when we conduct the next aerial survey the week of Dec. 12," Naylor said. "We surely have had more migration events since this habitat has become available."