LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas' duck hunting season opens 30 minutes before sunrise Saturday and while hunters are ready to get the season started, some are concerned that low water levels will lead to a disappointing first weekend.
The combination of little rain and a change in when the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began flooding public lands this year has a lot to do with that worry.
Floodgates were opened on Wednesday, a month later than usual.
In years past, the greentree reservoirs would be almost full by now.
This year, the commission chose to wait and artificially flood areas closer to what would naturally occur.
"It's been common in the last 2 to 3 years to see a dry spell to occur in October and in November you start seeing rain showers start to increase, so our pattern that we've selected is not far off what's naturally selected," said Blake Massey, area manager of Shirey Bay Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area.
This is to help preserve fundamental red oak trees, which become stressed from long periods of stagnant water.
"Eventually it will start to kill it from the inside out," Massey said. "You'll notice crowning at the top. You'll notice exfoliating bark starting to occur and bulging starting to occur around the trunk. You know, it will eventually through time kill the tree."
Moving the flooding back further in the year allows those trees to go dormant before the water level rises.
"It's ideal to wait for a good frost to occur before you put water on your timber to allow the sap to go back into the root system, therefore that reduces the amount of stress that occurs on the tree," Massey said.
This delayed flooding means less water in WMAs for opening weekend.
Massey said most everybody has been understanding about why the commission made this decision, though.
Unfortunately, he has not seen ideal conditions yet for duck hunters.
"I'm not really seeing a lot of waterfowl around," Massey said. "You know, we typically have your early birds, your teal and wood ducks, but as far as what mallards we've had, I've not really seen anything. When it warms back up they typically go back north."
Massey said once there is a heavy rain of about 3 inches with runoff, conditions will improve for waterfowl.
He said that will help flood the GTRs and the bottomland hardwoods that are not artificially flooded.
For more information, visit AGFC's website.
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