With the general Arkansas duck season less than one month away, many of the state’s waterfowl hunters are praying for rain. Rivers and lakes remain at low levels following the severe drought this past summer, and without significant rainfall many public hunting areas will offer limited habitat on opening day. Private lands are largely dry as well. Many landowners typically wait until right before duck season to pump water, hoping for rain to help flood fields and woods.

In addition, the hot, dry weather likely reduced production of moist-soil plants–an important waterfowl food source–on many public hunting areas. Red oaks should have fair to good acorn production due to more abundant rainfall in 2011. Red oak species such as willow oaks require 15 months (two growing seasons) for acorns to mature, while species in the white oak group require only three months to mature.

With the passage of the first strong cold front of the season, reports indicate that good numbers of pintails, shovelers, gadwalls, and green winged-teal as well as a few mallards have arrived in the state. White-fronted geese are also showing up in force, along with the first big movement of snow geese. I received several text messages last night from folks hearing geese flying over during the night.

While significant rainfall will be required to flood many historic waterfowl habitats across the state, there’s still plenty of time for that to occur. October is typically the driest month of the year in Arkansas, and recent fronts have brought rain. In the meantime, those who hunt on public lands may need to scout to find water and ducks. Large lakes and rivers, in particular, are likely to hold good concentrations of birds early in the season.

Craig Hilburn grew up in Arkansas hunting waterfowl on public areas. He has worked for Ducks Unlimited the past eleven years as Conservation Program Manager in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri.

Find reports in your area on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map