Welcome to Steve McCadams' Weekly
Waterfowl Report. Waterfowlers wanting to monitor
activity of ducks and geese here in Tennessee's Kentucky Lake
area, along with reports from elsewhere in the Mississippi
flyway, will want to check in often for the latest migratory
movement, state and federal refuge counts, and other interesting
information for hunters.
(Waterfowl Reports containing
refuge surveys and overall duck and goose hunting activity,
along with interesting tidbits on waterfowling will resume here
in early November)
YOUTH WATERFOWL HUNTS ON HORIZON
By Steve McCadams - January 30, 2014
Although the statewide duck season ended last Sunday
afternoon for the old folks, two special youth waterfowl hunts
are on the horizon for kids 6-15 years of age.
Each year Tennessee joins other states within the Mississippi
flyway in offering two days set aside for kids to hunt ducks and
geese. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows states two
days within the framework of season setting to target the
youngsters with the goal of helping introduce boys and girls to
the great sport of waterfowling.
True you can do that during the regular season too but have
hunts where only the kids can shoot makes it even more special
for them and those taking them.
For years Tennessee’s wildlife commission did a regular two-day
weekend combo and that seemed to work pretty good. However, last
year and again this year the two days are separate Saturdays and
one week apart. And, the hunts have the option of
occurring before or after the regular season and it has been
traditional here to hold the youth waterfowl hunts after the
regular season ends.
How do things look for the youngsters in terms of duck activity?
Pretty good is the answer as more cold weather earlier in the
week has a lot of ducks in the area. Some areas have been iced
up this week due to the frigid temperatures but should begin to
open up as the mercury is predicted to climb into the lower 50’s
Aerial surveys from the Tennessee and Cross Creeks National
Wildlife Refuges indicate duck numbers increased in late
January, a likely beneficiary of the series of cold fronts that
have dominated the weather scene since mid-January.
The most recent waterfowl estimate showed a whopping 231,394
ducks on TNWR along Kentucky Lake. That’s a significant increase
over the mid-winter count taken in the third week of December
when some 116,000 were estimated. And, neighboring CCNWR on Lake
Barkley at Dover also showed good numbers of ducks. The aerial
estimate there indicated 50,306, which was also a surge in usage
since late December.
The last week of season was a good one for area hunters as
severe weather entered the region and really stimulated
activity. High winds really put ducks in the air and increased
numbers migrated to the area as well which helped waterfowlers
end the season on a good note, despite battling ice for a few
days when temps dropped drastically.
It appears duck numbers have swelled here in the region the last
two weeks and that could pave the way for increased
opportunities for the youngsters as ducks have had five days
rest since the statewide season closed last Sunday. That is
usually good for areas like Springville bottom, Big Sandy, Gin
Creek or Camden bottoms where hunting pressure and boat activity
can push ducks to other areas.
Youngsters will have two separate Saturday hunts to call their
own with the first one arriving February 1. The second hunt is a
week later and scheduled for February 8. Both hunts require an
adult at least 21 years of age to accompany the youngsters.
Adults cannot hunt ducks but may participate in other open
seasons such as those open for snow, blue and Ross’, and
white-fronted geese. Bag limits on ducks for the kids will be
the same as regular statewide daily bag limits, which allows six
ducks but not more than four mallards of which only two may be
For additional info consult TWRA’s Waterfowl Hunting Guide
brochure or log onto
Remember to take plenty of hot chocolate and biscuits for those
future waterfowlers. Keep them warm and keep them fed.
Hopefully the ducks will fly by for a few visits and add to the
overall experience of a nice outdoor trip with buddies and
mentors sharing a sunrise together.
FINAL FLIGHT FOR DUCK HUNTERS
By Steve McCadams - January 23, 2014
Duck hunters were tuning up their calls this week in
preparation for their “swan song”. Season draws to a close at
sunset Sunday across Tennessee and since it opened back on
Thanksgiving Day there has been a wide range of weather.
Weary waterfowlers had another week of roller coaster
temperatures that started out on Monday some 15 degrees above
normal. By midweek it was time to button up the shirt, pull up
the hood and back up a little closer to the propane heaters.
Frigid conditions returned at midweek as nighttime temps dropped
back to single digits and a stubborn wind chill added insult to
injury. A warm up is expected by this weekend as the weatherman
is promising a rebound into the low 40’s, which will be a
welcomed change even for tough duck hunters known to yearn for
For a lot of duck hunters the home stretch got marred by the
return of ice as most shallow bottoms, flooded fields, sloughs,
and even some open water bays began to succumb to the cold
conditions. Ducks were really on the move as the weather
approached and while some major movement took place a few days
the honeymoon was short once blinds iced up and decoys glazed
over and caked up.
Some good hunts were reported this week from across the region
as increased numbers of mallards, gadwall, pintails, shovelers,
canvasbacks and assorted divers were pushing through and
entering the west Tennessee sector.
While a lot of ducks were already in the area for the last
couple of weeks it seems the gusty winds and cold fronts really
put the birds on the move as they darted around looking for
feeding areas in their restless mood.
Most of the river bottoms west of Kentucky Lake were
experiencing good shooting at midweek. Flooded soybean and corn
fields across the Obion, Forked Deer and Hatchie bottom areas
reported excellent hunting as did the Reelfoot Lake area and
throughout extreme western Tennessee.
Other neighboring states had a good week too as ducks have been
building in big numbers across eastern Arkansas, the bootheel of
Missouri and western Kentucky. Ample water has remained in the
four state area for almost a month and that has attracted big
numbers of waterfowl that seemed to stay around even during the
Although some good reports were coming in from areas to our
west, hunters in most of the Kentucky Lake public hunting areas
such as West Sandy, Big Sandy, Gin Creek and Camden bottoms
wildlife management areas have not fared well lately. It has
been tough sledding for these popular spots that have done well
in times past.
Going into the season hunters knew no food was planted in the
TWRA units this year due to a very wet spring that prohibited
planting. However, just how that would play out was somewhat of
a guess and despite the lack of food duck hunters were holding
on to optimism.
Turns out the ducks had choices and they opted to fly to other
sectors of the state and region where accessible food and
shallow water awaited them. No doubt the lack of crops was a
factor in this year’s season for most local hunters but there
were a few decent days mixed in.
Most of the duck food was found on either the federal refuges or
scattered about private hunt clubs that chalked up a pretty good
season where flooded grain was an attractant. Abbreviated
hunting in those areas helped hold ducks throughout most of the
season but the recent rash of cold weather has seen ducks on the
move searching for new food sources.
At a time when most waterfowlers would be hoping for cold
weather just the opposite is on the wish list as the final
weekend arrives. Will it warm up enough for hunters to break ice
and return to blinds as the season winds down?
For some the ice may well bring an early closure. There may not
be time to rebound from this week’s frigid visit. Others might
make a last ditch effort to bust out and get in a little hunting
on the last day of a 60-day season that has been good for some,
tough for most, and downright demeaning as a few dreary duck
hunters will begin pulling up decoys and licking their wounds.
The curtain is falling as hunters are already looking toward
next year. Pretty soon duck fatigue will lose its grip and the
thrill of what lies ahead will refuel the fire for fowlers
DUCK NUMBERS INCREASE; HUNTERS REPORT MIXED RESULTS
By Steve McCadams - January 16, 2014
Tennessee’s duck season is about to hit the home stretch as
waterfowlers have two weekends left. The 60-day season winds
down on January 26 and most area hunters are hoping to go out
with a bang next week.
Duck numbers have increased lately as winter weather over the
last two weeks really had temperatures on a roller coaster ride.
While a long spell of cool weather did work in favor of duck
hunters across the region it has been an ongoing battle with
high water across several states that has continued to scatter
ducks over thousands of acres of backwater, flooded bottoms and
swamps, and grain fields.
Some blinds have fared well after falling victim to ice last
week for a few days. Once the thaw came many areas picked up and
experienced good shooting for several days before some heavy
rains returned and swelled streams that backed out and inundated
more places for ducks to feed and rest.
The most recent waterfowl survey taken at the Tennessee National
Wildlife Refuge and Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge showed
increased numbers of waterfowl in the area. Aerial surveys were
taken by refuge biologist Robert Wheat on January 8 and showed a
total of 194,675 ducks and 14,060 geese here on Kentucky Lake at
Those figures show an increase of 68 percent from the previous
survey back in mid-December and are 49 percent above last year
at this same time. Compared to the 5-year average the total was
9 percent above average and 22 percent above the 10-year average
for this time of year.
A breakdown of the top five species indicated mallards topping
the list at 128,263, followed by gadwall at 25,460. Third in the
ranking were pintails at 8,110; greenwing teal 7,610 and
Out of the total survey the Big Sandy unit was holding 50,981.
The Duck River unit had the lion’s share with 139,174. And,
there were 72 eagles using the refuge as well.
Neighboring Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge on Lake
Barkley at Dover was also holding a good number of birds with
50,306 ducks estimated and 9,076 geese. Those numbers show a 47
percent increase from the previous survey and 27 percent above
last year at this time. The total is 24 percent above the 5-year
average and 28 percent above the 10-year average.
Hunters in the Kentucky and Barkley Lakes region have reported
mixed results this week as a 3-inch rain in some areas recently
really scattered ducks and made it tough for many blinds to
score big numbers. And, a lack of food this year in TWRA’s
wildlife management areas has no doubt been a factor for just
about every blind in the popular public hunting areas of West
Sandy, Camden bottoms, Gin Creek and Big Sandy.
Recent reports from these units indicate the harvest has been
down. Further west toward the Mississippi River some blinds were
having better luck as duck numbers were higher around Tigrett
and Gooch WMAs but scattered overall throughout the Forked Deer,
Obion and Hatchie River drainage areas.
Increased duck numbers were reported from the Whites Lake state
refuge near Dyersburg earlier this week. And, hunters in eastern
Arkansas and across the Bootheel of Missouri were seeing good
numbers too but also battling too much water. Western Kentucky
duck hunters were doing good too when the Mississippi River
backed out, sending ducks up river bottoms to new feeding
The overall hunting scene improved the last week to ten days but
not everyone was the beneficiary of recent cold fronts, north
winds and heavy rains. A few blinds have done very well in the
last few days and others are hoping ducks return to their local
hunt areas as the season rapidly draws to a close.
DUCK ACTIVITY IMPROVES FOR SOME
By Steve McCadams - January 09, 2014
In the aftermath of the bitter Artic blast earlier this week
some duck hunters have seen increased numbers and experienced an
improvement. Others have fallen victim to ice this week and have
been unable to hunt shallow areas where blinds are locked up and
thawing has been a very slow process.
Single digit temperatures earlier this week really changed the
overall waterfowl picture for hunters across a five-state region
as some hunters in open water areas saw activity improve. Once
backwaters iced up ducks began moving toward open water to some
degree and ducks that had been riding out the weather to our
north began moving south in a big way.
While duck hunters are known to yearn for cold fronts during the
season there are times when it can get too cold and for the
majority of waterfowlers that was the case earlier this week.
Bone chilling winds blew in with a vengeance on Monday and wind
chills were way below zero across the region and that quickly
turned shallow fields, swamps and backwater into solid ice,
robbing many hunters of a place to go.
It really separated the men from the boys too as temps were too
cold for stubborn starting outboard motors, jamming guns, and
about anything else associated with the sport. Many hunters
stayed home for a few days and realized their limitations while
others have ventured out this week as a warming trend slowly
reversed frigid conditions.
Actually the warming trend has seen an increase in activity the
last few days as ducks had been changing their flight patterns
and working dry grain fields at times. And, when it’s bitter
cold ducks will lay up for a day or two and not move until
thawing occurs and food becomes more accessible.
A spot check from around the region shows duck activity on the
upswing along Kentucky Lake’s open water areas and shallow mud
flats. Species such as gadwall, canvasback, ringneck, mallards
and buffleheads seemed to increase this week.
From a variety of public hunting areas such as Big Sandy, Gin
Creek, West Sandy and Camden bottoms the word was still slow as
hunters were not seeing or bagging many ducks. A lack of food in
those units this year has no doubt taken its toll as duck usage
has been below average in those units.
Further west the duck picture was off a bit for most popular
areas across the Obion, Forked Deer and Hatchie bottom drainage,
although some success stories were coming in from hunters having
open water. Many have used a variety of devices to keep potholes
open during the cold snap and it has paid dividends at times,
although ducks had vacated a lot of shallow areas earlier this
week but will likely return as the warm up continues.
The massive amount of water that had scattered ducks across
portions of eastern Arkansas, southern Missouri, southern
Illinois, western Kentucky and west Tennessee fell victim to the
ice age this week and that moved ducks that had grown quite
complacent. Prior to the deep freeze this week ducks were very
scattered and some popular hunt areas were struggling across the
It appears temps are headed back to normal range as the weekend
approaches and hunters will soon be able to return to their
blinds and decoy spreads that had been frozen stiff.
The next two weeks could be pretty good for southern duck
hunters as more ducks are now in the region and may linger a
bit. Season runs through January 26 and while there’s no perfect
weather for everyone or every location, waterfowlers this season
have had about every weather pattern imaginable!
WATERFOWLERS HOPING HOLIDAY DUCKS VISIT…EXCESS WATER A FACTOR
By Steve McCadams - January 03, 2014
Duck hunters across the region are hoping the approaching
cold front will bring new ducks to the area as frigid
temperatures are in the forecast.
Ice is about to enter the picture and that could freeze up some
of the massive backwater that has scattered ducks and geese for
the last two weeks across a five state region. It should improve
things for this area as ducks have been basking in the sun for
quite some time and enjoying the abundance of shallow feeding
and resting areas that flooded back before Christmas.
Portions of southern Illinois and Indiana had thousands of
acres of farm land and low areas covered with water as the Ohio
River had backed out and inundated low lying areas that were
holding a lot of ducks. It was the same picture further west as
eastern Arkansas and the Bootheel of Missouris attracted a lot
of ducks to the shallow rice, corn and soybean fields but
hunters there were also victims of very scattered waterfowl.
Western Tennessee and Kentucky waterfowlers were in the same
boat as ducks were straying from normal flight patterns and
roaming backwater havens where they had an abundance of
opportunities. There has been too much water that mixed with
some mild weather but that’s about to change.
The shallow areas will be freezing up by this weekend and will
no doubt have less appeal to ducks so it should put them in the
air and send them further South soon. Puddle waters are
vulnerable to cold weather and while ducks will ride it out for
a few days and manage to find enough open water to hang around
the approaching cold weather should change the overall waterfowl
Most of the rivers and big water will not freeze so ducks may
move toward those areas while dry feeding at times in farm
fields near some open water.
Hunters in the southern region of the Mississippi flyway should
see improvement in the days ahead as ducks move around and leave
iced up backwater to our north that has held them for the last
two weeks. Water in those areas has been slow to recede as the
heavy rains two weeks ago really changed the whole waterfowl
The approaching cold weather----temps are expected to reach
single digits early next week and not rise above freezing for a
few days--- will see ice form in most backwater sloughs, bottoms
and just about any shallow area by early next week so a lot of
blinds will fall victim to the change. Hunters will be battling
the ice for a spell and by the middle of next week will likely
be wishing for a warm up.
Cold weather is nice and moves ducks but it can get too cold
and it appears duck hunters across the region are about to get a
dose of extremely cold conditions that will alter things here
too. Some hunters with mobility might take advantage of the
forthcoming weather and use temporary setups around open water
as both diver and puddle ducks should soon move to open water
feeding and resting areas in the days ahead.
Locally, duck hunters in the West Sandy, Camden bottoms, Big
Sandy and Gin Creek wildlife management areas have reported low
numbers of ducks seen and taken. The holiday period is always
popular as hunters are out in force when school and work
Unfortunately, the recent holiday hunt period was not kind to
waterfowlers around here who scanned empty skies for the last
week or two. Most have been disappointed as the season crossed
the half-way point last week.
Diminished success rates have not been exclusive to the
Kentucky Lake area as a lot of hunters to our west have also
Here’s a summary from Arkansas Game and Fish on their
situation: Following heavy rainfall just before Christmas, much
of the state has experienced an increase in waterfowl habitat.
But reports from across the state indicate hunting success has
been hit and miss.
Most of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s
waterfowl-hunting impoundments have reached full pool, and
natural flooding has occurred in many watersheds, including the
Cache and lower White river basins.
Field reports from around the state, however, don’t reveal any
particular hot spots for duck hunting success.
“I’m not sure we’ve gotten a reinforcing push of ducks since
the big rain event,” said AGFC waterfowl program coordinator
Luke Naylor. “And the ducks that have been here are likely
spreading out with the abundance of habitat that’s available.”
Naylor also pointed out that the past two weeks likely have
been a time of intense hunting pressure. Schools have been on
Christmas break, and the holidays are also a time when many
hunters take vacation days.
“When you take all of this into consideration, it stands to
reason that the ducks are spread out,” Naylor said.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s statewide season runs through January 26
so duck hunters have three weeks of hunting opportunity left.
The late season can be good and hunting can rebound quickly when
cold weather pushes new ducks our way.
It will interesting to see how next week’s cold weather changes
the waterfowl scene and how hunters adapt to the frigid temps
that are sure to send ice to a large portion of the area.
WATERFOWLERS HOPING HOLIDAY DUCKS VISIT…EXCESS WATER A FACTOR
By Steve McCadams - December 26, 2013
Maybe Santa didn’t get their letters. Duck
hunters across the region made a list and checked it twice but
apparently ole’ Saint Nick didn’t have many web footed gifts in
his bag of tricks as waterfowlers across a vast area are singing
the blues. Significant weather changes last week really upset
the apple cart for most duck hunters who were anticipating a
push of new ducks to the area after enduring a long spell of
mild conditions and above average temperatures that hung around
throughout mid-December. The extended spell of stagnant weather
had ducks lazy and complacent prior to Christmas as lack of wind
and temps that ranged some 12 to 15 degrees above normal wasn’t
Then came the dramatic blast last week
when thunderstorms and excessive wind rolled through the region
pushed by a strong cold front, dropping heavy rains along the
way that flooded parts of four states. Portions of West
Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, western Kentucky and the Bootheel
of Missouri got drenched. Some areas received in excess of 4
inches of rain in a short time and that inundated all
tributaries to the Mississippi River, backing water out across
thousands of acres river bottoms and low lying farm land.
Since the excessive rains ducks have been
very scattered as they’ve had a million places to go for feed
and rest. Hunters have not fared well in most regions as the
ducks have changed flight patterns and going to and fro with no
Hunters in the four state region reported
seeing a lot of high ducks earlier this week but success stories
were in the minority as to harvest. Here in the Kentucky Lake
area a lot of ducks left and headed west toward the backwaters
last week in search of abundant feeding opportunities once the
flood water backed out.
The upper Big Sandy bottom was out for a
few days as were areas nearby along all forks of the Obion,
Forked Deer, and Hatchie River drainage areas across West
Tennessee. Some hunters were mobile and headed to wading areas
in the backwaters where ducks were using flooded timber and
sloughs that had been dry a few days before.
Water is now receding across the region
and secondary rivers are back in their banks. Even massive
Kentucky Lake’s elevation jumped a couple of feet in a short
time but was falling slowly at midweek and should be back near
normal winter pool by this weekend.
Reports from around the public hunt areas
such as TWRA’s West Sandy, Big Sandy, Gin Creek, Camden Bottoms,
and west toward Gooch and Tigrett have experienced a slowdown in
shooting opportunities. Talk to ten blind owners and about eight
of them are crying hard times.
A few private hunt areas have had decent
shooting at times but those that reported good hunting are
resting their spots and only hunting them two or three days a
week and even then hunting abbreviated hours in order to keep
ducks using their location.
Other pits and blinds near refuges that
had been scoring some decent numbers fell off dramatically this
week as the high water changed that picture too, causing many
ducks to pick up and leave enroute to flooded backwater buffets.
Aerial surveys taken by Tennessee National
Wildlife Refuge in mid-December and the most current one
available showed a total of 116,067 ducks on the three units
comprised of Big Sandy, Duck River and Busseltown along Kentucky
Lake. There were 2,764 geese estimated in the survey.
The duck total was 26 percent ahead of
last year’s count at the same time and 20 percent above the
5-year average for this time of year. It was also 33 percent
above the 20-year average. However, it’s important to remember
these numbers were observed prior to last week’s storm and
flooding as most hunters are of the opinion ducks moved out
toward flood water earlier in the week and have been slow to
A breakdown of species shows 68,067
mallards, 20,945 gadwall, 6,500 pintails, 6,465 greenwing teal,
and 4,800 ringneck comprising the top five in the survey.
Even Arkansas was below average on its
duck count according to this report from Arkansas Game and
Fish: Following a prolonged spell of cold weather in The
Natural State as well as frigid temperatures and snow in states
to Arkansas’s north, many waterfowl hunters likely expected to
see increasing duck numbers in recent weeks. But results from
the season’s second aerial waterfowl survey paint a different
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
biologists flew the December aerial waterfowl survey Dec. 16-18
in the state’s Delta region and the Arkansas River Valley and
Dec. 13 in southwestern Arkansas. The duck population index in
the Delta was just over 830,000 ducks, about half of the
2009-2013 average (1.6 million ducks) for the December survey.
The mallard population estimate was about 475,000, representing
more than half of the Delta total but well below the 2009-2013
December mallard average of roughly 850,000.
“These systematic surveys continue to
point toward habitat conditions – namely flooding extent –
playing a major role in Arkansas duck numbers,” Naylor said.
The survey took place last week, just
before this duck season’s biggest rain event, which dropped
several inches of rain across many parts of Arkansas.
Meanwhile, weary, local hunters are hoping
to put a few points on the board in the second half. While some
blinds have done well at times across West Tennessee the lion’s
share have endured tough times the last week or two and are
hoping for a surge during the season’s second half.
Tennessee duck hunters are coming up on
the half-way point this weekend in the 60-day duck season.
Season runs through January 26.
COLD WEATHER NOT AUTOMATIC FIX FOR WATERFOWLERS
By Steve McCadams - December 12, 2013
Waterfowlers took another ride on the weather roller coaster
this week as temperatures have bounced around and were some 15
degrees below average at midweek---it was 18 degrees Thursday
morning--- in the aftermath of last week’s sleet and ice storm.
A slight warm up is escorting the weekend’s entrance but by
Sunday another cool snap enters the picture.
Mixed reports are coming in from duck hunters across
West Tennessee and neighboring states where several success
stories dominated the conversation. Some spots were reporting
good shooting while others were less fortunate and not seeing
big numbers or bagging many ducks.
Every day is different in the duck blind and success
often depends on wind direction, velocity, temperature, cloud
conditions and mood swings of finicky fowl who make their own
rules and change them whenever they wish.
Some flooded fields and dry field pit hunting adjacent
to refuges or wildlife management areas have been pretty good
thus far with double digit duck number being taken on a regular
basis. Other areas haven’t fared as well since enjoying a good
start to a season starting off with frigid temps.
Shallow areas such as flooded soybean and corn fields
across West Tennessee’s Obion, Hatchie and Forked Deer River
basins have been fighting ice this week as those splash water
spots freeze up quickly when temps drop below freezing and winds
quit blowing. A warming trend is expected Friday and Saturday
and that should open up some areas for those hunters.
Backwaters of West Sandy, Big Sandy, Gin Creek, Gooch
and Camden Bottoms wildlife management areas have had some ice
this week too as some blinds were having to break out holes each
day to free up decoys. Open water on Kentucky and Barkley lakes,
along with open main lake blinds on Reelfoot Lake have remained
open and reported mixed result but bagging enough ducks to keep
interest levels high.
Last week’s bitter cold front delivered rain, ice and
light snow across much of the area and northern states
experienced a winter blast that did stimulate a migration of
ducks that had been riding it out in the upper portions of
Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota.
Here in the Kentucky Lake area we saw an increase in
duck numbers with some good bunches of divers winging their way
south. Nice groups of ringneck, canvasback, scaup, and even some
redheads were moving through as were a few goldeneye and
Good numbers of greenwing teal had been hanging around
the Kentucky Lake area but appeared to move out during the
recent cold fronts and likely moved further south.
A few more puddle ducks entered the zone too as some
nice flocks of pintails were seen as were a few new mallards.
Several gadwalls remain and a few scattered black ducks have
been seen and taken too.
Hunting along the Mississippi River in extreme West
Tennessee, the Bootheel of Missouri and Western Kentucky has
been good at times but ice has robbed a few days from blinds and
pits located in shallow water.
Although most waterfowlers benefit from frequent cold
fronts the recent rash of cooler conditions have not been
automatic for all hunters. Those hunting TWRA’s public hunt
areas got off to a good start but a lack of food in the units
may not hold good numbers of ducks when colder weather descends.
Hunters in the majority of blinds across wildlife
management areas this week indicated duck numbers had fallen off
in the units compared to last week despite the arrival of good
duck weather. However, private hunt clubs where flooded corn and
other grains was available were reporting good shooting as the
birds flocked to hot foods when cold temps lingered.
Aerial waterfowl surveys were underway today (Thursday)
on Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge and Cross Creeks National
Wildlife Refuge. I’ll have updates posted from USFWS by early
next week if not sooner.
Seems success always varies across the region during
duck season and no one has good luck---or bad luck---all the
time. The overall season has been much better than last year at
this time for the vast majority but weather conditions, water
levels in some spots, icing and lack of wind all play a big part
in the day to day hunting.
A lack of wind earlier this week had some blinds fogged
in for the first few hours each morning and that diminished
shooting opportunities but just because it’s bad one day doesn’t
mean tomorrow will be the same. In the sport of duck hunting
yesterday and tomorrow don’t mean much as things can change
The weather is never perfect for everyone as some need
rain and others like it dry. A few like warm to moderate weather
when others thrive on bitter cold and freeze-ups elsewhere.
It’s still early in a long season that will run through
the end of January so there’s an abundance of opportunities
ahead. Roller coasters have a lot of ups and downs and so do
duck seasons in Dixie!
SEASON OFF TO GOOD START…MORE COLD WEATHER COMING!
By Steve McCadams - December 03, 2013
More good duck season is on the way! After a few days of
spring conditions it appears a cool snap will chase it away.
Waterfowlers across the Kentucky Lake area and throughout
West Tennessee got off to a pretty good start Thanksgiving
morning as season opened under cold conditions. Temperatures
opening morning dropped down to a frigid 15 degrees in most
areas and ice entered the picture for some shallow fields and
backwater areas where hunters had to bust out potholes.
It was somewhat surprising as a few shallow areas where
hunters anticipated thick ice were actually still open or had a
light skim where hunters busted it up enough to allow the wind
to create a pocket. Several hunters did just that and wound up
having a good shoot over a small, open hole of water.
Still, hunters across the region were not accustomed to
fighting ice on opening day. It has happened a few times but
it’s rare to have that degree of cold in late November.
A few days prior to opening morning a severe cold front
rolled in and really brought winter conditions to the region.
Gusty north winds escorted the cold front and that seemed to
stimulate duck activity for a day or two before the weather
moderated and returned to normal temps last weekend.
A dramatic warm-up has been underway since opening day as
temps at midweek climbed up to the low 60’s and some areas
touched the 70-degree mark on Wednesday! Ducks seemed to settle
in and were complacent during the warming trend earlier this
week. Activity slowed in most areas for a few days as the duck
weather turned into fishing weather.
Prior to the midweek rash of spring like weather hunters in
the area were bagging mixed bags of mallards, gadwalls, widgeon,
shovelers, greenwing teal, and woodies. Small numbers of
pintails were taken and open water areas had a few scaup and
buffleheads darting over decoy spreads and testing the shooting
ability of hunters.
Several blinds in wildlife management areas such as Camden
bottoms, Big Sandy, Gin Creek, and West Sandy scored good
numbers on opening day. Activity fell off, however, by the
weekend as ducks responded to both hunting pressure and the warm
Further to the west found good hunting too as Gooch WMA and
several private hunt areas around Dyersburg reported good
numbers of ducks using shallow corn and soybean fields. Reelfoot
Lake reopened its zone on Saturday and had pretty good hunting
for a day or two but action fell off quickly there earlier this
Good news is on the horizon; another cold front is in the
forecast as temps are expected to really fall on Friday with the
weatherman crowing about rain turning to sleet and even possible
light snow by this weekend. From a midweek high of 70-degrees to
a high of only 32-degrees by Saturday is the picture being
painted by meteorologists.
Sounds like some good duck weather is in progress as the
weekend approaches and that should put ducks back in the air and
perhaps bring in some new birds as well. Dramatic changes in
temperature usually makes ducks restless. They move around more
as they feel the low barometric pressure change and that
increases their appetite. And the wind, or lack thereof, is
always a factor.
As the second good cold front of the season descends with
winds switching to the northwest duck hunters across the region
should see significant improvement. Last year cold fronts were
rare during the warm duck season but this year is starting off
to be quite different and two cold fronts this early in the
season sets the stage for more migration and stirs up what’s
With only one week of season in the books waterfowlers have
seen a roller coaster weather pattern. Season began with below
average temperatures only to have spring weather slip in the
door at midweek. Now, another blast is on the way and hunters
will have to button up their shirts and kneel down as ducks ride
the front and hopefully wing over decoys in the days ahead.
Season here runs through January 26, 2014.
Dear Duck Hunters
By Steve McCadams - November 25, 2013
It’s spitting snow, temperatures are 15 or degrees below
normal, and a brisk north wind is whipping up the enthusiasm
level of duck hunters across the region as our season is about
to open. I hope this waterfowl update finds you in the mood for
Season opens Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) here and duck weather
has arrived as a massive cold front across the country is in
progress. Ducks are on the move too as significant numbers are
migrating in response to the brutal weather to our north and
Some shallow fields are already beginning to freeze up in
Missouri and eastern Arkansas, which is a sharp contrast to last
year’s warm winter. We’ve already had several cool snaps and it
is shaping up to be a colder and wetter winter than last year
which should improve the overall duck picture here.
The last week or so I’ve seen increased numbers of gadwall,
greenwing teal, widgeon, mallards and even a few bluebills
(scaup) and bufflehead. While our duck numbers will continue to
build the stage is set for a good early season thanks to winter
weather’s early arrival.
I hope to hear from you this season. Several of you have already
booked dates and remember to touch base with me a few days prior
to your hunt. If you’ve called or emailed earlier checking on
availability please feel free to drop me another note as my
calendar changes and some dates may have opened up.
Our season runs 60-days straight, ending on January 26, 2014.
This year’s bag limit allows six ducks of which four can be
mallards, one black duck, three woodies, two pintails, two
canvasbacks, three scaup, and two readheads. And, we’re allowed
three Canada geese.
I’ve caught early water at my farm and will have flooded soybean
fields to hunt there in-between my open water river blind hunts,
especially during the last half of season.
My Labrador Daisy is anxious for the season to begin too as she
has been working out all summer and fall on daily routines.
She’s ready to trade in the plastic dummies for real ducks!
This will be my 39th year as a professional hunting and fishing
guide here on Kentucky Lake. I hope you’ll join me and share a
sunrise, along with some of those marinated pork chops, hefty
chicken breasts, and other morsels in the blind during the
Ducks are down wind and their wings are cupped! Guess what comes
FALL FLIGHT FORECAST IS A GOOD ONE…DUCK NUMBERS HOLD STEADY
By Steve McCadams - September 9, 2013
Frosty mornings and bone chilling winds are still a few
months away but most of us in Waterfowl World are always
thinking ahead and wondering about the status of the Fall Flight
How was the hatch? What does the season look like? When does
it open and has the bag limit changed? These are a few of the
questions I hear on a regular basis from enthusiastic duck
hunters anxiously awaiting early season sunrises.
Recently released reports indicate the ducks had another
great year on the breeding grounds. Thanks to a wet spring duck
numbers heading south this fall and winter should be well above
the long-term average.
The survey, which has been conducted annually since 1955 by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife
service, puts the breeding duck population at 45.6 million, the
second-highest level ever recorded. This year’s estimate was 33
percent above the long-term average.
"We started with high numbers of breeding ducks, and we have
great water in the right places for renesting and duckling
survival," said Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl.
"Duck production should be excellent."
“This spring saw abundant moisture in much of the heart of
North America's most important duck breeding areas," said DU
Chief Scientist Dale Humburg. "That bodes well for duck breeding
success this summer and hopefully, for hunting this fall.”
Of the 10 species surveyed, 7 were similar to last year’s
estimates, including mallards. American wigeon were 23 percent
above last year. Mallards, similar in number to 2012, are 36
percent above the long-term average.
Greenwing teal, gadwalls, ringnecks, canvasbacks, and
redheads are other species in pretty good shape too.
Two species (northern pintail and scaup) remained below their
long-term average and North American Waterfowl Management Plan
Weather and water conditions are always big factors
influencing the seasons down here in Dixie but it’s nice to know
the ducks are there in big numbers. Now we’ll keep our fingers
crossed for normal winter weather to stimulate the migration as
last year’s temperatures (especially during late December and
most of January) were above normal.
Last year’s warm winter did not work in favor of duck hunters
across the region as an extended spell of mild conditions
allowed big numbers of ducks to stay north of their normal
wintering grounds. Refuge waterfowl surveys across the South
were below their 5 and 10-year averages during December and
January, which reflected the influence of warm weather both here
and up north.
Yet last winter was unusual. And, every year is different.
Cold fronts can happen overnight and north winds can change the
waterfowl picture quickly. Every morning in the duck blind is
Thanks to a good Fall Flight Forecast duck hunters will see
another 60-day season and 6 duck bag limit. Our season will open
Thanksgiving Day (Nov 28th) and run through January 26th, 2014.
Soon the web-footed visitors will arrive. In fact,
waterfowlers already have the welcome mat out.
(Note to Editors: Download the species chart and other photographs from Delta's website: