As waterfowl migration begins to increase and we approach the upcoming hunting season staff are preparing habitat. Wetland management is the primary focus this fall, while renovation activities from a few years ago take a back seat. During the dry weather in October, staff have created openings in the thick vegetation in Units A and B with a disk to stimulate aquatic bugs as the churned ground and plants become flooded. These disked openings also help show the flooded habitat from the air and allow birds to begin to access the vegetation from the side. Water is and will be added throughout the coming weeks to flood the low ground and build up to provide water depths adequate to distribute hunting opportunities across the area.
Construction and dry conditions are currently limiting the availability of a few positions on the outskirts of Duck Creek, but it shouldn't affect the core hunting opportunities on the area. The fish ponds and the fields near Kinder are positions that will not be available due to the construction contract this fall. Dark Cypress and Greenbrier are reliant on rainfall to provide flooded habitat. These last two sites are currently dry and won't be viable options for waterfowl hunting until the region receives some significant rain. This hunting season Dark Cypress is allocated through the draw as usual. Greenbrier remains an open area and not included in the draw.
That being said, over the last few weeks there has been an increase number of waterfowl passing through, building up on the area, and using the flooded habitat. This trend should continue as we head into November. Waterfowl Reports and Prospects for Duck Creek and other areas across the state can be viewed here.
Current prospects at Duck Creek for the Middle Zone Youth Waterfowl Weekend, October 31st and November 1st, look to be about 14 positions available in Units A and B through the morning draw at the Duck Creek headquarters. The draw time on October 31st is at 4:45 a.m. and then 3:45 a.m. on November 1st due to the time change.
A couple of additional positions will become available for the Middle Zone Opener, on November 7th as water will continue to be added on the area over time. The new ADA blind in position 16 will also be hunted through scheduled reservations or allocated in the draw if not already occupied. Draw time for November 7th is 3:45 am.
Over the next few weeks the lower elevations within the timbered impoundment of Pool 3 will also begin to receive water. The central blinds in this pool will become available first, followed by the blinds on the periphery and corresponding higher elevations. The blinds in Pool 2 will be staggered slightly behind the flooding of Pool 3. As in years past, the gradual and delayed flooding strategy is out of concern for the forest health, in particular the red oak species. Switching which timbered pool is flooded first is another strategy to try and mitigate stress from flooding the bottomland hardwoods within these pools too early. Exact dates on when specific blinds will be added to the draw are not available since the timing of flooding also pertains to local temperatures and conditions.
At Duck Creek, providing waterfowl hunting opportunity and making sure habitat is available for migrating waterfowl is a balance between seasonal public use and the long-term conservation and management of the different wetland habitats. In early fall the flooded habitats and waterfowl hunting opportunity is focused on the open, non-forested areas; this is where other dabbling ducks typically congregate and forage on the seeds and bugs found in moist soil habitat. As November progresses and the abundance of waterfowl increase, so will the number of positions available at the morning draw. This will correspond with the gradual flooding of timbered areas, which become more important to Mallards later in the season due to changes in their dietary needs and courtship behavior.
Overall, this fall's prospects for waterfowl hunting at Duck Creek look good. The number of positions will increase as the season progresses. As with every year, the weather will likely play a large role in the arrival of ducks, how long they stay, and if the habitat becomes frozen. We wish the best of luck to those that come out to hunt at Duck Creek this fall and thank you for your support and dedication to this great wetland area.