After a hot and humid summer, we have briefly experienced some cool blasts of air and seeing shorter days. These signs highlight that fall is under way and the opening day of waterfowl season is within striking distance. You might have wondered what the status at Duck Creek is as you begin to dust off your decoys and make preparations for the upcoming season.
If you remember, work on last construction contract began last year and focused on a variety of locations dotted around the periphery of the area. The focus was to renovate smaller fields and do a better job of tying them into the surrounding elevations to enhance their habitat management potential. Additionally, we added footbridges to improve access to hard-to-reach locations. Another aspect of the work included cutting spillways to allow floodways to spread water out, which cuts down on long-term maintenance challenges and provide flood relief to our neighbors.
In southeast Missouri, typically when the leaves begin to fall the water level begins to rise. Last year that was definitely the case and the contract work was cut short before the work was completed. Unfortunately, over the past 12 months there has been little time for the area to dry out, especially enough for consistent construction work to tie up loose ends. For example, July and August is usually the best window to move dirt, even in the bottoms. However, this year this period was the 2nd wettest on record, only surpassed by the July and August of 1915.
Despite these challenges, the contractors took advantage of their windows of opportunity and have gotten closer to finalizing the scope of work. They will continue to work on their punch list leading up to and beyond the waterfowl season opener. Fortunately, this shouldn’t impact your use of the area. In fact, there are a couple improvements that you might notice this fall and be able to experience.
Other positions like the field near Kinder, C Pool, and field by the McGee parking lot are still being worked on and will rely on rainfall to fill them once the work is done. Odds are that we’ll have to wait until next year to try these areas out.
So what about the conditions in pools where the majority of duck hunting will occur this season? If you collected the amount of rainfall received since May, you would have a column of water about 2.5 feet tall. You don’t have to be a farmer or biologist to realize this isn’t good for corn or any other kind of food plots. Unfortunately, what the moisture didn’t do in, the army worms took care of the rest. On the flip side, moist soil plants like millet and smartweed responded positively to the summer’s extra irrigation and are less targeted by pests. This year’s crop of native seed in Units A and B is above average and should provide good food to the fall flight of migratory waterfowl.
Dark Cypress is influenced by backwater flooding along the Castor River Diversion Channel. It went under multiple times this summer as water coming off the Ozarks and spread out behind the Cato Levee. This limited any opportunity to prep the fields and do any disturbance over the summer. On the bright side, Dark Cypress is currently holding water and will be available to hunt at the beginning of the season. Typically, we have to wait a little bit for fall rains to spread water out across the area.
Given this account, you’re probably wondering how many spots will be available at the end of the month. It looks like for the Youth Weekend there will be 14 positions available at the morning draw. A little more time to get conditions ready and spread water out will allow about 16 positions available by the weekend of the Season Opener.
Granted, Units A and B provide early season opportunity for migrating waterfowl and duck hunters, but the timber is also a significant opportunity for wingshooters at Duck Creek. Just as the open units experienced a lot of water this summer, the timber saw water pulsing through and puddled multiple times. Much to our dismay, the saturated conditions have prevented access to repair some of the interior blinds. That being said, the majority are in good condition and will be brushed up and ready for service come opening day.
If you’ve followed this blog in the past, you know there is a compromise when managing water in the woods; one that balances hunting opportunity along with forest health. As in years past, there will be a delay in flooding to try and provide some time for the soil to cool down, which coincides with the winter dormancy of red oaks. More than likely this gradual flooding of the timbered impoundments will still catch the peak migration of mallards and provide days afield in the flooded forest. The progression of flooding this year will be Pool 2 first, followed by Pool 3, and then Pool 8. The water levels in Pool 1 are adequate to flood all three of these adjacent units.
The renovations at Duck Creek haven’t occurred over night and we appreciate your understanding and support as we’ve gone through this process. As you can see from this year’s account, dealing with flood prone areas can be complicated and isn’t always ideal. However, with our improvements to the area we have tried to embrace this wet reality and improve the long-term management of diverse habitats. I hope this fall you can enjoy the great outdoors and spend some time at Duck Creek doing so. Thank you again.