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The Many Meanings of Muddy Water

Dec 10, 2012

What comes to mind when you hear “Muddy Water”? It all depends on the context right? If you are musically inclined and enjoy the soulful sound of the blues, well, the father of modern Chicago blues might come to mind. If it was springtime and we just had a torrential downpour, the sight of sediment laden streams and ditches might flood to the forefront. However, it is in the heart of duck season, and my reference to muddy water refers to ducks foraging in shallow water.

Dabbling Ducks

Waterfowl have many adaptations that allow us to categorize them into different groups. Wood ducks are considered perching ducks because they utilize the tops of trees to sit. Ring-necks and scaup are members of the diving duck family because of their underwater activities to find food. Dabbling ducks are in another main group of waterfowl, known because of their habit of foraging primarily on the surface of the water or however far their necks can reach down after they tip their hind-ends up in the air. This group includes teal, shovelers, gadwall, pintail, wigeon, and of course, mallards. Their foraging behavior limits the water depth in which they can successfully reach food. This is why they prefer shallower bodies of water.

Waterfowl Surveys

During the course of the fall waterfowl season aerial waterfowl surveys are performed to monitor waterfowl migrations, distribution, and abundance as well as to account for habitat availability and use. Whether the birds are present or not, one of the indicators of dabbling duck use is muddy water. When the birds have found what they like, they create quite a disturbance in the shallows. From the air you can see muddy plumes in areas where puddle ducks have been rooting around searching for seeds and bugs to fill their bellies.

Lunar Landscape

Granted, with time the muddiness clears up and the birds move on, but the effect of their activity makes a literal impression. As spring and summer roll around and water levels recede, you can occasionally see the imprint of a thousand hungry birds left in the drying mud. Last summer, at Dark Cypress, you could see such a site. The drying ground undulated and swelled within a range of 1 to 5 inches to form a shallow landscape of “duck craters”. Their probing and grubbing beaks sifted through the soft saturated soils and essentially turned the earth during their fall dinner.

Natural Disturbance

In this way, dabbling ducks and other waterfowl such as snow geese, seasonally pass through wetland habitats and can set back succession just by using an area. By tilling the earth with their beaks the soil is cleared and ready for annual plants to respond the following spring, hence setting the table once again for the upcoming fall. Wetland managers mimic this natural process by disking, but if the conditions are right and the birds are plenty, the work can be done for the price of meal set aside for some willing travelers.

So if you are out wading in the marsh this December and happen to come upon a spot with muddy water, perhaps you’ll start humming the ole Muddy Waters’ tune, “Got My Mojo Working” as you’re setting out your decoys to prepare for a successful hunt. Undoubtedly, the ducks have already been working, which is good for you and will also pay off in the year to come. Good luck and safe hunting.


Depressions from Foraging Ducks
Depressions from Foraging Ducks
The darker soils are small “craters” created from foraging waterfowl when this wetland was flooded during the previous fall.


Flooded Distribution Channel and Unit 18
Flooded Distribution Channel and Unit 18
The muddy water in the center of the photograph is from dabbling ducks foraging in the shallow water.


A1, B1, E1, E3 are not closed to goose hunting.  Any positions in the self check box are open to hunt.  You may set up your decoys and hunt Z1 in Pool 3 if you wish.  Pool 1 is off limits to any hunting. The information note at the HQ did not specifically mention Pool 2 and 3 as positions to hunt geese but it did not intend to imply that these areas were closed to goose hunting either.  If there are any areas that will be off limits to any hunting group, it will be clearly posted at the HQ. 

The main lake did have a good deal of ice over it during the past few weeks.  However, there were a few spots where birds had been able to keep pockets open.  Over the last few days most of the ice has melted, but things could lock back up next week with much cooler temperatures.

Roy, here is a quick summary. The first half of the renovation is complete has had the most impact on public use.  The second half will focus more on the periphery of the area and I expect less restriction on access.  We will finish the work along Ditch 1 and 105.  We will be removing a few of the spoil piles along selected sections of boat lanes in Pools 2 and 3 to aid in water flow through the timber.  There will also be some wetland renovation work done on the fishponds, the fields down at Kinder, and up at Greenbrier. Additionally, we’ll be replacing the footbridges and providing some fishing docks on Pool 1 to aid in access.  We’re still working on the exact timelines of when these activities will be done over the next few years.  This depends upon workloads and our administrative process which includes the overseeing of plans, permits, approval, and contracting.  Over the next couple months we’ll have a better idea of what we’ll be able to bite off this year.

Scouted duck creek today January 9 2013 and found 100's if not thousands of geese flying off the lake going east across A1 B1 E1 and E3. They included snows blues whitefront AND CANADAS. Went to A unit and did not see a single goose. Can you explain why A1 B1 E1 and E3 are not available to goose hunt this year? Do not need water to goose hunt although it looked like B1 had enough water to float decoys at the pool in front of the blind.

is the main lake froze over?

Could you give a brief overview of what is still planned with the renovation work? I was reading and it said you still had 1 million left to spend? Thanks.

From falling asleep in my layout hunting in 55, to bagging 45 min limits in 11. From almost drowning in 16 (twice!) to walking 5 miles to try and find 21. To sitting with my eight year old in Fish Pond just glad to have gotten out, and seeing the look on his face when he downed his first bird. I have had nothing but the up most respect for the staff at DC. This year has had its share of hard knocks not just for us the hunters but certainly for the staff at DC. I had many opportunity to stand in the poor line and witness tiny things from the staff that in my opinion separate them from other staff at other CA's in this state. I will never forget my son pulling a low number his first time out and seeing the sadness and tears in his face when he realized we had to go home, only to have a staff member encourage him to come back and try again. The next day we were there and as we got in line the same staff member remembered us and gave words of encouragement to my son as he reached his hands in and was generally happy to see him pull pill 3!! He appropriately nicknamed my boy “Hot hands” and it is something my son will not soon forget although the staff member probably does not even remember the conversation. I remember pulling up the day after Christmas and seeing Kieth out front shoveling 6 inches of snow off the walk looking at the 5 party’s that showed up like we were crazy yet being concerned enough for our safety that he gave us access through the gate so we did not have to travel the treacherous roads to get to our hunting spots. There are many more acts of kindness and overall good attitude that I could mention but suffice it to say I am very grateful for the hard work and good attitudes of the DC staff especially in face of the recent adversity the weather and construction has given to the area. Great Job!!!

Ryan, we are looking at ways to address the access into 18.  No promises, but it is something we are looking into along with a few other minor issues that we hope to improve upon.  Thanks for the suggestion.

Hey guys, can you please figure out a way to let a guy launch a boat into 18's pool? Even if we cant park where the launch is, but can move vehicle away as to not impact hunting and then walk back to the boat? The future looks good at DC and thanks for your hard work. Pray for no more droughts! Ha ha.

The water in Unit A will stay there until later this spring. Once duck season is over, it serves two purposes, one as habitat for spring migration and the other as a starter for next year's moist-soil crop. The timing and the speed at which we remove that water this spring will determine the species and quality of vegetation that we grow for the ducks next summer. This water is far more valuable where it is now than it will be in Pool 1. On top of this, we do not have the capabilities to efficiently move a lot of the water out of Unit A into Pool 1. Hopefully, next year we will be able to flood Pools 2 and 3 and we will have plenty of blinds available. We will continue to work on adding a few blinds in Unit A and B, but as we have always said we will not put blinds in every unit. These units are designed to maximize shallow water habitat for foraging waterfowl.  This kind of habitat lends itself to the wade-in shoot hunter, whom can take advantage of shifting waterfowl use within the pools.  This can be done by walking in or with the use of a small boat.  Other hunting preferences can be accommodated elsewhere on the area.  In the future, the number of boats and their locations will remain similar to this year so plan accordingly.  I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and you all have a Happy New Year!

Thanks for all you do at Duck Creek. I believe you have spoiled many people by having the boats and blinds in all areas for so long. None of the other CAs that I have hunted at provide blinds and boats in EVERY hunting spot. Ten Mile Pond provides them at NONE of the units. If there are never any blinds and boats put back in A and B units it would be fine with me. There are still the woods blinds and boats to get to them (in normal years, the drought was not your fault).

The water elevation in Pool 1 as of December 20th was 343.35.

I thought the field positions were very nice this year. Cover was a little sparse, but that was to be expected, and I can't complain about it. I believe next year will be a banner year for out there. I do have to agree that they are not setup for the physically challenged, or for young kids. I would not take my son out there until he is a few years older. Need some blinds for the youngins and older and physically challenged. The fields being mucky is just something that comes with duck hunting. I have dealt with that at different areas for 20 years now. Whether or not there are boats does not bother me, but I do see how it could/would affect some hunters. With the budget that MDC has I would think they could afford a few boats. Problem is that you get some bad apples out there that won't take care of them.

What is the current level at the lake?

The 2012 duck season at Duck Creek certainly showed signs of growing pains. Although the lack of rain played a significant part in hunting availability, the newly constructed field areas were a big disappointment. I believe boats should have been placed at each of the field positions. According to the seasonal forecast in the lack of rain, this could have been accomplished very easy. I'm sure many hunters would have helped moving the boats from the woods blinds to the fields. The newly designed fields are set up to only hunt the young and those without physical limitations. The mucky conditions made it almost impossible to hunt and the lack of cover added to the conditions. I believe field blinds should be put back in place as they were in the past. This would allow for any and all to hunt. Next year Duck Creek will be one of the primo hunting spots in Missouri. With the field positions and the woods blinds open and at full capacity, they should be hunting ~50 - 60 parties....? The work that has been done over the last few years and the next phases of the work to be completed will be enjoyed by hunters for many years to come. I commend those that work so hard every day to make this a better place. To those that started and maintain this blog, KUDOS to you as well. I so look forward to the future hunting opportunities with family and friends at Duck Creek!

Merry Christmas to the staff at Duck Creek. Looking forward to another great year!! WIth duck season winding down is there any thoughts to put any of the flooded field water back into the main pool to try and raise the lake level a little? I know normally the fields are all left flooded for returning birds but it would sure be nice to have a little more water in the lake to prevent a major fish kill in the event we get an extended cold snap.

Walking the decoys to muddy the water is a great way to get ducks to finish. They know that muddy water means ducks are feeding too! Many days when the ducks won't finish, we walk the spread and then get back in the blind quickly. We usually have great decoy work for about 20 minutes or so until the water clears up, then we get out and stir up the mud again.

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