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Duck hunting success rates continue to declineLITTLE ROCK - By Arkansas standards, the 2002-2003 duck season appears to mirror last year's season. It is unlikely that the approaching arctic front will change conditions enough to bring any new ducks into the state before the Sunday, Jan. 26 closure of the season.Weather and habitat conditions drive migration and subsequently hunting opportunity and success. Hunting opportunity and success are not driven by duck numbers, but rather by habitat conditions and weather both in the area you are hunting and throughout the flyway.About all that can be said is: hope for better weather and habitat conditions next yearWeather Forecast:LITTLE ROCK - High pressure continues to move southward into Arkansas. Northeast winds will stay breezy through the day and tonight, with colder air coming in tonight with a wind chill advisory for the north as wind chills will approach 10 below zero. North winds tonight will be 10 to 20 mph.Another short wave rotates through the upper trough this afternoon and evening. Most of the energy will move through Missouri, but a few flurries are expected in north Arkansas. Dry air moves in for Thursday morning. Temperatures will be even colder Thursday night, but the winds should die off by the evening. Single digits can be expected in the northeast.Progressive northwest flows bring another short wave in for Friday. With most of the moisture staying north with just a mention of a chance of flurries in the north. Saturday will be dry with a slow warmup. A surface low moves in from the plains on Sunday and will bring a slight chance of rain to the north sections. Much drier air moves in for Monday and Tuesday.Six-day Outlook:Thursday. Mostly sunny. Breezy and continued cold. Highs in the upper 20s. North winds 10 to 20 mph.Thursday night. Mostly clear. Lows near 10 above.Friday. Partly cloudy and continued cold. Highs in the lower 30s.Friday night. Partly cloudy. Lows near 20.Saturday. Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 40s.Sunday. Partly cloudy. Lows near 30 and highs in the lower 50s.Monday. Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s and highs in the upper 50s.Tuesday. Mostly clear. Lows near 40 and highs near 60.NORTHEAST ARKANSAS -Good habitat conditions. Limited migrations of new ducks are being reported over the last two days. Ice will become a factor this weekend. Dave Donaldson/Black River WMA: Percent Flooded: 100%.Habitat Conditions: Excellent mast production in timber. Many surrounding fields and low-lying areas have lost water due to the lack of rain. Ice is still present in some areas. Weather: An approaching front will bring temperatures down to the low teens for the weekend and only a slight chance of precipitation. Migrations/Observations: Large numbers of ducks have been observed on Lake Ashbaugh. Duck Abundance: Good. Hunter Activity/Success: Poor hunter success with very few limits being killed. Hunting pressure has been light. General Comments: The Black River has fallen well into its banks and extra caution should be exercised when boating. The Brookings gauge shows 264.8.' MSL. Temperatures climbed into the lower 60's on Monday, melting some of the ice, but as was the case last week the approaching front will likely freeze up many hunting areas and private fields and force birds to rivers and larger bodies of open water or south. Upper and Lower Island GTR's: Percent Flooded: 100% and falling. Upper Island MSL gauge is at 269 MSL and the Lower Island MSL gauge is at 268.2 MSL. Mervin, Viney and Barnes Slough GTR's: Percent Flooded: 100% and falling with the upper impoundment gauge at 266.6 MSL and the lower impoundment gauge at 266 MSL. Winchester Road, Rest Area and Canal Access GTR's: Percent Flooded: 100% with the Canal Access MSL gauge at 263.8.Shirey Bay/Rainey Brake WMA: Percent Flooded: The Adam's Brake GTR is 100% flooded at 239.9 MSL. The Rainey Brake GTR is 100% flooded at 238.0 MSL. Habitat Conditions: Good mast production in GTR's. Weather: Turning colder this weekend with lows in the 20s. Migrations/Observations: A fair number of ducks remained in the rest area during the recent freeze. Some moist soil units are holding a few ducks. Very few ducks have been observed in the surrounding fields. Hunter Activity/Success: Hunting pressure remains light with poor hunting success. General Comments: All moist soil units are 100% flooded.St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA: Percent Flooded: The Oak Donnick gauge is at 212.4 MSL. Both the Snowden Field and Payneway moist soil units are full. Habitat Conditions: The water has fallen out of the timber and is primarily in the sloughs and river channel. Caution should be exercised when traveling by boat to avoid submerged logs and stumps. Weather: The area is expecting some extremely cold weather and some winter precipitation. This will cause stagnant water to freeze and limit the area use by waterfowl. Migrations/Observations: No new ducks have been noted. A few ducks are using the Payneway moist soil unit. Duck Abundance: Few ducks Hunter Activity/Success: PoorEarl Buss / Bayou DeView WMA:Martin Tract: Percent Flooded: 25%. Habitat Conditions: Excellent mast crop. Weather: Highs in the upper 30s. Lows in the mid teens. The extended weather forecast doesn't call for any precipitation, however, the high temperatures through the weekend will barely reach above freezing. Migrations/Observations: Over the past week, duck numbers around the area have fallen off dramatically due to the hard freeze. Very few ducks have been observed. Duck Abundance: Very few. Hunter Activity/Success: There is very little hunting pressure on the area due to the frozen water. Most groups aren't bagging any ducks. General Comments: The water on this tract has stabilized. This tract is holding around 100 acres of water. With the approaching cold front, water in the timber is expected to freeze. Thompson Tract: Percent Flooded: 100%. Habitat Conditions: Excellent mast crop. Weather: Highs in the upper 30s. Lows in the mid teens. Migrations/Observations: Very few ducks have been observed. Duck Abundance: Very few. Hunter Activity/Success: Few hunters with little success. General Comments: With the cold temperatures forecasted through the week, expect all of the water in the timber to freeze up again. The water gauge on this tract reads around 17 to 18 inches of water in the woods. The water is now stable and clear. Oliver Tract: Percent Flooded: 100 % Habitat Conditions: Excellent mast crop. Weather: Highs in the upper 30's. Lows in the mid teens. Migrations/Observations: Duck numbers on, and around, the area have dropped dramatically over the past week, due to the stable water freezing up. Duck Abundance: Very few ducks have been observed. Hunter Activity/Success: There's been very few people hunting over the past week, due to all of the stable water freezing up. Success, if any, has been very poor. General Comments: Water on this tract has stabilized, with the water level gauge reading around 17 inches of water in the woods. The water is clear.Big Lake WMA: Percent Flooded: 100%. South woods target is 234.5 MSL. Reading at present time is 234.9 MSL. North woods target water is 235.5 MSL. Present reading is 236.0 MSL. Habitat Conditions: Mast crop is good. Weather: Clear and cold with extremely cold temperatures forecast for the weekend. Migrations/Observations: Ducks are roosting on the NWR, but are not moving. Geese are using the area rice fields. Duck Abundance: Low. Hunter Activity/Success: Hunter success has been poor. Hunter numbers are way down. General Comments: The water is muddy and falling.
 
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