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Ducks, geese and deer are plentiful

Posted: August 29, 2014 - 3:50pm
SUBMITTED PHOTO  Ducks on Hallowell rest area in Bayou Meto  Arkansas Game and Fish Commissio
Arkansas Game and Fish Commissio
SUBMITTED PHOTO Ducks on Hallowell rest area in Bayou Meto

The numbers coming forth on deer and on ducks look good. Lots of deer, lots of ducks, we are told.

But what does this mean to someone picking up a gun and heading out to the field or the wetlands?

The short answering using a familiar cliché is they call it hunting, don’t they?

You still will have to hunt for that whitetail and hunt for those greenheads no matter how glowing the reports from state and federal game managers.

Today is the beginning of the early Canada goose season.

All right, you duck specialists. Stifle the yawns because people actually do hunt Canada geese in these parts.

The Arkansas Canada goose restoration project began a little over 30 years ago, and it has been successful – too successful in some areas.

There are clusters of these geese where many folks don’t want them. Hunting is the method preferred to hold down the populations of the big and handsome birds.

For this statewide early season than runs through Sept. 15, there is a daily bag limit of five.

Bring down five Canada geese and you have (1) a task getting them to your vehicle and (2) a nice supply of good food for the table.

What’s that? You won’t eat goose meat? You won’t touch any waterfowl unless it is a mallard?

Many folks in these parts will argue with you.

Properly handled and cooked, goose is tasty on the table.

Most who have experienced eating goose will tell you that Canada geese are better than snow geese and that white-fronted or specklebelly geese are even better.

Luke Naylor of Conway is the waterfowl coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

He said a few days ago that federal wildlife authorities report the total number of ducks on the continent is the highest since detail records were stated in 1955.

Estimates are 49.2 million ducks overall, up 8 percent over last year and a whopping 42 percent over the long term average, meaning from 1955 to now.

This count is for ducks in the breeding grounds, and, sure, it could not guarantee a plethora of ducks when you sit in an Arkansas blind and look at skies over your decoy spread.

The pond count up north is similar to last year, Naylor said.

Pond count, where ducks reproduce, is a key measuring tool for the waterfowl biologists, and there is a spot of bad news here.

Fewer ponds are in the Dakotas because of shrinking federal assistance programs.

The only change in daily duck bag limits is only one canvasback can be taken, down from last year’s two.

Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said, “We no longer try to estimate the number of deer we have in the state. Instead we focus on indices that give us information on the health of our deer. This includes body weights, lactation in females and age structure.”

Deer are thriving in Arkansas.

Strongest evidence is the number of deer checked by hunters the past two seasons – 213,487 in 2012-2013 and 213,216 in 2013-2014.

Gray pointed out, however, “Our deer are not evenly distributed, even in Zone 12 (south Arkansas) where we have the most deer.”

Most anyone who hunts and who drives Arkansas roads, especially after dark, will confirm that we have lots of deer.

But as is the case with ducks, this does not guarantee that a nice buck or a good doe will walk out in front of your stand just when you are ready to shoot.

(Outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by email at jhmosby@cyberback.com.)

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