Waterfowling Optimism: They're Coming

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Hope Persists Even During Difficult Seasons

Depending on the vagaries of waterfowl migrations can leave hunters scratching their heads. Photo © Bill Konway

Seventy degrees in December. I thought this had to be some sort of record.

Duck season ain’t happening this year” is a phrase heard in diners from Stuttgart to Tunica. I always attempt optimism, but after a while, it becomes difficult to argue with fact. Somewhere sitting in limbo are thousands of greenheads, along with accompanying pintails, gadwall and a half-dozen other species that have stalled somewhere between Missouri and the North Pole. Nobody seems to know. Checking the weather records, I found that in 1950, the highest recorded temperature for January in Stuttgart, Arkansas, was 82 degrees. The next year, the same temperature was recorded in December, marking another record. I can’t imagine what other signs of a waterfowling apocalypse accompanied these wretched climbs in the mercury, but it suits me to believe hunters were in similar states of panic and woe.

The weather — hot or cold, rainy or dry — can hold sway over the emotional well being of a hunter. This is especially true for those of us who depend on meteorological norms that ensure our desired quarry travel a prescribed path that hopefully places it hovering directly over a spread of decoys. Problem is, the original concept of this migration had nothing to do with the benefit of man’s leisure. Decoys, shotgun shells and the calls around your neck are byproducts of an evolutionary trait embedded long before someone figured out that a properly fashioned piece of wood, cork and mylar could sound like a hen mallard.

We look forward to this time of year, when the frost hangs in the trees and ice floes gum up side channels, with whistling wings above and shivering dogs crouched low by our sides, as every eye looks skyward. Cold weather is in the forecast, and although it seems like the ice will stay at bay until after the season is gone, there is still enough time to get a push of fresh ducks heading south to participate in our orchestrated ritual before the final buzzer.

They’re coming. I’m sure of it.

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