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Reelfoot Lake Duck Hunting
West Tennessee Duck Hunting Report
2017-18


WAITING GAME CONTINUES FOR DUCK HUNTERS

By Steve McCadams

Most waterfowlers around the region are enduring a sluggish season with somewhat empty skies at times. There have been a few success stories as there always are but the overall scenario seems to be a lack of ducks in the air.


Fowler's Point Guide Service
 

Around the Kentucky Lake area hunting has been below average for most public hunting areas ranging from the popular Camden Bottoms Wildlife Management Area to West Sandy, Gin Creek and portions of the Big Sandy unit.



Parker's Outfitting


 Dover Bottoms on Barkley Lake has a small number of blinds bagging a few ducks at times but that area too has been the victim of low duck numbers.

A few blinds in the pumphouse field of West Sandy have bagged ducks but most have been species other than mallards. The upper end of Beaver Dam and Holly Fork have not done well thus far.




 

 Hunters across West Tennessee have experienced a few days of activity but some traditional locations known for holding good duck numbers are down too. There have been some exceptions around the Dyersburg sector and Whites Creek Refuge where duck numbers were decent at times but even that sector has been inconsistent.



Homra Guide Service


 Reelfoot Lake has also experienced tough times the last week to ten days. A small number of blinds have bagged ducks but the lion’s share are sharing empty skies with the rest of us.


 



  Aerial surveys taken December 6 on the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge help show the scenario waterfowlers are facing. Numbers of ducks and geese are down drastically from times past.



Reelfoot Lake hunting and fishing guide Mark Pierce


The survey showed 62,141 ducks using the refuge and a mere 3,240 geese. Odds are some of those geese are residents too.

Duck numbers were 33 percent below the 5-year average and 37 percent below the 10-year average! Compared to the long range 20-year average duck numbers were still 30 percent below normal.

   



 

 As to the refuge survey a breakdown of species showed mallards topping the list at 37,182 followed by gadwall at 12,137. Ringnecks were third and estimated at 4,220.

There were also 17 eagles estimated on the refuge aerial survey at the time.

Dreary duck hunters are hoping things improve. For most it has been somewhat challenging since season opened. Low duck numbers in the region has an adverse effect on all hunters.






There are a few private places that pump up water and only hunt two or three morning per week and short hours when they do. Those type places have done pretty good but the average hunter isn’t in that boat so he relies on the ebb and flow of duck movement when weather patterns change and new ducks migrate to the region.

For duck hunters the waiting game continues...

________________

BAITING VIOLATION DIMS DUCK OPENER AT BIG SANDY WMA

Opening weekend of the stateside duck season was a good one for some, fair for others and downright awful for a few. That’s usually the way it goes across the region once season kicks in as there are always the have and have nots!

Mild weather greeting waterfowlers last weekend and has lingered ever since with above average temperatures, sunny days and light winds dominating the weather scene. Temps have been in the upper 50’s and low 60’s this week and are expected to last through the second season opener this Saturday, which isn’t what duck hunters wanted to hear.

The extended stretch of mild weather hasn’t stimulated any migration so duck numbers across the region haven’t increased much lately since the initial early push of late fall.

For some hunters at Big Sandy wildlife management area it was a bitter opening weekend. Law enforcement officials with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed several prime blinds in the public hunt area after an alert of baiting.

As a result, law enforcement has closed a sector of the WMA until further notice. Popular blinds numbers in the unit closed to hunting are numbers 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

It’s a very unfortunate situation for several blinds who may be innocent of the violation yet still in the flyway of a baited area under USFWS guidelines. After all bait is removed the law stipulates the area much be closed for up to ten days.

The scenario is still under investigation by state and federal agencies.

Meanwhile, other popular public hunt areas such as Camden bottoms, Gin Creek, West Sandy and Dover bottoms reported fair opening day hunts with duck diminishing on the second day. A few blinds in West Sandy took limits of various species but mallard numbers were down.

Gin Creek hunters took several wood ducks and a few ringnecks. Camden bottom blinds took a mixed bag as well ranging from gadwalls to ringneck, greenwing teal, canvasbacks and a few mallards and diver species.

The open waters of Kentucky Lake were again without the support of aquatic vegetation in the shallow bays and flats this year. Without the aquatic grassbeds the early arriving species such as greenwing teal, gadwall and mallards have little reason to frequent the area.

Also down were diver species such as less scaup, bufflehead and ringhecks. As a result the open water shooting was below average.

Further west hunters fared better as the extreme western portion of the state around Dyersburg and the White’s Lake area caught early water from heavy rains a few weeks ago and were holding good numbers of mallards. Last year at this time many areas there were in need of water but this year it was a different story and the sector got off to a good start.

The second segment of season open Saturday for a 58-day straight stretch, offering waterfowlers a wide window of opportunity all the way through January 28, 2018.

__________________
 

WATERFOWL COMMENT DEADLINE

The Nov. 30 deadline is approaching to submit comments to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for the 2018-19 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting regulations, including sandhill cranes. The comment period is an opportunity for the public to provide ideas and share concerns about hunting regulations with TWRA staff.

Due to changes in the timing of the federal regulation process, waterfowl and other migratory game bird hunting seasons are now proposed to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its January meeting and voted upon at its February meeting.

Public comments will be considered by TWRA’s Wildlife Division staff and may be presented as proposals for regulation changes. Comments may be submitted by mail to: 2018-19 Hunting Season Comments, TWRA, Wildlife and Forestry Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204 or emailed to twra.huntingcomments@tn.gov. Please include “Waterfowl Season Comments” on the subject line of emailed submissions.


Here is a phone video clip from a Reelfoot Lake youth hunt..."Smokin Teal"


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