Kelly Bostian: Dry weather tough on duck hunters
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2012
11/08/12 at 4:58 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Dry weather tough on duck hunters
THE LONG-RANGE forecast calls for warmer than normal temperatures and lower than usual precipitation through November and into December - in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Duck hunters are known for being tough. Sure, they love to be warm and dry - after the hunt, not before during and after.
For a good season we need good numbers of ducks, water, food sources and we need some good strong cold and deep snow up in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. So if you're an Oklahoma duck hunter and you are so inclined, now would be a good time to get on your knees and ask the Lord for a little help.
It looks tough for Oklahoma duck hunters this season, but tough isn't "impossible."
Even Charlie Swank isn't completely distraught this year. Swank is a district biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. I caught him Wednesday at Cheyenne Bottoms. "We're completely dry," he said. The major Kansas plains migration stop "can't get any drier."
Thousands of acres of wetlands there are fed by a system of canals and diversion dams off the Arkansas River (up there it's pronounced Are-Kansas), which hasn't flowed for months. "There are some pools," he said.
And the waterfowl? "They just keep going until they find a place," Swank said. He's seen flocks of sandhill cranes and white-fronted geese flying by overhead. A few flocks of cranes have pit-stopped overnight.
But he's not discouraged. "It happens here ever now and again," he said. "I've seen it dry several times ...It gives us time to do a lot of maintenance and habitat improvement so it's not an all-bad type situation."
It's not all-bad in Oklahoma either. Alan Stacey, wetlands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, stopped by the Cottonwood Creek Project area at Keystone Lake Wednesday and was happy to report it looked good and actually had a few ducks on it. "Of course it's one of those popular places because it close to Tulsa," he said.
Now that muzzleloader season for deer is over, the department is getting a few more calls about waterfowl, he said.
Bottom line is, there are some ducks around and hunters are just going to have to do their homework this year. That means finding suitable water and waterfowl food sources and scouting to keep track of the migration to put yourself in the right place at the right time.
One thing Oklahoma is in fine shape with is forage. This year's aerial millet seeding program was relatively successful but, taking Lake Eufaula as an example, the millet is only about 10 percent of the available forage because natural food sources are so plentiful, Stacey said.
Of course the problem at Eufaula is similar to problems elsewhere: The water is not where the food is growing. "Another 6 inches of water at Eufaula would be good," Stacey said. "A foot or 18 inches would be fantastic."
Stacey advised that hunters keep an eye on the department's wetlands status report as the season progresses. It documents food source availability and water levels in key units. It's on the department web site at tulsaworld.com/wildlife. Click on the "hunting" link, the "waterfowl" link and the "Wetland Development Units Status Summary."
One notable exception to the water shortage issue in Green Country is Fort Gibson Lake, Stacey said. Water levels there are in better shape and natural food sources are plentiful, and there are a few ducks around.
Some good rainfall here and snow up north in coming weeks will make Fort Gibson look even better and increase the odds for waterfowl hunters in areas all across Green Country. The odds that won't happen seem to be increasing, however, so it looks like we're going to have a tough season - just right for tough duck hunters.