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Ducks Mean Bucks for Arkansas

Mike Wintroath
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Credit Mike Wintroath / Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

It’s the sounds of the season.

(Sounds of duck calls.)

The 60-day duck season starts this weekend in Arkansas.  The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service are predicting a record number of ducks to come into Arkansas.  Trey Reid is Field Editor with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service conduct aerial surveys of the northern breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada every year, and they have done so since 1955,” said Reid.  “It was a record count this year, almost 50-million ducks counted.  Obviously that is just an estimate, but that is definitely good news for hunters.”

According to Reid, those numbers are exciting for the many duck hunters who live in Arkansas, as well as the many who visit the state.  Arkansas is considered by many to be a prime hunting ground… that is because it is located in what is called the Mississippi Flyway.  As much colder weather from the north pushes ducks south, they look for food and water, which can be found in many fields in Arkansas.  The Mississippi River, as well as the Missouri, Arkansas, White, and Black Rivers all provide something that attracts ducks…water; and ducks attract hunters…lots of them. 

“We have duck hunting from the southeast tip to the northeast corner of the state, as well as some in the western part of the state.  It has got to be in the thousands.”

That is Bill Free.  He is chairman for the annual World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest and Wings Over the Prairie Festival, which takes place next week in Stuttgart, Arkansas.  The festival is the longest running festival in the state, as the town of just under 10,000 is celebrating the 80th year of the festival this year.  Stuttgart is located in south-east Arkansas.  It is south of Interstate 40 in Arkansas County. It’s about a two-hour drive from Jonesboro.  Stuttgart is surrounded by rice fields, and is known as the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World”.  Free says thousands of visitors come to the town for the festival, as well as hunting.

“I know that we get, here for the festival each year for the duck calling and the arts and crafts and commercial exhibits that we have on Main Street, between 30 and 40-thousand visitors that will come through for that and the other events tied to the festival.  There is no telling what the state reaps from people coming in from all over the United States to hunt ducks.”

Duck hunting and competition duck calling brings big business to the economy of Arkansas.  Trey Reid with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission:

“Hunting, duck hunting in particular, takes place in the Delta part of the state, which is an impoverished region.  Hunters are pumping money into these economies, which has an obvious positive impact to the region and the state.”

According to Reid, duck hunting and other forms of waterfowl tourism pump at least 60-million dollars into the state every year during the season.  The 60-day duck season is in three segments, with the first segment starting this Saturday morning.  The season runs November 21st through the 29th, December 10th through the 23rd, and December 26th through January 31st.