For those making their first trip to Arkansas or just want better success, we hope you find this information useful. If we don't answer your question or issue, here, please email us.
When is the best time to come hunt?
Even though this is not an exact science (hence our El Nino & La Nina years), the best time to come hunt in Arkansas is usually from mid to late December until the season ends in January. The best time for conditions and ducks is consistently late December into early January. This is when the ducks and geese have made it this far south in good numbers and cold weather is upon us. The consideration to make in this timeframe is a freeze up which we have from time to time. Everything can lock up and the ducks will move on after about 10 days of below freezing temps.
Early trips can produce good hunting, too. Especially in Northeast Arkansas. They usually have more water and ducks than the Stuttgart area in early November. The weather just tends to be warmer, usually less water and not as many ducks and geese as later in the year. But,
a trip at the Thanksgiving weekend allows you to make it to the Wings Over the Prairie Festival in Stuttgart. Within the Festival is the World Duck Calling Contest, the Duck Gumbo Cook off, and the Sporting Clays event. All of this makes for one of the best parties in Arkansas and brings duck hunters & vendors from all over the country for this annual event. For more information on the Wings Over the Prairie Festival, go to HERE.
Obviously, when to come is very dependent on the weather, which is beyond our control. It is probably just plain, dumb luck if you can time it right.
This question is probably one of the most often asked of us and should be asked more. Many hunters have paid a lot of money to be taken on some pretty sorry duck hunts. You will come across horror stories such as guides shooting first when ducks hit the hole, sky bust shots versus working ducks in the hole, dragging groups of twenty hunters into public land, and I am sure many others. This activity has earned a lot of guide services an unfair reputation by being lumped in with these "outlaws". The trick to prevent this is to do your homework before booking a trip.
A trip with a good guide can make it worth every penny. These guys know the hunting areas, whether public or private, better than most and can get you where the ducks are. Without a guide, you risk not knowing where to go, getting lost and/or not firing your gun. A first or second time visitor to Arkansas duck hunting should definitely hook up with a guide to learn where to go and how to do it. Arkansas duck hunting is done a little different and learning from an experienced hunter and having some success can make your trip what you dreamed of back in the summer when you booked it.
When you start thinking about making a trip, look for guide services that have been in business a while. With duck numbers up, a lot of Mickey Mouse operations have gotten into the business with no substance to their guide business and are looking to make a quick buck. Also,
ask for out of state references. Talk to other hunters who have been with the guide service you are looking into. They should tell you what to expect when you show up. Find a guide that hunts like you want to hunt. (ie-small parties or large corporate-style hunts, father-son, timber,
fields, river shooting, duck/goose combos, or whatever) Also, ask to speak to the owner versus a guide. Tell them what you want and most times they will make sure you get it. Another tip is to ask around on guide services to see if they have a bad reputation. Some guides have had some run-ins with Wildlife Officers in the past but are still guiding duck hunts. These guys are likely to get you in some trouble you don't want.
Most folks believe they are good enough duck hunters to have a successful duck hunt by wondering into Arkansas' famous public hunting spots and finding that perfect honey hole. Although some do, most are likely to hunt in an overcrowded area right off the boat launch with every other inexperienced hunter. The public property obviously brings out some of the most inexperienced hunters around and it is known for its tree-topping, sky busts that will mess up your duck hunt fast. To get away from this worthless activity, you have to know where to go. This is where hiring a good, reputable guide can make for a dream duck hunt in the Arkansas flooded timber.
A good guide will know places to go to get you and your hunting party away from the sky busting idiots where you can work ducks into the hole without their shots flaring the ducks every time they get close to committing. Also, you can learn how to work ducks in the timber.
Calling and working ducks in the timber is different style of hunting that lake, field or river hunting. From these guides, you can learn when to call, when not to call, when to take the shot and so on. We definitely
recommend getting a guide if it is your first or second time to Arkansas to hunt.
If you decide to go it alone, make sure to get a good map, carry a compass and have lots of patience for the skybusters. Places like Bayou Meto can get way overcrowded and I promise you have never been as frustrated on a duck hunt as when you show up at Bayou Meto with a
couple of hundred skybusters that don't care whether you kill a duck or not. Although it is "duck hunter's etiquette" not to skybust another guy's ducks, they have as much right to be there as anybody else, so you have to find the spots to get away from them. Also, hunt with a buddy or two. Many a hunters have wandered off looking for that honey hole and gotten lost. It is amazing how all of the flooded timber looks alike and it is so easy to get lost. Also, every few years, a hunter wanders off and ends up drowning in a stump hole. It just happened last year and you have to be careful.
Our season dates are announced in mid-August after the USFWS gives its guidelines on when the Mississippi Flyway seasons can run. Last year under the 60 day format, our season began in mid-November and was divided into three splits finishing up on mid/late January.
Usually, every weekend is open from start to finish with short breaks during the week. The season is open on Thanksgiving and usually closed on Christmas day. There was a youth hunt day on December 23rd last year and the season was closed to all other hunters that day.
Check back in mid-August and we will have the dates for you.
The weather during duck season can range from 70 degrees to 20 degrees in a matter of days. About Arkansas weather, they say "If you don't like the weather, stay a few days and it will change." So bringing a wide range of clothes is a smart move. Best camo patterns are your Mossy Oak Treestand or Break Up for the timber and Shadow Grass for field hunting. Of course, any pattern similar to these is fine but ducks can see exceptionally well in the timber on bright, sunny days so cover up. A face mask or face paint is required if you like watching the ducks. Always bring chest waders, especially if hunting in the timber. The water is often shallow enough to wade in and allows you to be more versatile. Hip boots can get by in early season hunts or under extreme shallow water conditions.
Most hunters shoot 12 gauge guns in either a 3" or 3.5". Timber hunters usually shoot 2s,4s, or 6s while field shooters often shoot BBs, 1s & 2s. Just depends on your longest shot and whether decoying birds or pass shooting. If you are lucky, a boat paddle will do the job because when you really get into them in the timber, the ducks light close enough to reach out and touch.
Bring your dog if you can. Timber and rice field retrieves are tough and the dog doesn't have on waders to fill up with water when they fall. Nothing is more trying on a hunter's balance than chasing that cripple with underwater cypress knees tripping you or rice field tractor
ruts to hurdle.