The Big Lake WMA, 15 miles west of Blytheville in Mississippi County, encompasses one of the last remaining large tracts of bottomland hardwoods in northeast Arkansas. The WMA covers more than 12,320 acres of bottomland hardwood habitat adjacent to the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Hunters have been pursuing ducks in this area since the late 1800s, and although nearby lands have been largely converted to agriculture, the WMA and adjacent federal refuge still attract huge numbers of mallards and other waterfowl.
Here, mallards and flooded green timber are the basic ingredients in the duck-hunting recipe. Less than a dozen decoys are required, and most hunters stand in the shadow of trees in knee-deep water. Calling is continuous — high balls to turn their heads, then feeding calls alternating with quacking. Retrievers can be a special blessing in the thick cover and backwaters, where a downed bird can be quickly lost.
The WMA is accessible from Arkansas 181 and 18 near Manila.
Dave Donaldson/Black River
The Black River WMA has earned a place among the top public waterfowling areas in the South. Encompassing approximately 25,482 acres in northeast Arkansas’ Clay, Randolph and Green counties, this vast bottomland complex is a magnet for large numbers of ducks. Tens of thousands of mallards typically winter here, along with lesser numbers of other duck species. Wood ducks in particular are common.
Like other public hunting areas in The Natural State, Black River may serve up superb duck hunting one year and have poor hunting the next. The number of ducks found here during hunting season depends to a large extent on weather conditions to the north, rainfall amounts and productivity on the
Canadian breeding grounds. Good hunting years tend to outnumber the poor ones, however. And hunters from throughout the U.S. have been traveling here for years to sample some of the finest green-timber duck hunting Arkansas can offer.
Black River WMA is 10 miles south of Corning, 10 miles east of Pocahontas, 20 miles west of Paragould and 15 miles north of Walnut Ridge, with access via several local highways.
Earl Buss/Bayou de View
This WMA exemplifies the old saying, “Good things often come in small packages.” Although the Bayou de View area only covers 4,501 acres, those acres tend to provide blue-ribbon duck-hunting opportunities each fall and winter. The WMA, in western Poinsett County, encompasses a portion of Bayou de View from Arkansas 17 to just north of Arkansas 214. The bottomland woods surrounding the bayou and the rice fields surrounding nearby Weiner have drawn ducks and duck hunters to the area for more than 100 years.
The area is composed of three separate tracts of land: the Thompson, Oliver and Martin tracts. The Thompson and Oliver tracts were developed specifically as wintering waterfowl areas, and it’s in these areas that hunters have the best opportunities for bagging some of the tens of thousands of mallards and other ducks that typically winter here. The Oliver tract, the southernmost parcel, is bounded on the south by Arkansas 14 and on the north by a county road west of Weiner. The Thompson tract is immediately north of the Oliver tract, bounded on the north by Arkansas 214.
Rex Hancock/Black Swamp WMA
Incredible natural beauty is the hallmark of Black Swamp, a 7,221-acre WMA in Woodruff
County, 10 miles south of Augusta. Access is more limited here than on larger, better-known public hunting areas, but hunters willing to boat or wade into the heart of the swamp are treated to sights of giant cypress trees and tupelos in a bottomland environment that’s becoming increasingly rare and hard to find. There’s no more beautiful place to hunt ducks in Arkansas.
The ducks — mostly mallards and wood ducks — come here by the thousands when water levels are sufficient, following the Cache River, which runs through the heart of the WMA. Public access is available by traveling Arkansas 33 from Augusta to Gregory and following the signs. This principal access road ends at a parking area beside the boat ramp that accesses a boat canal leading to the Cache River.
Henry Gray/Hurricane Lake WMA
There’s little wonder ducks are attracted to this 17,524-acre WMA in White County. This is prime real estate for wintering waterfowl, with extensive bottomland hardwood habitat adjacent to several water bodies. The WMA is bounded on the east by the White River. The Little Red River separates approximately 4,000 acres from the main body of acreage. Glaise Creek also traverses the WMA, and there are several oxbow lakes, including Big Hurricane, Little Hurricane, Big Bell, Little Bell, Whirl, Honey Lake, Big Brushy and Mallard. Other important wintering waterfowl areas (the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge and the Steve Wilson Raft Creek WMA) are nearby, enhancing the area’s ability to attract thousands of migrant mallards and other waterfowl.
In early fall, water-control structures are closed to catch and hold runoff water from fall rains. Approximately 7,000 acres are flooded in this manner, making the WMA attractive to ducks on a more consistent basis than areas without such management enhancements. Hunting can be good practically anywhere, but it pays to scout for a good place to set up before you visit.
Access is from U.S. 64, 5 miles east of Bald Knob, where there is a WMA road sign directing you into the area.
Ducks, Coots and Merganser
Nov. 17-25, 2018
Dec. 6-23, 2018
Dec. 26, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019
Duck daily bag limit – 6, which may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 3 scaup, 3 wood ducks, 2 pintail, 2 redheads, 1 canvasback, 1 black duck,1 mottled duck. If not listed, up to 6 ducks of a species (including teal) may be taken. Coot daily bag limit – 15.
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