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Last year at this time most of the wildlife management areas throughout the Kentucky Lake area were flooded and no crops had been planted for wintering waterfowl as the big day for duck blind drawings approached. This time around things look better.

The first Saturday in August is a big day for duck hunters. For several WMAs spread across west, middle and a small portion of east Tennessee it’s drawing day when waterfowlers venture to their chosen area in hopes of hearing their name called. Should they get lucky then it’s decision time on what blind location to choose for the forthcoming season.

Hunters always like to know the status of crops planted in the various units as that has a lot of influence on the decision making process. Season may be several months away but the winter food scenario has a lot to do with where the ducks will be when bone chilling mornings and gusty north winds descend.

There was a rare chill in the air last Tuesday morning when I linked up with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency WMA manager Ronnie Cole to visit some of the area units and take a first-hand look. Touring the areas when blinds are high and dry sure offers a different perspective.

No boat motors to crank. No ice to break. No quacks from duck callers or ducks. Not a duck in sight but once summer loses its grip to fall, feathered friends will arrive with an appetite and in need of a place to stay.

Despite some late planting efforts due to wet conditions in the low lying areas that are vulnerable to late spring and early summer rains, TWRA crews have managed to get corn planted in all the area units. In fact, most of the fields need some rain to boost growth.

“At least we’ve got something in the ground this year for the ducks as last year at this time these fields were under water,” said Cole, pointing to a field of corn approaching knee high height in Big Sandy bottom. “We planted 50 acres here on July 9th. It’s late but coming on and some rain would sure help. It will make duck food and that’s what it’s for.”

A spot check of neighboring West Sandy, where about 110 acres are planted, showed a good stand of corn around the Old Union and Springville pumphouse areas too. Gin Creek also has about 50 acres of corns and had to be replanted after flooding so the crop is late there too.

Camden bottom has about 150 acres of corn with about 60 or so left for duck food. It got planted early and looks good. Dover bottoms on Barkley Lake has some 220 acres of corn planted and the crop looks good there.

So as the big day approaches hunters are busy planning their strategy on which area to enter the drawing and how to fine-tune their list of blinds should they get lucky and have to make a quick decision.

Registration will be held from 7-10 a.m. and drawing starts at 10 a.m. Locally, the drawing for West Sandy WMA will be held at Henry County Fairgrounds livestock pavilion. For Big Sandy, Gin Creek, Camden bottoms and Harmon’s Creek the drawing will be held at Big Sand City Park.

At West Sandy there will be 37 blinds available. There are a total of 74 blinds available in the other Kentucky Lake units drawn at Big Sandy. Dover bottoms offers 26 blinds in the draw held at Dover.

And what are your odds of hearing your name drawn? Last year there were 283 entered at the West Sandy draw with a whopping 3,200 at the Big Sandy event. At Dover there were 1,380 last year. The odds are not in your favor but you’ve got to enter to win.

Meanwhile, it appears the fall flight forecast is a good one for duck hunters throughout the Mississippi Flyway as numbers are up 8 percent over last year. It was a wet spring on the breeding ground and ducks responded well.

Tennessee’s duck season dates will be finalized at the wildlife commission meeting scheduled for August 28-29 in Jackson. It appears another 60-day season and 6-duck daily bag limit are in the cards.

One point of concern for some hunters is the rumor that TWRA will propose the duck season open again on Thanksgiving Day, a date which is not in harmony with many who prefer season open on a Saturday. Not only would the Thanksgiving opener conflict with many family gatherings on the special day but also deprive hunters of a split-season where two opening weekends would allow a five day closure that allows ducks to rest, feed and return to popular hunt areas.



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