"Another front coming, another influx of ducks," said Jimmy Reed, who reported a limit hunt with his favorite partner, who just happens to be his sibling. "My brother and I earned a limit in two hours, and it could have been quicker. We let a lot of ducks pass because we were waiting on mallards."
The greenheads came in at a trickle, but eventually five were added to the mixed bag of greenwings (4), woodies (2) and a gadwall.
"There were hundreds of shovelers and other odd ducks, which has pretty much been what we've been seeing this season," John Reed said. "We haven't always had as many come into the brake as we had this morning, but we've seen way too many off ducks and way too few mallards. If we hadn't had so many green-winged teal this would have been a terrible month.
"These five mallards brings our season total to 20. We got one limit mallard hunt (eight between the brothers), and that was in mid-December after one of those good cold fronts. We thought we would see more this week after that good front passed last weekend, but it didn't happen. Maybe this one will bring us more."
The Reeds' report echoes those of many Mississippi waterfowlers, as well as the surveys provided by state wildlife officials. Through the first half of the season, duck hunting has been subpar.
The bottom line is this: Hunters with good flooded habitat, like the Reeds, have had some good shoots. Those without it have not.
"Although waterfowl numbers are comparatively low, ducks are somewhat concentrated due to the lack of available habitat," said biologist Houston Havens of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. "Respectively, this concentration should result in quality hunting on well-managed wetlands. Additionally, waterfowl hunting conditions could be further enhanced if more birds migrate to Mississippi due to the severe weather conditions in the Midwest."
The good news for state duck hunters is that late-arriving winter conditions have finally hit the Midwest and is driving ducks south. Included in that migration are the mallards, the heartiest of ducks and a species that best handles the cold, icy conditions. It really takes a good freeze-out to drive mallards south for good.
That simply just hasn't happened until now.
Havens recently completed the annual December aerial duck survey, which the MDWFP does in cooperation with Delta Waterfowl. It showed poor numbers of ducks and acres of flooded habitat in Mississippi in mid-December.
Only 122,779 mallards were counted, along with 176,950 other dabblers - both below the average of the past four years. Diving ducks were up, however, with the 171,542 counted being slightly above the four-year average.
Jacob Sartain of Madison, who hunts flooded habitat near Isola in the South Delta, said he believes those estimates and they make good sense.
"That's about right," he said. "Hunting in my area has been good, but we have been limited to one or two hunts a week. We have been limiting or close to it every hunt, but we've cut back on how often we hunt."
The conservative approach is forced by the lack of duck numbers.
"There were more ducks the first two or three weeks than there are now," he said. "We have good habitat and we are holding about 1,000 ducks now, which sounds good but is peanuts to what we usually have as we reach the New Year. We normally are holding between 5,000 and 10,000 ducks at this time of the season.
"We're seeing more rain and colder weather, and that's a good thing. I'm hoping we will get more ducks quickly and we can get this season turned around. There's still time."