Tallahatchie County could be the hottest waterfowling hotspot in the Mississippi Delta, which is quite a statement given the world-renowned status of duck hunting across the Magnolia State’s Delta region. And to top that, this county is also a top spot for wild turkey, which is highly unusual because the type of habitat loved by ducks is usually shunned by wild turkeys. This area is one exception to that rule.

All else being equal, the Mississippi Delta is wet. It is fed by the Mississippi River to the west despite a prolific levee system designed to control wholesale catastrophic flooding on the region’s valuable rural farmlands. From the east are several major outflow rivers from Corps of Engineers reservoirs such as the Yalobusha River from Grenada Lake and the Yocona River exiting Enid Lake. These waterways feed water resources out into Delta lands.

Then the whole area is teeming with lakes, creeks, ponds, potholes, sloughs, swamps and a network of drainage ditches virtually everywhere. When the seasonal rains come, water is not an issue in Tallahatchie County.

Without water, ducks coming down from up north, blown into this end of the Mississippi Flyway by frigid northern weather fronts, simply do not stop or if they do it is not for long. It all hinges on the water as the initial attractant.

Then there is the food equation. Hey, this is the Mississippi Delta and Tallahatchie County, which are home to thousands of acres of corn, soybeans, sunflower fields, grain sorghum, rice, wheat, peanuts, sweet potatoes and lots of horticultural crops like vegetables, melons and potatoes. Deer, turkey, and ducks rely on these food resources.

In many cases, crops are planted and left in the fields specifically as wildlife food. Ducks take full advantage of such key food resources. It is the food and water that hold ducks in this Delta region of the state. Thus a reputation has been earned by the Mississippi Delta for its exceptional duck hunting. And Tallahatchie County is the ground zero crossroads to it all.

Mike “Catfish” Flautt runs Tallahatchie Hunts from his farming operation in the same named county.

“I live and duck hunt near Brazil north of Webb and west of Charleston on Highway 32 and nearby to the Tallahatchie River,” he said. “I am surrounded by public lands perfectly suited to duck hunting as well as lots of private farming lands along the river that flood in the winter.

“We get most of our main water rise on the Tallahatchie River from nearby Sardis, Enid and Arkabutla reservoirs. When they release water, we get it. The ducks love it.

“During last season my son Albin and I duck hunted guests 55 of 60 days on 700 hunts taking 2,500 ducks, 75 percent of which were mallards. We also took 26 banded ducks. We got hunters from 28 states.

“Tallahatchie County could be called the epicenter of Delta ducking hunting. I call it the Brazil Flyway.”

Delta duck data

Included in all of the waterfowl hunting data recorded last season was man-days plus harvest information from duck hunters on 26 state operated wildlife management areas in the Delta region. It is nice information to look at and maybe study for a spell, but why should last year’s duck reports be important to this year’s duck season?

Well, just like in deer hunting, what happened last season could very well happen again this season. The whitetails were there for some reason. Chances are they will be back again this year if the habitat and other conditions are roughly the same.

The top five successful duck hunting Delta wildlife management areas last season were (in order of ducks taken): Malmaison WMA with 1,492, 2) Mahannah WMA with 1,472, 3) Howard Miller WMA with 1,432, 4) Sunflower WMA with 1,304 ducks and 5) O’Keefe WMA with 523.

The recorded man-days on these wildlife management areas were in the same order as above. These were: Malmaison — 1,621, Mahannah — 1,221, Howard Miller — 1,068, Sunflower — 689 and O’Keefe — 664.

The Malmaison story

It’s ironic that the French name Malmaison meaning “ill-fated domain” was used for this wildlife management area. It was also the name given to the mansion where Napoleon resided with his wife Josephine. Anyway, its pick as a name for a top-rated public duck hunting property seems like a pretty lame choice.

What makes Malmaison WMA so good is its ideal duck habitat. The nearly 10,000 acres is made up of a wide array of duck-favored features including bottomland hardwoods, greentree areas with flooded timber, potholes and cypress oxbow sloughs.

The WMA is spotted with cypress/tupelo brakes. These woodland brakes are areas that are rough or overgrown marshy land.

Water is a consistent common denominator on Malmaison. All these habitat characteristics spell home sweet home for ducks.

But never take a duck land like Malmaison for granted. It can be a tough hunt. First, competition for prime hunting positions can be fierce. It is critical that duck hunters learn the topography of the place, especially the layout of the big-water areas in the quest for less-crowded spots.

When investigating duck-hunting areas on Malmaison, check into the McIntyre Scatters on the west end away from the main tract, which is around 500 acres. The greentree areas total about 1,200 acres around Brushy Lake and Sorghum Lake. Look also at the Tippo Bayou area with Terrill Lake and Beavertail Lake. Before the season, be sure to check the annual regulations to be absolutely certain all these areas are open and accessible for duck hunting.

“Harvest was good at Malmaison last season,” said Ed Penny, waterfowl program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “It peaked during the extreme cold period we had during the first week of January. The deeper water in the Scatters and Tippo Bayou concentrated ducks when everything else in the area froze.”

Malmaison WMA is easy to find. It is directly up Highway 7 north from Greenwood. Alternatively, it may be accessed from the north end by going west from Grenada on Highway 8 to Holcomb, then Highway 7 about six miles to Malmaison Headquarters Road. There is ample signage on the highways coming into the area.

Additional information, including an area map along with new regulations every season, is posted on the MDWFP web site. The wildlife department also sells excellent area topo-aerial maps that are two-sided. On one side is a detailed topographic map of the WMA and surrounding property, and on the other is a very good aerial photograph. These can be ordered for $10 plus shipping by calling 601-432-2400.

With Tallahatchie County as the center of the axle driving duck hunting in the Delta, hunters should also look out from there to the spokes that reach to more than a dozen public hunting area hotspots open to waterfowl hunting.

Even in a region where the wild turkey is tops, ducks just might be the real king on the throne.