The youth only special waterfowl hunt is today (Saturday) with the regular season starting Friday, November 27.
The big question is whether hunters in the Guntersville area will have anything to hunt. The weather has been warm (it’s forecast to be in the mid-60s this weekend and was in the 70s last weekend) and there just hasn’t been much of a push pf waterfowl into the area.
Without a change in the weather and an influx of waterfowl, the early season hunting might be confined to trying to find a wood duck hole to try to knock down a woodie or two.
“We do not have birds on the river,” said avid hunter Brad Bodine. “It’s too warm. There’s just been too much warm weather.”
He was planning to hunt the opener in Arkansas this weekend.
He said hunting pressure also plays a role in hunting Guntersville Lake. A ton of people hunt it since it’s open to public hunting.
“We have not had a great season in 5 years,” Bodine said. “If you’re in a club like 101 or hunting private land like Chris Clay’s, you have a chance of doing good. But there is just so much pressure on this river. I’d love to teach my son how to hunt the river, but we just don’t have the birds.”
Chris Clay, who has also been deer hunting on his farm in the vicinity of the Paint Rock River, said they’d not seen many ducks until last Sunday.
“WE had that northwest wind and we got 150 to 160 gadwalls on the pond,” he said.
But he’s not seeing a whole lot of ducks on the river.
“It has been sparse the last couple of years,” he said of the duck outlook.
He wonders if the change in the lake’s vegetation isn’t partly to blame. Eelgrass is replacing milfoil and hydrilla in a lot of weedbeds. Back in the day, gadwalls would sit on those weedbeds day in and day out.
“The gray ducks don’t hang around like they once did,” Clay said. "Gray duck" is another term for gadwall that many hunters use.
“That’s a hypothetical on the eelgrass," Clay said.
Adam Bunch, another avid waterfowler, thinks the change to eelgrass has changed the composition of the duck flocks that winter on the lake.
"We used to not see a lot of canvasbacks, but we have seen a lot more over the last 10 years because they feed on the eelgrass," he said.
With his private spot, Chris Clay fights another issue most hunters don't have to worry about. Ducks move in early in the season and they can quickly eat up the food he’s planting.
“When it’s gone, they’re gone,” he said. “They were in there 24/7 last year and it only took a few weeks for them eat 60 or 70 acres of corn. Then it was over.”
Clay said wood duck holes are probably a good option for roving hunters early in this season.
“I know some guys who got on some pretty decent mallard shoots on little small, tucked away private spots late in the season last year,” Clay said. “They seem to hold more big ducks than the lake.”
Adam Bunch too believes the weather is to blame for the dearth of ducks at the present moment.
“I think they’re still just hanging up north because of the weather,” he said. “I follow it on several websites. They shooting some pretty redheads and widgeon up in Ohio and just a little north of us.”
He did say he was up towards Scottsboro the other day and noticed more gadwalls up there than on the lower end.
“We didn’t have the birds last year,” he said of the lake. “There were a lot more hunters. And there are a lot of bass tournaments and the bass boats keep the birds up. I think it scatters them more to farm ponds.”
Bunch hunted Arkansas last year but said it was slow even there. He didn’t get back in his Arkansas club this year.
He thinks better days will come for Guntersville.
“I think they’ll be down in late December and January,” he said. He said it’s a little easier to get on divers such as canvasbacks and goldeneyes on Guntersville than other ducks late in the season.