The shivering is forgotten as you hunker and peek at the faraway flight of ducks. Are they mallards?

The shivering is forgotten as you hunker and peek at the faraway flight of ducks. Are they mallards?

We are a bit over a week into another Arkansas duck season, and it has appearances of being a good one — depending on whether the birds come to your spot, to your decoys, to within shooting range of your blind.

What we have in this state today in ducks and duck hunting stems from three developments more than a quarter century ago. This does not include the key element of Mother Nature and her ups and downs.

That trio of events affecting Arkansas ducks:

1, Building of rice reservoirs in the Grand Prairie.

2. Creation of the federal duck stamp.

3. Establishment of Ducks Unlimited.

Benefiting ducks was a byproduct of the rice reservoirs. They came into being to boost the growing of rice, which started a couple of decades earlier. The reservoirs gave farmers a means of watering rice crops in the dry period of the year, meaning late summer and early fall. Migrating ducks loved the additional habitat the reservoirs created. They were close to the bottomland hardwood tracts, rich with acorns, that flooded when enough rain fell.

In 1934, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, requiring anyone hunting ducks and geese to purchase and carry a special stamp. The money was earmarked for acquiring wetland habitat around the nation.

The 1934 duck stamps cost a dollar. That was a significant amount in those economically hard times, more than the $15 that today’s duck stamps cost.

More money channeled to more usages was needed to bolster ducks and their declining numbers.

Three years later, Ducks Unlimited was founded with the primary aim to raise money and put it to use for duck breeding grounds. DU was not the first national conservation organization, but it became even more noteworthy because it brought the urgency of getting money into production and protection of wildlife.

Joseph Knapp, E. H. Low and Robert Winthrop were the founders of Ducks Unlimited in the United States, and about six weeks later Ducks Unlimited Canada was founded. Knapp, Low and Winthrop were well-to-do northeasterners, all philanthropists who wanted to turn around the decline in ducks in North America.

Preceding DU were the Boone and Crockett Club, founded in 1887 through efforts of future president Theodore Roosevelt, and the Isaac Walton League, founded in 1922 with Will Dilg, an advertising executive, the ramrod.

Also in 1937, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation began efforts to remove the state’s Game and Fish Commission from legislative control. This would come about with passage of a constitutional amendment in 1944.


Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at