Last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced significant changes in water management practices at Bayou Meto and Henry Gray Hurricane Lake wildlife management areas.
Public reaction has been muted, probably because duck season is still distant and nobody is paying attention. Duck hunters will notice in late October and early November when the rains come and they see that water control structures are still open and letting the water drain.
Some will complain to their legislators, who in turn will contact the commission, who in turn will share copies of all the commission's news releases on the subject, as well as articles published on the subject in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
As usual, duck hunting websites and message boards will buzz with protests and criticism. The commission is extremely sensitive to criticism on social media, and it mystifies us. A very small number of people comprise that universe, and they are usually anonymous. Their profile pictures are hunting dogs or "Don't Tread on Me" flags. One of the more notorious personalities uses for his avatar a jailhouse photo of the late Glen Campbell being booked on a DUI charge in Phoenix.
Have you ever noticed what happens when crows discover an owl in a tree? They flock around the owl, but all they do is make noise. Eventually, they make the owl uncomfortable enough to move, but they don't do any real harm.
Social media mobs are like crows. They make noise and nothing more. I know one guy who's active in that circle. I have hunted with him. If there is any duck hunting drama anywhere in Arkansas, rest assured this dude is all in it. He is a veritable treasure trove of information until I ask him to go on record or press him for more reliable details, and then suddenly he's very evasive. His information is always third-hand and sketchy.
And he's always in the process -- "Me and some guys" -- of organizing a campaign to compel the governor to kick people off the Game and Fish Commission. Huckabee, Beebe, Hutchinson, it doesn't matter. To hear this guy tell it, he's tight enough with the governor, whoever the governor, to make it happen. Except it never does.
"Who are these guys?"
"Can't say right now. We're getting the ball rolling and don't want to tip our hand just yet."
He must get dealt some really sorry cards because he never tips his hand. He's entertaining and amusing, but he's also harmless. Ultimately, he's also a monumental waste of time.
Aversion to screeching crows has prevented the Game and Fish Commission from taking necessary steps to protect timber on wildlife management areas for years. The commission's members are terrified of being accused of reducing public land hunting opportunities.
They have known for more than a decade that excessive and prolonged flooding is killing red oak timber in our green tree areas. Previous commissions have done a lot of things to try to improve the public duck hunting experience and the public duck hunting environment, but they have declined to enact policies that might reduce the amount of available duck hunting water in green tree reservoirs.
I have noticed a distinct change in tone in the discourse between duck hunters and commission staff at public meetings since 2005. After nearly 17 years of lousy hunting, the public is resigned to it, and it is receptive to anything that might improve its lot.
One thing is certain. If our green tree areas are allowed to languish much longer, there will be nothing to discuss. The GTRs will be useless to ducks, and they will not provide good hunting for anyone ever again.
Deer season will start soon, and you probably still have venison in your freezer.
You can donate your unopened, professionally processed venison to hungry Arkansans during Freezer Clean Out Day Sept. 25 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops in Little Rock.
Those donating professionally processed deer meat will be registered to win a Cabelas Polar Cap cooler worth $250 and will also be eligible to win a $25 gift card from Bass Pro Shops. Anyone who makes a cash donation of $10, $5 or $1 or who buys an Arkansas hunting or fishing license will also be eligible to win the prizes.
Venison samples from Kruse Meat Products will also be available.
For more information, call Ronnie Ritter at (501) 282-0006 or visit www.arkansashunters.org.