River shooting holes in hunting plans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Star Williams waits for Brad Fletcher to pull a boat in Monday at Kings Point Ferry Landing as they and Will Gordon returned from a duck hunt. (Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[1/18/05]Too much water summed up the situation for three duck hunters Monday morning.

Star Williams, Brad Fletcher and Will Gordon, were taking their boat out of the Yazoo River at the Kings Point Ferry Landing after a disappointing outing.

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As high water concentrates land animals causing state officials to close deer and other seasons it provides more places for ducks to feed, reducing the chances for hunters.

“They’re scattered,” Fletcher said.

The Mississippi River reached 41.2 feet at the Vicksburg bridge today on its way to a predicted crest of 46 feet on Jan. 27. Flood stage at Vicksburg is 43 feet.

“The river crested a day early at Cairo, Ill., so it will crest a day early at Vicksburg,” said Eric Jones, a forecaster at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center at Slidell, La.

The rising river has pushed water out of river and bayou banks, flooding low-lying timber and fields. The situation allows ducks to feed and rest in many more locations, making them harder to find.

“We only saw about 50 ducks all morning,” Fletcher said as they prepared to load their jon boat on a trailer.

Williams then displayed their bag for the morning, a mallard drake, a wood duck drake and a gadwall, three species common in this area.

With the Yazoo nearly lapping at the edge of the road at the ferry landing Monday morning, Richard Winans, Warren County road manager, said he planned to close the ferry to Kings Point Island today, explaining water usually crosses Chickasaw Road when the river reaches 41 feet.

Winans said the crew manning the county-operated ferry has been warning anyone crossing to Kings Point of the pending closing of the ferry. Any vehicles that didn’t leave the area, where there are 11 hunting camps, will have to stay on the island until the river goes down, even if hunters could reach the area by boat.

Many of the hunters on Kings Point closed their camps, even before the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks ordered an end to hunting season, except waterfowl, on land subject to flooding by the Mississippi. The department regularly closes the season when the river reaches 43 feet on the local gauge and keeps it closed until it drops to 41. The area closed is west of U.S. 61.

The last day of the regular gun season for deer is Wednesday, but the primitive weapons season extends until Jan. 31 Also, several small game seasons normally remain open into February.

Some of the hunting camps behind the Steele Bayou Control Structure also closed before they were affected by the DWFP closing, said Wren Way, vice president of Goose Lake Hunting Club. The camp is north of the Sunflower Diversion Canal in southern Issaquena County and is reached from Canal Road off U.S. 61 North above Redwood.

The Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the gates at the Steele Bayou Control Structure over the weekend to prevent water from the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers from backing into the Lower Delta.

Though the structure was keeping 0.8 foot of water out of the Delta the level was 87.5 feet mean sea level on the land side and 88.3 feet msl on the river side the water has cut off access to Way’s camp and three other camps in the area. Goose Lake closed down for practical purposes over the weekend, even though several members took boats into the area for duck hunting.

Forecasts call for water levels behind the control structure to crest about 92 feet msl, which will flood camp yards and even put some water into lower floors of camp houses.

“We do this with our eyes wide open,” Way said of the fact members know their camps will flood.