D uck hunters in Tennessee passed the halfway point of a 60-day season last weekend and for most it has been a tough one thus far. For the bulk of weary waterfowlers, the common denominator seems to be low numbers across a vast area that ranges from the Bootheel of Missouri all the way across west Tennessee, Kentucky, eastern Arkansas and northern Mississippi. Where are the ducks? That’s the question on the minds of worn-out hunters who have battled a stubborn season and had their hat handed to them throughout most of late November, December and now early January. Recent rains that arrived New Year’s Day finally brought water to thirsty west Tennessee drainage areas such as the Obion River bottoms plus the Hatchie and Forked Deer. Those regions were yearning for water and once the fertile farmland and swamps got water, hunters thought the ducks would follow. Unfortunately the ducks didn’t get the memo. Hunting remains sluggish in most areas despite a little cool weather entering the picture. While there have been a few exceptions in areas such as Reelfoot Lake where blinds have enjoyed moderate success, the overall region has not fared well this year. The whole duck scenario is somewhat of a mystery this year as to the whereabouts of the feathered friends. This year was different from the last two years in that the mighty Mississippi River hasn’t been flooded out and remained well within its banks. In times past when flooding occurred over a four- to five-state region, it scattered ducks and that was the culprit for hunters who were competing with too much water in too many areas. This year, the stage was set for a normal season as the lack of flooding usually sends ducks to traditional wintering areas here in west Tennessee. When heavy rains occur locally, as was the case last week, it puts ample water in river bottoms and farmland and that usually attracts big numbers of ducks and geese to our locale. It hasn’t happened thus far. Local hunters are crying the blues. They can’t call or shoot what they can’t see. Several popular public areas are suffering low numbers and disgruntled hunters are moaning and groaning as the season slowly fades away. January has traditionally seen duck numbers peak about this time of year. Popular public hunting areas such as Camden Bottoms, West Sandy, Big Sandy, Gin Creek, Dover Bottoms and others are reporting a poor season so far. Other wildlife management areas across West Tennessee have suffered, too. Many veteran hunters are somewhat mystified as to the present day dilemma. About the only consolation is that a lot of their buddies around duck land are experiencing the same empty skies. After a while it takes a toll and the optimistic legion of hunters that were anxious to kick off the season are now facing realistic times. The clock keeps ticking too. Tennessee’s statewide season ends Jan. 31 this year so the window of opportunity is shrinking. Hunters know a few good days can quickly salvage a portion of a poor season and put some pep back in their step. However, the clouds of doom and gloom have lingered far too long. It’s going to take some doing to turn things around. Dixie duck hunters just haven’t gotten the winter push of birds this year. The lack of a significant migration has farreaching effects. Only time will tell if the rest of January allows a rebound during a poor season. A lot of sad faces from Tennessee duck hunters are telling the story this time around. STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer.