Double-cropping ducks and rice

Odle, Jack

Ducks like rice fields,- hunters like ducks, and this farmer likes the extra income.

WATER: It makes or breaks duck season in northeastern Arkansas. On Larry Reddmann’s farm near Harrisburg, Ark., water got him into the duck-hunting business, and it keeps him there.

Three years ago Reddmann and his neighbor, Jim Tom Butler, formed a duck-hunting lease partnership and called it Double Band Duck Club. The two men grow rice on flooded crop fields during the summer. Then immediately after rice harvest, they hustle to get ready for duck season, which begins around Thanksgiving.

Double Band Duck Club leases hunting rights on 12,000 acres from the two farmers for about $10 per acre. The club has put in 40 pits and charges $6,000 per pit per season. There can be as many hunters leasing one pit as that group wants. Reddmann doesn’t worry about that. He just makes sure that he has the pits in good places, the levies are in good shape and that there is water, plenty of water, in the rice fields around the pits.

He does hold out two or three pits for day leases and he keeps some personal pits for himself, friends and family to use.

He has also had to change his farming habits a little to accommodate his duck club. “We must be more careful about not destroying existing levees during harvest,” says Reddmann.

Usually, this means visiting with combine and tractor drivers and making sure they don’t drive over levees and cause a lot of damage that needs to be repaired prior to hunting season.

Also, Reddmann found out that harvest is no longer the end of his work. Immediately after harvest in October, he and his hired help begin preparing the fields for duck hunting.

“Getting ready for duck season is as much work as putting in a wheat crop,” says Reddmann.

He has to fill up all the cuts in the levees, close off all the drop pipes, clean the pit blinds and put brush over the tops of the blinds. Because the last few years have been so dry, he has had to pump water into the fields from holding reservoir to ensure water for the ducks during hunting season. In addition, each year some of the pits pop up and he has to re-anchor them, which is a big job.

Reddmann’s farm manager, Allen Wood, doubles as the duck club’s manager. He makes sure all the water levels are right and if hunters have a problem, they call Wood. “Allen has had to learn some new skills, but he does a good job of dealing with the hunters,” says Redd-mann.

Reddmann believes that those who want a future in farming must manage all their resources, including wildlife, for a profit. “Farming is more than rice or cotton or corn. It’s looking at all your resources and managing them for what’s best for the bottom line and for the environment That’s what we’re trying to do at Double Band Duck Club,” he says.

Reddmann’s Tips for Starting A Duck Hunting Lease Program

* Make sure you will have water for the entire season. You will need to guarantee water or you won’t get much interest from hunters.

* Put pits where ducks are working. Reddmann scouts areas during the season to see where the ducks are and then place a pit there the next season.

* Don’t worry about providing decoys. Hunters have their own favorite decoys and patterns. They will want to bring their own and leave them out for the season.

* Show every group the pit and how to get to it prior to the season.

* Farm liability insurance doesn’t cover a duck hunting lease operation. You will have to add about $100 per pit additional liability insurance coverage.

* Pumping water to the fields will be the biggest expense. Just hope for lots of rain.

* Be prepared for a lot more administrative work than you thought. Keep your books on a computer.

* Two or three pits don’t make a business. Make sure you have enough land and enough pits to justify the business.

* Expect it to be a lot more work than you thought it would be.

Copyright Southern Progress Corporation Sep 2001

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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