Huckabee, Keating hit few ducks on hunt

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEWPORT, Ark. (AP) _ Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said his early-morning duck hunt with Gov. Frank Keating and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would have pleased animal rights activists.

``Let me just say PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would be awfully proud of us,'' he said Saturday at a news conference at the Newport airport.

Still dressed in camouflage _ except for Scalia, who had already changed into a suit _ Huckabee, Keating and their wives said that although the hunt was not productive, there were some good jokes told in the woods.

The group went duck hunting at Weiner on Saturday in northeast Arkansas. The trip was a payoff of a wager between the two governors on whose team would win the Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma beat Arkansas 10-3 on New Year's Day, but neither governor came out a winner in the hunt.

``The ducks won this morning,'' Keating said.

Ducks fly south along four separate flyways, the largest being along the Mississippi River. Arkansas has eight million acres of the 24 million-acre Mississippi River Alluvial Plain, better known as the Delta _ more than any other state.

But Arkansas hunters have complained this season that warm weather and a lack of snow up north have not pushed the ducks south. An abundance of water in the state has also provided ducks more refuge from hunters.

Huckabee said the group of about eight people _ including guides _ killed two green-headed mallards, one by a caller the other by the governor _ or his wife.

``Janet claims she did it, but I say I did,'' Huckabee said.

Mrs. Huckabee had her own story.

``I shot the duck twice, and as it was falling down, he shot it,'' Janet Huckabee said.

The hunting group also included former U.S. Sen. Kaneaster Hodges of Newport, who served in the Senate in 1978 after the death of Sen. John McClellan.

Huckabee apologized to Scalia for not being able to provide a more productive day for the justice's first Arkansas duck hunt.

``A lot of ducks were flying high,'' Huckabee said. ``We thought it was a great insult to the justice of the United States high court.''

But the governor invited Scalia to return for another hunt next year.

Scalia laughed and replied, ``We did a dry run this time. Next time we'll use ducks.''

Keating said he and his wife, Cathy, would also return for another duck hunt with the Huckabees.

``It's always a joy for me to come back to Arkansas, so we'll be back and we hope the ducks will be back, as well,'' Keating said.