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Application period for the 2016 Arkansas Public Land Elk Hunt is May 1-June 1. Click here to apply.

Application period for the 2016 Arkansas Public Land Elk Hunt is May 1-June 1. Click here to apply.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting applications May 1-June 1 for Arkansas’s annual elk hunting season.

Brad Carner, AGFC chief of wildlife management, says he has received many calls about the future of elk and elk hunting since the discovery of chronic wasting disease in the state.

“We are still in the beginning stages of adjusting our management strategies for deer and elk,” Carner said. “We still need to make adjustments on exact dates and numbers of permits available, but we do plan to move forward with this year’s elk hunt.”

Carner expects to have the exact number of elk permits, private land elk quota and elk season dates set at the June 16 Commission meeting in El Dorado. The AGFC also plans to continue drawing the permits at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper, June 24-25, with a small number of additional permits available to people who sign up on site.

Applying for an Arkansas elk permit is free, although applicants do need a valid hunting license to apply.

“That measure was put in place last year to improve the chance people who drew permits were actually going to hunt,” Carner said. “Over the years, we’ve had people apply or have someone else apply for them with little interest in actually completing the hunt.”

Carner says continuing the elk hunt will allow the AGFC to keep monitoring the disease in the state’s herd without taking this rare opportunity away from Arkansas hunters who cannot afford big-game trips out West.

“Testing samples from last October’s elk hunt made us aware of CWD being in the state,” Carner said. “We plan to continue testing elk taken during this hunt for CWD as well as brain worms and other diseases that can impact the herd.”

Apply for a Public Land Elk Permit, May 1-June 1. 

 

 

 

The AGFC youth camp at Lake Sylvia was an ideal setting for young hunters and their parents to learn the ropes of turkey hunting.

The AGFC youth camp at Lake Sylvia was an ideal setting for young hunters and their parents to learn the ropes of turkey hunting.

Seven lucky youth hunters were selected to participate in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Youth Turkey Camp April 15-16 at Lake Sylvia in Perry County.

The camp, now in its fourth year, was created to help introduce those youths with no outdoor mentor to the sport of turkey hunting.

AGFC Regional Education Coordinator Jason Hooks said many of the traditions historically handed down from parent-to-child or grandparent-to-child have been lost as people’s attentions has been devoted to other pursuits in urban settings.

“So many of these kids and even their parents have never been introduced to turkey hunting,” said Hooks. “Some have never been camping or stayed in a tent before. Hopefully this sparks their interest.”

Cade Johnson of Cabot harvested a nice 20year-old gobbler during teh 2016 youth turkey camp at Lake Sylvia.

Cade Johnson of Cabot harvested a nice 2-year-old gobbler during the 2016 youth turkey camp at Lake Sylvia.

Participants are required to complete Hunter Education before attending camp. A parent also is required to attend the camp with the youth hunter. Hunters must be 12 to 15 years old to participate.

“Kids can start hunting turkeys and other big game in Arkansas at age 6, and most kids whose parents are already turkey hunters likely will take them before they’re 12,” said Hooks. “But this camp is for those youths and parents who don’t know how or where to get started.”

Participants meet for dinner Friday afternoon before opening day of the youth hunt. They learn about turkey identification, different types of turkey calls and hunting techniques. They also learn about turkey biology, gun safety and other aspects of the hunt few people think about unless they’ve been taught by a mentor. The evening wraps up with dinner and hunting tales around a campfire.

“We’ll get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. the next morning to put that knowledge to use and hunt some birds,” Hooks said.

AGFC staff and hunter education instructors volunteer to take the young hunters and a parent out to the woods for a hunt.

This year’s lucky hunter was Cade Johnson from Cabot. Johnson, who participates in the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, was able to take a 2-year-old gobbler the morning of the hunt.

Hooks says the event would not be possible without the help of many men and women who are concerned with the future of turkey hunting in Arkansas.

“Many of the volunteers are members of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which also helps sponsor the hunt,” Hooks said. “We also get help from Bass Pro Shops, Quaker Boy Game Calls, Lynch Traditions Turkey Calls Jim Pollard Elite Calls and Natural Gear Camouflage.”

Contact Jason Hooks at 501-251-7839 or email Jason.Hooks@agfc.ar.gov for more information about the AGFC Youth Turkey Camp at Lake Sylvia.

Bullfrog season runs April 15-Dec. 15 each year.

Bullfrog season runs April 15-Dec. 15 each year. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

April 15 marks one of the most stressful deadlines in America – tax day. It also marks the kickoff to one of the most exciting summer pursuits in Arkansas bayous, the opening of bullfrog season.
Bullfrogs can be found across Arkansas, but the heaviest concentrations usually are found along the many ponds, slow-moving streams and fish farms in the east half of the state. It may take some door-knocking and asking for permission, but many small, private ponds can prove worth the effort once you break out the gigging gear.

Fish farms and small private ponds make up the bulk of Arkansas's frog hunting destinations. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Fish farms and small private ponds make up the bulk of Arkansas’s frog hunting destinations. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Some froggers don waders or rubber boots to ease along the banks as quietly as possible, but many slide silently along in an aluminum johnboat or kayak, using only an electric trolling motor or a sculling paddle to get close to the easily spooked amphibians.
It’s possible to sneak up on a frog or two during the day, but the real action takes place at night, when spotlights and headlamps come into play. The reflective eyes of bullfrogs will shine brightly at the water’s edge, and the beam will daze the frog enough that a careful sneak can get you within arm’s reach. Then a fast stab with a gig or a quick grab of the hands will nab the fat frog before it can hop or swim away.
It’s usually a good idea to scan the bushes along the banks before making an approach on a frog as well. Plenty of spiders set up shop along the shore’s edge to catch their prey, and the webs can be a bit of a nuisance. More than one snake also has fallen into an unsuspecting frog gigger’s johnboat, causing him to nearly walk on water trying to get to the shore. Most water snakes are harmless and should be left alone, but that doesn’t make you feel any safer when they slide off a branch and thump down in the bottom of your boat.

A long gigging pole comes in handy when chasing frogs from a boat. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

A long gigging pole comes in handy when chasing frogs from a boat. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Gigging frogs is more akin to hunting than angling, but participants need an Arkansas fishing license to participate. The limit is 18 bullfrogs per day, which runs from noon to noon. Along with grabbing them by hand and gigging, frogs may be taken by hand net, hook-and-line, spear or bow and arrow. Firearms and air guns may not be used.
Most folks who fry up a mess of frog’s legs may use the old “tastes like chicken” phrase to get a newcomer to try the delicacy. It usually doesn’t take any further prodding to get someone to eat more once they’ve tried them. Col. Sanders can’t compete with the tenderness and flavor of fresh frog’s legs done right.

 

 

 

 

Frog giggers may take up to 18 frogs per night and must have a valid fishing license. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Frog giggers may take up to 18 frogs per night and must have a valid fishing license. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

A second deer has tested positive for CWD. AGFC photo

A second deer has tested positive for CWD. AGFC photo

A second white-tailed deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The disease is fatal to deer and elk.

The second positive CWD test came from a deer north of Mt. Sherman at Camp Orr. The AGFC took tissue samples from the 4½-year-old female deer, which was found dead on March 2. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, confirmed the test late Monday. Earlier this month, another deer was found dead in Ponca. That deer also tested positive for CWD.

The two deer are in addition to an elk killed during a hunt near Pruitt, which was confirmed to have the disease Feb. 23. All three locations are in northern Newton County near the Buffalo River.

The 2½-year-old female elk was killed by a hunter Oct. 6 on the Buffalo National River near Pruitt during elk hunting season. It was the first animal in Arkansas confirmed to have CWD. The disease was confirmed on Feb. 23. The elk was tested by the same lab that confirmed CWD in the deer from Ponca.

To determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease among deer, the AGFC has begun taking samples within a capsule-shaped area ranging from 5 miles west of Ponca to 5 miles east of Pruitt, and 5 miles across.

The dead deer found near Mt. Sherman is in the AGFC’s focal testing area, according to AGFC Chief of Wildlife Management Brad Carner. “This positive sample falls squarely in the middle of our sampling area so we will not have to make any adjustments at this time. We will try to intensify our sampling in the immediate vicinity of this detection,” he added.

“We need to sample 300 deer to determine the prevalence and the spatial distribution of CWD in the population with 95 percent confidence,” said Dick Baxter, an assistant chief in the Wildlife Management Division.

Enough free-ranging deer have to be tested before there’s a strong statistical chance of detecting CWD in 1 percent of the herd. This is a common method to estimate CWD prevalence in deer populations. As results are analyzed, wildlife biologists will adjust the strategy.

“The test area will expand as positive (CWD) tests warrant,” said Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator.

As of March 23, AGFC personnel have sampled 251 deer and 17 elk since the initial positive case of CWD in February. Samples are being sent to the lab weekly. Results of the tests usually take 7 to 10 days.

Sampled deer and elk are processed at a base camp staffed by AGFC and National Park Service personnel. Meat from deer that don’t test positive for CWD will be given to landowners where the deer were harvested or Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Everything that is not packaged for consumption will be incinerated.

“Landowners have been very helpful in allowing us access to their property,” Gray said. “Much of the land within the zone where we are working is privately owned. We need their help and help from anyone who sees a deer or elk that appears to be ill.”

The public can report sick deer and elk by calling 800-482-9262 or by email at cwdinfo@agfc.ar.gov, 24 hours a day.
Although there are no confirmed cases of CWD transmission from cervids to humans or to livestock, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Arkansas Department of Health recommend that people not consume meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

The AGFC is holding weekly public meetings in Jasper at Carroll Electric, 511 E Court St. The next meetings will be held March 24, 31 and April 7 beginning at 11 a.m.
Visit http://www.agfc.com/cwd for more information.

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, was confirmed in a sample from Arkansas Feb. 23. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is ramping up awareness for the disease and its response to the finding through public meetings, press releases and many other avenues of communication. Visit to learn more about the disease in Arkansas.

ALERT – Chronic wasting disease confirmed in one Arkansas elk

An elk harvested near Pruitt on the Buffalo National River during the October 2015 hunting season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

This is the first time an animal in Arkansas has tested positive for the disease, which is fatal to elk and white-tailed deer. To discuss the development, the Commission called a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. at the AGFC’s main office, 2 Natural Resources Drive, in Little Rock.

The AGFC created a CWD response plan in 2006, as the disease was appearing in other states.

“Several years ago, Arkansas proactively took measures to put a testing procedure in place and created an emergency CWD plan,” said Brad Carner, chief of the AGFC Wildlife Management Division. “Those precautions are now proving to be beneficial. We are in a strong position to follow the pre-established steps to ensure the state’s valuable elk and white-tailed deer herds remain healthy and strong.”

To determine how prevalent the disease may be, samples from up to 300 elk and white-tailed deer combined within a 5-mile radius of where the diseased elk was harvested will be tested. There is no reliable U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved test for CWD while the animals are alive. The AGFC will work with the National Park Service and local landowners to gather samples for testing.

A multi-county CWD management zone will be established, and public meetings in the area will be scheduled as forums to discuss plans and to answer questions.

The number of positive samples collected, if any, will help AGFC biologists determine the prevalence of CWD, and will guide their strategy to contain it.

“Although CWD is a serious threat to Arkansas’s elk and white-tailed deer, we are not the first to deal with the disease,” said AGFC Director Mike Knoedl. “Our staff is prepared and, with help from the public, will respond with effective measures. We have learned from the experiences of 23 other states.”

Biologists don’t know how the disease reached northern Arkansas at this point. The local herd began with 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska, relocated between 1981-85.

“(CWD) would have raised its ugly head a lot sooner than now,” said Don White, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Arkansas Agriculture Experiment Station in Monticello. “I think that it’s extremely unlikely that it came from those 112 elk.”

Biologists have tested 204 Arkansas elk for CWD since 1997; the 2½-year-old female was the only one with a positive result. The AGFC also has routinely sampled thousands of white-tailed deer across the state since 1998.

Samples from the diseased female elk were tested at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, and verified by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

There are no confirmed cases of CWD transmission from cervids to humans or to livestock,

“As far as we know, it’s not transmissible to humans at all,” said Sue Weinstein, state public health veterinarian for the Arkansas Department of Health. “In other states where they have CWD and they are studying this, they have found no human disease at all. To be on the safe side, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and by the Department of Health that you not eat meat from an animal that you know is infected with chronic wasting disease.”

CWD was first documented among captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, and has been detected in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. It’s been found in the wild in 20 states and among captive cervids in 15 states.

The AGFC has taken several steps to prevent the disease from entering the state. The Commission established a moratorium on the importation of live cervids in 2002, and restricted the importation of cervid carcasses in 2005. It also set moratoriums on permits for commercial hunting resorts and breeder/dealer permits for cervid facilities in 2006, and on obtaining hand-captured white-tailed deer in 2012.

According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD affects only cervids (hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk and moose). Biologists believe it is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva. Prions (abnormal cellular proteins) that carry CWD have an incubation period of at least 16 months, and can survive for years in organic matter such as soil and plants.

CWD affects the body’s nervous system. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.

Visit http://www.agfc.com/cwd for more information.

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