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02142018Mississippi CWDVICKSBURG – A tissue sample collected Jan. 25 from a free-ranging white-tailed deer in extreme southern Issaquena County, Mississippi, returned the first known positive test of chronic wasting disease in the state.
The 4½-year-old buck died about 8 miles north of Vicksburg and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The buck was found about 45 miles south-southeast of the southeastern corner of Arkansas.
According to a Feb. 9 press release, MDWFP implemented its CWD response plan, although the release did not go into detail about specific steps. Supplemental deer feeding was immediately banned in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties.
Issaquena County is across the Mississippi River from East Carroll Parish in Louisiana. Issaquena County, East Carroll Parish and Arkansas’s Chicot County meet in the southeastern corner of Arkansas and the northeastern corner of Louisiana. The northern boundary of Issaquena County is almost directly across the Mississippi River from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.
Cory Gray, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Research Education and Compliance Division, says biologists from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are already planning to meet and discuss future actions so each state can be on the same page.
“The discovery came at a difficult time to gather samples, as hunting season is nearly over in Arkansas with only a few bowhunters still looking for a deer,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to hunting clubs in the southeast corner of the state to keep a sharp eye out for any deer showing signs of CWD and to report it immediately.”
Gray says the AGFC plans to collect more hunter-harvested samples from the southeast corner of the state during the 2018-19 deer season. Other samples will come from target animals from public reports and roadkills.
“We are about to enter another season of collecting roadkill samples, and have already spoken to local biologists to increase that effort as much as possible,” Gray said. “From February 19 through April 1, we ask anyone seeing a road-killed deer to report it to our hotline at 1-800-482-9262. Anyone seeing any deer that shows signs of CWD should be reported to the same number immediately, day or night.”
For details about CWD developments in Mississippi, visit mdwfp.com.
For information about CWD in Arkansas, visit http://www.agfc.com/cwd.

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01172018AWTVIf you missed an episode of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s television series, Arkansas Wildlife, you still can tune in to catch it online. The first three seasons are available, in their entirety, at the show’s YouTube page.

If you were too busy hunting or fishing during the regular season to catch one of the shows, binge-watching on the YouTube channel is a great way to keep your mind on the outdoors as we approach the last few weeks of hunting season.

Trey Reid, the show’s host, says he’s received many positive comments from the show, and hopes to keep the momentum going into the next season, airing this spring.

“We appreciate all the guests who have invited us along to create the show,” Reid said. “But our biggest thanks goes to Arkansas Wildlife’s supportive and enthusiastic viewers, who have made our show a huge success.”

Highlights from season three include an exciting hunt for white-fronted geese, a young man’s first deer, and smallmouth fishing on the Caddo River and Greers Ferry Lake. Along the way, segments will show off some of the AGFC’s work on shad stockings, habitat improvement, monitoring Arkansas’s Canada goose population and what the AGFC does to bring trout and catfish to urban communities, so everyone has a chance to fish.

Visit www.youtube.com/c/arkansaswildlife to catch up on the action.

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Frog Bayou WMAThe Arkansas Game and Fish Commission added more than 2,220 acres of access for hunters and anglers in 2017. Land for waterfowl hunting, upland game and bat conservation highlight the improvements for wildlife. A state-of-the-art weigh-in facility in Northwest Arkansas, new access for paddlers on Crooked Creek and additional bank fishing opportunity on one of the AGFC’s oldest lakes round out some of the improvements for 2017 for anglers.

 

Frog Bayou Jumps to Three Times its Size

Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area in Crawford County has quickly become one of the most popular public lands for waterfowl hunting in the western half of the state. Popularity can lead to crowded conditions in small WMAs, but thanks to a partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration grants, the AGFC nearly tripled the size of this popular waterfowl-hunting and wildlife-viewing destination in June 2017. The purchase of 1,390 acres adjacent to Frog Bayou WMA has been pursued by the AGFC for many years, and thanks to a recent sale of the property, this land is now available for the public.

“Expanding Frog Bayou has been a high priority,” said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator. “But many complications with multiple ownerships surrounding the property had made it difficult to pursue until recently.”

The Trust for Public Land facilitated adding the property to the WMA by securing a purchase agreement with the landowner, acquiring the property and conveying to AGFC as grant funding became available. This enabled the AGFC to go through the proper channels to secure Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds. The total purchase price of the property was $4.54 million, 75 percent of which was brought in through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds.

 

Public Quail Habitat a Stone’s Throw from Central Arkansas

The Commission reinforced its commitment to northern bobwhite management at its March 2017 meeting when it purchased 989 acres of fields and upland habitat bordering a portion of the Camp Robinson Special Use Area in Faulkner County. The new area is named Stone Prairie WMA, and will be managed separately from the Special Use Area.

“Stone Prairie has an ideal mix of open lands that lend well to our northern bobwhite initiative,” said Steven Fowler, assistant chief of the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division. “It’s proximity to Camp Robinson (special use area) makes it a good fit to expand hunting opportunities in that area.”

 

Bat Restoration Leads to Gulf Mountain WMA expansion

Although the Diamond Pipeline was surrounded by controversy in 2017, hunters will see some new land on Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA thanks to mitigation requirements derived from its path. A 240-acre tract of land bordering the WMA in Van Buren County was added in an effort to offset the impacts the project may have on habitat available for the threatened northern long-eared bat. Diamond Pipeline LLC, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arkansas Field Office, contributed $5.1 million to work with state and federal agencies, non-profits and private landowners to acquire, restore and protect an estimated 3,000 acres of forested northern long-eared bat habitat in perpetuity. The species has been documented on the 240-acres added to Gulf Mountain WMA, but recreational activities will not conflict with the habitat requirements of the species.

 

Anglers and AGFC Partner at Prairie Creek

Teamwork with local anglers was the key to a major improvement for Beaver Lake bass anglers this year with the addition of an impressive weigh-in facility at Prairie Creek.

“Prairie Creek is the most utilized access on Beaver Lake,” said Jon Stein, AGFC fisheries biologist for northwest Arkansas. “It has a six-lane boat ramp and a parking lot that can handle tournaments as large as 190 boats.”

Stein says the project began after local anglers spoke to him and Colton Dennis, the AGFC’s Black Bass Program coordinator, explaining their need and willingness to help in the project. He was able to secure a grant through the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

“Anglers came forward to pledge their commitment to the project,” Stein said.

In all, anglers contributed $32,500 worth of in-kind donations to the project and the AGFC contributed $41,250 of funding. This was enough matching money to secure $221,250 from federal grants to bring the total project cost to $295,000.

The facility has a 24-foot-by-36-foot pavilion and 42-foot laminated wood amphitheater. Two holding tanks are for anglers to keep their fish in while they wait to weigh-in. Water from the lake will be pumped into the tanks and an air blower will aerate them to ensure fish stay as healthy as possible during weigh-ins.

 

George’s Creek Access Makes Crooked Creek a Faster Float

The section of Crooked Creek between Snow and Kelly’s Slab not only harbors huge smallmouth, but also is one of the most picturesque stretches of stream in the state. A new access on Old U.S. Highway 62 west of Yellville will make it possible to enjoy without investing an entire day.

“If you want to fish that stretch, you are looking at a good 8 to 10 hours from put-in to take-out,” Mike Cantrell, AGFC regional maintenance contract coordinator, said. “Our new access on George’s Creek splits that float almost in half, making it much easier to get out for an afternoon or morning float when you don’t have a full day to fish.”

According to Cantrell, people parked along the Old U.S. Highway 62 just upstream and dragged their canoes and kayaks a few hundred yards downstream to meet up with Crooked Creek.

“At the new access, people can pull right down to the water on the concrete ramp and unload their canoes instead of dragging,” Cantrell said. “We even built a canoe loading ramp and handicapped access.”

Users can unload canoes at the ramp, put in all their gear and walk the canoe down the sidewalk before driving their car back up to the parking area. The added feature makes getting into the water much easier and helps keep things moving when a few groups are trying to get in the water at the same time.

In addition to the ramp, there’s roughly 6,000 square feet of parking and a 1,000-foot section of road connecting the access to Old Highway 62.

The project, funded by marine fuel tax dollars and Sport Fish Restoration Funds, was dedicated in May to Mark Oliver, the recently retired chief of the AGFC Fisheries Division, who pursued this access for many years to make it a reality.

 

Lake Conway Access Adds Reach for Bank Anglers

Anyone who has driven over the Arkansas Highway 89 Bridge at Lake Conway has likely seen a boat or bank fisherman nearby searching for crappie. During fall and winter, this area can become extremely crowded with cars, as many people have learned that the deep water of the channel congregates slab-sized crappie during cold weather. Unfortunately, this means many cars parked along the highway, creating a dangerous situation. But the Commission’s purchase of 1.3 acres near the bridge in March 2017 may improve things dramatically for shorebound anglers looking to enjoy a day on the bank.

Tom Bly, AGFC district fisheries biologist in Mayflower, says anglers have always parked along the bridge’s right-of-way established by the Arkansas Department of Transportation and walked to the water to fish, but a small piece of land adjacent to that area became available a few years back, and was finally able to be purchased last year.

“Right now it’s just a cleared and bushhogged piece of land,” Bly said. “But we plan to put a parking lot in there that can hold 10 to 15 cars. The bank will be accessible from the location as well, and we hope to include a handicapped-accessible fishing pier in the future with an intensive habitat project around it.”

Although boat launching will not be possible from the new access, Bly says there may be enough space to launch a canoe or kayak at the area, but his main goal in the access is to increase bank-fishing opportunities and safety for anglers looking for a quick trip to the water.

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01172018firstdeerYou’re never too hold to harvest your first deer, as Ron Goza proved late last year.

Goza is 77, and the button buck he took recently allowed him to receive the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s certificate for “My First Deer.”

“I’ve hunted with my son-in-law the past few years and tried to get one and just never did, year after year, just never did. But I always say, maybe next year, maybe next year,” he said.

“Next year” finally arrived for Goza on a cold morning a few weeks back. “I was out there again with my son-in-law and I told him when we saw a deer, ‘Son, this is it, or not at all.’ About two seconds later, I took the shot.”

Goza says he fired a shot from his .30-30 rifle that appeared to pass through one shoulder of the buck and out the other. The deer began to run. Goza’s first thoughts: “Oh, no.” But then after a few yards, the deer dropped near a creek.

“I was happy, really happy, honestly happy,” he exclaimed with such excitement apparent in his voice even a few weeks after the event.

Goza said he grew up getting to hunt some with his grandfather, but mostly for squirrels around his native Cleburne County. His granddad let him hunt with a .22 rifle. He remembered later taking three squirrels on one trip with a single-shot 12-guage. But he said he never had a chance for a deer when he was younger. He says it wasn’t until he was in his early 60s that the chance for a deer arrived. He now lives with his youngest daughter and son-in-law in Louann in southern Arkansas, where this deer was taken.

“I’ve just enjoyed it, I love hunting, just love it very much,” Goza said. “This looks like it was a young deer, really. It was a good, nice-sized deer. The meat was real tender. Our pastor and my son-in-law dressed it and I’ve got it in my freezer, though we ate some already.

“I’ll be looking for the big buck next year. But this was a dream come true. I couldn’t hardly believe it, that I actually got one, I really got one.”

Hunters of all ages can memorialize the unforgettable experience of a first big hunting or fishing moment with a full-color AGFC certificate: first deer, first fish, first turkey and first duck. Visit www.agfc.com/freepubs, scroll to the bottom and choose the certificate you want to display to commemorate the accomplishment. Fill out the Portable Document File (.pdf) online and print on your color printer, or download the photo placement version to customize the certificate with an image of the lucky hunter and their harvest.

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Deer Hunting      LITTLE ROCK – There’s still a month and a half left in deer season for archery hunters, but Arkansas’s deer harvest already topped the 200,000-mark at the conclusion of the second modern gun youth hunt held Jan. 6-7. This is the sixth straight year Arkansas hunters have reached this milestone.

Arkansas record harvest came in 2012, when hunters harvested 213,487 deer. Although this year’s harvest likely will fall short of that number, the season is fairly consistent with last year’s total harvest of 202,070.

Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator, says the consistent harvest numbers from recent years are a good indication that Arkansas deer populations are beginning to stabilize.

“Balancing and stabilizing the state’s deer population are two of the goals of the AGFC Strategic Deer Management Plan,” Meeker said. “We want to balance the deer herd with the available habitat and the people who live in Arkansas. We’ve seen good growth for the last few decades, and now it’s time to maintain our deer where they are abundant for hunters, but not so much that they outgrow their habitat or people’s tolerance of them throughout the year.”

Meeker says one noticeable bright spot in this year’s season is the amount of deer being checked from Zone 12. Last year saw a noticeable decrease in harvest, particularly does, in that zone.

“So far, we’re back to similar harvests from the four or five years prior to last,” Meeker said.

Meeker says he’s also seen pictures of some impressive deer and heard about many more trophy-size bucks being taken this year than usual throughout the state.

“Last fall we had a great mast crop in much of the state, followed by a wet spring and early summer that allowed for good growth of natural vegetation. That combination provides a lot of good nutrition for developing antlers and weight gain,” Meeker said. “It will be interesting to see what comes in at this year’s Big Buck Classic.”

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Turkey hunting      LITTLE ROCK – Turkey season may open at the beginning of April, but now is the time to begin your planning for a successful season. One of the best ways to be successful on public land is to apply for one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife management area turkey hunt permits beginning Jan. 15. Applications are available through the AGFC’s online licensing system at https://ar-web.s3licensing.com.

Many good public turkey hunting opportunities exist, particularly on the large cooperative WMAs owned by the U.S. Forest Service. However, turkeys and turkey hunters need room to spread out, which can lead to conflicts between hunters on some smaller WMAs. To increase the quality of the hunt on some of the most popular public areas, the AGFC restricts the number of hunters allowed during turkey season through random drawings.

Only permit holders may hunt on the WMA during the permit hunt. However, a permit holder can have a friend alongside them to call for them to help them harvest a bird. Friends and family may camp with permit holders at designated campsites on the WMA.

“Spring is a great time to be out in the woods with family and friends, and we want to help keep that tradition going, even if only one person is hunting,” said Jason Honey, Turkey Program coordinator for the AGFC.

Applications are taken electronically through http://www.agfc.com, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, and winning applicants will be notified via email.

Applications require a $5 nonrefundable processing fee, but winning applicants are not required to pay any additional fees other than the purchase of their hunting license.

“The new system was put in place last year, and really streamlined the application and draw process,” said Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC. “Each year, many permits were left unclaimed because people applied who did not go through with purchasing the permit. With the up-front fee, only people who are serious about claiming and using a permit are likely to apply.”

Carner says the new system saw a decrease in the number of applicants to the AGFC’s permit draws for all species which was expected, but harvest numbers and participation in the hunts remained high.

“We received some reports from our staff of noticeable increases in participation for some hunts,” Carner said. “And with the streamlining of the process, unclaimed permits were minimal when it came time to sell them, which resulted in much less confusion.”

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Deer at Buck Hollow Ranch in Warm Springs, Ark. near Pocahontas

Three new Arkansas counties have been confirmed as CWD-positive from this year’s deer hunting season.

LITTLE ROCK – Chronic wasting disease, detected in Arkansas almost two years ago, has been found in three more counties. Four white-tailed deer in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties recently tested positive for the deadly disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The deer in Benton County were a 2½-year-old doe near Decatur and a 5½-year-old doe near Springtown. The Sebastian County deer was an adult buck near Lavaca, and the one from Washington County was a 1½-year-old buck near Prairie Grove. All four were harvested by hunters during the 2017-18 deer season, and confirmed as CWD-positive by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison.

Test results have not been received for all samples that have been collected; it’s possible more deer and elk could test positive for the disease. Since these positive samples were detected outside the current CWD Management Zone, the AGFC will continue their review to ensure all information is accurate.

“Although CWD is a serious threat to Arkansas’s elk and white-tailed deer, we are not the first to deal with the disease,” AGFC Director Pat Fitts said. “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.”

CWD was first detected in Arkansas Feb. 23, 2016, when a hunter-harvested elk in Newton County tested positive. The first Arkansas deer with CWD was verified March 3, 2016, also in Newton County.

Public meetings in the area will be scheduled as forums to discuss plans and to answer questions.

The Commission has taken several steps to prevent the disease, which strikes cervids (deer, elk and moose), from entering the state. A moratorium on live cervid importation began in 2002, and the importation of cervid carcasses was banned in 2005. Moratoriums on permits for commercial hunting resorts and breeder/dealer permits for cervid facilities were put in place in 2006. Capturing white-tailed deer by hand was banned in 2012.

According to the CWD Alliance, the disease was discovered among captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, and has been detected in 24 other states and two Canadian provinces. Biologists believe a protein particle called a prion is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva, and can survive for years in soil and plants. CWD can have an incubation period of at least 16 months, which means infected animals may not show symptoms immediately.

CWD affects an animal’s nervous system. Prions transform normal cellular proteins into abnormal shapes that accumulate until neural cells cease to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to separate from their herds, walk in repetitive patterns, carry their head low, salivate, urinate frequently and grind their teeth.

Visit ArkansasCWD.com for more information.

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