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LITTLE ROCK – Commissioners unanimously approved a group of regulations today, effectively setting the season dates and bag limits for the 2018-19 hunting season for all species. The 2018-2019 Arkansas Season Dates are:

Deer

Archery:
Zones 1,1A, 2 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16A, 17 – Sept. 22, 2018-Feb. 28, 2019.

Muzzleloader:
Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 8-10, 2018.
Zones 4A, 5A, 14, and 15 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 15-17, 2018.
Zones 9, 12, 13, 16, 16A and 17 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 29-31, 2018.

Modern Gun:
Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11 – Nov. 10-Dec. 2 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zone 4 – Nov. 10-11 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zone 5 – Nov. 10-11, Nov. 17-18 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 4A, 5A, 14 and 15 – Nov. 10-Dec. 9 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 4B and 5B: Nov. 10-18 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 9, 12 and 13 – Nov. 10-Dec. 16 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 16, 16A and 17 – Nov. 10-Dec. 28, 2018.

Private Land Antlerless Only Modern Gun Deer Hunt:
Statewide on all private land – Oct. 13-17, 2018.

Special Youth Modern Gun Deer Hunt:
Statewide – Nov. 3-4, 2018 and Jan. 5-6, 2019

Waterfowl

Early Teal Season:
Statewide – Sept. 15-30, 2018.

Early Canada Goose:
Statewide Sept. 1-30, 2018.

Duck, Coot and Merganser:
Nov. 17-25, Dec. 6-23 and Dec. 26, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019.

Canada, White-fronted, Snow, Blue and Ross’s Goose:
Oct. 27-29, Nov. 17-30, Dec. 2, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019.

Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt:
Dec. 1, 2018 and Feb. 2, 2019.

Bear

Archery:
Zones 1 and 2 – Sept. 22-Nov. 30, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed

Muzzleloader:
Zones 1 and 2 – Oct. 20-28, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed

Modern Gun:
Zones 1 and 2 – Nov. 10-30, 2018.
Zone 5 – Nov. 24-Dec. 2, 2018.
Zone 5A – Nov. 17-Dec. 2, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 6 and 7 – closed

Special Youth Modern Gun Bear Hunt:
Zones 1 and 2 – Nov. 3-4, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed.

Mourning, White-Winged and Eurasian Collared Dove

Statewide – Sept. 1-Oct. 28 and Dec. 8, 2018-Jan. 15, 2019.

Wild Turkey

Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17 – April 8-23, 2019.
Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A – April 8-16, 2019.

Special Youth Turkey Hunt:
Statewide (except WMAs): April 6-7, 2019.

In addition to season dates, many regulations were changed to offer more access and opportunity to hunters for 2018-19. Air rifles are now legal to hunt deer during modern gun deer season, as long as they fire a single, expandable projectile .40-caliber or larger, are powered by an external pump or tank and produce at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

“We have really worked hard to simplify and liberalize regulations as we can to make hunting less intimidating and allow people to focus on what’s important when they’re out in the woods,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts.

Waterfowl hunters on wildlife management areas again will have an extra hour after shooting time ends at noon to be off inundated waters, in response to massive public support. Also the daily bag limits for all WMAs will match the statewide bag limit of six ducks.

Many changes also have liberalized seasons or limits on individual WMAs during deer season, and the process to apply for a private land elk permit has been simplified to run through the same online system as other drawn permits. The alligator hunt tagging and checking process also saw some major streamlining, and Alligator Zone 2, comprising south-central Arkansas, will be opened for the first time this year. A complete list of changes and justifications for those changes is available at https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/regulations/code.

Andy Goodman, chief legislative aide for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office, read a proclamation signed by Hutchinson declaring the time period from noon, June 8 until midnight June 10 as Free Fishing Weekend in Arkansas. During this time, all license and permit requirements to fish in the state are lifted, allowing anyone to get out and enjoy fishing without the purchase of a license or trout permit. All other fishing regulations, including bag limits and size requirements for certain bodies of water are still in effect during Free Fishing Weekend. Information on fishing regulations are available in a current Arkansas Fishing Guidebook.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Signed a memorandum of agreement with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to bring 640 acres of ARDOT wetland mitigation property into the AGFC’s system of wildlife management areas to open access to public hunting.
  • Accepted a land donation of 7 acres of waterfront property upstream from Rim Shoals from Hugh McClain of Mountain Home.
  • Approved the purchase of 0.68 acres near Winkley Shoals on the Little Red River for a future public fishing access.
  • Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $575,940 and a current net book value of $52,966.
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Brent Hohenstein poses with his bull elkLITTLE ROCK – If you want to go after an Arkansas elk, circle May 1 on your calendar. That’s the beginning of the application period for public land permits next fall in the Buffalo River country of northwest Arkansas.

Applications are accepted through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website, www.agfc.com, from 12 a.m. May 1 until 11:59 p.m. June 1. The total number of elk permits available for public draw will be set during the Commission’s May 17 meeting, he expects it to be the same number as last season. Twenty-six permits will be proposed for the online draw applications and an additional three permits will be reserved for onsite draws at the 21st Annual Buffalo River Elk Festival, June 23.

           Applicants for Arkansas elk hunt permits must have a valid Resident Sportsman Hunting License or must be a holder of a Lifetime Sportsman’s Permit. Hunters under 16 (as of May 1, 2017) must enter their social security number to create an account and apply, unless they have not yet been assigned one by the U.S. government. Applicants must be 6 or older as of the beginning of the hunt to participate. Anyone with 12 or more violations points are ineligible to apply.

Visit https://ar-web.s3licensing.com/ to apply. Elk permits are listed under the WMA permit section of the licensing menu.

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Controlled burn at Camp Robinson SUARandy Brents
AGFC Prescribed Fire Manager

LITTLE ROCK – Prescribed fire and bobwhite quail — one restores a natural process, the other is a natural species. Prescribed fire will take place without quail but quail will not thrive without prescribed fire. How do we get more fire on the ground? We must first understand its benefits and specifically how they relate to bobwhite quail.

Bobwhite quail as a species spend most of their natural life cycle in amongst the grasses and forbs, on the ground and out of site to those who aren’t looking or listening. A closer observation by a trained eye presents a whole other world. People have the ability to improve their food and housing options, but a bobwhite’s life is constantly being impeded by diminished food sources and poorer housing, less space along with other issues.

Prescribed fire provides a flush of new vegetation, offering seeds and invertebrates for quail. Putting fire on the ground at different intervals and different seasons favors a variety of food sources. There’s the new restaurant for bobwhite.

Housing? Prescribed fire is the restoration of a natural process, a process that before human intervention burned across a landscape and was constantly shaping habitats. With every passing flame structural diversity occurs. A fire will burn hotter or cooler depending on terrain and weather factors and as a result different impacts are made to structure.

Some animals, such as white-tailed deer and squirrels, can thrive nearly anywhere, but northern bobwhites are not generalists. They prefer a thick patch of cover such as greenbrier or other types of shrubs in winter. They prefer native clump glasses to nest, and open ground for the chicks to move freely and feed once hatched. All the while, they need some sort of overhead cover to deter predators, offer shade from heat and protect from snow. It is a large dynamic habitat. One that has to have many components to be efficient for their survival, all of which are improved by prescribed fire.

Land managers must use every tool in our proverbial toolbox, and prescribed fire should be that big hammer amongst the screwdrivers and small wrenches. Set aside the acres, use prescribed fire coupled with other actions for bobwhite quail management and they will come. Putting a little fire on the ground at the right place, at the right time and with the right intention can be the best prescription a landowner can make to create those restaurants and homes quail need.

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Quail HuntingHARRISON – Join the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Quail Forever and the Boone County Natural Resources Conservation Service in a night devoted to bringing back the bobwhite at the Harrison Federal Building, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. May 3.

As part of the AGFC’s continued commitment to the conservation of northern bobwhite in Arkansas, private lands biologists have partnered with Quail Forever and the NRCS to offer this special workshop for landowners interested in restoring quail populations. Quail face many challenges today that were not present during upland game’s heyday in The Natural State. More efficient farming and ranching practices, as well as land conversion for other human interests has reduced northern bobwhite habitat to a fraction of what it once was.

Jessica Cox, Farm Bill Program biologist for Quail Forever, says the workshop will cover basic quail biology as well as their habitat needs, but a major component will be focused on programs available to get boots on the ground and begin the work needed to create that habitat.

“Since I began working in this area for Quail Forever in December, I have had a lot of calls and interest in bobwhites from local landowners,” Cox said. “The largest concern many had was the expense of converting their land to good habitat. In some cases, good quail habitat can be established with very little expense, and many programs are available to offset the cost of converting the land to good cover or feeding grounds for quail.”

Cox is one of seven biologists hired by Quail Forever in the last year to help establish quail habitat on private land throughout Arkansas.

The AGFC’s Private Lands Program also will have biologists on hand to talk about quail biology and the AGFC’s Acres for Wildlife Program, which provides seed and technical assistance to establish wildlife habitat on private land. A district biologist from the US Department of Agriculture also will be available to talk about Federal programs through the Natural Resource Conservation Service to help with habitat restoration.

Cox says more workshops will be scheduled for surrounding areas in the future, but that’s not the only way to get started providing needed habitat for quail.

“We can always come out and work with landowners face-to-face on ways to help establish good wildlife habitat on their property,” Cox said. “These workshops just really help everyone learn together and cover questions each person may not have come up with on their own.”

Food will be provided to all attendees who register by April 27, but anyone can come to learn about quail whether they registered or not. Please contact Jessica Cox at 870-741-8600 Ext. 110 or by email at jcox@quailforever.org.

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LITTLE ROCK – Commissioners heard the first official reading of two waterfowl regulations changes proposed for the 2018-19 season at today’s monthly meeting – neither of which concerned surface-drive motors on wildlife management areas.

For the last month, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has conducted an online public comment survey on proposed changes for the 2018-19 hunting seasons. One topic Commissioners asked to be placed on the list for public consideration was the banning of surface drive motors on WMAs. Commissioners had received numerous complaints on noise issues stemming from these motors, particularly those that had been modified to aftermarket parts to increase noise and horsepower. After reviewing public comments submitted during the last month, Commissioners decided to table the ban on surface-drive motors in hopes that manufacturers and hunters would work to reduce noise levels and refrain from aftermarket modifications that increase horsepower and noise from stock motor systems.

Commissioner Ken Reeves from Harrison took a moment to offer his gratitude for the people who took the time to submit public comments and to reiterate the Commission’s concerns with increased noise on Arkansas WMAs from modified motors of all kinds.

“This Commission is committed to doing something to alleviate the noise problems in our WMAS. Sixty-six percent of the respondents asked us to do that, and a lot of these people are those who own surface-drive motors,” Reeves said. “I can say from my own experience duck hunting, one of the neatest parts of it is standing there, waiting on shooting time to come, hearing the wings fly over and the excitement of it. It’s kind of a pristine experience, but it’s ruined when somebody comes by with a motor that’s much louder than it needs to be.”

Commissioners also spoke about their appreciation to the owners of Gator Trax motors and Excel Boats for taking the time to speak with them about how manufacturers can help resolve noise issues and offer suggestions ways to enforce possible future regulations concerning modifications from stock motors.

Chairman Steve Cook of Malvern said, “This is not only a surface-drive issue, this is for all motors. There are some modified motors that are outboards that are extremely loud, so as we move forward in working with manufacturers, we need to make sure this is about all motors.”

Two proposals for the 2018-19 season were submitted from the original topic, thanks to public comments. The first was to liberalize waterfowl limits on all wildlife management areas to match statewide waterfowl limits. A second proposal to allow hunters additional time to leave WMAs during waterfowl season, with hunting ending at noon and all hunters to be off inundated areas by 1 p.m., also was added. Changes to shotshell restrictions on WMAs also was tabled thanks to public response.

Commission Vice-Chair Ford Overton of Little Rock also took some time to speak about the increased importance of teaching proper hunter ethics.

“As noise was brought up (at Commission briefings), and discussed thoroughly in (one) committee, hunter ethics was brought up multiple times in multiple committees,” Overton said. “We can sit around and blame this or that, but we’re all hunters and we have a real obligation to prepare this next generation of hunters.”

Reeves echoed Overton’s comments.

“I know you can’t legislate morals, we’ve all heard that, but we can do more than what we’re doing to try to start a new culture with this next generation of hunters.”

Of 1,778 comments submitted on banning surface drive motors, 1,448 were against the outright banning of the motors on Arkansas wildlife management areas. However, many agreed that something needed to be done about the noise issues and dangerous conditions caused by all outboards that had been modified after purchase to gain horsepower above the motor’s factory rating.

The Commission are expected to vote on all suggested changes to the 2018-19 hunting regulations at its May 17 meeting. The public comment survey will continue until May 14.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Approved the removal of confiscated firearms to be granted to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory. The firearms will be used to help with ballistics tests and other important firearms tests during future investigations.
  • Approved a water line easement on Camp Robinson Special Use Area to provide city water to the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range.
  • Approved a water line easement on Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA in Van Buren County.
  • Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $559,172 and a current net book value of $51,012.

 

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04112018bears

LITTLE ROCK – This summer, researchers from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the University of Arkansas at Monticello will attempt to determine whether bear zone 4, in the Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas, will join the state’s four bear zones open for hunting.

“What we hope to see from this information is whether there’s a sustainable population,” said Myron Means, AGFC Large Carnivore Program coordinator. “If it is, we’ll proceed with a hunt.”

For a six-week period beginning July 1, researchers will set up “hair traps” to figure out population densities of bears. The traps are rings of barbed wire around trees, which are baited. As bears investigate the bait, they rub against the barbed wire, which snags hairs. The hairs then can be analyzed and DNA tested to determine how many bears visited each bait site. From there, biologists can estimate total populations in the area.

Unlike the Ouachitas and Ozarks, much of the land in southern Arkansas is privately owned, which makes research more difficult. While many hunters in the Gulf Coastal Plain have turned in images of destroyed feeders or bears during the last few years, biologists are looking for more sites to document reproducing populations of bears to monitor and expand the hunting season. Any landowners in bear zone 4 who capture videos or photos of bears with cubs this spring are asked to contact the AGFC’s Camden Regional Office, 877-836-4612. Biologists hope to increase the number of collared bears for research in the area to further justify the need for a hunting season.

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04112018cwd

FORT SMITH – More than 250 concerned hunters filled the seats at two meetings held in northwest Arkansas last week focused on the most recent information and possible regulations changes concerning chronic wasting disease in The Natural State. The meetings, held in Fort Smith and Springdale, offered people a chance to hear and speak firsthand with biologists tracking the disease in Arkansas and attempting to slow its spread.

“The forum gave us an opportunity to speak directly to concerns hunters had and get feedback,” Jennifer Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said. “People may be very nervous about CWD and what it means for our deer herd and for our hunters, so we’re trying to let people know everything we can about this disease and how our research is progressing.”

Prominent questions involved what to do with deer while waiting for CWD results to be returned and what to do to decontaminate any tools or processing equipment that may have handled CWD-infected animals.

“We are working to speed up the testing process as much as possible for hunters,” Ballard said. “And we are working with the Arkansas Department of Health to distribute as much information as possible to hunters and processors before the next deer season on best practices for handling wildlife and the latest information on the disease.”

In addition to the public in attendance, thousands of people have viewed the meeting via Facebook Live. Comments submitted through that channel also were answered by a panel of experts as the meeting took place. A link to the meetings is available at https://www.facebook.com/ARGameandFish/videos/10156327056788234/.

Key messages at the meeting centered on the recent suggestion from biologists to the Commission to add more counties to the CWD Management Zone, and to divide the zone based on the amount of positive cases found within that county. Boone, Carroll, Madison and Newton counties would encompass Tier One, from which no cervid (deer or elk) carcass other than deboned meat, hide, antlers, teeth, cleaned skulls and finished taxidermy products could be removed. Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Searcy, Marion, Sebastian, Yell, Washington and Van Buren counties would become the second tier of the CWD Management Zone, from which the same products could not leave unless going to a Tier One county.

“Some counties have had only one or two positives, or have not had a positive, but are within 10 miles of one,” said Cory Gray, chief of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division. “We want to prevent deer carcasses from the hotter counties spreading the disease more quickly to those outer reaches of the zone.”

Anyone interested in reading these suggested changes and making a comment are encouraged to take the AGFC’s public comment survey at https://survey.agfc.com/index.php?r=survey/index&sid=479677&lang=en.

Visit www.arkansascwd.com for the latest information on chronic wasting disease in Arkansas.

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