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Archive for the ‘Duck and Goose Hunting’ Category

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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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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WaterfowlGEORGETOWN – Despite horrible conditions throughout the state for much of the 2017-18 waterfowl season, one wildlife management area has continued to provide hunters with increasingly good hunts since its purchase. Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA in White County turned in impressive harvest numbers, especially considering the conditions.

Rainfall was extremely scarce leading up to the 2017/18 season, however Raft Creek WMA is capable of being flooded using on-site pumps and water from neighboring landowners. A contractual agreement was made between AGFC and a neighboring landowner, to use his relift on Red River to get water to the WMA. Due to malfunctions with that pump, the WMA did not receive enough water to conduct normal hunting practices, which include a lottery-style draw for flooded holes, until Dec. 30.

Once water finally came to the WMA, hunting faced another setback, as Arctic cold swept in, freezing many of the hunting areas solid. An additional 12 days of the season were lost to frigid conditions in which no open water was available to attract ducks.

Anyone hunting Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA must fill out a daily activity card and deposit it in a dropbox on their way out of the hunting area. This enables wildlife managers to keep tabs on success rates and hunter participation so they can continue to modify the area to fit the needs of hunters and waterfowl alike. According to harvest data collected from these cards throughout the season, 874 waterfowl hunters participated in 37 days of hunting on the WMA.

Almost 300 of those 874 hunters hunted during weekdays, and 23 hunted during the youth hunts. The remaining 550+ participants were weekend hunters.

“Hunters shot 2,231 ducks at Raft Creek this season,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “When you add up the numbers, that’s almost 2.9 ducks per hunter per day hunted. In 2016-17 hunters statewide averaged 2.69 ducks per day. That includes private and public land.”

Naylor says the harvest at Raft Creek is a good example of how high-quality habitat can pay off for hunters. Historically, the area was bottomland hardwoods, but had been converted in the late 1960s and early 1970s for row crop production.  When Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the AGFC acquired the property, the topsoil had been depleted of many nutrients from intensive agricultural operations. Since that time, the AGFC has focused on providing the soil what it needs to stimulate the growth of native moist-soil vegetation that is beneficial to waterfowl.

In 2009 the AGFC began ramping up work on moist-soil units on the area, and in 2014 the region was able to add more efficient equipment to conduct the work. These purchases, along with significant infrastructure changes have led to a vast improvement to the quantity and quality of moist-soil units on the area.

“Since 2009, we have really been able to increase the amount of moist-soil habitat work we conduct on Raft Creek, and harvest numbers reflect that,” said Jacob Bokker, wildlife biologist at the AGFC’s Brinkley office. “We’ve been able to produce more food per acre for ducks with less cost as we’ve been able to secure needed funds for equipment and materials.”

Bokker says close to 2,000 acres of the WMAs 4,962 acres are devoted to moist-soil units. These areas are managed through properly timed soil disturbance methods and flooding to promote species which produce abundant seeds for waterfowl in winter.

“We disc, irrigate, mow and stubble roll to promote good annual smartweeds, Ammannia, sprangletop, native millets and sedges,” Bokker said.

Manipulating the native vegetation in moist soil units past the growing season is legal and promotes many invertebrates ducks need to replenish protein and lipids. Deep tillage brings the good annual seeds to the surface and stimulates them with proper draw down timing to replenish the forage year after year.

Raft Creek is the only AGFC WMA which institutes a draw hunting system during the regular duck season. On weekends, hunters must show up two hours before shooting light to draw for one of 30 possible designated hunting areas. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the area is open on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The draw lets everyone have a chance to spread out and enjoy a high-quality hunt,” Naylor said. “It prevents shot-chasing and grouping up on one or two traditional hotspots, and many people will still have good hunts at different areas through the season as water levels change to provide new foods and promote duck abundance at new units. It’s pretty rare that anyone gets turned away without a place to hunt, but if it does occur, it’s still early enough for hunters to have a Plan B in place at another nearby waterfowl hunting WMA.”

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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

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New Boating Regulations are in effect at many wildlife management areas in response to unsafe boating practices.

New Boating Regulations are in effect at many wildlife management areas in response to unsafe boating practices.

Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission last month approved a regulation requiring all users to sign a permit and have it in their immediate possession while participating in any hunting-, fishing- or boating-related activity on Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.

The permit is free and can be found in the AGFC’s 2015-16 Waterfowl Hunting Guidebook. It also is available for download using the following link :

Download General Use Permit

This regulation is one of many in response to concerns involving reckless operation of boats on the WMA.

With the exception of meeting oncoming boats, all boating traffic on the WMA must proceed in single-file with no passing allowed, except when boats have exited the current direction of travel or are no longer under power. All boating traffic on the WMA must maintain a minimum 50 feet (about three-boat lengths) between boats proceeding in the same direction of travel.

Hazardous and negligent boating activity is strictly prohibited and conviction can include points assessed toward revocation of a license and a one-year ban from the WMA where the violation occurred.

In addition to the new boating regulations, new regulations on spinning-wing decoys have been added to Bayou Meto WMA and Dave Donaldson Black River WMA. The regulation states:

It is illegal to attempt to take waterfowl with any electronic, mechanically operated, wind-powered or manually powered apparatus or device that simulates wing movement, including any device that spins one or more fixed- or stationary-winged decoys around a central axis.

Spinning-wing decoys have been banned on Bayou Meto WMA and Dave Donaldson Black River WMA for the 2015-16 waterfowl season.

Spinning-wing decoys have been banned on Bayou Meto WMA and Dave Donaldson Black River WMA for the 2015-16 waterfowl season.

 

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Proposed season dates are available for review and comments. Click here to view.

Proposed season dates are available for review and comments. Click here to view.

Although staff recommendations for this year’s waterfowl season dates were formally proposed during the July Commission meeting, public comments prompted the Commission to look into an alternative set of dates for public review.

View proposed season dates and make comments

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