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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.

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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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Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC's Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

Eric Maynard, facility director at the AGFC’s Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center, eases his boat through flooded parking lots to reach his office.

When the Arkansas River crested at 46.24 feet at the Pine Bluff gauge on Saturday, Jan. 2, it reached the second highest level since Emmett Sanders Lock and Dam was completed in 1968. The river crested at 47.70 feet May 9, 1990. The rising water flooded most of Jefferson County Regional Park, including the area surrounding Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center.

Eric Maynard, facility director for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first nature center, says water has completely cut the center off from dry land for the last few days.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

The eagle pens at the nature center did experience some flooding, but all exhibit animals have since been moved to safe locations during the high water.

“The only way to access the center for the last few days has been by boat,” Maynard said. “We’ve been putting in off the main road and boating about three-quarters of a mile to the center to take care of the animals and exhibits.”

The main building of the center was built on stilts and remained dry during the deluge, but many of the outer buildings were inundated.

“The front deck of the center was like standing on a boat dock,” Maynard said. “The greenhouse has about 4 feet of water in it, and the eagle pens are partially flooded. We’ve moved all our educational exhibit birds from their outdoor pens to another building.”

Maynard says the biggest issue for the center now is a lack of power during the cold winter temperatures.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

This is the second time this year that the Arkansas River has flooded Jefferson County Regional Park.

“Entergy came and turned the power off throughout the park before the major flooding to avoid major problems with the lines,” Maynard said. “That’s been over a week now. Education and enforcement staff have been making trips every day or two to fill generators and feed the animals, but the snakes, alligator and other cold-blooded animals are beginning to cool down because of the dropping temperatures.”

The center staff was prepared for this flood, only because of familiarity. The third-highest mark the river has reached since the dam was completed occurred only seven months ago, when the river crested at 45.96, shutting down access to the center for about two weeks.

“It looks like the water may be down low enough for us to drive in on the road by Thursday of this week,” Maynard said. “But even if we can get to the center, we won’t know how long it will be before the power is back on.”

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

Crooked Creek rose more than 20 feet above the historical low-water bridge during the Christmas holiday, shutting off access to the education center.

The nature center in Pine Bluff was not the only one impacted by heavy rain. Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek in Yellville saw more than its fair share of precipitation as well. The water gauge at Kelly’s Slab on Crooked Creek peaked at 33.63 on Dec. 28, 2015, more than 20 feet higher than the slab. Although short-lived, the high water completely blocked access to the education center for a day and forced staff to close the facility for two more days while they worked to clean up debris and assess damage.

Marilyn Doran, facility manager at the education center said this is only the third time since the center has opened that she has seen the water so high. The buildings are fine but massive amounts of sand washed onto the property and the handicapped-accessible portion of Woodlands Edge Trail was damaged.

“The education center is open, but the trail will remain closed until we can repair that surfaced portion,” Doran said. “On the positive side, it’s a great time to build a sand castle with all the sand that washed up on the property from the flood.”

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

The extremely high water deposited tons of sand and sediment from the creek on the surrounding floodplain at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.

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Casey Turner of Cushman, Arkansas, was the winner of the 2014 "Talkin' Outdoors" Grand Prize Giveaway.

Steve “Wild Man” Wilson presents Casey Turner of Cushman, Arkansas, his prize from the 2014 “Talkin’ Outdoors” Grand Prize Giveaway.

“Talkin’ Outdoors,” the television program produced by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is full of valuable information and fun. It’s also giving viewers great prizes for viewing.

Casey Turner of Cushman was the 2014 grand prize. He won a $1,000 lifetime hunting and fishing license, provided by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, plus a trip for him and his family to capture and band hummingbirds at AGFC’s Cook’s Lake Conservation Education Center this summer. Casey’s post card was drawn from an estimated 4,000 entries in the contest.

There’s another way for a chance to take home prizes. Follow the AGFC’s Facebook page to learn how to win a Resident Sportsman’s License and a Resident Fisheries Conservation License provided by Academy Sports and Outdoors. Those who win licenses through Facebook automatically will be entered for the grand prize. Watch “Talkin’ Outdoors” in 2015 for a chance to win. Only Arkansas residents are eligible for any prizes.

“Talkin’ Outdoors” airs on KARK and KARZ in Little Rock; KNWA in Rogers; KFTA in Fort Smith; KOZL in Springfield, Mo. and KARD in Monroe, La. Check local listings for broadcast times.

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Last week, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Officer Andy Smith was traveling eastbound on I-40 in Lonoke County near the Kerr Road exit when he saw a vehicle driving in the wrong direction in the westbound lanes.

Smith, a wildlife officer since 2012, said he noticed the elderly man in the green Dodge pickup was not slowing down. “He was traveling at about 60 mph. He didn’t appear to be slowing down or attempting to turn around in the correct direction,” Smith explained.

Smith matched the truck’s speed in the eastbound lanes and activated his emergency lights. “I saw numerous cars and tractor-trailers swerve to avoid a head-on collision with him.” Smith said. “I feared the approaching traffic would be focused on me with my emergency lights and not on the road in front of them,” he added.

Smith said he drove into the median and exited his truck ahead of the approaching driver. “As I got to the cable barrier I began waving my arms at the driver. He slowed down and began pulling over towards me,” he said. At this point, westbound traffic had stopped and allowed Smith to contact the elderly man. “When I opened the driver’s door he appeared very confused and when I asked him if he knew he was going the wrong way, he said no,” Smith said.

Smith asked the driver to move over into the passenger seat so he could turn the truck around and park the man’s vehicle on the westbound shoulder. The wildlife officer called the AGFC radio room and asked them to make contact with Arkansas State Police to find out if they have received 911 calls on the driver. “AGFC radio advised me that they had received several 911 calls and a trooper was enroute to my location. After the trooper arrived, we learned that a Silver Alert had been issued earlier for the truck and driver. It was reported that the driver suffered from Alzheimer’s,” Smith said.

The driver’s family was contacted and arrangements were made for him to be picked up.

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During its regular monthly meeting last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission agreed to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to transfer 2,355 acres of Clay County land in the St. Francis River Basin to the agency. Commissioners authorized AGFC Director Mike Knoedl to sign the Quitclaim Deed for transfer to the agency.

In the future, the Corps will transfer an additional 10,293 acres in Craighead, Greene and Poinsett counties to the AGFC. The Corps originally acquired the land along the St. Francis River as part of the St. Francis River Basin flood control feature of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. For more than 25 years, the AGFC has been managing the Corps-owned land as part of the St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA and the Dave Donaldson Black River WMA.

In other business, the Commission:

  •  Accepted a proclamation by Gov. Mike Beebe to start free fishing weekend at noon, June 6, and end at midnight, June 8. Licenses will not be required for fishing in Arkansas during that period.
  • Approved the grant of game law conviction fines, for Fiscal Year 2013, to the county where it was collected. A total of just over $632,000 was collected.
  • Honored Marilyn Doran as the Project WILD Facilitator of the Year for Arkansas.
  • Approved a budget increase of $147,000 to develop the AGFC’s Delta Heritage Trail in Desha County.
  • Approved reduced daily creel limits on Lake Chicot and Cane Creek Lake during their drawdown period.
  • Approved renaming a Kings River access after long-time local river guide J.D. Fletcher. The access will now be called the J.D. Fletcher Kings River Highway 62 Access. The access is in Carroll County.
  • Denied an application from the Spring Valley Anglers Rod and Gun Club requesting a permit to privately stock trout in a six-mile segment of Spavinaw Creek in Benton County.
  • Approved a $488,500 budget transfer to acquire a 120-acre tract from Robert L. Hixson Jr. The land will become part of Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area. Approved a budget transfer of $62,000 to be used to upgrade the video surveillance system of the AGFC central office in Little Rock.

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