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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.

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.

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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AYSSP State ChampionshipJACKSONVILLE – Student athletes from across Arkansas will gather at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville each weekend, beginning April 27, to take their shots at the regional and state championship tournaments of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program.

“This is the 12th year of AYSSP, and we anticipate hosting 5,700 to 5,800 shooters during the next month at regional shoots,” said Jimmy Self, AYSSP coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

This may be the first year Self has overseen the program for the AGFC, but he’s far from a rookie in the shotgunning arena. Before becoming AYSSP coordinator, he spent four years as a wetlands program technician working to improve waterfowl habitat throughout the state.

“I also worked part-time for the AYSSP for five years while attending college,” Self said. “I have a lot of time working on the front line of the tournaments and now have had the opportunity to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this program work.”

AYSSP is a program of the AGFC to familiarize young Arkansans with the shooting sports, firearms safety and the joys of the outdoors. Student athletes compete using 20- or 12-gauge shotguns, hitting clays thrown from trap machines that throw targets at unknown angles.  All participants must take and pass Hunter Education as part of their training and participate in at least five practice sessions with a certified coach before attending regional qualifiers.

In its 12 years, the program has grown from slightly more than 900 students and 125 coaches meeting in one weekend to a full-fledged competitive tournament that takes five weekends to complete.

“We will shoot the four regional competitions, then take a week break for Memorial Day weekend,” Self said. “Then the top 16 teams from each regional qualifier will meet for the state championship June 1-2.”

Each regional qualifier consists of two days of shooting. Junior division shooters (grades 6 through 8) compete on Fridays. Senior division shooters (grades 9-12) will shoot Saturdays. The state championship follows a bracket-style, single-elimination format with squads competing head to head until the final champions are crowned.

In addition to the top 16 teams from regional qualifiers, any shooter who tallies a perfect score during regional competition will be invited to a special shoot during the state championship to determine the best single shooter in the state, dubbed the Champion of Champions.

In addition to trophies and bragging rights for the next year, all members of the top three teams in the Senior Division State Championship will receive scholarships, funded through the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate Program. First-place team members will receive $1,500 each; second-place team members receive $1,000 scholarships, and $500 scholarships are given to each member of the third-place team.

Dates for regional qualifiers and state championship are as follows:

West Regional Qualifier:

April 27 – Junior Division
April 28 – Senior Division

South Regional Qualifier:

May 4 – Junior Division
May 5 – Senior Division

East Regional Qualifier:

May 11 – Junior Division
May 12 – Senior Division

North Regional Qualifier:

May 18 – Junior Division
May 19 – Senior Division

State Tournament

June 1 – Junior Division Championship
June 2 – Senior Division Championship

Visit http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationProgramsAYSSP.aspx for more information on how to get your child or school involved in shooting sports.

04112018auction

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission currently has many used vehicles and items available at govdeals.com. As part of its ongoing effort to remove outdated equipment, the agency has developed a new model to remove inventory that has outlived its expected useful lifespan by using the online auction site.

“All items have been deemed too expensive to repair or at the end of their serviceable life,” said Leonard Dean, operations and facility manager for the AGFC. “Some items still have some years left in them, but buyers are warned that these items are sold as-is, and they typically will need some sort of repair work now or in the near future.”

Dean says the current list of inventory on the site includes many vehicles, some of which have spent more than a few hours on the back roads of The Natural State.

“Money raised through these auctions helps offset the cost of purchasing new equipment and helps us save taxpayer money where we can,” Dean said. “The more money we save on replacing equipment, the more money we have to devote to work on the ground for wildlife and fisheries management.”

Click here to view a current list of items available.

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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