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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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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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The perfect stand location is not about seeing deer, but getting a safe shot at one. Be sure to inspect any tree where you hang your stand for signs of dead or decaying limbs. Make sure there aren’t any overhanging limbs waiting to fall on you and your stand. For more treestand safety information, visit http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/TreestandSafety.aspx 

 

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Hunting traditions have historically been passed down through families, but as the modern family evolves, bridging the gap between veteran and beginning hunter has become a challenge for all conservation agencies. Through its youth turkey camp, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission introduces young people to turkey hunting at its annual youth turkey camp in the Ouachita National Forest.

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AGFC begins potential land purchase process

LITTLE ROCK – During the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s February meeting, Commissioners approved the first step in the potential development of an education and recreation area near Jasper. Commissioners approved a budget increase of $10,000 for the real estate appraisal and other real estate costs involving the 42-acre site.
The AGFC will apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to help pay for the potential purchase of the land. The land was appraised for $277,000 in September 2007. The land is located on Arkansas Highway 7 north of Jasper.

The potential new facility would feature a diverse ecosystem of the area’s unique geography. Plans would include a paved trail, pavilion, fishing piers, wildlife observation blinds, canoe launch areas and other amenities.

During the Commission’s committee meeting reports, the Commission discussed the results of the 2013 AGFC employee morale survey performed by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va. The survey included specific questions from the 2012 survey so that a direct assessment of trends in employee attitudes could be made. More than 400 employees provided feedback for the project.

Among the significant findings in the survey were:

  • 85% of employees either strongly agree or moderately agree that the overall direction of the agency is benefitting fish and wildlife resources in the state. This rating was 56% in 2012.
  • The percentage of overall satisfaction (very satisfied and somewhat satisfied responses combined) for “morale within the agency” climbed from 15% to 68%.
  • Since 2012, employees are less likely to think that personal and political interests influence the direction of the agency, and are more likely to think that scientific data and field information influence the direction of the agency.
  • The percentage of respondents who rated the agency’s job performance as “excellent” went from 17% in 2012 to 33% in 2013.

AGFC Director Mike Knoedl said that the results were very good, but the agency still has unfinished business. “I have no doubt that 2014 will be a particularly busy year, and we still have an enormous amount of work to do. The Commission hired me to improve the morale of this agency and that is what I am duty bound to do. I want you to know that I never forget what a great honor it is to work for you and to be given this responsibility and I sincerely appreciate the diligent work each of you do every day,” Knoedl said.

Click here for Responsive Management’s news article on the survey: http://www.responsivemanagement.com/.

In other Commission business:

  • Myron Means, AGFC bear program coordinator, gave the Commission an overview of the 2013 bear harvest. During the 2013 bear hunting season, 184 males and 104 females were harvested. Archery hunters harvested 134 of that total, and 192 bears were taken on private land. Madison, Pope and Johnson counties lead the state in number of bears harvested. Means also pointed out that nuisance bear calls answered by the AGFC totaled 64 in 2013. The number of calls spiked at 314 in 2007.
  • Discussed a presentation from AGFC Elk Program Coordinator Wes Wright on the 2013 elk harvest. Wright told the commission that 18 elk were harvested on public land and 22 elk were harvested on private land. The harvest was down from a year ago when a record 44 elk were harvested during the 2012 hunting seasons.
  • The Commission also approved purchase of 98 vehicles at a cost of $2.4 million to replace aging vehicles in the fleet.
  • Approved the second $300,000 payment, of a total $800,000 grant, to The Nature Conservancy for the Cache River Restoration Project. The project is aimed at restoring a portion of the lower Cache in Monroe County to its natural channel.
  • Approved a budget increase of $300,000 to renovate the Central Office in Little Rock.
  • Approved a funding agreement for a new shooting sports facility with the City of Warren. The AGFC agrees to provide just over $312,000 for the construction of the facility.
  • Approved a budget increase of $433,500 from wildlife restoration federal grant funds and a budget transfer of $144,500 from state funds to purchase equipment for Frog Bayou and Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMAs, complete green-tree reservoir assessments on various wildlife management areas and construct a work center on Gene Rush WMA.
  • Honored three wildlife officers for their completion of continuing education at the Criminal Justice Institute. The three officers were James Montgomery, Frank Sigman and William Start.
  • Honored Kirsten Bartlow, of the AGFC Communications Division, for being named the 2013 Arkansas Trails Council Professional of the Year. Bartlow works with various local governments and agencies on construction of wildlife viewing and water trails.

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Replace your hunter or boating education cards free online

Have you lost your hunter’s education or boater’s education card? At the click of a mouse, you can now get a free replacement card from your home computer. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has unveiled a new site for these replacement cards.
To replace the cards, go to http://www.agfc.com/mycard. Anyone who has completed their hunter or boating education class can find their name and print a PDF page that includes a new free permanent card. If you’re not able to find your name, you will be directed where to call for help.
After printing the card, you will find a QR code on the PDF page. Just scan the QR code and save a copy of your card on a smart phone.
If having a traditional orange or blue card is important to you, you will be given an option to purchase those types of cards for $5 on the same website. A traditional card will then be mailed to you. Last, you can always call the Little Rock office and order a replacement for $5 over the phone at 800-482-5795 or 501-223-6300.

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More than 1,900 kids participated at the ANASP state championship in Hot Springs.

More than 1,900 of Arkansas’s best young archers were on hand to compete in the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament March 23-24. ANASP is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Education and Information Division. The tournament was held at Summit Arena in Hot Springs. The archery program involves students beginning in the fourth grade and continuing through their high school senior year. Students learn archery skills, as well as an outdoor hobby they may enjoy for the rest of their lives. More than 120 schools were involved in the competition. The event is free to the public, but support of Hunter’s Feed the Hungry is encouraged. This year, archers, their families and fans of archery donated 1,750 items of non-perishable food to the cause. For the fourth consecutive year, Hamburg High School took top honors in the high school division, followed closely by Batesville and Mena. Batesville won the middle school division, followed by Greene County Tech and Oden. Eagle Mountain Magnet won the elementary division, followed by Glen Rose and Central Magnet. Archers competed for trophies, medals and scholarships. The schools that took first place honors receive a trophy and each team member received a special bow. Second and third place teams received individual trophies for each participant. Fourth and fifth place teams received medals. $15,000 in scholarships is awarded to the top five male and female archers during the top shooter shoot-off. Money from the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate Program is used to provide grants to purchase archery equipment. Schools can apply for an initial grant of $1,375 to help alleviate the cost of starting the program. For a complete list of competitors, go to: http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationProgramsANASP.aspx#3.

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