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Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Cooler temperatures and the first good signs of rutting activity beckoned well for the first youth hunt of the 2016-17 deer season last weekend, and Arkansas’s young guns did not disappoint. Hunters harvested 9,429 deer during the two-day season.
According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the harvest is lower than last year’s 12,000-deer youth hunt, but is very similar to the 2014 season, in which youth hunters took just over 9,700 deer.
Since the development of internet and telephone checking, biologists and the public can see the harvest in real time by visiting https://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php. According to checked numbers, Arkansas’s deer harvest is at about 51,000 deer statewide. Again, this is below last year’s harvest of 64,000, but on track with the year before, which had 53,000 deer checked by this point in the season.
The slow start to this season has had a few hunters concerned. But Gray says things should balance out as cooler weather sets in and more hunters enter the woods.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

“We often see hunting seasons start off slowly, but quickly catch-up as the season progresses,” Gray said. “The opening weekend of modern gun season and the week of Thanksgiving will be crucial periods for state harvest.”
The AGFC will be continuing to monitor for the spread of chronic wasting disease during opening weekend of modern gun season by manning 25 biological sampling sites within 10 counties in northern Arkansas. Biologists ask all hunters who wish to voluntarily submit their deer for sampling on Nov. 12-13 to bring any checked deer from Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties to one of the following sites:

Boone County

  • Alpena Community Building, 107 Highway 62 E., Alpena
  • Anderson’s Propane, 8563 Highway 7 N., Harrison
  • Anderson’s Store, 12181 Highway 62 E., Harrison

Carroll County

  • Carroll County Fairgrounds, 104 County Road 401, Berryville

Johnson County

  • Haggarville Grocery, 11925 SR 123, Lamar
  • McCormick’s One Stop, 7823 Highway 103, Clarksville
  • Oark General Store and Café, 10360 County Road 5440, Oark

Logan County

  • New Blaine Fire Dept., 9 Highway 197 Loop, New Blaine

Madison County

  • Combs Store and Café, 10342 Highway 16, Combs
  • McIlroy Madison County WMA headquarters, Highway 23

Marion County

  • Pyatt, Crooked Creek Access, Highway 62 W., Pyatt
  • Yellville City Park, Highway 14, Yellville

Newton County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission Office, Route 1, Box 275, Western Grove
  • National Park Service Maintenance Shop, HCR 73 Box 176B, Marble Falls
  • Ponca Elk Education Center, Highway 43, Ponca
  • USFS Office, 18360 Highway 16 W., Deer

Pope County

  • Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Storage Facility, Sand Gap (1 mile south of Highway 7/16/123 intersection)
  • City of London Maintenance Shop, 3731 SR 333, London
  • Downtown Mini-Mart, 102 W. Main St. (Highway 64/105 intersection), Atkins
  • Fountain’s Grocery, 36386 Highway 27, Tilly
  • USFS Big Piney Ranger District Office, 12000 SR 27, Hector

Searcy County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission, 602 Highway 65 N., Marshall
  • Misty’s Conoco, 6542 Highway 65 N., Leslie

Yell County

  • Ouachita Livestock Market, 12115 N. State Highway 7, Danville
  • Yell County Wildlife Federation, 10035 Wildlife Lane, Dardanelle

Hunters outside of these 10 counties may contact a veterinarian from the list provided at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf if they wish to learn the CWD-status of deer they have harvested. However, the hunter will be responsible for the cost of these tests outside of the 10-county CWD Management Zone.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

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The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who's out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who’s out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

Hunters are beginning to scout, prepare food plots and set trail cameras to pattern the biggest buck in the area as summer wanes and the thrill of the next deer season builds. That same effort should be used to prepare their body for the stresses of the coming season. Nutrition and physical conditioning are keystones for success in the field, but often are overlooked.

Hunting situations provide many intense physical demands. Even hunters who do not travel far on foot still must climb in tree stands and hopefully drag out a downed deer. The real work starts after taking a game animal, and it’s a hunter’s responsibility to recover their harvest no matter the situation. Hauling a 100+ pound deer up a ridge will cause anyone to break a sweat.

Sportsmen should be aware of their limitations to ensure they do not over-exhaust themselves while pursuing game. This concept is discussed in the National Bowhunter Education Foundation’s guide, Today’s Bowhunter:

“Conditions that hamper your physical ability to perform safely and responsibly while
hunting include: asthma, a heart condition, excess weight and poor physical conditioning.”

Hunters should stay hydrated and fuel their body with nutrient-rich foods. These are the fundamental steps in staying healthy. Kathleen Robinson, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America-certified personal trainer and personal training manager at 10 Fitness Maumelle, explains, “Dehydration causes fatigue and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates as energy sources.” Robinson continues, “More serious issues like certain infections can come from long-term dehydration, so drink to your health.”

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Put in the work now to improve abilities during the season. Some simple changes in daily habits can yield good long-term results in the field:

1. Take the longer route when possible.
Parking further away forces you to be more active during daily tasks such as visiting the local outdoors shop or walking in to work every morning. These extra steps add up over time to help hike extra miles in the deer woods.

2. Skip the elevator.
Elevators are overrated. Opt for the stairs to add even more steps. Stairs also simulate inclines you’ll find in the field. Those hills aren’t going to climb themselves come hunting season.

3. Join a gym.
Gym memberships can be as cheap as $10 a month and offer a variety of machines for anyone to hop on and bust out an extra 20-30 minutes of heart-pumping cardio. Increase the incline on the machine to get your heartrate up and ready for climbing treestands.

4. Cut carbonation.
There is nothing healthy about a drink containing 30+ grams of sugar. Avoid “zero calorie” drinks also. They contain artificial sweeteners that have a worse effect on the body’s blood sugar levels. A sugar rush only leads to a crash and no one wants to be snoozing on the job or in the stand.

5. Avoid vending machines.
Bring homemade snacks to work or on the go. Snack bags packed with vegetables, fruit or even slices of deer jerky from last season will curb hunger longer than sugar-filled candy. Other snacks could include a handful of mixed nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter.

6. Drink more water.
Robinson further explains why drinking water is important to everyone, “Staying hydrated is how the body cools itself, removes toxins and waste and helps to lubricate joints.” Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor and keep a full cup nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Don’t try to do everything all at once. Take it one step at a time turning these simple daily tasks into habits. Overall, keep active in everyday life to be able to take the next step in your hunting adventures.

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Application period for the 2016 Arkansas Public Land Elk Hunt is May 1-June 1. Click here to apply.

Application period for the 2016 Arkansas Public Land Elk Hunt is May 1-June 1. Click here to apply.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting applications May 1-June 1 for Arkansas’s annual elk hunting season.

Brad Carner, AGFC chief of wildlife management, says he has received many calls about the future of elk and elk hunting since the discovery of chronic wasting disease in the state.

“We are still in the beginning stages of adjusting our management strategies for deer and elk,” Carner said. “We still need to make adjustments on exact dates and numbers of permits available, but we do plan to move forward with this year’s elk hunt.”

Carner expects to have the exact number of elk permits, private land elk quota and elk season dates set at the June 16 Commission meeting in El Dorado. The AGFC also plans to continue drawing the permits at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper, June 24-25, with a small number of additional permits available to people who sign up on site.

Applying for an Arkansas elk permit is free, although applicants do need a valid hunting license to apply.

“That measure was put in place last year to improve the chance people who drew permits were actually going to hunt,” Carner said. “Over the years, we’ve had people apply or have someone else apply for them with little interest in actually completing the hunt.”

Carner says continuing the elk hunt will allow the AGFC to keep monitoring the disease in the state’s herd without taking this rare opportunity away from Arkansas hunters who cannot afford big-game trips out West.

“Testing samples from last October’s elk hunt made us aware of CWD being in the state,” Carner said. “We plan to continue testing elk taken during this hunt for CWD as well as brain worms and other diseases that can impact the herd.”

Apply for a Public Land Elk Permit, May 1-June 1. 

 

 

 

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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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Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, was confirmed in a sample from Arkansas Feb. 23. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is ramping up awareness for the disease and its response to the finding through public meetings, press releases and many other avenues of communication. Visit to learn more about the disease in Arkansas.

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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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Arkansas hunters harvested 393 bears in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Black Bear Association.

Arkansas hunters harvested 393 bears in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Black Bear Association.

The results of the 2015 Arkansas bear season were presented to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission by Myron Means, large carnivore program coordinator at the Jan. 21, 2016 meeting of the AGFC.

According to Means, hunters killed 393 bears during 2015. Hunters harvested 256 male bears and 137 female bears statewide. Archery hunters accounted for 77 percent of the harvest, which is typical of bear hunting in Arkansas.

“Reproduction and cub survival were normal in the Ozarks, Ouachitas and Delta,” Means said. “However, we do have a relatively small sample size in the Delta, so that should be taken into consideration.”

James Small with a 2015 Arkansas black bear. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Black Bear Association.

James Small with a 2015 Arkansas black bear. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Black Bear Association.

Commission Chairman Emon Mahony and Director Mike Knoedl both inquired about increased bear sightings in south Arkansas and the feasibility of opening a bear season in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Means says there is a research project proposal in place to estimate the true population in that region, which will determine the validity of such a season.

“We know we have bears across that region of the state, and we try to document reports as best we can, but the reports we get come in as clusters,” Means said. “Sometimes one bear can visit multiple deer clubs, so the perception is that we have 50 bears when in reality we only have two or three. The research project should help us get the numbers on growth rates and density we need.”

Means does expect to have a bear season in the Gulf Coastal Plain one day, if the research justifies the need. He warns that it would be an extremely conservative season.

“Bears harvested in that area will likely be on private land and on bait sites,” Means said. “Any time you have that scenario, you run the risk of killing too many the first day and eliminating the population in that area.”

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