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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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Paddlewheel and fountain aerators help add oxygen to small ponds during extremely hot periods.

Paddlewheel and fountain aerators help add oxygen to small ponds during extremely hot periods.

Anyone who has ever had their breath taken away after sitting in a car that’s been parked in the summer sun will tell you that even a momentary drop in oxygen can turn things upside down. The same holds true for fish if the dissolved oxygen in a pond or lake crashes.
According to Eric Brinkman, district fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Hope, fish kills associated with low oxygen levels can be common in many small bodies of water during late summer.

“It can happen on any body of water or a section of a body of water, but the most common places we get fish kills like this are smaller ponds on people’s property,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman says the factors leading up to a fish kill because of low oxygen are more complex than the simple fact that hot water holds less oxygen.

“There’s a lot going on in summer,” Brinkman said. “Fish are cold-blooded creatures, so their metabolism rises with the temperature. A higher metabolism means more activity and more oxygen demand.”

The amount of fish in the system also is at its peak during the summer. Fish and insects that hatched all spring add more demand for the dissolved oxygen available.

“Summer also brings an abundance of vegetation, phytoplankton and zooplankton,” Brinkman said. “Which all use oxygen as well.”

Everyone who’s had third-grade science learned plants provide oxygen when they create sugars through photosynthesis, but plants also use part of that oxygen when they burn those sugars to survive.

“An abundance of fish, insects and plankton can consume a lot of dissolved oxygen, especially at night or during prolonged periods of cloudy weather, when photosynthesis slows due to lack of sunlight,” Brinkman said. “Typically fish kills from depleted oxygen will occur in the very early morning, just before sunup oxygen levels are at their lowest.”

Fish kills resulting from low oxygen also can happen during sudden events called “turnover.” During the hottest part of summer, water will separate, or stratify, into two distinct layers. The upper layer will be warmer and contain most of the oxygen. The bottom layer will be cold, and contains little or no oxygen. Most fish will be in the upper layer of the water column, often very close to where the two sections meet – called the thermocline. However, a cool rain or extreme cold front can cool the surface layer rapidly, which causes it to drop to the bottom of the pond, forcing the oxygen-poor layer to the surface zone holding the fish. The rapid drop in oxygen causes large fish kills, including all species present.

No matter the cause of oxygen loss, the best solution is aeration.

“Oxygen diffuses into the water from the surface quicker if there’s a lot of splashing and wave action,” Brinkman said. “On our hatcheries and on many farms with the proper equipment, a paddle-wheel aerator will get oxygen back into the system efficiently. A lower-cost option for ponds and small lakes is an aeration fountain to cause an adequate disturbance.”

Brinkman says once fish begin to go belly up, there’s not much that can be done, but investing in a fountain aerator definitely guards against oxygen loss and helps prevent the water from stratifying.
Another piece of advice for would-be pond owners is to limit the maximum depth of any small pond you build to less than 10 to 12 feet. Shallower systems do not stratify or turnover as easily.

“Many people think you should have some deeper water for fish to use as refuge during the hot summer months, but it’s actually a bad idea when you’re talking about smaller ponds,” Brinkman said.

Anything that adds nutrients to the system during summer also can increase the demand for oxygen. Overabundant fertilization, runoff from agriculture or sewage treatment areas and livestock waste all can increase the fertility of the system too much and eventually lead to a crash.

Telltale indicators that you may have a turnover occurring on a pond are an overnight change in the water color from relatively clear to a “chocolate milk” appearance, a foul, rotting smell and fish opening their mouths, or “piping,” at the surface of the water. These symptoms are much more prevalent in the morning just as the sun rises.

If a person sees a fish kill, they can call their local AGFC office and ask to speak to a fisheries biologist. They can walk you through a series of questions to determine whether the kill is due to oxygen depletion or if other factors are at play. A list of regional offices is available at http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutRegionalOffices.aspx

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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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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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Click the image to take a look at the deer harvest in real time.

Click the image to take a look at the deer harvest in real time.

Bowhunters checked 2,595 deer during opening weekend, Sept. 26-27. The bow opener has been a near mirror image of itself the last three years, with 2,682 deer checked in 2014 and 2,576 deer checked during opening weekend in 2013.

Thanks to the conversion to online and telephone checking, the AGFC is able to offer hunters a look into the harvest across the state as it’s happening. Receiving information faster isn’t just for entertainment, it’s also critical to make decisions on the next year’s deer season before the regulations setting process begins in March each year.

“Checking your deer is easier than ever,” said Keith Stephens, chief of communications for the AGFC. “You can check it online through agfc.com, use our smartphone app, which is available through iTunes and Google Play, or you can call it in using the phone number provided on your license.”

As soon as a deer is checked, the hunting zone, sex and time are uploaded to the system to give viewers real-time results on the deer harvest. Complete results by day, zone, county and sex are available at https://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php.

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Click the image for 2014-15 deer harvest numbers updated in real time.

Click the image for 2014-15 deer harvest numbers updated in real time.

Deer Harvest Updates Online

Thanks to internet checking, the public can see exactly how many deer have been checked in any deer zone or wildlife management area in Arkansas on a daily basis. Keep an eye on the harvest and see where your stomping grounds rank by visiting http://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php

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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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