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02212018canoecampLITTLE ROCK – Despite the passage of time, little has changed in the fundamentals of a long, skinny boat propelled by paddles. A 21st century, Kevlar canoe probably would be recognized by a Native American of the 1700s.

Packing a canoe for an expedition today usually is associated with recreation – possibly a few days on the Buffalo River to get a taste of what early explorers and fur traders might have experienced. Canoe-access campsites offer a more intimate experience with the outdoors than traditional campgrounds. Canoe travel enables us to move silently through the water, which allows close encounters with wild creatures.

The AGFC has developed more than a dozen water trails across the state. A handful of these offer overnight camping. For maps, including those geo-referenced for smartphones, and more details about each trail, visit agfc.com/watertrails.

Little Maumelle River Water Trail

The Little Maumelle River rises in the Ouachita Mountains west of Little Rock, meanders south of Pinnacle Mountain and widens as it reaches the Arkansas River. The 8.2-mile trail offers solitude near the city, drawing paddlers with towering cypress trees, wildlife viewing and angling opportunities.

Tucked in among cypress trees, a camping platform near the banks of The Nature Conservancy’s William Kirsch Preserve at Ranch North Woods gives paddlers dry respite. It’s the first of its kind in Arkansas, although camping platforms are popular on waterways in the southeastern U.S. Experience the sounds of nature while floating under the stars by requesting a reservation at arkansaswatertrails.com.

Crooked Creek Water Trail

Crooked Creek near Yellville is known among anglers for feisty smallmouth bass. The trail covers 22 miles of the stream, although other stretches may be floated. The water level in the creek depends entirely on rainfall. Be sure to check the U.S. Geological Service gauge at Kelley’s Slab before paddling.

Although most property along Crooked Creek is privately owned, there are primitive camping options at Snow Access and TNC’s Brooksher Crooked Creek Preserve, which has no access by road. Paddlers also may camp at Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek with permission from the center’s manager.

Wattensaw Bayou Water Trail

Waterfowl, woodpeckers or warblers flit overhead, depending on the season, and river otters and beavers swim in the coffee-colored water. Three access points along Wattensaw Bayou offer options on this 7.8-mile water trail that leads to the White River.

Blue paint designates primitive campsites (no water, sewer or electricity). Sites are available with road access along the bayou. For those looking for solitude, a river-access-only campsite is perched along the bayou about the midway point of the trail; first-come, first-served.

Bayou DeView Water Trail

With more than 15 miles of trail oozing through towering cypress and tupelo trees, Bayou DeView exposes paddlers to the Big Woods; only a small fraction of these wetlands remain today. Ancient cypress trees host barred owls, wintering bald eagles and nesting great blue herons. Fishing is good, too, especially for crappie, bream and catfish.

The bayou relies on rainwater, so check the USGS Bayou DeView gauge near Brinkley. To enjoy an overnight in the swamp, access the Hickson Lake campsite from a spur trail off Bayou DeView.

Rabbit Tail Water Trail

With more than 700 miles of undeveloped shoreline and more than 100 islands, Lake Ouachita can be a paddler’s dream. Rabbit Tail Water Trail is on the quieter, north shore of the lake and is tucked into relatively protected coves. Wind can be a deal-breaker on this lake’s wide-open water.

Paddlers on the 8.5-mile loop may camp on an island (check U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations) or along the shore in the Ouachita National Forest. Pack out trash. Reserve a guided trip at ouachitakayaktours.com.

Subscribe to Arkansas Wildlife Magazine for more outdoors ideas and award-winning articles. Visit www.ArkansasWildlife.com.

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Trapping near Jonesboro, ArkRumblings of a new conservation movement have been heard in the U.S. House of Representatives for months. Thanks to bipartisan support from Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has been introduced. The bill proposes to devote additional money to wildlife conservation throughout the U.S., using money from energy development on federally owned land. 

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Bill is the result of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources co-chaired by David Freuenthal, former governor of Wyoming, and John Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. 

If passed, the bill would dedicate up to $1.3 billion annually in existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program. These funds would be used to implement State Wildlife Action plans, which have already identified about 12,000 species in greatest conservation need. 

Species of greatest conservation need are characterized as animals that are rare, have declining populations or do not have enough life history or conservation status research available to determine if they should be classified as threatened or endangered. Through the Arkansas Wildlife Action Plan, these species were identified so that steps could be taken to prevent them from becoming listed as federally threatened or endangered.

“In Arkansas, we have 377 species identified in this category,” said Caroline Cone, chief of staff for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “The plan calls for ways to help conserve these animals and habitats they rely on, but this act will give us the funding to make the plan a reality.” 

In Arkansas, the bill could mean as much as $13 million annually devoted to wildlife habitat restoration. 

“Currently, we are able to devote about $600,000 to species of greatest conservation need, so this would be a game changer,” Cone said. “It would be as powerful for wildlife conservation as the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program has been.”

The money to fund the conservation work would come from royalties, fees and bonuses paid to the federal government for development of energy and mineral resources on federal land. These fees already are collected by the federal government, and no new taxes or fees would be incurred to private companies or taxpayers. 

AGFC Deputy Director Chris Colclasure agrees that the act will enable a shift toward wildlife and habitat management for all species. 

“All of the states have been working to find a proactive solution to prevent any new species from being listed as threatened or endangered,” Colclasure said. “This new legislation will enable us to put those plans into action and work with many more partners to promote game species as well as nongame species.”

Colclasure stresses that the bill not only will benefit those “at-risk” species, but it also will pay huge benefits for hunters and anglers.

“Many of the species that would benefit share habitat with game species, such as quail, turkey and deer,” Colclasure said. “Any actions we take to benefit one, should benefit many others.”

To learn more about the act, visit www.ournatureUSA.com.

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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

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AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all behind us, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to grab some gifts for your holiday shopping. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

Sounds like a deal

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

What’s even better than a year’s worth of award-winning stories and photography delivered to your door? How about three years’ of entertainment with an added special gift to boot? From now until Jan. 1, every three-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine will come with a free Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker sporting the magazine’s title on one side and the AGFC logo on the other. The speaker hooks up wirelessly to any phone or tablet with Bluetooth capability to provide excellent sound-quality to your favorite music and includes a microphone to be able to talk back through it when taking a phone call. One surface of the speaker has a special coating that allows it to cling to glass and other smooth surfaces while playing to keep it out of harm’s way. Just purchase a three-year subscription or three-year gift subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine and we’ll ship the speaker to the subscriber’s address.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC's Conservation License Plate.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate.

Plate up some conservation

It doesn’t matter if your secret Santa is a birdwatcher, bowhunter or both, a gift certificate for an AGFC conservation license plate is the perfect gift to show their love of the outdoors. License plates featuring northern cardinals, black crappie, deer, squirrels and a host of other wildlife species are available at Department of Finance and Administration offices all over the state. Just visit http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutConservationLicensePlates.aspx to purchase as many gift certificates as you need to outfit your friends and family with plates of their choosing. The certificate costs $35, $25 of which is placed into the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund to help Arkansas students become the next generation of biologists and conservationists.

Two books for $10

Buy the AGFC's 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

Buy the AGFC’s 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

While supplies last, the AGFC will be offering it’s 180-page hardcover photo history book, “A Century of Conservation,” and it’s Centennial Cookbook, “A Celebration of Conservation,” together for $10 at AGFC nature centers and the Little Rock Headquarters. You can also cash in on a great deal if you order online at http://www.agfc.com, to get both great books delivered to your door for $13. Act quickly and we’ll throw a 100-year Anniversary Baseball Hat in your order for free.

“A Century of Conservation” is the story of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first 100 years. Read along and discover how the state went from scarcely more than a few hundred deer to a booming population approaching the million-deer mark, not to mention the comeback of Arkansas black bears, turkeys and elk. Stunning photographs and a few stories you probably haven’t heard make this journal a must-have for anyone interested in the outdoors, hunting, fishing or Arkansas history.

“A Celebration of Conservation” includes some of the AGFC employees’ favorite concoctions of everything from wild game to fancy desserts. Mouth-watering recipes will have your taste buds working overtime and make this cookbook a weekly go-to for your kitchen reading. Visit http://www.agfc.com/store/Pages/Merchandise.aspx to order both books.

Bring the outdoors inside

In addition to the gifts above, the AGFC’s four nature centers throughout the state each have a gift shop full of outdoors-oriented items for the nature lover and die-hard outdoorsperson on your list. Shirts, hats, coffee mugs and a variety of smaller gifts are available at reasonable prices in each center, as well as books and other educational material on the outdoors. While you’re there, take in some of the sights and sounds of the center and ask the staff about some of their excellent programs available to the public throughout the year for free. Everything from photography to nighttime “owl prowls” are possible. Click http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationNatureCenters.aspx to get started finding a nature center near you.

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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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The AGFC will host a series of free landowner workshops to teach people how to conduct prescribed burns this February and March.

The AGFC will host a series of free landowner workshops to teach people how to conduct prescribed burns this February and March.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists will host a series of free workshops to teach landowners how to increase wildlife habitat on their property using prescribed fire this February and March.

The workshops are part of the AGFC’s Private Lands Program, a special section of the AGFC Wildlife Management Division focused on helping landowners achieve their wildlife goals at the lowest possible cost.

“When done properly, introducing fire on the landscape is one of the best and most economical ways to promote new browse and herbaceous growth for wildlife,” said Ted Zawislak, AGFC Private Lands Program coordinator. “While a lot of landowners realize the value of burning, they tend to be a little afraid of prescribed fire. Our hope is to increase their comfort level with this practice.”

Northern bobwhite are one of the many species that benefit from the grasses and plants prescribed fire stimulates.

Northern bobwhite are one of the many species that benefit from the grasses and plants prescribed fire stimulates.

“In one Saturday, no landowner can be an expert,” Zawislak said. “But they can have a greater appreciation of the art and science behind prescribed fire. If they choose to hire a prescribed burn contractor to burn their property, they will be a more informed consumer.”

Prescribed fire is one of the least expensive and most efficient tools a landowner can use to increase wildlife habitat.

Prescribed fire is one of the least expensive and most efficient tools a landowner can use to increase wildlife habitat.

Prescribed burns are much different than the wildfires often seen in the news. In fact, many wildfires occur because of the absence of fire on the landscape. Leaves, limbs and other debris build up on the forest floor, creating abundant fuel for a catastrophic fire. Smaller fires at the right time of year eliminate this fuel load gradually and create clearings where seed-bearing grasses and leafy vegetation can grow and provide abundant food for wildlife.

Four six-hour workshops are scheduled during February and March. Space in each of these free workshops is limited to 30 participants, and registration is required at least one week before each workshop date. Lunch will be provided. Workshop locations and times are:

Contact Clint Johnson at 877-470-3650 or email clint.johnson@agfc.ar.gov for more information on these workshops and other Private Lands Program events.

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Apply now for a turkey permit hunt.

Apply now for a turkey permit hunt.

Hunters may now apply for limited permits on several Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas for the 2016 turkey season.

Many WMAs offer special permit youth hunts as well as standard permit hunts. Click here for a list of available permits.

Many WMAs offer special permit youth hunts as well as standard permit hunts. Click here for a list of available permits.

April may seem like an eternity for dyed-in-the-wool turkey hunters, but now is the time to start the process of bagging your bird on public land.

Jason Honey, turkey program coordinator for the AGFC, says access to many popular wildlife management areas must be restricted using a permit draw to prevent overcrowding.

Applications will only be processed from Dec. 15, 2015 until Jan. 15, 2016. Applicants will be notified of their application status in late February. Permit winners must pay a processing fee of $10.

Click here to apply

Many WMA's have different season dates than their surrounding zones. Click here to look at the available hunts and dates.

Many WMA’s have different season dates than their surrounding zones. Click here to look at the available hunts and dates.

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