Game and Fish report for March 25

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - The arrows were flying and the competition was tight as over 900 kids from around the state competed in the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament on March 21. The program is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program and is a part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's education division. The tournament was held at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.

The archery program involves students beginning in the fourth grade 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.

Hamburg High School took top honors in the high school division, followed closely by Arkansas Baptist and Jasper. In the junior high division, the Bearcats took top honors followed by Monticello Middle School and Jasper. In the elementary division, Greene County Tech Team Eagle Archers won the division followed by Eagle Mountain Magnet and Carlisle Elementary.

Senior high individual winner was J.C. Higginbotham of Hamburg High School. In the middle school division, Matthew Murphy of Jasper took top honors. In the elementary division, Nicholas Schafer of Carlisle Elementary was named the winner.

Archers competed for trophies, medals and scholarships. A special edition Matthews Genesis bow goes to each member of the top team in each division. The schools that took first place honors received a banner for their gym and a trophy for their trophy cases as well as individual trophies for each team member. Second and third place teams received individual trophies for each participant. Fourth and fifth place teams received medals.

MURFREESBORO, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Officer and the Pike County Sheriff's Office arrested a suspect Sunday, March 15, in 1 of the largest methamphetamine busts in Pike County history. Forty-nine grams of methamphetamine and $1,050 were seized in the arrest. The street value of the drugs was $4,000 to $7,500.

Cpl. Chesley Sigman apprehended the suspect, Vernon Scott Bowser, on a private hunting lease during routine checks of fishing camps along the Little Missouri River. According to Sigman, the suspect, another man and a woman had driven around the locked gate of a deer lease in their pickup truck and were digging with shovels near the edge of the road.

"1 of the men stated that they were getting topsoil for a relative," said Sigman. "After some questioning, they changed their story to say they were looking for arrowheads."

When Cpl. Sigman ran Bowser's name through the Pike County Sheriff's Office, he discovered the suspect had a warrant issued for his arrest.

"While waiting for the confirmation of the warrant, I noticed the suspect easing toward the open passenger side of the truck. After asking permission to search the vehicle, I found a small zippered case with 29 bags of what appeared to be methamphetamine, a small bundle of money, a small spoon and an orange tube containing more possible methamphetamine."

Bowser claimed possession of the drugs and was transferred to the Pike County Sheriff's Office for arraignment.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Extensive damage was suffered by forests of north Arkansas in the February ice storm. But that cloud has a potential silver lining.

Workers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Ozark National Forest and other agencies are busy cleaning up broken limbs, downed trees and clearing blocked roads all over the northern third of the state.

Martin Blaney, statewide habitat coordinator for the Game and Fish Commission, said, "The debris in the forests is going to make access difficult for turkey hunters for the spring season coming up. They may find that they can't get to their area, and they may have to come up with another place to hunt."

Blaney continued, "Forests are resilient, however. They will re-sprout and re-grow from this damage, and there will be some benefits from the broken trees opening up things so sunlight can reach the ground."

The heaviest damage from the ice was in a swath running east-west and a little to the north across north Arkansas.

Electrical lines were down and deprived tens of thousands of homes of their power, in some places for several weeks. Restoration of electrical service was a priority along with opening major and secondary roads. Then crews began opening roads on wildlife management areas and on other public facilities like state parks.

Blaney said in the Ozark Mountains, the ice damage was "elevation specific," with the word damage at elevations of 800 or more feet about sea level. But to the east, in the northern Delta region of Arkansas, elevation didn't matter. The ice broke down trees at lower levels.

The Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest, which is a cooperative wildlife management area with AGFC, was especially hard hit, Blaney said.

For hunters, especially those going after turkeys in the coming days, and for other users of the forests, the ice damage may prove to be a bad news-good news event.

Bad news - the access problem in many areas of north Arkansas and even a few farther to the south in the state. Hunters in some places won't be able to get evening the vicinity of where they have hunted in the past.

A determined hunter could move a limb here, a branch there, even a small tree in some spots. But some trees across remote roads are too big even for vehicle-mounted winches to handle.

Veteran turkey hunters may have experience working areas of timber harvests. The ground is littered, so walking is difficult. The ice storm has left similar situations but with the added element of lingering danger in the form of hanging limbs and dangling broken treetops.

Good news - turkeys should benefit right away in nesting because of the abundant cover on the ground, Blaney said. Another factor in the coming months will be plentiful bugs, the food for baby turkeys to eat.

Where tree canopies cover the ground, the damage from the ice has left openings in many places. With sun able to reach the ground, this can result in growth of grass, shrubs and bushes, much of which is used by one or more species of wildlife.

Blaney advised turkey hunters to get out and scout the places they plan to hunt and perhaps look for some alternative areas.

Spring turkey hunting dates are April 11-May 1 in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 11-24 in Zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A; April 4-26 in Zone 17. Zone 1A is closed.

The special youth turkey hunt is March 28-29 in Zone 17 and April 4-5 in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 9, 9A and 10.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Earlier this month, the USDA Forest Service announced that Congress has approved a $2.06 million Forest Legacy grant to the State of Arkansas to purchase approximately 2,400 acres of south Arkansas forestland in Bradley and Drew counties.

The project, called the Pine Flatwoods Recovery Initiative, will protect an ecologically important forest landscape. It also will provide public access for hunting and other forms of recreation; protect a federally listed threatened plant species, provide essential habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, and help protect the water quality of the Saline River, which is designated as an Arkansas Extraordinary Resource Waterway.

The PFRI tract is adjacent to and will be added to Warren Prairie Natural Area, more than doubling its size.The PFRI grant was supported through the efforts of Representative Mike Ross, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and Senator Mark Pryor.The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission will be the primary non-federal, cost-share provider along with The Nature Conservancy.The ANHC will hold title to the property.

The Forest Legacy Program is a nationally competitive grant process overseen by the USDA Forest Service and administered in Arkansas by the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Arkansas has been the recipient of 2 previous FLP grants totaling nearly $2.7 million. These funds went towards the purchase of the 15,923-acre conservation easement known as the Moro Big Pine project in Calhoun County.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was the primary non-federal, cost-share provider along with the ANHC and TNC.The Moro Big Pine conservation easement is now a Wildlife Management Area/Natural Area owned jointly by the AGFC and ANHC, and is available for public hunting in cooperation with the landowner, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Inc. All three FLP grants were supported through the efforts of Representative Mike Ross, Senator Blanche Lincoln and Senator Mark Pryor.

FLP protects forests from conversion to non-forest uses. Property is purchased through fee-simple land acquisitions or conservation easement acquisitions from a willing seller with the purchaser being the state or unit of state government. Private landowners owning forested land within Arkansas's designated Forest Legacy Areas are eligible.

For more information about FLP, contact Jim Jolley, program administrator, at (501) 296-1865 or e-mail> . To learn more about services provided by the Arkansas Forestry Commission, visit>or call (501) 296-1940.

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