POINSETT COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will vote on a proposal submitted earlier this year that would remove all permanent duck blinds in the St. Francis River Sunken Land and Big Lake wildlife management areas. According to Ricky Chastain, Deputy Director for AGFC, multiple problems have lead to the vote, which will be made Thursday.
Chastain cites problems such as hunter harassment and habitat destruction as two problems on these two waterways. He told Region 8 News AGFC has gotten statewide support for the removal as well.
"The current rules and regulations as they were being implemented and enforced were not adequate to provide equal access to those WMAs as required under our federal aid grant," said Chastain. "The information that we've received is pretty consistent that 60 to 70 percent of the hunters support the game and fish doing away with the permanent blinds."
Chastain said a survey was conducted among hunters in Arkansas since January.
"The staff has looked, I think carefully, at a number of different alternatives, but in their opinion, the best alternative was, all things considered, that this was the best one to pursue," said Chastain.
However, hunters are wondering where they can go if the commission votes to remove the duck blinds.
Ryan Bane, who has hunted on the St. Francis River for 23 years, said he's hopeful the commission will consider safety issues related to boat hunting.
"My only concern is getting five and six year olds out on the boat and them falling in," said Bane. "The St. Francis River is different from any other ones. You can't really wade in and hunt. You'd have to hunt out of a boat."
Bane said he's spent more than $1,000 on the duck blind he maintains in Poinsett County. He said he's spent a lot of time and money out in the river.
"It's actually a public blind, which it should be, and now we have to maintain them," said Bane. "Somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000-$1,500, just replacing boards on the inside that were rotten. (That's) because we want to keep it as safe as possible. Usually it's more time and labor than anything."
Bane said he's not seen any hunter harassment personally and he hopes a few instances don't ruin the hunt for his family and friends.
"There are some times where we have to work during the week, we may come back out on the weekends and we know that somebody has been there, which is perfectly fine, as long as they leave it as they found it," said Bane. "We've got other friends we could go hunting with, but it is a first come, first serve basis, and if they showed up while were there, they'd be more than welcome to hunt with us."