Duck Hunters Mark Your Calendars

August 26, 2004 -- Posted 3:45 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- As the summer draws to an end, Arkansas duck hunters have got their minds set on the calendar.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released dates for this year's duck hunting season on Thursday at a meeting in Jonesboro.

The 60 day duck season will broken up again this year. It will begin November 20th through December 5th. Then again on December 17th to the 24th, and finally December 26th to January 30th.

This year there will be a 6 duck hunting limit, only 4 of the 6 can be mallards, and only one of the mallards can be a hen.

Duck hunting is not only a popular sport in the State of Arkansas, it's also a very profitable one. If you tie in those 2 factors you get a debate over how to accommodate out-of-state duck hunters that provide a lot of revenue, versus Arkansas hunters who says it's getting over-crowded.

The State of Arkansas is considered by many outdoors men to have the best duck hunting grounds in North America. It's even a popular spot for some well known out-of-staters like former President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Dick Cheney. Some say these same out-of-staters that bring in millions in revenue are also taking up too much space, and making some locals unhappy.

"One of the big problems we are facing here in Arkansas concerning our water fowl is overcrowding," said Andrew James with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The Game and Fish Commission says its number one charge is to take care of Arkansas Hunters first.

"From a tourist standpoint we need the hunters, but secondly there are a lot of places they can hunt, besides our WMAs," said Sheffield Nelson with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The Game and Fish say its taken steps to ease the number of people hunting in the state's wildlife management areas, particularly in Northeast Arkansas. The commission is in favor of leaving the public owned grounds for Arkansas hunters, and allowing other hunters on, if they don't bring a guide with them.

"I don't ever want to see us go through a lottery system or a draw system," said Nelson.

Neither do Arkansas hunters; during a recent survey, the majority were against a lottery system.

"We're simply trying to allocate our properties and move people around so that we protect Arkansas hunters, men, kids and their wives who want to go hunt, and at the same time have plenty of hunting opportunities for out-of-staters to buy out of state licenses and come here," said Nelson.