JASPER (AGFC) – The field of elk hunters was shortened by the federal shutdown, but those in action did well in the first season in Buffalo River country. Upcoming is the second hunt, Monday through Friday, Oct. 28-Nov. 1. Twenty hunters have permits for public land, and at the same time, dozens of others will go on private land with permits, a separate process.
Doug Young of Malvern took bragging rights in the first hunt with his 7x7 bull elk. He was hunting on Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area, a facility of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Close behind Young's bull was the 6x7 bull downed by Cain Lusk of Hector. Lusk is just 12 years old, but he put his rifle shot where it needed to go. Lusk was hunting in the Bearcat Hollow area of southwestern Searcy County, a rugged region open this year for the first time to elk hunting.
Ridge Fletcher of Little Rock, 14 and a student at Catholic High School, scored with a 4x5 bull on Gene Rush WMA.
Billy Burleson of Lead Hill had an antlerless permit for Bearcat Hollow, and he took a cow elk.
Shane Lyerly of Jonesboro got a cow elk in the Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Elk Conservation Area on the eastern side of Gene Rush WMA.
Two hunters who were scheduled to work Buffalo National River land were sidelined by the shutdown, but they will have permits for 2014's elk season.
Weather was close to ideal for the hunt with cool nights then moderately warm days and sunshine all five days.
The public land permits are free as are applications for them. The month of May is application time each year, and the permit winners are drawn during the Buffalo River Elk Festival on Jasper's courthouse square late in June.
AGFC biologists are on hand at the hunts to take samples from elk for testing. No diseases or other health issues have been found in the 16 years of permit hunting.
The Arkansas elk herd numbers about 600 and is stable with the limited hunting. The Boxley Valley area, where thousands of visitors come to view elk in fields, has never been open to hunting them.