LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Biologists and staff with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offered the first reading of recommendations for the 2018-19 hunting season to commissioners at a recent scheduled meeting.
In addition to wording clarifications and season date changes, many recommendations centered on removing hunting restrictions and offering increased hunting opportunities.
“More than 40 percent of the staff recommendations expand hunting opportunities, and 46 percent are clarifications to code language,” AGFC Director Pat Fitts said. “We really want to focus on offering more to our hunters and remove some of the roadblocks to hunting.”
Staff recommended the opening of Alligator Zone 2 (south-central Arkansas) to the annual alligator hunt and make clarifications to alligator codes for possession of alligators and alligator permit requirements.
Biologists also recommended the reduction in the cost of Private Land Elk Permits from $35 to $5, and changes to streamline the application process so that anyone who applies may hunt until the annual elk quota is reached as long as they have landowner permission.
The AGFC Bear Team recommended the bear quota for Bear Zone 1 be increased from 205 to 250, and also recommended that hunters participating in permitted firearms hunts on state-owned WMAs in Bear Zone 1 be allowed to take one bear during the hunt, regardless of whether the quota had been met.
Biologists recommended the legalization of big-bore air rifles that meet certain criteria to be allowed for white-tailed deer during modern gun season. They also recommended the removal of drawn permit requirements to deer hunt on Cut Off Creek and Little Bayou WMAs as well as the youth hunt on Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA. They also recommended the removal of the mentor requirement during youth hunting seasons if the youth has passed Hunter Education.
With additional positive cases of chronic wasting disease discovered during the 2017-18 deer season, biologists with the Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division recommended the following modifications to deer hunting regulations:
The addition of Benton, Washington, Crawford, Franklin and Sebastian counties to the CWD Management Zone.
The creation of a two-tiered carcass movement restriction, where deer from Tier 1 (Boone, Carroll, Madison and Newton counties) would not be allowed outside of the outer border of that tier, and deer from Tier 2 (Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Searcy, Marion, Sebastian, Yell, Washington and Van Buren counties) not be allowed outside the outer border of the entire CWD Management Zone.
The removal of antler restrictions on bucks within WMAs lying in the CWD Management Zone.
The removal of the Three-point Rule in all counties within the CWD Management Zone.
In addition to staff recommendations, Commissioners asked for a waterfowl-hunting recommendation to be included in the public comment survey. From communications with waterfowl hunters on public land, Commissioners offered the following package to be submitted to the public for opinion:
The removal of shell restrictions on all WMAs,
The removal of reduced waterfowl bag limits on all WMAs,
The prohibition of surface-drive motors on all WMAs with a delayed effective date to allow owners of such motors time to find alternative motors for their boats on WMAs.
An adjustment to WMA access to allow hunters to stop hunting at noon, and be off the inundated areas of the WMA by 1 p.m.
A complete list of recommendations is available at https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/regulations/code/ and will be offered to the public through an online survey beginning Monday at agfc.com to gather public input for the next month. Commissioners will thoroughly review the results before any action is taken at the regularly scheduled Commission meeting May 17.
As part of expanding opportunity for hunters, the Commission also authorized Fitts to enter into purchase agreements for three properties totaling 4,890 acres of new hunting access. The following purchases were approved at today’s meeting:
975 acres adjacent to Cypress Bayou WMA in White County for $2.9 million,
A 311-acre inholding within Gene Rush WMA in Newton County for $725,000, and
3,604 acres adjacent to Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA in Union County for $4 million.
In other business, the Commission:
Approved a budget increase of $275,000 to the Fisheries Division for the purchase of 14 acres in Baxter County for the creation of a new regional office serving the Mountain Home area.
Recognized 21 employees with a total of 445 years of service for their commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.
Approved a grant agreement to Henderson State University to provide a boat, motor and trailer from surplus inventory to be used for conservation research at the Simonson Biological Field Station on DeGray Lake.
Approved a grant agreement with Ducks Unlimited not to exceed $113,750 for a period of 39 months for matching funds needed to create a cooperative wildlife biologist position to develop wetland habitat plans for the nearly 300,000 acres of shallow-water wetland habitat enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Easement Program.
Approved the demolition of the work center at Petit Jean River WMA, which has been approved for replacement.
Approved the director to convey 0.1 acres of the Eleven Point River Access to a neighboring landowner to resolve a property encroachment issue.
Reverted possession of 22.7 acres deeded by Entergy to the AGFC in 1971 for a nursery pond on Lake Catherine back to Entergy. The nursery pond has not been able to hold water properly in decades and was last used in 1992.
Awarded Sgt. Frankie Tucker, retiring enforcement officer at the Fort Smith Regional Office, his service sidearm.
Awarded Capt. William Brown, retiring enforcement captain at the Camden Regional Office, his service sidearm.
Awarded Cpl. Todd Smith, retiring enforcement officer at the Hot Springs Regional Office, his service sidearm.
Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $897,427.03 and a current net book value of $100,826.92.
Authorized the AGFC to provide legal defense representation of an AGFC wildlife officer in a civil suit.