Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

  • Agency: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Address: 2 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, 72205 AR
  • Chief:
Phone: 800-364-4263
Fax:

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is located at 2 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, 72205 AR. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission phone number is 800-364-4263.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission News

From 2013 to 2017, there were 18,000 fewer hunters in the woods. That is 7 percent of the hunters in Arkansas. This trend can have an impact on conservation dollars and work in our state. Join AGFC in pledging to keep this tradition alive. Pledge at https://hunterspledge.com

Report deer or elk roadkill to AGFC at 1-800-482-9262 ASAP. Please call this number as well if you see any deer exhibiting signs of CWD. Testing options for hunters are available at www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC is ramping up efforts at disease-monitoring surveys, beginning Sept. 17.

2018-19 Deer Seasons and Limits Private land zones: https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/deerzones/ WMA zones: https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/where-hunt/wildlife-management-areas/ Hunting Guidebook: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17tG1l3xNchmE0hKa7LNpkyakh4wpDtW4/view

Treestand Safety

Arkansas dinner table set for early migrating ducks JONESBORO - Blue-winged teal and other early migrants are beginning their annual trek south, and nearly all of the moist-soil units managed to produce food on Arkansas public land are in excellent condition to welcome them. A recent report showed outstanding crops of native vegetation as well as excellent stands of millet cover crops in units where moist-soil plants were slow to develop or knocked back to encourage better growth next year. Shirey Bay Rainey Brake and Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Areas in northeast Arkansas both showed impressive results in their moist-soil habitat this year, despite some nail-biting moments caused by flash floods in late August. Zach Yancey, biologist at Dave Donaldson Black River WMA, says a cover crop of millet was planted in the Brookings Moist Soil Unit this year to augment native vegetation that had to be set back to remove some less desirable plants. “It’s been so wet through the summer the last few years that we couldn’t do as much disturbance as we wanted,” Yancey said. “Perennial plants began to take hold, which do not produce the high-value seeds we want. As part of our plan, we disked those plants to bring back annuals next year, and planted a cover crop of millet, just as we would on sites that don’t respond to moist-soil management techniques through the year.” The crop was nearly lost when 10 inches of rain fell within two days, completely flooding the young stand at a critical time. “We had both staff members on Dave Donaldson WMA and two others from nearby areas to gather up four pumps from the region and get them going,” Yancey said. “We manned those pumps over the weekend and halfway through the next week before we got the water off to save those fields. It’s as good a stand of Japanese millet as you could hope for right now, and we’re starting to put water on it for early ducks.” Millet can be a good stopgap, but Yancey is a strong proponent of native vegetation over planted crops when possible. “A good, natural moist-soil plant response is more beneficial to the ducks,” Yancey said. “It gives an excellent food source and these waterfowl rest areas provide a true resting area for ducks to go without being disturbed.” Jessica Homan, wildlife biologist in Jonesboro says moist soil units at Shirey Bay also are producing well, thanks to properly timed manipulations planned throughout the year. “We follow a set procedure that involves pulling water off at the right time, flooding at the right time and manipulating the plants if needed to produce the best response from seed-heavy annual species,” Homan said. “We assess it throughout the year and if it’s not producing up to standard, we may come back with a cover crop to get the food value of the unit up, but we want native plants as much as possible.” Homan says native plants not only produce an excellent food resource, but they also are much more resistant to parasites and flooding, which makes them a great fit for the low-lying areas prevalent on AGFC WMAs. “When we plant millet, we really have to watch for Army worms on a daily basis,” Homan said. “We even had to aerially spray a stand this year to let the millet grow out of its vulnerable stage. You don’t have to worry about that with smartweeds, panic grasses and other native wetland plants.” Homan also says the seeds from native vegetation remain long after agricultural waste like soybeans have germinated or rotted once fields are flooded. “Native vegetation has adapted to live in these flooded areas much better than agricultural crops, which need constant tending,” Homan said. “You have to remember that ducks have been coming to Arkansas long before men brought rice fields to the Delta. Native wetlands and bottomland hardwoods were what ducks came here for to begin with.” Buck Jackson, wetland program biologist for the AGFC, plans the timing of the many manipulations needed to promote moist-soil units and works with area biologists to fine tune the process and adapt to changing conditions each year. He says moist-soil units are becoming increasingly important as the landscape of Arkansas’s wetlands change, particularly in respect to the availability of food in our flooded hardwood areas. “We know that food from flooded red oaks is diminishing in many of our greentree reservoirs, and we are working to address that issue through changes in our management and infrastructure of these areas,” Jackson said. “We also know modern agricultural practices do not produce the waste grain they once did, due to early harvests and fall tillage. The waterfowl need a lot of energy as they migrate, and moist-soil units can combat some of the food shortages we are seeing in other habitat types.” The amount of food energy moist soil units produce, when compared to agricultural crops, is impressive. Agricultural fields are harvested, leaving only waste grains to attract and supply food for waterfowl, but native vegetation can be manipulated to expose all the grain produced for ducks and other migrants. Current research suggests a harvested rice field produces about 138 duck energy days per acre (a measurement denoting how much food energy is available for average-sized dabbling ducks). Harvested corn produces 505 duck energy days per acre. Baseline moist-soil units provide 1,868 duck energy days per acre by comparison. But those numbers don’t even come close to units managed by the AGFC. “Those estimates are based on native stands with hardly any manipulation,” Jackson said. “They average about 600 pounds of seeds per acre. “We manage our units with lime, fertilizer and proper water manipulation to produce closer to 3,500 pounds of seeds per acre, so we’re producing along the lines of 2,500 to 3,000 duck energy days per acre on our areas.” Jackson says moist-soil management isn’t just about seed energy, but offering waterfowl the variety of foods they need in their diet. “Agricultural crops will always attract some ducks, just like a person isn’t likely to turn down a free candy bar,” Jackson said. “But the birds also spend a lot of time gathering other types of foods, including acorns for fat reserves, invertebrates for protein and many varieties of seeds for a balanced diet. A variety of food sources is essential to a thriving duck population.”

Make room in your freezer for deer season and help beat hunger in Arkansas LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry will hold a special “freezer cleanout day” at the Bass Pro Shops in Little Rock, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 22. It may seem a bit early to be thinking of freezer space, but archery season opens Saturday, and many hunters will be in the woods looking for their first chance at this year’s trophy. Most hunters will admit to having had to throw out a package or two of freezer-burned venison after it went unused for a few seasons. When this year’s deer begin filling the freezer, it’s easy for last year’s meat to get misplaced or lost in the shuffle. Instead of throwing out meat after it has gone bad, you can clean out the freezer and donate that venison while it’s still good to people who are in need. “Those leftovers go a long way in helping provide meat to food pantries around the state, which is one of the hardest things for these places to gather,” said Ronnie Ritter, executive director for AHFH. “The freezer cleanout has become a big event to help us start the deer season off on the right foot.” Anyone who donates meat or gives a cash donation at the event will be entered in hourly drawings for $25 gift cards from Bass Pro Shops. They also will be eligible for a grand prize drawing for a new Savage .22 rifle at the end of the event. Ritter says the drawing also will include people who purchase a license at the store that day and elect to make a donation to AHFH through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s license system. “Hunters have been able to donate $1, $5 or $10 to us when they buy their hunting license for years, and we really appreciate all the help that option has given us in our mission,” Ritter said. In addition to the freezer cleanout and drawings, Kruse Meat Products of Saline County will have samples of summer sausage available to try, and the Dutch Oven Society will be preparing Dutch oven cobbler for people interested in sweet treats made the old-fashioned way. Visit www.arkansashunters.org for more information about Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

Today's Commission Meeting begins at 10 a.m. Lodge Room at the Temple Live Event Center in Fort Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kca5grbulU&feature=youtu.be

Good time for shooting range work MAYFLOWER – Deer hunters and others preparing their rifles for hunting season may want to take advantage of short lines and easy access now at the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range. The week before deer season opens Nov. 10 may be too late. “Now is a good time to get your deer rifles and muzzleloaders sighted in before the preseason hunting crowds pick up,” said Grant Tomlin, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assistant chief, whose duties include overseeing AGFC shooting ranges. “The weekends are already getting busy. We’re averaging over 100 people a day at the rifle range on weekends.” Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and the last shooters have to be checked in by 3:45 p.m. The range accepts cash or check, but no credit or debit cards, for payment. The firing range is at 574 Clinton Road, off state Highway 89 east of Mayflower. The facility was completely refurbished in 2017, including its clubhouse. It has 18 200-yard lanes for rifle and 30 50-yard lanes for pistol shooting. Two areas offer trap and skeet shooting, with one stand each. Well east of the firing ranges, beyond a storage barn and a covered picnic area, is the bowhunters’ section with a 3-D target course plotted among trees and brush outside a large circular pond. “The 3-D course is available for free,” Tomlin said. “We have an 8-foot by 16-foot platform there for multiple shooters. Some typical deer stands are 15-20 feet off the ground, so with that platform you can shoot eight different targets in ranges from 10 yards out to 60 yards. “The archery range isn’t too crowded. Most people don’t know we have that. We have some pretty cool targets out there: a bull elk, a bull moose that’s about 7 feet tall, pronghorn antelope, lots of deer targets, turkey, bobcats, wild hogs.” On the 11-stand course around the pond levee, there is even a 3-D alligator awaiting as a target on a small island (accessible by bridge) within the pond. All areas, from the firing ranges to archery course, are first-come, first serve. Shooters need to check in at the new main building, which has plenty of comfortable seating and televisions to watch sporting events while shooters wait their turns. There’s no limit on how long shooters can use a lane, so people should call ahead (501-470-9904) to see if there is a wait. “The waits on the weekends are not too long now, but the closer to deer season, the longer the waits are going to be,” Tomlin said. “That’s why we encourage people to get out in early to mid-September to get their rifles zeroed in. Every year we have people who will come out 3:30 the day before deer season to zero in their gun and we already have a two-hour wait. They show up at 3:30 and we just can’t do it.” On a recent mid-September Friday, Conway’s Brad Gaither was under the covered rifle area sighting in his .22 squirrel rifle. He also worked with Earl Simpson, a part-time employee at the range, shooting targets further downrange with a deer rifle. Gaither was one of about six people checking out their rifles. The thunderous, ear-splitting crack of some rifles reminded everyone why ear protection is essential when shooting. “I try to get out here about three or four times a year for rifle work,” Gaither said. “I’ll also come out to shoot trap some, too. I really enjoy it. It’s a great range.” Simpson is part of a small crew of three full-time and three part-time employees working at the range. His main focus, Simpson said, is instruction in gun safety. He’s a former Marine who moved into agriculture work before retirement. Range supervisor Bill Haynes and full-time employee Tracey McDermott provide long-range marksmanship instruction. Kurt Underwood also is a certified AR instructor. Robert Baltimore is an Air Force retiree and a part-timer at the range who was a former competition shooter. “He does a lot of instruction while he is there,” Tomlin said. Tomlin said that during the remodeling, range additions included an area for dedicated programs such as Being an Outdoors-Woman, hunter education and beginner marksmanship. “We had a group of ladies out there a month or so ago who went through a beginner pistol course,” Tomlin said. “The staff out there at the range are all retired law enforcement or military pistol instructors. They can teach anything from beginning to advanced marksmanship classes. Two of the staff out there are former law enforcement and military snipers. They do long-range marksmanship training. So, hunters who want to come out can learn to shoot long distances, and they can help people get their rifles sighted in properly.”

Arkansas Wildlife Fishing Report - Sept. 19, 2018 https://www.agfc.com/en/news/2018/09/19/arkansas-wildlife-fishing-report-58/ Bass Putting Up a Fight at Millwood Lake Find the egrets and topwater schoolers and buck bass will not be far away.

Arkansans are more likely to see a boisterous duck with a bright pink bill, pink feet and an unusual, long-legged silhouette—the black-bellied whistling duck is a tropical bird, but is expanding northward and it is not unusual to spot one in the Natural State. What do they look like? Although mallard-sized, they look more goose-like than duck-like when standing and walk instead of waddle and whistle instead of quack. They look most like ducks, but are more like a goose or swan in that males and females look similar. They have a long neck, long legs, short tail and spend more time than other ducks walking on land or perching in trees (formerly known as a tree duck). They are dark overall: a chestnut breast and black belly are set off by a bright-pink bill and legs, grayish face, and broad white wing stripe, also visible in flight. In flight, look for their broad wings, long neck, and hunched back. Where can I spot one? Look for them in southwest and eastern Arkansas and along the Arkansas River valley especially around agricultural fields and flooded rice fields. They seem to readily adopt human-altered habitats, and this has helped them move north into the southern U.S. in recent decades. Check out eBird.com for birding hotspots such as Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery, Millwood Lake and Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. They’ve expanded their range possibly due to increased availability of nest boxes, agricultural ponds and cultivation. They spend the winter months in Florida and coastal Texas, Mexico and Central America. What do they eat? Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks eat mainly plants including agricultural crops such as sorghum, millet, corn, rice, and wheat. They eat a smaller amount of aquatic animals such as snails, insects, and spiders. They typically forage at night, leaving roosts at sunset to fly to foraging areas. They are predominately grazers, feeding on submerged vegetation by wading through shallow water What kind of pair bonds do they form? They more like a goose than a duck in that they form lifelong pair bonds and their courtship is less complex that many ducks. They nest in tree hollows where a limb has broken or the trunk has rotted away. They also use nest boxes and sometimes nest on the ground. Both sexes help select the nest site and incubate the eggs. They will perform broken-wing displays if flushed from box late in incubation. Females often lay eggs in the nests of other whistling-ducks—a behavior known as egg-dumping.

WMA road closure update - Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita WMA The Clear Lake Road at Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area will close temporarily beginning Sept. 18 due to maintenance. A contractor will be hauling rock to improve the road. As a safety precaution, the gate will remain open for construction vehicles but will be closed to public traffic. The road will reopen as soon as possible. In addition, forest thinning operations are scheduled to begin on the WMA. Users of the WMA should use caution and keep their distance from the logging operations. The AGFC apologizes for any inconveniences these projects may cause.

Tommorrow Night at 6 p.m. Dinner will be provided at the workshops for landowners who register in advance. Call 501-907-0636 to register. Quail restoration workshop scheduled at Central Arkansas Nature Center LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, United States Department of Agriculture and Quail Forever will host a special workshop to help landowners bring back northern bobwhite in central Arkansas. The workshop will be held at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 18. Clint Johnson, AGFC private lands biologist in Mayflower, says the meeting will focus not only on quail habitat needs and recent work from the AGFC and its partners to help bring quail numbers rebound, but also on ways private landowners can join the effort and improve the value of their land to wildlife without heavy cost. “More than 85 percent of Arkansas is privately owned, so partnerships with landowners are essential to help wildlife management efforts,” Johnson said. “And we have special biologists and staff dedicated to making those partnerships successful.” Several funding opportunities are available to help offset the costs of landowners restoring habitat for quail and other wildlife species. Johnson says the meeting will be a great introduction to some of the programs available as well as a good place to learn of the many biologists from different agencies available to help. “The AGFC has 10 private lands biologists dedicated to helping people manage their property for wildlife for free,” Johnson said. “Seven additional biologists focused on quail also are available through Quail Forever, thanks to grants completed by the AGFC. That’s not including county extension service agents or help from the USDA.” For more information on AGFC's efforts to quail populations throughout the state, visit www.agfc.com/quail.

Inaugural Arkansas Quail Conservation Stamp available LITTLE ROCK - Conservationists have a new way to contribute to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s efforts at replacing wildlife habitat for the northern bobwhite, thanks to a new Quail Conservation Stamp available through the AGFC licensing system. The voluntary stamp was added to the section of available hunting permits at www.agfc.com/license, but is not required for any hunting activity. Commissioners hope many conservation-minded hunters will add the stamp to their license purchases to help contribute to quail restoration efforts in the state. Former Commission Chairman Steve Cook, who introduced the idea of the stamp last year, said he personally purchased two duck stamps every year to help contribute to waterfowl conservation and knew many people who didn’t hunt still purchased the stamp to contribute to wetland conservation. “These stamps are a great way for people to show their support of wildlife conservation, and many have become collectors’ items,” Cook said. “It’s as much about promoting the idea of conservation as it is about the money derived from the stamp.” Each stamp costs $4.50, which is earmarked for activities to put more quail habitat on the ground. The habitat not only supports northern bobwhite, but a host of ground-nesting birds, including turkeys, as well as many pollinating species essential to Arkansas agriculture. “Early successional habitat is much more rare than it was decades ago,” said Chris Colclasure, AGFC deputy director. “We have forests that have grown too thick, and we have agricultural land that is streamlined for production, but we’re missing that prairie and edge habitat where many species thrive.” The image of the quail hen tending to her chicks in brood-rearing cover was illustrated by AGFC graphic artist Greta James. James also is the creative talent behind the latest two versions of the AGFC’s award-winning conservation license plate. Colclasure says much thought was placed in the components portrayed in the finished image. “The focus was to show native wildflowers and vegetation, combined with the bare ground essential to quail survival,” Colclasure said. “Birds need that bare ground to be able to move without being hindered so they can escape predators.” Colclasure says much of the public perceives bobcats, coyotes and other predators as the driving force behind quail and turkey declines, but that’s only partially correct. Quail still exist in many areas of Arkansas and other portions of the nation alongside the same predators they always have coexisted with. The difference is a lack of habitat that enables quail to feed and find shelter from these predators. In the end, a predator does kill the birds more efficiently, but it’s the habitat change that allows it to happen. Some of the funds derived from the stamp will be spent in Arkansas’s quail focal areas, which are intensively managed areas on public land to serve as examples of quail habitat for recovery. Other proceeds will go toward efforts on private ground to connect remaining pockets of quail and allow more expansion of the birds throughout the state. Stamps are available in person at all AGFC regional offices, as well as the AGFC headquarters in Little Rock. People also may purchase through the online licensing system at www.agfc.com/license, and the inaugural Arkansas Quail Conservation Stamp will be mailed to their door.

Governor Hutchinson proclaims Sept. 15-22 Arkansas Hunting and Fishing Week LITTLE ROCK - Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a special proclamation Friday in the Governor’s Conference Room at the state capitol recognizing Sept. 15-22, 2018 as Arkansas Hunting and Fishing Week. He announced the celebration in front of a room filled with dozens of representatives from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, outdoor industry and nonprofit organizations who partner with the agency to promote conservation throughout the state. “This is exciting to be able to promote hunting and fishing in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “It’s healthy, It’s a part of us and helps drive our economy as well.” Commission Chairman Ford Overton of Little Rock said he is extremely honored at the continued support the Governor has shown the Commission through its efforts at recruiting hunters and anglers. “We have so many great places to hunt, so many great places to fish,” Overton said. “The governor’s support is very important to us being able to hand this down to the next generation of sportsmen.” The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and its partners have organized many special activities to recognize the week and the contributions hunting and fishing make to people’s daily lives. The Big Catch community fishing event will begin at 8 a.m., Sept. 15, at MacArthur Park in Little Rock. AGFC and Community First Alliance expect well over 3,000 attendees to this fun-filled day surrounding the outdoors. MacArthur Park Pond will be stocked with hundreds of hungry catfish, and everyone in the family is eligible to fish. Anyone 16 and older will need to have a valid Arkansas fishing license (youths under 16 do not need a fishing license in Arkansas). For more information on the family event, visit https://www.agfc.com/en/news/2018/09/05/big-catch-kicks-off-arkansas-hunting-and-fishing-week-sept-15. September 15 also will be a big day for the Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center. Although the interior will be closed for renovations, the center will host its annual Marksmanship Challenge. The event is open to the public, and participants can try their hand at BB gun shooting, archery, target casting and even hatchet throwing. Visit www.agfc.com/deltarivers to learn more about the center and find links to their event calendar and Facebook page. For hunters looking to improve their safety while in the field, the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek in Yellville, will hold a special workshop on tree stand safety Sept. 15. The center also will host a fishing derby on Sept. 22. For more events at this education center, visit www.agfc.com/fbcec. The AGFC’s Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower will hold special pricing all week, from Sept. 15-23, to help hunters and shooting enthusiasts celebrate the event. All skeet and trap shooting will be reduced to ½ price and all youth 6-17 may shoot at the pistol or rifle range for free. Also any customer who has purchased a new hunting rifle or muzzleloader may shoot for free if they bring proof of their recent purchase. And on Sept. 15, all pistol and rifle range use is free to the public. “We held a similar promotion throughout August, and really saw a good response,” said Grant Tomlin, AGFC assistant chief of education. “We are excited to get more people safely enjoying the shooting sports, and even have staff on hand who can help people learn the proper way to handle and respect a firearm.” The week will wrap up on September 22, which Gov. Hutchinson proclaimed National Hunting and Fishing Day in Arkansas during today’s press conference. AGFC nature and education centers will host special events on those days as well. Visit www.agfc.com to view a calendar of events or visit AGFC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ARGameandFish to learn more about events at AGFC facilities throughout the week.

Zero hunting-related fatalities last year, hunters reminded to stay vigilant LITTLE ROCK - Last year was one of the few years on record that Arkansas did not have a fatality due to a hunting accident, but hunters should be mindful to keep up their guard. The news comes from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Annual Hunter Incident Report, which was released last week to Hunter Education instructors throughout Arkansas. The report summarizes all hunting-related incidents from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, and gives instructors and other hunting safety advocates information on areas where improvements can be made. “Still, by and large, falls from treestands make up the largest portion of hunting accidents,” said Joe Huggins, Hunter Education coordinator for the AGFC. “Fifteen of the 23 reported accidents last year were falls from stands.” Huggins says treestand falls spanned all ages of hunters last year, from a seven- and an eight-year old, to two 75-year old veterans of the deer woods. “Some were from 10 feet and some were from as high as 25 feet,” Huggins said. “Some even had safety harnesses on but weren’t connected to the tree at the time of the fall.” Many falls occur when people are transitioning from a ladder or steps into a stand, and Huggins suggests setting up a vertical rope and prussic knot to always stay connected to the tree. “If someone’s searching for details about the device, the brand Hunter Safety Systems calls it a Life Line, but other brands sell comparable safety ropes,” Huggins said. “The whole idea of the system is to always have your harness attached to the tree from the time you leave the ground until the time you return after the hunt.” Huggins says that the report only shows incidents that were reported, either from the hunters, hospitals or first-responders. It also shows only incidents when the person was directly involved with hunting at the time. “We know of other incidents that occurred while people were getting a duck boat or deer stand ready, that don’t fall under the report,” Huggins said. “And there are a lot of twisted ankles, cuts and minor injuries that occur that people never report.” Even with 23 incidents being reported, hunting is one of the safest recreational activities available. More than 318,500 licensed hunters participated last year, so less than 0.007% of hunters experienced a hunting-related injury. “The percentage of injuries is way lower than most high school sports like football,” Huggins said. “We have about the same rate of injury as table tennis.” Huggins says a Hunter Education course is one of the best resources available for hunters to remain safe in the woods. In addition to some basic hunting knowledge and general regulations, instructors focus on everyone coming home to share stories after the hunt is concluded. “Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1968, is required to have hunter education to hunt without a mentor,” Huggins said. “Hunters younger than 16 and hunters who obtain a deferred hunter education code through the AGFC licensing system may hunt under the direct supervision of a licensed hunter who is at least 21. The mentor must be within arm’s reach of them during the hunt.”

Report road-killed deer to help AGFC monitor disease LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be ramping up efforts at disease-monitoring surveys, beginning Sept. 17, and are asking motorists to help by reporting any road-killed deer they see along Arkansas’s roads and highways. Road-killed deer offer biologists a chance to monitor for chronic wasting disease throughout the state without the need to kill deer to obtain samples. Chris Middaugh, research biologist for the AGFC, says roadkill samples enable biologists to detect where CWD may have spread. “Road-killed deer have shown to have a higher probability of testing positive for CWD than random sampling because deer suffering from the disease may be less wary of danger or slower to react to the car,” Middaugh said. “Because of this higher probability, roadkill samples are very valuable in detecting the disease’s range.” According to AJ Riggs, wildlife health biologist for the AGFC, the increased effort during spring and fall correlates with increases in deer-vehicle collisions during these times. “During the first year of sampling, which was year-round, we saw two peak times for roadkill samples,” Riggs said. “As fawns begin to be fully weaned and the annual rut cycle beginning in bucks. Deer activity increases during these times, which leads to more collisions.” In addition to the increase in sampling opportunities, fall temperatures aid in preserving viable samples until staff can collect them. “During summer, samples can degrade in less than a day because of the heat,” Riggs said. “Cooler weather definitely gives us a better percentage of viable samples from the effort.” Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects members of the deer/elk family (cervids). It is similar to “mad cow disease” in cattle. Infected animals will not show signs of disease for a long period of time, but late in the disease process they will be thin and may demonstrate weakness, abnormal behavior, excessive thirst, or drooling. Animals generally die soon after the onset of these signs. To date, 355 white-tailed deer and 14 elk have tested positive for CWD. Report any roadkill to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262 as soon as possible. Please call this number as well if you see any deer exhibiting signs of CWD. All testing options for hunters are available at www.agfc.com/cwd.

Quail restoration workshop scheduled at Central Arkansas Nature Center LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, United States Department of Agriculture and Quail Forever will host a special workshop to help landowners bring back northern bobwhite in central Arkansas. The workshop will be held at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 18. Clint Johnson, AGFC private lands biologist in Mayflower, says the meeting will focus not only on quail habitat needs and recent work from the AGFC and its partners to help bring quail numbers rebound, but also on ways private landowners can join the effort and improve the value of their land to wildlife without heavy cost. “More than 85 percent of Arkansas is privately owned, so partnerships with landowners are essential to help wildlife management efforts,” Johnson said. “And we have special biologists and staff dedicated to making those partnerships successful.” Several funding opportunities are available to help offset the costs of landowners restoring habitat for quail and other wildlife species. Johnson says the meeting will be a great introduction to some of the programs available as well as a good place to learn of the many biologists from different agencies available to help. “The AGFC has 10 private lands biologists dedicated to helping people manage their property for wildlife for free,” Johnson said. “Seven additional biologists focused on quail also are available through Quail Forever, thanks to grants completed by the AGFC. That’s not including county extension service agents or help from the USDA.” Dinner will be provided at the workshops for landowners who register in advance. Call 501-907-0636 to register. For more information on AGFC's efforts to quail populations throughout the state, visit www.agfc.com/quail.

Arkansas Wildlife Fishing Report - Sept. 12, 2018 https://www.agfc.com/en/news/2018/09/12/arkansas-wildlife-fishing-report-59/ Walleye/Striper Time on Beaver Lake Mike Bailey at Bailey’s Beaver Lake Guide Service (479-366-8664) says stripers are in fall transition mode and are heading into their usual autumn locations. Anglers being mobile/flexible will be the key to finding them. Bailey says they are seeing some topwater action, too, so get those binoculars out and be on the lookout. But he also notes that walleye (photo above) are in their late summer haunts near rocky points, rock piles, bluffs and tree lines, and a good portion of them can be found suspended 20-40 feet down over 40-plus feet of water near structure. There are places throughout Beaver Lake where the stripers and the walleye overlap, he said, and if you're out fishing for walleye, you might just get a surprise and quite an exciting fight on your hands from the feistier stripers. So, if you're headed up to northwest Arkansas for some football this weekend, or just looking for something else to do rather than suffer over the Razorbacks, a visit to Beaver Lake might be in order.

Season Dates • Habitat Needs • Landowner Assistance https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/small-game/quail/

Apply for a youth deer hunt opportunity at Cooks Lake on Dale Bumpers White River NWR CASSCOE - Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation will host a special hunting experience at Cooks Lake, Dec. 1-2, 2018, and have opened up the application period to run through Oct. 1. Youth who are 6 through 15 years old as of Dec. 1, 2018 are eligible to hunt, and the application is weighted based on the applicant’s level of hunting experience to help introduce more hunters to the woods who have never had the opportunity to go. Each selected participant must be accompanied on the hunt by a chaperone who cannot possess a firearm on the hunt. Youths who have completed hunter education must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old. Youths who have not completed hunter education must be under the direct supervision of an adult at least 21 years old. A chaperone and/or firearm can be provided if the youth needs either for the hunt. The hunt includes an orientation to the property and stand locations on the morning of Saturday, December 1. To apply visit http://survey.agfc.com and fill out the “USFWS/AGFC Cook’s Lake Youth Deer Hunt Application/Questionnaire.” Applicants also may apply in person at the USFWS visitor center in St. Charles or an application can be mailed if internet access is not available. Contact Jay Hitchcock at 870-282-8246 with any questions.

AGFC to dedicate new nature trail at Lake Hamilton Sept. 21 HOT SPRINGS – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and The Nature Conservancy will dedicate the new Electric Island Nature Trail at Lake Hamilton on Friday, Sept. 21. Access to the island is by water, so the AGFC will open the event with a special float via kayak or motorboat shuttle beginning at 9 a.m. The boat ride will be eight-tenths of a mile and launch from the Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery boat ramp for the 10 a.m. dedication followed by a guided 2-mile hike on the island. For more than three decades, the 118-acre island in the middle of Lake Hamilton has been managed as a nature preserve by The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas. The new trail will enhance opportunities for public hiking, exploring, bird watching, fishing and picnicking. Before the land was donated to TNC in 1981, the island belonged to Arkansas Power and Light (which became Entergy Corp.), hence the name Electric Island. It was created in 1931 when the Ouachita River was dammed, creating Lake Hamilton while bringing hydroelectric power to the area. Kirsten Bartlow, the AGFC’s watchable wildlife coordinator, credits wildlife biologist Jake Whisenhunt with the idea of creating a nature trail on the island. AGFC helps manage the island, however hunting and camping are not allowed. “He saw a trail as a way for people to enjoy this public land,” Bartlow said. Whisenhunt said his interest was sparked by people coming to the AGFC’s Hot Springs office asking about waterfowl hunting there. That was out of the question because of the strict deed from AP&L to TNC to maintain it as a nongame reserve, but Whisenhunt still wondered what might allow the public to enjoy all the island had to offer. “It’s been in our WMA system since 1984,” he said. “The Game and Fish had adapted a management plan (in 1993) that included a trail, but the trail had not been laid out. I read that management plan and brought that the idea back up with The Nature Conservancy. It took off this time.” Once TNC was in, “I got with Kirsten. She knew who to contact to get workers out there. She got with The Nature Conservancy point person, Mitchell Allen, and they laid everything out and got it going,” he said. Bartlow describes Electric Island as one of the rare places of solitude amid a lake that’s usually bustling with activity and noise. “This lake is a busy place most of the time, but you can sure have some quiet and see the Ouachita woodlands and wildlife right among the hubbub of Lake Hamilton,” Bartlow said. “It has gentle topography, which makes it an easy hike for families with kids.” The island has been known for its wildlife, Bartlow said, such as a herd of deer that swims to and from its shore and the shores of Lake Hamilton. Also, depending on the season, visitors might see bald eagles, loons, great horned owls, red-shouldered hawks and waterfowl as well as other migratory songbirds – not to mention armadillos, box turtles, ground skinks and more. “It’s neat, all the creatures that are living on the island,” Bartlow said. A two-mile, natural surface hiking loop has been cleared on the island, thanks to help from work-release inmates from the Arkansas Department of Correction Benton unit, Bartlow said. Visitors will find two trailheads on the north side of the island with signs and beaches where boats can tie up. Among the unique spots to explore, Bartlow said, are the remnants of two houses that were on the land before Lake Hamilton was created, with concrete foundations and chimneys still in place. TNC’s Allen and Bartlow laid out the trail, walked it and mapped it. The inmates did the real work and “built the trail the old-fashioned way,” Bartlow added, “with hand tools – Kaiser blades, hoes, rakes and saws. They did a really great job. It was a lot of work.” The island has a park-like look to it, Bartlow said. “The Nature Conservancy has done some periodic prescribed fire, creating an open understory.” Whisenhunt said that, in his view, Electric Island is still “a work in progress.” “There is still stuff we want to do out there as far as putting in informational signs such as signs at the old home sites so people can get background on those sites and the history and even of the lake itself, when the island was formed, when the lake was created,” he said. Maps and directions to the island are available at www.agfc.com/electricisland. “For people who want to paddle, it’s best to avoid those really busy weekends and holidays on Lake Hamilton,” Bartlow said. “Paddlers ought to hit it early in the morning or off-season, or during the week when it’s not so crowded.” She adds that 9-10 a.m. on a Friday at the beginning of autumn should be just right for the people attending the dedication. To reserve a spot in the flotilla, email kirsten.bartlow@agfc.ar.gov or call 501-223-6473.

Retired AGFC biologist ready for quail season LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is deep in the throes of an all out push for northern bobwhite habitat restoration, but that doesn’t mean there are no places left in the state to pursue wild quail. In fact, according to Mike Widner, retired AGFC biologist and author of “Life with Gentleman Bob and a Few of his Kinfolk,” some good quail hunting can be had on both private and public land if a hunter is willing to put in a little extra effort. Widner, who still keeps bird dogs and hunts when he can, and his brother Dennis, who lives in Bald Knob, have hunted birds in east-central Arkansas on both public and private land for decades. During the past eight seasons, they have averaged finding 2.6 to 5.1 coveys per hunt per year, with each hunter harvesting an average of 1.2 to 3.8 birds per hunt. Some days they may not have found a covey, but action on other hunts made up for the day spent walking. During the 2013-14 season, they managed an impressive 61 bobwhites harvested on nine hunts, all on wild birds. These numbers rival data collected from harvests in the 1980s, when quail were much more widespread in Arkansas. What’s Widner’s key to this success? Look for the right land. “Finding areas of native grasses, forbs, weeds and shrubs where row crop land has been taken out of production and allowed to ‘grow up,’ said Widner. “Place this next to a wide, brushy fencerow or a harvested grain field and you have the ideal mix of habitat.” Some of Widner’s top prospects are land put into National Wildlife Refuge status over the years (around 17,000 acres on Cache River NWR), other land is in state ownership by AGFC or the Natural Heritage Commission, and some is private land where permission to hunt has been obtained. Competing interests can hinder some of this quail-rich habitat, as much of Widner’s favorite places have been planted to hardwoods, which don’t offer the same mix of habitat types for the birds. “Quail habitat may only last about 12 years before a young forest is established,” Widner said. “For example, Dennis hunted the periphery of Bald Knob NWR where trees had been planted and killed around 125 quail each year during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. His kill came down to about 50 birds per year after that, as young trees started to shade out quail habitat, until quail became scarce on this ground after 2010.” Widner says continued success revolves around finding new ground to hunt as time has progressed and the land has changed. “Luckily, new quail habitat is being created in row crop portions of the state as we speak,” Widner said. “There’s probably quail hunting opportunities in every corner of the state, it just takes some looking.” In west Arkansas Widner points to the pine/bluestem restoration on the Ouachita National Forest and Fort Chaffee for opportunities. In north Arkansas, most quail hunting is probably going to occur to private land where habitat has been managed for quail, such as on former quail restoration areas. In south Arkansas, recently planted pine forests can offer opportunities, but proper management will greatly impact quail numbers there. As the AGFC continues to increase northern bobwhite habitat on Arkansas’s landscape, it’s just as important to restore a key component of quail hunting - the men and women who pursue the birds and hold a passion for upland game. One of the goals of Arkansas’s Bobwhite Management Plan is to increase the number of quail hunters as quail are restored to the landscape. Widner says some of the passion for the next generation of quail hunters may be found in participants of the AGFC’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program. “The [Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports] program has done a tremendous job of introducing the next generation to shooting trap, which emulates quail or upland bird hunting. It’s only natural that these youth should step up to the real challenge - hunting wild quail. “The best thing I can tell someone to do if they want to get out and quail hunt is to just go,” Widner said. “Drive some roads, find some good weedy, overgrown fields or row crops that have been taken out of production, get permission to hunt if it’s private and start walking. Even if you don’t have dogs or know someone who has them, you’ll never find good areas if you don’t put in the time to walk the ground in person. You may just be surprised at the wild quail still waiting to be found in the state.” Widner’s book, which details his hunts, quail plans, habitat management and many other quail-related topics is available on Amazon, or from Mike for $10 (ck/mo, shipping included) at 278 Mill Pond Rd.; Conway, AR 72034.

Thank you for celebrating the unofficial start to hunting season with us. Congratulations to our dove prize pack winners Zachary Watson of Conway and Malcolm Jackson of Fort Smith. Dove season is in full swing. Get your license online and join us in the field. https://ar-web.s3licensing.com/

Zebra Mussels found in Bull Shoals Tailwater MOUNTAIN HOME - Biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Fisheries Division confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in the portion of the White River just downstream of Bull Shoals Dam last week. Zebra mussels are an invasive species that can cause an extreme nuisance to fisheries managers by displacing native mussel populations and clogging infrastructure such as pipes and valves in dams, boats and water-control structures. Zebra mussels have been present in Bull Shoals Lake for more than a decade and saw a large population increase in 2014 and 2015. However, this is the first sighting of the species beyond that lake. “The species has been present in the lake since at least 2008, so their spread to the river is not a complete surprise,” said AGFC Trout Management Supervisor Christy Graham. “The number of zebra mussels appears highest directly below the dam, but we have already found them up to 8 miles below the dam.” Graham says it is unclear how the mussels will impact the trout population in the White River, but district biologists have not documented any negative effects on fish populations in the lake from the species. “We do not expect to see a negative effect on the trout populations, either,” Graham said. “However, due to the negatives from an aesthetic and maintenance standpoint, I strongly encourage everyone to be vigilant in efforts to prevent the spread of the species any further.” Zebra mussels can be transported from one body of water to another through boats, trailers and other fishing equipment, such as waders and nets. The larval form of the mussel, called veligers, and can stay alive for days in moist, dark live-wells and bilge areas and are virtually impossible to see without a microscope. Graham suggests the following precautions to help prevent the spread of both adult and larval zebra mussels (as well as other invasive species): Clean boats, trailers and other equipment thoroughly between fishing trips with hot soapy water; a high pressure washer; or a light bleach solution (1 cup bleach to 10 gallons water); Let boats, trailers and other equipment fully dry for 4 to 6 hours between trips, preferably in the sun; Be sure to remove all vegetation attached to your boat or trailer; Never move water, fish or fish parts from one body of water to another, and Tell other anglers and boaters about prevention and spread of invasive species. “Please, be super careful that you have ‘cleaned, drained, and dried’ your equipment before traveling to and from other locations,” Graham said. Zebra mussels can attach to any hard surface, including the shells of other mussels, and often have a sharp edge that can cut fishing line and cause damage to waders and other fishing equipment. One adult female can produce between 10,000 and 50,000 larvae each time it spawns, and the species can spawn up to 5 times per year. A report by the U.S. Department of State in 2009 estimated the total cost in the United States of the zebra mussel infestation from 2010 to 2020 at $3.1 billion.

Big Catch kicks off Arkansas Hunting and Fishing Week Sept. 15 LITTLE ROCK - September 15 through 22 is Arkansas Hunting and Fishing Week, and there’s no better way to kick off the week-long celebration of the outdoors than one of the largest fishing events of the year at MacArthur Park in Little Rock. The Big Catch is a partnership with Community First Alliance, Inc. and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to provide a full day of fun related to the outdoors, absolutely free. MacArthur Park Pond will be stocked with hundreds of hungry catfish for a fishing derby beginning 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. The derby will last until 1 p.m., with everyone in the family eligible to fish. Anyone 16 and older will need to have a valid Arkansas fishing license (youths under 16 do not need a fishing license in Arkansas). Maurice Jackson, Family and Community Fishing Program coordinator for the AGFC, says in addition to a pond teeming with catfish, the outdoor event will feature archery and BB gun ranges, fish-cleaning and cooking demonstrations and a community health fair. Free food also will be served at lunchtime. “We have more than 30 vendors registered to have booths at the event,” Jackson said. “The fishing is at the center of the event, but there are all sorts of activities and things for the whole family to enjoy.” Jackson says this is the fourth year of the Big Catch partnership, and attendance has grown with every event. “We had about 4,000 people show up throughout the day last year, and expect that same number or more this time.” Jackson said. “We’ll have more than 100 staff and volunteers on hand to help people get out and get involved in the outdoors.” The Big Catch also marks the beginning of fall catfish stockings at all Family and Community Fishing Program Ponds. “We hold off on stocking catfish during July and August each year because of the heat,” Jackson said. “We can have a lot of fish die during delivery if we try to load them in stocking trucks during the heat of summer, and anglers are not as active with the sun beating down. We concentrate our efforts during those times when the fish are healthy and anglers are ready to enjoy a day by the water.” The AGFC also will host a special fishing clinic beforehand at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. Beginning at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 13, AGFC staff will give instructions on how to cast, tie knots and choose the right baits to catch fish during the derby. “We want people to come to the fishing derby ready to catch some fish and have a good time,” said Clint Coleman, assistant FCFP coordinator. “Knowing the basics ahead of time will let you focus on all the fun we’re going to have at the event.” The workshop also is free, but registration is required. Register for both events online at www.c1a.life.