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Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging fall turkey season closure


LITTLE ROCK – After a hearing of more than two hours, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Ernest Sanders Jr., on Wednesday granted the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that had been filed by a lone hunter seeking to prevent the Commission’s closure of the 2009 fall turkey hunting season and to force opening of fall seasons in subsequent years. Sanders held that the lawsuit was moot as to the already elapsed fall 2009 season and that he could not sit in place of the Commission in deciding whether to open seasons in subsequent years.

Last September, Commissioners with the AGFC voted 4-3 to close the 2009 fall season after voicing concerns about successive years of declining turkey populations across the state, including low poult-to-hen ratios, which is indicative of poor reproduction. An archery turkey season originally had been scheduled to open on Oct. 1, 2009, followed by opening of a one-week firearm turkey season on Oct. 26, 2009.  The archery turkey season would have ended on February 28, 2010.

Commissioner Craig Campbell, of Little Rock, said at the time of vote that he’s certain there is a problem with the state’s turkey population and one way to stop its continued decline is to close the entire fall season. “I’m convinced we have a heck of a problem, but I’m convinced we’re moving in the right direction. We’re going to mess around and not have a spring turkey season if we don’t do something,” Campbell said.

At Wednesday’s hearing, AGFC lawyers argued that eight years of declining turkey populations supported the closure of the 2009 fall season.  Judge Sanders ruled that the Commission was within its authority in making that decision.

Hunters hoping to harvest a turkey in Arkansas this spring should note that spring turkey season is already underway in a small portion of the state and will open for most of the state in the next week.

Spring Turkey Season zones and dates:
Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10: April 10-27
Zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A: April 10-20
Zone 17: April 3-20
Zone 17A: April 3-May 16
Zone 17B: March 13-May 2
Zone 1A: Closed

Spring Turkey Season Youth Hunt
Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 9A and 10: April 3-4
Zone 1A: Closed