April 18, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK – It’s not too late to make sure your voice is heard on the public comment survey concerning recommended changes to the 2018-19 hunting season.
While many changes are simple wording clarifications, many changes are in an effort to increase hunting opportunities.
“More than 40 percent of the staff recommendations expand hunting opportunities, and 46 percent are clarifications to code language,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “We really want to focus on offering more to our hunters and remove some of the roadblocks to hunting.”
Staff recommended opening Alligator Zone 2 (south-central Arkansas) to the annual alligator hunt and making clarifications to the code for possession of alligators and alligator hunting permit requirements.
Biologists also recommended reducing the cost of Private Land Elk Permits from $35 to $5, and changes to streamline the application process so anyone who applies may hunt until the annual elk quota is reached, as long as they have landowner permission.
The AGFC Bear Team recommended an increase in the archery quota for Bear Zone 1 from 205 to 250, and also recommended that hunters participating in permitted firearms hunts on state-owned wildlife management areas in Bear Zone 1 be allowed to take one bear incidentally during the hunt, if the opportunity presents itself, even if the zone quota has been met.
Biologists recommended the legalization of big-bore air rifles that meet certain criteria 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. Another recommendation was removal of the mentor requirement during youth hunting seasons for youth who passed Hunter Education.
Since additional cases of chronic wasting disease were discovered during the 2017-18 deer hunting season, biologists with the Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division recommended the following modifications to 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, so deer from tier 1 (Boone, Carroll, Madison and Newton counties) would not be allowed outside 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 CWD Management Zone.
- The removal of antler restrictions within WMAs in the CWD Management Zone.
- The removal of the three-point rule in 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 for public opinion:
- The removal of shell restrictions on WMAs,
- The removal of reduced waterfowl bag limits on WMAs,
- The prohibition of surface-drive motors on WMAs with a delayed effective date to allow owners of such motors time to find alternative motors for their boats on WMAs.
- The adjustment of WMA access to allow hunters to stop hunting at noon, and be off the inundated areas of WMAs by 1 p.m.
The survey has been in place since March 26, and many comments have already been received. The online survey will continue until the Commission’s next meeting, April 25, and Commissioners will thoroughly review the results before any action is taken at the regularly scheduled Commission meeting May 17.