Oct. 20, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
STUTTGART — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will offer a handful of locations in its popular Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Easement program for hunters to enjoy the thrill of chasing white-fronted geese on privately owned rice fields in The Natural State. Applications will be available beginning Thursday evening under the “Special Hunt Applications” portion of the Arkansas licensing system at https://ar-web.s3licensing.com.
WRICE program fields are available to hunt through a limited permit draw for each weekend during Arkansas’s waterfowl season, depending on conditions. Hunters interested in hunting these fields can submit an application Thursday evening-Sunday of the week immediately preceding the one they wish to hunt. Successful applicants will be notified on Monday before their hunt so they can prepare. Each successful applicant may bring three friends for a maximum hunt party of four per drawn permit.
“We have around 45 fields available in the program, but their availability for the draw will be based on water levels and operations being completed on the land,” Luke Naylor, AGFC Waterfowl Program coordinator, said. “Many rice producers are wrapping up their operations for the year, and some already have been able to flood up some of their harvested fields to offer habitat for geese and ducks. We’ll start slowly the first weekend of this early goose season by offering a few fields we know to be traditional specklebelly hot spots. In fact, we’ve noticed good numbers of geese in some of these fields already. As more fields come online, we’ll be able to offer more opportunities for hunters to take advantage of the opportunities. The goal is to have all contracted fields ready for hunters by opening weekend of duck season.”
Arkansas’s white-fronted goose season is Oct. 30-Nov. 14, Nov. 20-Dec. 3 and Dec. 5-Jan. 31. The daily bag limit is two per hunter, and the possession limit is six per person. Snow, blue and Ross’s goose season is open during these dates as well, and hunters may take up to 20 of these geese per day.
The AGFC’s WRICE program began as a way to keep waste rice available for ducks by paying rice producers to forgo tilling and flood their fields during winter to offer good habitat near AGFC wildlife management areas. The program was expanded in 2019 to allow permitted public waterfowl hunting opportunities on participating fields. Thanks to a federal Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program grant, the program was expanded to include more than 3,800 acres of waterfowl habitat and hunting access. Farmers may still operate and harvest their rice fields as normal, but can receive added income by leaving stubble and flooding fields during waterfowl migration and allowing permitted public hunting opportunities.
Visit www.agfc.com/wrice for more information on the WRICE program and to apply for a hunt. New this year is the ability for hunters and wildlife watchers to research field locations, blind availability and field layout using an online mapping tool. All fields will still require a permit to hunt, but this tool is intended to help participants better plan their applications and hunts.