Deer Archery: Sept. 23, 2017-Feb. 28, 2018.
Deer Muzzleloader (permit hunt): Oct. 21-25, 2017.
Deer Modern Gun Youth Hunt (permit hunt): Nov. 4-5, 2017. This area has special firearms restrictions; see Area Notes.
WMA Deer Bag Limit: Three deer, no more than two bucks, which may include:
Sept. 1, 2017-Feb. 19, 2018. Open Thursdays through Mondays. No limit.
Nov. 1, 2017-Feb. 4, 2018. Daily limit - 6, possession limit -12. Bird dogs allowed.
Sept. 1, 2017-Feb. 28, 2018. Daily limit - 8, possession limit - 16. Dogs allowed except during firearms deer hunts.
May 15, 2017-Feb. 28, 2018. Dogs allowed except during firearms deer hunts. Daily limit - 12, possession limit - 48.
Youth Hunt: April 8-9, 2017. One bearded turkey. Firearms Hunt: April 10-18, 2017. One bearded turkey, no jakes (youths may take one jake as part of their statewide seasonal limit).
The Black River WMA was originally named after the Black River that flows through the area. After his retirement in 1977, Dave Donaldson, an employee of the Game and Fish Commission for over 30 years was honored by the renaming of the area.
Main access points may be reached by going north on Highway 90 about 2 miles from Deleplaine. Turn left on Highway 280, then north about 4 miles to a stop sign, turn left and this will take you to the Brookings access on Black River. From Brookings, go east on highway 280 toward the town of Peach Orchard about 1 mile and turn left on a secondary blacktop road, go about 1 mile to the Hubble Bridge access on Little River. From Corning go south on Highway 67 to Reyno and watch for the Datto access. Lake Ashbaugh may be reached from highway 304.
Acquisition began in 1957.
Although there is little interest in overnight camping on Black River, camping is permitted in designated campsites. These are marked on area maps that are available at the area headquarters, or from commission employees and regional commission offices. These are primitive areas and no modern facilities are available. Mosquitoes, biting flies and poison ivy are extremely common and campers should be prepared for them.
Hardwood forests comprise several tree species. The dominant species are nuttall oak, overcup oak, pin oak and water oak. Bald cypress, tupelo and willow may be found along the sloughs that form a network of waterways on the area. The major streams are Black River and Little River.
Waterfowl hunting accounts for the vast majority of recreational use days on the WMA. Squirrel populations are highly cyclic, depending on the abundance of acorns. Hunter success is good in most seasons, although participation is primarily limited to the opening days of the fall season. The area supports a thriving deer population. Hunting is limited to archery and limited permit muzzleloader hunting. Trappers also find a good population of furbearers on the area. Beaver, muskrat, mink and raccoon are fairly plentiful.
The area is 10 miles south of Corning, 10 miles east of Pocahontas, 20 miles west of Paragould and 15 miles north of Walnut Ridge.
Specialized farming on about 200 acres of agricultural land and seasonal flooding of about 7,000 acres of green timber to attract waterfowl is done yearly. Selective thinning of trees is done to stimulate the growth of new timber, to provide a diverse habitat type and to remove unhealthy or unproductive trees from the forest. The Brookings Moist Soil Unit was developed in 1998 to provided wintering habitat for ducks and other migratory birds. This 200-acre site is managed to produce native vegetation and invertebrates, which are essential elements to the health of ducks. Furbearers, deer, wild turkeys and shorebirds also benefit from moist soil management practices.
The AGFC owns about 25,000 acres in Clay, Randolph and Green counties.
The majority of the area was purchased to preserve bottomland habitat and provide top-quality waterfowl hunting. Black River represents a significant portion of the remaining bottomland hardwood habitat in eastern Arkansas and provides critical wintering habitat to thousands of migratory birds. The area also provides critical habitat to many species of Neotropical migrants. This area includes some of the finest greentree reservoir duck habitat in Arkansas.
Along with Lake Ashbaugh there is excellent fishing on the Black and Little Rivers. The main species to fish for in the river are catfish, crappie and largemouth bass. Bald and golden eagles have wintered around Lake Ashbaugh since its completion in the late 1970s. Numerous eagles can usually be sighted on or around the lake on any given day from November through February.
Overnight, lodging is available in Corning, Paragould, Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge.
The most significant hazards to area users are undoubtedly boating and water safety related. The fact that almost all waterfowl hunting access requires boating, results in heavy "rush hour traffic" prior to the opening of shooting hours daily.