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Best ways to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day in Arkansas

BY Randy Zellers

ON 09-20-2023


Sept. 20, 2023

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK — Thanks to a proclamation signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week, Sept. 23 has officially been named National Hunting and Fishing Day in Arkansas. With the fall weather finally arriving, it’s a perfect time to take someone new into the outdoors and pass on a passion for conservation. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has cooked up the following five ways anyone can enjoy the benefits of hunting and angling on this special day:

Taste Test

The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center will welcome the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off this year beginning at 9 a.m. Sept. 23. The contest, produced by Arkansas-native and local celebrity Joe Wilson, will feature culinary artists from camp cooks to five-star restaurant chefs producing exquisite dishes highlighting squirrels as the star of the show. Although it’s overlooked as a source of protein by many people unfamiliar with squirrel hunting, bushytails are abundant, easy to hunt and provide new hunters plenty of opportunities for success.

Wilson has worked with the AGFC to put together a lineup of events and activities to keep everyone entertained, from a BB gun shooting challenge to live music and more food than you could hope to eat, all celebrating the bounty that nature provides.

Visit for the latest information on the event.


Deer Season Kickoff

Arkansas’s archery deer season opens statewide 30 minutes before sunrise Sept. 23. With the exception of a few special urban hunts that opened Sept. 1, this is the weekend most bowhunters have been practicing and scouting for. It’s also a great way to get a new hunter involved in the sport by letting them come along and enjoying some quiet time in a pop-up blind or two-person deer stand watching the woods wake up and come to life. If they’re interested in pursuing the sport further, be sure to sign them up for a hunter education course, where they can not only learn about hunting safety, but get a little insight from veteran hunters about tactics that can pay off in the field. Hunter education is required for any hunter 16 and older who was born after 1968. Children under 16 may hunt without hunter education under direct supervision of an adult 21 or older.

Download the latest Arkansas Hunting Guidebook for a complete list of hunting regulations, season dates and bag limits.

fishing derby
Go Fish

The AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program and Fishing Derby Program have both loaded the deck for anglers this weekend. Nearly 50 FCFP locations have been stocked with catchable size-catfish, and many fishing derbies in the next few weeks will offer plenty of opportunities to introduce an angler to the joys of angling.

“Fishing derbies and quick trips to the local pond are a great way to introduce someone to angling,” AGFC assistant chief of education JJ Gladden said. “There isn’t a lot of investment in money or time, and with freshly stocked ponds your success rate is usually pretty good. Plus, the catfish we stock are raised the exact same way the farm-raised catfish you enjoy at restaurants and grocery stores, so there’s another great incentive to get new anglers hooked.”

Visit to find more locations to fish in Arkansas this weekend.

Visit a Nature Center

Even if you can’t break away for a full day of adventure, you can still join in on the fun at one of the AGFC’s nine nature centers around the state. Each center is full of fun activities and exhibits highlighting the comeback story of Arkansas’s wildlife from near extinction to flourishing populations of deer, bear, elk, alligator and waterfowl. Each center also hosts a variety of special events to focus on one aspect of the outdoors and give people something new with every visit. Check out for a list of nature centers around the state. A list of special events hosted by educators at nature centers also is available at

hunters feeding hungry
Share the Harvest

If you’re around central Arkansas this weekend and have some extra wild game from last year’s harvest, cleaning out that meat from the freezer and donating it to the needy is a great way to build support for hunting. Each year, Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry partners with Bass Pro Shops in Little Rock to put on a food drive geared specifically to hunters. From 10 a.m-2 p.m. Sept. 23, the AHFH refrigerated truck will collect any professionally processed deer meat to be distributed to food banks around the state. Anyone donating meat or making a cash donation to AHFH will be eligible to win a 40-quart Cabela’s Polar Cap Ice Chest or one of four $100 gift cards donated by Bass Pro Shops.

The freezer cleanout isn’t the only way to donate your deer to AHFH. Dozens of participating deer processors will hold aside a portion of your game upon request to help feed Arkansans in need. Visit to learn more about how this organization has put millions of meals on the table of needy Arkansans in the last decade.

National Hunting and Fishing Day was established in 1972, and has become the largest, most effective grassroots movement ever undertaken to promote outdoor sports and conservation. Celebrated on the fourth Saturday of September, the federally recognized holiday brings together sportsmen and women from across America to celebrate the rich tradition of hunting, sport shooting and fishing through organized local, state and national events aimed at introducing new audiences to the outdoors.

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