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Big Timber WMA addition expands leased land program for hunters

BY Randy Zellers

ON 11-21-2018


Nov. 21, 2018

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

AMITY – Southwest Arkansas has one of the most dense deer populations of anywhere in the state, and finding public access in this part of Arkansas is much easier thanks to special leased lands opportunities offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. This year, an additional spur of 3,500 acres is available near the town of Amity, to help hunters find a tree for their deer stand.

“We worked with the Olds Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Amity, to add about 3,500 acres to our leased land at Big Timber WMA this year,” Nimmo said. “This brings the total acreage of the WMA to about 45,000 acres.”

Nimmo says the addition will offer more public opportunities to people around Amity, who had fairly little public property available nearby. 

“That’s really the great thing about our leased lands WMA’s,” Nimmo said. “We can’t purchase property everywhere in the state. Other areas may be broken up into hundreds of smaller holdings, which makes it nearly impossible to procure in its entirety. By leasing the land, we are able to open up access to anyone who wants to hunt the area without paying a high cost.”

Garrick Dugger, assistant chief of wildlife management, says the AGFC leases more than a quarter-million acres each year to open them up for hunting and trapping.

“A lot of these places just aren’t for sale, but are owned by timber companies and nonprofit groups who work with us to offer hunting access as long as it doesn’t interfere with their use of the land,” Dugger said. “The AGFC owns about 380,000 acres in Arkansas, and we use the leased land program to offer another 280,000 acres to hunters. It’s all about giving people more places to hunt.”

Dugger says leased lands also enable the AGFC to expand hunting properties in the state without expanding manpower. 

“It’s extremely difficult to provide the manpower needed to manage the acreage we own, but these leased properties already have some sort of management and infrastructure in place to benefit hunters,” Dugger said. “This means more land for everyone to access, and in many cases, the land is right in the heart of where people normally would be paying some high prices for deer leases.” 

Leased lands WMAs are still considered public hunting areas in regard to regulations concerning seasons and bag limits. Each WMA has its own set of regulations regarding harvest of all game species. For deer, they typically follow the same dates and bag limits as the private land deer zone surrounding them, but they do require the hunter to check their deer to the WMA zone number instead of a private land zone number. 

Leased lands WMAs have one caveat – hunting, camping and trapping on one requires an additional special annual use permit, which costs $40. The permit fees help to offset a very small portion of the leased land program’s cost and helps gauge hunter participation levels and interest on the property. Managers can see which areas have the most participation, and which areas are losing popularity and make judgements on future leases in surrounding areas. 

“We take in about 20 percent of the program’s cost through the permits,” Dugger said. “The AGFC pays for the rest of it, so people have an affordable option to go hunting. We can’t provide AGFC-owned land everywhere, but we can help make it a little easier to get your deer without spending a bunch of money in the process.”

Visit the links below to learn more about each leased land WMA:
AGFC Leased Lands WMAs

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