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Commission considers additional changes to 2024-25 regulations, waterfowl season dates 

BY Randy Zellers

ON 04-12-2024

Commissioners Tappan and Adams

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission heard the first reading of additional hunting and fishing regulations proposals for the 2024-25 hunting and fishing seasons.

During the 2024 regulations public comment surveys, commissioners had asked for input on allowing non-semiautomatic firearms capable of using straight-walled centerfire cartridges during Arkansas’s muzzleloader seasons. After the positive response to that question, the Commission asked staff to draft a formal proposal to be included in the 2024-25 regulations package.

The Commission also tabled a proposal in the regulations package that would have required all dogs pursuing game animals to wear an electronic collar capable of GPS tracking as well as remote electronic correction. The decision to table this regulation change came after commissioners heard many comments through public comment surveys as well as in-person accounts during the last two monthly meetings to work through other options to prevent conflicts between hunters who pursue deer with dogs and landowners who have reported trespassing issues.

Additional changes to regulations proposed at today’s meeting included:

  • Removal of restrictions on spinning-wing decoys and motion decoys on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission-owned wildlife management areas.

  • Reducing the daily bag limit on mallard hens from two to one per day.

  • Modifying the proposed white-fronted goose season to be 69 days and reducing the white-fronted goose daily limit to two per day.

  • Removing all size restrictions and daily limits on fishing at Lake Wilhelmina during its planned renovation process, which is expected to begin Aug. 1 and last through late summer 2025.

The Commission also heard two modifications to previously proposed regulations changes:

  • Increasing the number of nets allowed for holders of a recreational fish netting license from three nets to five nets.

  • Maintaining the proposed June 1-Dec. 31 bullfrog season proposal, but retaining the established 18 frog daily limit.

The Commission is expected to vote on all regulations proposals, including today’s proposals as well as those previously circulated through public surveys, at its May 16 meeting, scheduled to be held in El Dorado.

AGFC Director Austin Booth took a moment in his monthly report to thank the many members of the public who have responded to surveys and showed up in person to voice their concerns and support for various regulations changes proposed for consideration in the 2024-25 regulations cycle.

“It’s always good to see that many members of the public come out and exercise their civic duty to participate in our regulations process,” Booth said.

The majority of his address, however, focused on the many ways the Commission is meeting challenges and preparing for unseen challenges yet to come. He spoke about the huge successes of the Conservation Incentive Program, mobilizing private landowners to increase and improve habitat well outside the bounds of the public land the AGFC manages.

“We’ve received applications from nearly 1,000 private citizens, trapped nearly 2,000 feral hogs, and have put drip torches in the hands of private landowners across Arkansas, and even just one-quarter into the new year, have burned well over 1,000 acres,” Booth said.

Wes Wright, AGFC elk program coordinator, updated the Commission on the 2023 elk harvest and subsequent elk population monitoring efforts.

According to Wright, 27 elk were harvested during the 2023 hunting season. Twenty-three came from Searcy County, three from Newton County and one elk was harvested in Boone County. No elk were harvested from outside the Core Elk Management Zone.

Wright said 18 bulls were taken by hunters and nine antlerless elk were harvested. As with most years, hunters pursuing bulls were much more avid in their efforts, while those who drew antlerless elk tags tended to not fill their tag as often.

Overall, the harvest has returned to roughly the same level as it was immediately preceding the discovery of chronic wasting disease in the state.

“We increased limits to reduce the population when CWD was discovered,” Wright said. “Now we’re at a point where we should return to more conservative harvest practices like we had last year to conserve the resource.”

Wright also briefed commissioners on improvements to Lick Mountain, which was acquired by the AGFC in 2017 and was under a conservation easement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation from previous landowners. The 311-acre property has seen extensive management with the help of an additional 20 acres of wildlife food plots, 3 miles of firelane restoration and prescribed fire implementation to reduce invasive vegetation.

Wright highlighted the importance of the RMEF, which also contributed $25,000 to the habitat work.

“It’s kind of a showcase of what we can do through partnerships,” Wright said.

Since 1992 the RMEF has contributed more than $5.4 million toward the completion of 110 projects, enhancing more than 80,000 acres of habitat and 514 acres of public access in The Natural State.

The Commission also recognized AGFC Deputy Director Brad Carner, who announced Luke Naylor, AGFC wildlife management division chief, and Jason “Buck” Jackson, AGFC wetlands program coordinator, as the recipients of the Ducks Unlimited Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award for their leadership in wetland planning, restoration and habitat management for the benefit of waterfowl and waterfowl hunters on a national and international level.

A video of the meeting is available on the AGFC’s YouTube Channel.

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