Get an early draw on specklebelly geese
Oct. 19, 2022
Assistant Chief of Communications
STUTTGART — Arkansas’s white-fronted goose season kicks off Oct. 29, putting an end to the duck depression for many Arkansas waterfowl hunters. Early specklebelly goose hunting presents a challenge in locating a place to hunt if you don’t have access to farms through friends or a hunting lease, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a solution. As part of the AGFC’s popular Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Easement program, a handful of properties in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway should be harvested, presenting an opportunity for a few draw hunts to take place. Applications will be available beginning Thursday evening under the “Special Hunt Applications” portion of the Arkansas licensing system at www.agfc.com/license.
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 from 3 p.m. Thursday evening through midnight 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 to hunt with them and will have hunting access for the entire weekend drawn from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.
“Hunters should take a look at the map on www.agfc.com/WRICE each week to get an idea of field locations,” Luke Naylor, AGFC chief of wildlife, said. “The specific fields in the draw each week will be listed in the drop-down menu during the application process. As rice producers harvest their fields and begin to flood them for the program, we’ll add more opportunities for these hunts. It starts slowly with a few fields to help the early migrating waterfowl, but by duck season we should have many more fields available in the draw.”
Naylor says this year, the fifth of the program, has again seen an expansion in the quantity of public hunting opportunities.
“When all the fields are flooded and ready, we should have more than 70 for hunters to select from,” Naylor said. “We averaged around 40 fields available per weekend through duck season last year, so it’s a pretty big increase in opportunity.”
Hunters may only access the fields during the hunts for which they draw, but they are strongly encouraged to use the map of field locations and scout the areas from the road before applying. Most fields are easily seen from roads, and hunters should learn beforehand of any issues they may have with the layout of the field and how the birds are using it before applying.
Arkansas’s white-fronted goose season is Oct. 29-Nov. 11, Nov. 19-27, Dec. 10-23 and Dec. 26-Jan. 31. The daily bag limit has been increased to three per hunter, and the possession limit is nine 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.
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