LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fisheries Commission has changed the format of some of its licensed waterfowl hunts to increase opportunities for hunters statewide.
Almost all of Arkansas’ famous public waterfowl hunting areas are open to the public during the season on a first come, first served basis, but a few locations are managed through permit-drawn hunts to increase the quality of the game. hunting and reduce pressure on ducks and geese. flying over The Natural State during the winter migration period. Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, WMA Cypress Bayou, WMA Sheffield Nelson Dagmar and WMA Freddie Black Choctaw Island all have special hunts on all or part of the hunting area. All of these areas, with the exception of the Cypress Bayou WMA, will experience changes to increase hunting opportunities during the 2021-22 waterfowl hunting season.
Raft Creek reorganization
Raft Creek WMA will experience the biggest deviation from its historic licensing process, with a full upload with Saturday and Sunday designs for the 2021-22 season. The WMA will remain open to hunting unlicensed waterfowl on Tuesdays and Thursdays during duck season.
The WMA was purchased in 2000 and opened for hunting in 2002 after extensive habitat work on former farmland. The hunt began with an on-site permit draw to avoid excessive hunting pressure and help hunters expand into the open habitat, a break from the traditional hardwoods of the Akrnasas public-flooded shallows. The region has developed a significant number of hunters since that time, and lottery hunts have been modified accordingly to provide more opportunities for hunters to take advantage of the resource. While the on-site pulling system that historically occurred two hours before light shooting every Saturday and Sunday helped maintain the quality of the hunt, it also carried the risk of going to the hunting area to be turned away for the day. .
“The upload will hopefully open the door to more people who want to hunt this wetland habitat,” said Johnny Waldrup, regional supervisor at the CFGA Brinkley office. “Before, you had to show up to find out if you had a chance to hunt, and if you didn’t draw, you had to scramble to find a backup plan. Now you will know if you have a spot four or five days before your hunt and can plan a good day or weekend if you are lucky enough to shoot both Saturday and Sunday hunts.
Waldrup says the second major change for the region will be the removal of designated hunting locations. This change was to allow hunters to make the most of the habitat and move to where the birds are if other hunters are not already there.
“We will always keep the duck hole markers for reference and for our management purposes,” Waldrup said. “But hunters will be able to move freely in the area and settle wherever they want. The only exceptions will be the blind with reduced mobility, the young blind and the Magellan Tract. These locations will still be managed through raffle hunts on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. “
Youth blinds open to adults
Another change in the draw hunts will take place on Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA and Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA. Youth hunts on the 300-acre Conway George Tract in Dagmar and the West Unit of Choctaw Island have been in place since 2013 and 2015, respectively. Youth hunts are by random draw on Saturdays and Sundays during duck season and have a good chance of success for young waterfowl enthusiasts. Starting this year, the three blinds on Dagmar and the five blinds on Choctaw will also be available on Wednesdays for hunters of all ages. Weekend youth hunts will maintain their ability to hunt throughout the day, but hunters must complete the hunt and vacate flooded areas by noon during the Wednesday adult hunt.
“This is just another way we want to open up opportunities for hunters in these special places, and the limited mid-week hunting should not impact waterfowl patterns in the areas during the youthful days. “said Waldrup.
Adults can still hunt on Saturdays and Sundays alongside a youngster, but only one adult per youngster is allowed to be part of the hunting party, with a maximum of four hunters per license drawn.
“It can be one adult and up to three youngsters or two adults and two youngsters, but the spirit of the weekend hunts in these blinds is to focus on the young hunters and give them a pleasant hunt,” he said. Waldrup said. “The Wednesday morning hunts will give adults the chance to come back and try their luck. “
Luke Naylor, Waterfowl Program Coordinator for the AGFC, said he hopes the additional opportunity sheds light on the blinds in those two areas.
“We didn’t see the participation we were hoping for in the youth draws,” said Naylor. “We hope that opening them up to adults on a weekday will give them extra attention. I hope they have good hunts and come back with their children once they get to know the land.
The WRICE program continues to evolve
No article on licensed waterfowl hunts in Arkansas should be written without including the latest expansion of hunting opportunities in The Natural State. The Rice Conservation Enhancement Program for Waterfowl uses funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Voluntary Habitat and Public Access Incentive Program to provide waterfowl with increased winter habitat in the areas. private rice fields and hunters the opportunity to hunt these fields through limited public draws. Originally developed by the AGFC as a way to increase the availability of rice for waterfowl by paying farmers to forgo fall plowing of their fields and flooding them for waterfowl use , WRICE has expanded to over 3,800 acres of property that not only increases habitat but also allows limited, licensed hunts on weekends during waterfowl season.
“We have surveyed hunters throughout the process and are always looking to make improvements to the program,” said Naylor. “This year, some fields have been opened for the start of the teal season as well as the regular, fronted snow goose seasons.”
A dozen fields have been harvested and flooded in time for the first hunts, but the rest of the 40+ locations should be ready to go for the regular duck hunting season. This year, AGFC staff are also working with landowners to improve any pits and blinds that may be in the area.
“Not all areas have a pit or shade, but those that do will receive special attention to give hunters without portable shades additional options for concealment,” Naylor said. “We also have all of the locations listed on an interactive map, so hunters can see where these fields are and where blinds and pits may be on the property to make more informed decisions about where to go. ‘will apply. “
More information, including the location of the WRICE fields, is available at www.agfc.com/WRICE.
Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/migratory-birds/waterfowl/special-waterfowl-permit-hunts/ to learn more about the CFGA Waterfowl Hunting Licenses and to apply.