The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently approved many changes to the Commission’s Code of Regulations, including wildlife regulations that may impact hunters during the 2020-21 hunting seasons. The proposals were presented to the public through an online survey in March and were formally proposed to the Commission during its April 23 meeting.
Some of the more notable regulations changes in the 100 proposals include:
• Adding Independence and Jackson counties to the AGFC’s Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone beginning Sept. 1, 2020.
• Moving the private land Antlerless-only Modern Gun Deer Hunt to Dec. 29-31, immediately following the Christmas Modern Gun Deer Hunt.
• Combining deer zones 8 and 8A; deer zones 1A, 6 and 6A; deer zones 4 and 4B, and deer zones 5 and 5B to reduce zones.
• Increasing deer bag limits in deer zones 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 13 to five deer.
• Reducing deer bag limits in deer zones 12 and 17 to five deer. Reducing the number of turkey zones from 18 to two, and base turkey zone lines on county lines.
• Allowing hunters to harvest only one turkey during the first seven days of turkey season and allow youth hunters only one turkey during the youth turkey hunt.
• Reducing bag limits for wild turkey on each wildlife management area to one bird.
• Prohibiting the take of bearded hen turkeys.
• Increasing the bear quota in Bear Zone 1 (Ozarks) from 340 to 500 bears.
• Instituting a quota system for private land alligator hunting similar to that used for private land elk hunting. Public land alligator hunting would still be conducted via draw.
• Create Cedar Mountain Leased Land WMA within the existing Winona WMA. This 14,000-acre WMA would require a $40 leased land permit to hunt, trap or camp and would be composed of all land the AGFC currently leases from private landowners to provide these areas for public hunting.
• Allowing all-day waterfowl hunting on WMAs only during the last day of regular duck season and during special youth and veteran waterfowl hunts.
• Restricting boat access all day on waterfowl-focused WMAs for five days before waterfowl season and during splits in season segments to reduce disturbance to ducks using the areas outside of hunting times.
• Implementing a draw hunt at the Red Cut Slough Tract of Cypress Bayou WMA on weekends during waterfowl season.
• Extended current July 1, 2020 deadline to July 1, 2021 for individuals to apply for Wildlife Breeder/Dealer Permits for animals that do not meet standard documentation requirements and the deadline by which a Venomous Reptile Permit has to be obtained for those possessing these medically significant venomous species. Also extended the deadline to July 1, 2021 for certain caging, facility and transport requirements for those with medically significant venomous reptiles kept under the native wildlife pet code.
• Added various mammal, reptile, amphibian and bird species to existing lists for Unrestricted Captive Wildlife, Permitted Captive Wildlife, and Prohibited Captive Wildlife, plus updated and clarified additional regulations pertaining to exotic captive wildlife species in Arkansas.
A regulation for hunters to end hunting and be off water-inundated areas by noon on Dave Donaldson Black River and George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto WMAs also passed, despite a motion from commissioner Bobby Martin of Springdale to maintain current hunting and exit times on the WMA.
Another proposal to define which types of electric bicycles could be used on WMAs was tabled by a motion from vice-chairman Andrew Parker of Little Rock to allow more time to be more specific and consistent with proposals currently being considered by Arkansas State Parks.
Along with the changes, the Commission approved the season dates for the 2020-21 white-fronted goose season to be Oct. 31-Nov. 16, Nov. 21-Dec. 4 and Dec. 6-Jan. 31. This season structure is an increase from 74 to 88 days of hunting, but the daily limit was reduced from three to two birds to stay in line with federal frameworks for this option.
A complete list of regulations changes approved at the meeting is available HERE.
Commissioners heard proposals to change many fishing and fisheries-related regulations. AGFC Chief of Fisheries Ben Batten presented 48 changes to general fishing regulations as well as regulations changes to the aquaculture industry in Arkansas. These regulations changes will be presented through a public survey, which will be available beginning next week. They will then go back before the Commission for a formal first reading at their August Commission meeting depending on public input.
“This is the first set of fisheries regulations presented since the Commission went to a two-year regulations cycle,” Batten said. “We get many requests from the public for regulation proposals and we consider all of them. Additionally, our biologists also provide potential regulation proposals that are backed up by both sampling data and social science. We also have been working to simplify and reduce regulations where possible to make it easier for the public to understand them.”
Kendall Moles, the AGFC’s malacologist and lead on commercial fishing regulations also presented many changes to restructure portions of the agency’s current commercial fishing regulations. These changes also will be presented in the public comment survey which will be available next week.
Four additional changes to captive wildlife regulations were presented by Batten as well, which will be voted on at the Commission’s June 18 meeting.
A complete list of proposed changes that will be sent out for public comment is available HERE.
In other business, the Commission:
• Heard the first reading of a proposal to modify the second Youth and Veteran Waterfowl Hunt to occur on the first Saturday in February.
• Authorized AGFC Director Pat Fitts to enter into a nonexclusive permanent access easement affecting a road along the White River on Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area in exchange for a permanent easement over adjacent private land to ensure public access to an 80-acre portion of AGFC property that is separated from the main body of the WMA.
• Authorized Fitts to authorize a right-of-way to Entergy Arkansas, Inc. for electronic transmission lines in anticipation of the widening of Highway 89 near Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir in Faulkner County.
• Awarded retiring AGFC Wildlife Officer Cpl. Clayton Rogers his service sidearm after 36 years of service.
• Heard from guest speakers Adam Hogan and Robert Neal in opposition to proposals to prohibit some species of large constrictors in Arkansas.
• Heard from guest speaker Chris Horton with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation in opposition to a proposal to adjust hunting and scouting times for waterfowl hunters on Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area and George H. Dunklin Jr. Bayou Meto WMA.