Four out of 10 Arkansas resident waterfowl hunters have pursued ducks on wildlife management areas for six years or less, according to a recent survey completed by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Survey Research Center.
The survey was part of an increased effort by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to learn more about the men and women using The Natural State’s WMA system.
“It was surprising to learn that many of our resident duck hunters were relatively new to hunting on our WMAs,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC.
Naylor says conclusions can’t be drawn for the reasons so many duck hunters are relatively new to AGFC WMAs, but it is in line with recent duck stamp sales.
“We’ve seen an increase in duck stamp sales during the last few years, as duck hunting has become a bit more mainstream,” Naylor said. “Maybe some of this increase is part of those newcomers to public land.”
Another source for people who are relatively new to public land duck hunting may be from duck hunters who may have “aged out” of family leases. Many private land clubs allow access for sons and daughters of members up to a certain age. Once those younger hunters have grown up, the higher prices of private land hunting may hinder them from continuing in the club. Public land may be the best option for them.
According to the same survey, 58 percent of nonresidents hunted AGFC WMAs for four years or less.
“That number is still high, but it’s a little less surprising,” Naylor said. “A lot of nonresidents will save up and make a trip to another state to hunt, so it’s not an every year thing. For a lot of duck hunters, a trip to Arkansas is a bucket list item, so we’d expect to see much less experience on the nonresident side of things.”
The survey was conducted by phone from late February through April, with resident hunters who had purchased a waterfowl stamp in one of the last three seasons and nonresidents who had purchased a nonresident waterfowl WMA permit during the same time frame.
Other major findings of the survey include:
• More residents hunt private land than nonresidents.
• Residents, on average, harvest significantly more ducks on WMAs that nonresidents.
• More than four out of ten hunters from both groups did not harvest a daily limit during any trip the last season they hunted on a WMA.
• Nonresidents rated their hunting experience higher than residents, but both rated their overall experience at the “mid-range” of a scale from 0-10.
• Both residents and nonresidents cited “overcrowding” as the main source of disturbance to their hunts.
• Both hunter groups plan to hunt on WMAs the same number of days in future years as they did this year.