The ducks have a brief rest between the segments of hunting season, but on Saturday, the first of two youth and veteran waterfowl hunts will have hunters back in the woods in search of Arkansas’ premiere game species.
This year’s Special Active Duty Military and Veteran Waterfowl Hunt will again take place alongside Arkansas’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt Dec. 5, 2020, and Feb. 6, 2021.
Duck and goose hunters 15 and younger may hunt during this special season, which was created nearly 20 years ago by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission after this option was offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was modified last year to allow active-duty military personnel and veterans to hunt as well in a show of gratitude for their service.
Youths and veterans may have additional people with them during their hunt as a mentor or observer. Those people may call, video the hunt, or work a dog to retrieve ducks, but they may not carry a firearm or assist with shooting. Shooting hours and bag limits are the same as regular duck and goose seasons. Veteran hunters, as well as youth hunters may hunt on wildlife management areas from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset these two days and any shell restrictions on WMAs are lifted during these hunts.
“This is an excellent opportunity for mentors to instill those unwritten rules of waterfowling to new hunters,” said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator. “It’s a great way to show them that waterfowl hunting isn’t about racing in the woods for a YouTube video or seeing who can take a picture of the biggest pile of birds; it’s about sharing the experience.”
The hunt is split into two days at different times of year to increase the chances of it coinciding with good weather conditions and duck abundance. In some years, early water and cold weather combine to create good duck hunting in December. During other years, the water and ducks do not seem to arrive in great numbers until later in the season. Two hunts offer two chances to catch the right combination of weather and birds.
Although the spirit of the hunt is to allow for more time between a mentor and youth hunter, youths who have completed a hunter education course may hunt on their own if their parent or legal guardian feels comfortable allowing them to do so. Youths who have not completed a hunter education course must be accompanied by a mentor who is 21 years or older.
Naylor stresses that although these two days are set aside specifically for youths and veterans, those aren’t the only days available to enjoy hunting while bringing a young hunter or veteran along.
“We have a 60-day duck season in Arkansas in addition to these hunts,” Naylor said. “That’s 60 more opportunities to make memories with a youth or veteran in a duck blind this year. Take advantage of it.”