LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved general hunting regulations concerning small game, furbearers, migratory birds and turkeys for the 2016-17 hunting season, in a Thursday meeting. The Commission also heard the first proposals from wildlife management staff on potential regulations concerning deer hunting and management of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Arkansas.
Approved regulations changes for the 2016-17 season include:
- Moving the spring turkey season opener to the second Monday in April (April 10, 2017) with youth turkey season being the Saturday and Sunday immediately before the opening day (April 8-9, 2016).
- Prohibiting the use of all mechanical decoys that create motion and simulated wing-movement decoys on Commission-owned wildlife management areas and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuges.
- Requiring waterfowl hunters to be off water-inundated areas or water courses on WMAs after noon from the first day of the first segment of regular duck season until the last day of the last segment of regular duck season.
- Increasing the horsepower limit of surface-drive motors from 36 hp to 37 hp.
- Prohibiting boat access on greentree reservoirs on Dave Donaldson Black River WMA after noon, except on Black River and Little River.
- Setting duck, coot and merganser season as Nov. 19-27; Dec. 8-23, and Dec. 26-Jan. 29, with youth waterfowl days being Dec. 3, 2016 and Feb. 4, 2017.
- Confirming deer season opening dates as Sept. 24, 2016 for archery, Oct. 15, 2016 for muzzleloader, Nov. 12, 2016 for modern gun and Oct. 29 for antlerless-only modern gun with a statewide youth hunt Nov. 5-6.
- Adding a youth modern gun deer permit hunt for Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA.
- Adding a private lands antlerless-only deer hunt in deer zones 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 7 and 11.
CWD-focused proposals include:
- Prohibit the feeding of wildlife statewide, with exceptions for bird feeders and other types of feeding that do not concentrate deer.
- Allow deer and elk hunting with the use of bait Oct. 1-Dec. 31, statewide.
- Prohibit the use of scents and lures that contain natural cervid urine, effective Jan. 1, 2017.
- Prohibit the rehabilitation of deer statewide.
- Establish a CWD management zone in counties with known positives and those close to known positives.
- Establish a private land CWD management program in the CWD management zone to allow landowners to take additional deer off their property to reduce deer density and slow the spread of the disease.
- Prohibit the transport of certain portions of cervid carcasses outside the CWD management zone. This will allow only deboned meat, cleaned skull plates, hides, teeth and taxidermy products to be transported out of the CWD management zone.
- Allow button bucks to be checked as antlerless deer in deer zones and WMAs within the CWD management zone.
- Remove the three-point rule and increase the bag limit from four to five deer and the antlerless bag limit to three with firearms in deer zones 1 and 2.
- Liberalize deer season on Bearcat Hollow, Buffalo National River, Gene Rush, Ozark National Forest, Piney Creeks, Sweden Creek Natural Area and White Rock WMAs.
- Establish a core elk management zone of Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties, and allow hunters to harvest any elk found outside these counties during deer season.
- Require all elk harvested to be submitted for CWD testing.
- Increase the private land antlerless elk quota in the core elk management zone from 24 to 40.
- Create a non-commercial hunting enclosure permit for high-fenced facilities, and require those facilities to submit CWD samples for all deer that die within the respective facility, allow annual inspections, and maintain accurate deer harvest records. There would also be a moratorium on the issuance of new permits after July 1, 2017.
All CWD-related proposals will be voted on in June, and Commissioners stressed that altering these proposals is still likely.
“We have more people coming in to talk with us at our June meeting, and there is a stronger than normal possibility that the regulations we finally vote on will be different than those presented today,” said Commission Chairman Emon Mahony. “Everyone has done a superb job of getting us where we are today as quickly as they have, and I appreciate all those efforts.”
Regulations concerning CWD management will be presented at public meetings throughout the state May 24 and 26, as well as a special live call-in show airing at 8 p.m., May 23 on AETN. Meetings on May 24 and 26 also will be streamed live on the AGFC’s YouTube channel.
Steve Cook, chairman of the regulations committee, stressed the importance of public understanding during what is to be a long fight to monitor and manage for CWD for decades to come.
“One thing we know is we will not be successful without the support of deer hunters and the general public,” Cook said. “If we fail to develop and implement an effective control program, we risk the future of deer hunting along with all of the social and economic benefits wild deer and elk provide to the people.”
In other business, the Commission:
- Acknowledged Robert Moery from the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson for the official proclamation of Free Fishing Weekend to run from noon, June 10, through midnight, June 12.
- Heard a report from Tim Willis, manager of conservation programs with Ducks Unlimited on the status of conservation work on waterfowl breeding grounds in Canada.
- Recognized Wildlife Officer First Class Block Meyer as the Mississippi Flyway Council Officer of the Year.
- Approved the removal of obsolete computer equipment and inventory with an original value of $496,713.72 and a current net book value of $0.
- Approved a revision to the AGFC’s purchasing policy to increase the threshold amount for requiring a sealed bid process from $25,000 to $50,000 for purchases involving equipment and construction.
- Accepted a land donation of approximately six acres adjacent to the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center near Ft. Smith to be used for educational purposes.
- Awarded Todd Callaway, retiring chief of enforcement, his service sidearm.
- Awarded Mike Knoedl, retiring director and former chief of enforcement, his service sidearm.
- Awarded Joe Sims, retiring enforcement captain, his service sidearm.
- Approved a minute order to update the Enforcement Division’s radio system and join the Arkansas Wireless Information Network at a cost not to exceed $3,468,269.13, to update the Enforcement Division's radio system and join the Arkansas Wireless Information Network.
- Approved a right-of-way easement with Entergy Arkansas for overhead electric transmission lines.
- Approved a budget transfer of $899,801 of federally reimbursable money to be given to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to expand Longview-Saline Natural Area WMA in Ashley County by 1,073 acres.
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