Although the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and measures to combat it have changed the way the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has had to meet, conservation carries on. With the absence of a March meeting and an online-only meeting anticipated in April, AGFC staff have moved forward with a public comment survey to gather public input on changes needed for the 2020-21 hunting season.
Thanks to public input and increased efforts to simplify things for hunters, many regulations proposals aim to eliminate unnecessary differences in season dates and harvest limits throughout the state. Where biologically possible, many deer zones were combined or given very similar harvest limits and seasons to help new hunters stay in compliance with the regulations.
“We’ve always tried to offer as much opportunity for hunting as we could while remaining conscious of our conservation duty, but this year we really tried to take a deliberate effort to simplify and clarify regulations wherever we could,” Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC, said. “It is a priority of our director and Commission to make things as easy as possible to get people out in the outdoors while still protecting the resource.”
The survey includes many proposals, but AGFC staff has worked hard to make it as user-friendly as possible by categorizing changes according to the subject matter. Proposals for nearly all game species are included in the survey. A few notable changes being proposed include:
- Combining some deer zones with identical season date structures.
- Moving the Private Land Antlerless Only Modern Gun Hunt from October to December.
- Replacing the current draw system for alligator hunting on private land with a quota system similar to private land elk hunting.
- Increasing the archery harvest quota to 500 bears in Bear Zone 1 (Ozarks).
- Reduce the number of turkey zones from 18 to two, but continuing to gather harvest information at the county level.
- Prohibit the take of bearded hen turkeys beginning in 2021.
- Add many species to wildlife breeder/dealer unrestricted, permitted and prohibited lists in the captive wildlife code.
Public comment resulting from the Commission’s town hall meeting in Stuttgart last November brought attention to a possible change for white-fronted goose hunting. Federal frameworks allow a longer season on this species than Arkansas has had in recent years, but it comes at the cost of a lower daily bag limit. AGFC staff are asking for public input on the following two options for the 2020-21 white-fronted goose season:
- Option 1 — A 74-day season with a three-bird daily bag limit, or
- Option 2 — An 88-day season with a two-bird daily bag limit.
An additional waterfowl-focused regulation change, proposed by Commissioner Joe Morgan of Stuttgart, to shorten daily shooting time for waterfowl on wildlife management areas from noon to 11 a.m. and to have all hunters off water-inundated areas by noon instead of 1 p.m. also has been added to the list. This proposal would have been brought up at the March Commission meeting but was not able to be voiced due to the cancelation of that meeting.
Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/wildlife-management/2020-21-proposed-regs-survey to take the survey. Responses will be collected until April 15 so they may be presented to the Commission at its April 23 meeting.