Conservative Turkey Season Again Proposed by AGFC

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Conservative Turkey Season Again Proposed by AGFCLITTLE ROCK – Biologists from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission again have proposed a conservative turkey season. The AGFC has tried to address declining turkey harvests through the regulations process starting in spring 2005.

AGFC turkey biologist Mike Widner told the Commission, that the shorter season of 30 days in 2005 and 2006 undoubtedly aided gobbler carryover somewhat. “However, the reduction in season length was not enough to reverse the trend in declining spring harvests and the index of gobbler carryover from the 2005 and 2006 brood surveys,” he said.

Widner said that the best way to achieve long term harvest management goals is to utilize a short, later turkey season such as the one in place during the 2007 and 2008 season. “The data we have collected strongly supports this conclusion. After the first year of this regulation, we saw positive results and we believe those positive results continued in 2008,” Widner explained. “When we first approached the Commission with a conservative season recommendation, we stressed that a one-year change wouldn’t result in turkey harvest recovery. Our intention was to bring harvests in line with reproductive trends,” he added.

Widner went on to say that it is going to take at least two good years of turkey brood production to see a significant increase in turkey numbers and turkey harvest. “Even when that finally occurs, there is plenty of data to suggest a conservative season is in the best long-term interest of turkeys and turkey hunters in the state. Of course, we haven’t seen those two good years of turkey reproduction yet, so continuation of the conservative season structure now in place is especially important,” he said.

The AGFC Wildlife Management Division turkey team recommended a spring 2009 season structure to open with a two-day statewide youth hunt April 4-5. In zone 17 the youth hunt would be March 28-29. The regular-season proposal was April 11-May 1 in zones 1 Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 4-26 in zone 17; April 11-24 in zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A. Zone 1A would be closed.

According to Widner, turkey numbers currently are extremely low in Zone 1A. Hobbs SP-CA and Beaver Lake WMA are proposed for closure for the same reason.

Other proposed changes include closure of Bald Knob NWR to turkey hunting, a change to regular season quota permit hunts on McIlroy Madison County WMA and Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA, a change to a 4-day regular season quota permit hunt on Sylamore WMA later followed by public hunting for the rest of the season, the addition of a regular quota permit hunt on Choctaw Island WMA and public archery-only hunts on Harold E. Alexander WMA and Moro Big Pine Natural Area WMA after quota permit hunts are completed.

Comments on the proposed basic season structure or on the specific changes listed above are welcomed by AGFC and should be sent prior to Oct. 17 to AGFC, 2 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, AR  72205 or by calling (501) 223-6359 or (800) 364-4263 or by email to information [at] agfc [dot] com

Commissioners will formally approve the season at the agency’s Oct. 22 meeting in Pine Bluff.

 In other business, the Commission:

*Discussed proposed commercial fishing and turtle farming regulations. The regulations will be approved at the October meeting.

*Approved an agreement for land conveyance on the Arkansas River. Echubby Lake Hunting Club will donate to the Commission Coal Pile Lake and adjacent lands totaling about 538 acres. There is no cost to the Commission other than closing costs that are expected to be less than $1,500. The lake will be managed for public fishing and as a waterfowl rest area.

*Approved the return of more than $659,650 in fine money, collected during fiscal year 2008, to the Arkansas Department of Education. The money will be sent to the counties where the offenses occurred and used for school fish and wildlife conservation programs.

*Approved a budget increase of $200,000 for initially funding of a new bridge over Crooked Creek. The bridge will provide year-round access to the Fred Berry Crooked Creek Conservation Education Center in Yellville. The low-water bridge that had provided access to the center was damaged during repeated flooding in the creek.

*Approved a cost-share agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help control nuisance aquatic vegetation in Felsenthal Reservoir. The AGFC will provide approximately 35,000 triploid grass carp in an effort to control the vegetation. The vegetation is so thick that it impairs boat access to fishing and hunting areas.

*Approved a $145,000 budget transfer to be used for re-surfacing the Pendleton Access Area on the Arkansas River in Desha County. The area is heavily used by anglers and is a popular tournament site.

*Approved a land exchange for 80 acres of land in the Gene Rush Buffalo River Wildlife Management Area in exchange for 80 acres of isolated and excess land on the Bayou Meto WMA. In addition to the land, the AGFC will also pay $70,200 for the 80 acres in Searcy County. The money will cover the purchase and closing costs.

*Approved a land exchange of just over 16 acres for land on Bayou Meto WMA. The land swap will make land that was inaccessible, due to Little Bayou Meto, a contiguous part of the WMA.