Arkansas Closes Fall Turkey Seasons

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After voicing concerns about declining spring turkey harvests, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today voted to close all 2009 fall turkey hunting seasons in the state. The archery turkey season was scheduled to open on Oct. 1, followed by opening of the firearm turkey season on Oct. 26. The vote to close the season was 4-3 in favor of closing. Commissioners Emon Mahony, Ron Pierce, Rick Watkins and Commission Vice Chairman Craig Campbell voted in favor of the closure. Commissioners George Dunklin, Ron Duncan and Commission Chairman Brett Morgan voted against the closure.

Campbell said that he's certain there is a problem with the state's turkey population and one way to stop its continued decline is to close the entire fall season. "I'm convinced we have a heck of a problem, but I'm convinced we're moving in the right direction. We're going to mess around and not have a spring turkey season if we don't do something," Campbell said.

Dunklin said that he felt like a decision to close the season would polarize the Commission and Arkansas's hunters. "What concerns me is we're dividing our user groups. We're saying the hunter is the problem. Hunters are our partners. Without hunters, the resource goes away," Dunklin said.

The Commission also addressed concerns over boating safety on wildlife management areas by approving a horsepower restriction on Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA. Boat motors will be restricted to 50 horsepower or less during the state's waterfowl hunting season. Airboats also will not be allowed in the WMA during the waterfowl season. A similar proposal to restrict motor horsepower and airboats on Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA failed.

A proposal to restrict airboats during waterfowl season on several wildlife management areas around the state was approved by the Commission. Airboats will not be allowed on Bell Slough, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita (excluding the Ouachita River), Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA and Deer Research Area (excluding the Mississippi River), Cut-Off Creek, Cypress Bayou, Ed Gordon Point Remove, Earl Buss Bayou DeView, Galla Creek, Harris Brake (excluding Harris Brake Lake), Holland Bottoms (excluding Tommy L. Sproles Lake Pickthorne), Mike Freeze Wattensaw, Petit Jean River (excluding Petit Jean River and Kingfisher Lake), Seven Devils, Sheffield Nelson Dagmar, Sulphur River (excluding Sulphur River and Mercer Bayou) and Trusten Holder (excluding Arkansas River, Arkansas Post Canal, Merrisach Lake, Moore Bayou and Post Lake WMAs during waterfowl season. The new restriction is in addition to the airboat restrict passed last month that included Bayou Meto, Dr. Lester Sitzes, III Bois d'Arc (excluding Dr. Lester Sitzes, III Bois d'Arc Lake), Shirey Bay Rainey Brake and Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMAs.

Two proposals on lengthening the catch-and-release area on the Norfork Tailwater were presented to the commission. The first option lengthened the catch-and-release area from 1 mile to 2.6 miles. The second option lengthened the area from 1 mile to 2 miles. In a 4-2 vote, the Commission voted in favor of the second option. The new regulation also allows the use of artificial lures with barbless treble hooks in special regulation areas on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters. It also removed Sylamore catch-and-release area on the Bull Shoals Tailwater. Commissioners Emon Mahony, Ron Pierce, Rick Watkins and commission vice chairman Craig Campbell voted in favor of second option. Commissioners George Dunklin and Ron Duncan voted against the second option. Commission Chairman Brett Morgan did not vote.

In other business, the Commission:

  • *Approved the 2009 Elk Plan Revision. The revision incorporated a large amount of public input on the initial stages of the plan development. A total of nine public meetings were held throughout the state along with consultation from elk advisory groups.
  • *Heard a proposal on four options for the spring 2010 turkey season. To see the proposal, go to!userfiles/pdfs/hunting/2010TurkeyProposalsSept09.pdf.