The second split of Arkansas’s waterfowl season is underway, and high water in some portions of the state has made hunting on some public areas near the White River a bit more challenging with many more flooded acres of habitat for the ducks to spread out. Hunters are, however, seeing some good success from fields procured through Arkansas’s Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement Program.
The AGFC has 11 fields enrolled in the program near popular wildlife management areas to give landowners the incentive to eliminate tilling of their rice fields and leaving the waste grain on the ground to help feed waterfowl during their migration. A second component of the program is to gain additional access for hunters on private land through limited permit-based hunts each weekend.
AGFC Waterfowl Program Coordinator Luke Naylor says leasing private land for public access is not new for the AGFC. Many thousands of acres of commercially owned forested properties are leased every year to create large leased land wildlife management areas in portions of the state where the AGFC does not own property to offer hunting access. These leased land WMAs normally focus on deer, squirrel and turkey, but recent programs focused on dove hunting in agricultural areas have had some positive results.
So far, hunters on WRICE fields have seen mixed success. Just as with all duck hunting, birds can be at one location today and gone tomorrow. But the opportunity to have your own flooded rice field for an entire weekend from a $5 application has attracted many hunters to apply.
“I’ve put in for some of these fields myself hoping to draw,” Naylor said. “And I’ve talked to some people who drew and they all appreciated the opportunity. The fields don’t have blinds or anything on them, so concealment is one thing to keep in mind when preparing for the hunt.”
Hunters can visit www.agfc.com and click the green “Buy License|Check Game” button to go to the AGFC’s licensing site. All waterfowl permit hunts are listed under “WMA Applications.” Locations will be listed by county and the town nearest the hunting location. Hunters may apply for a first and second choice. Each application costs $5. Successful applicants will be notified by email. They will receive a map with directions to the hunting location and parking area for their hunt, and will be able to choose up to three hunting partners to join them.
Applications are available the Thursday-Sunday before the weekend you are planning to hunt. Permits are drawn and winners are notified each Monday to give people enough time to coordinate their hunt.
No hunting is allowed on WRICE program fields outside of drawn permit hunts, and access to the properties is allowed only during the Saturday and Sunday the permit holder draws.
Visit www.agfc.com/waterfowldraw for more information on permit-based waterfowl hunts offered by the AGFC.