LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Game & Fish Commission) – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today unanimously approved a change to the 2023-24 duck season dates to the traditional opener, the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Commission Chairman Bobby Martin spoke about the change back to the traditional opening season dates being a response from public input from many members of the waterfowling community to commissioners and staff during the last year.
“We did get overwhelming (feedback),” Martin said of the proposal to change the dates to include the week of Thanksgiving. “The thing that I see as encouragingly interesting, one of the big reasons that I think the public, particularly waterfowlers, fought to try to hold it before Thanksgiving was the emphasis and priority around family and young hunters. The fact that so many people hang on to that is a signal that (the traditional opening day) is a legacy of a generation that we do not want to let go of in any way at all.”
Specklebelly, Canada and light goose seasons also will change with this modification, as will the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt and Special Active Duty Military and Veteran Hunt.
The 2023-24 waterfowl season dates are:
Duck, Coot and Merganser — Nov. 18-26, Dec. 9-23, Dec. 27-Jan. 31
White-fronted Goose — Oct. 28-Nov. 10, Nov. 18-26, Dec. 9-23, Dec. 27-Jan. 31
Canada Goose — Sept. 1-Oct. 15, Nov. 18-26, Dec. 9-23, Dec. 27-Jan. 31
Snow, Blue and Ross’s Goose Season — Oct. 28-Nov. 10, Nov. 18-26, Dec. 9-23, Dec. 27-Jan. 31
Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt — Dec. 2 and Feb. 3
Veteran and Active Duty Military Waterfowl Hunt — Feb. 3
AGFC Director Austin Booth said today’s decision was a prime example of how the new AGFC Advisory Council, announced last month and officially approved today, will be able to help the agency in the future.
The advisory council was a major part of Booth’s report to the Commission, as he nominated a list of members, including chairpersons, for the new council’s three subpanels.
Booth stressed that the purpose of the new council is not to collaborate or debate with commissioners and staff about the science of wildlife management, but rather to be a conduit of communication and understanding between the Commission and the public.
“What that looks like is serving three primary purposes: to provide input on how the AGFC can better serve hunters and anglers; to aid the AGFC in communication and awareness surrounding the most important and controversial conservation topics; and to help the AGFC determine how it can better partner with private industry and other third parties to maximize outdoors opportunity for Arkansans.”
Booth also gave a summary of major accomplishments from the 94th Arkansas General Assembly in his address, including the creation of a new $500 lifetime hunting and fishing license available to children under 10 years of age, the successful passage of adjustments to the agency’s class and compensation plan to continue recruiting high-quality conservationists to its rosters, and $10 million to create a pilot project toward a conservation tax credit for private landowners instituting certain conservation practices on their property.
Commissioners also approved a clarification to the boundary on Lake Erling’s 10-inch minimum length on crappie harvest to be in effect from the lake to Arkansas Highway 360. Anglers catching crappie above Arkansas Highway 360 do not have to adhere to the minimum length for harvest, but may not cross back over to the lake in possession of those fish.
Another clarification passed by the Commission concerned the definition of a resident where it pertains to full-time college students. People enrolled as full-time students outside of Arkansas can qualify as a resident if they were an Arkansas resident at the time of enrollment. Nonresidents enrolled as full-time students at a college or university in Arkansas who reside in the state during the school year also qualify as a resident in regard to AGFC regulations.
The Commission heard the first reading of a handful of new regulations proposals to be considered for the 2023-24 hunting season at today’s meeting:
- Implementation of regulations that will open limited hunting opportunities on Sugarloaf Mountains-Midland Peak Natural Area in Sebastian County;
- Implementation of regulations that will open limited hunting opportunities on Goat’s Beard Bluff Natural Area in Saline County;
- Establish a new wildlife management area on 2,974 acres owned by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry near Hot Springs National Park to allow additional hunting opportunities;
- Allow the riding of a horse on Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA for raccoon hunting between sunset and sunrise without interfering with open deer seasons;
- Allow unrestricted boating on the portion of the Cache River at Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA during duck season;
- Establish a $20 permit that will be required for nonresidents to use dogs to pursue deer, where this hunting activity is legal; and
- Increase nonresident license fees to the following:
- Nonresident Annual Fishing License – $60
- Nonresident 3-Day Trip Fishing License – $30
- Nonresident Guide License/Fishing – $500
- Nonresident Annual Hunting License – $410
- Nonresident 5-Day Hunting License – $225
- Nonresident 3-Day Deer Hunting License – $175
- Nonresident 1-Day Deer Hunting License – $100
- Nonresident Annual Small Game Hunting License – $110 (no change)
- Nonresident 5-Day Small Game Hunting License – $80
- Nonresident Trappers Permit – $125 (no change)
- Nonresident Bear Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Nonresident Turkey Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $100
- Nonresident Elk Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Nonresident Alligator Permit (must accompany valid big game license) – $300
- Nonresident Arkansas State Waterfowl Stamp (must accompany valid small game or big game license) – $50
- Nonresident 5-Day WMA Waterfowl Hunting Permit (Must accompany valid small game or big game license and Non-resident state waterfowl stamp) – $40
These proposed changes will be open for public comment for the next 30 days. The Commission is expected to vote on the proposed changes at its May 18 meeting. Comments may be submitted via email at AskAGFC@agfc.ar.gov.
The Commission took time during the meeting to recognize the work and accomplishments of its employees. AGFC Enforcement Major Nakia Crims presented Crawford County Game Warden Kurt VanMatre with the Shikar Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year Award for excellence in wildlife law enforcement and community-building. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
Drug Enforcement Administration special agents Jarad Harper and David Younce also presented Perry County Game Warden Sgt. Jeremy Bishop with a certificate of appreciation for his role in the recovery of a stolen vehicle and equipment and the apprehension and conviction of the person responsible. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]
In other business, the Commission:
- Approved a minute order to begin soliciting bids from contractors to repair and renovate the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke.
- Authorized Booth to complete the purchase of 4.24 acres of land bordering Mike Freeze Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area in Prairie County to be added to that WMA.
- Authorized Booth to complete the purchase of 140 acres of land bordering Cypress Bayou WMA in White County to be added to that WMA.
- Approved a change to AGFC policy to allow a game warden to receive his or her service sidearm upon retirement, regardless of years of service.
- Authorized Booth to implement employee class and compensation adjustments in accordance with revisions to the agency’s appropriations bill, which passed at the 94th Arkansas General Assembly.
- Heard the first reading of the agency’s updated civil rights procedures and limited English proficiency plan to be added to the AGFC’s Policy and Procedures Manual.
- Recognized 11 employees with a combined 250 years of service to the natural resources of Arkansas.
A complete video of the meeting is available on the AGFC’s YouTube Channel.