Officially nicknamed as the ‘Natural State’ of United States, Arkansas has over 3 million acres of public hunting land attracting thousands of hunting enthusiasts on an annual basis.
It is the home of a wide variety of species ranging from deer, elks, alligators, ducks, doves, rabbits, squirrels, waterfowls, furbearers, feral hogs to various migratory birds.
Abundantly blessed with natural resources and wildlife, Arkansas holds active programs for visitors and residents like, thus regulating a huge profit of revenue to the state.
Hunters are, therefore, encouraged to hunt various species in different seasons with liberal license permits and regulations.
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1. What Species To Hunt In Arkansas
Arkansas is one of the most popular destinations in United States as proved by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) report which says that nearly 66 percent of the state’s 313,000 licensed hunters killed a deer during the 2017-18 deer seasons.
With the rising popularity of deer hunting, the AGFC had two modern gun deer hunts in 2018 which recorded to be the largest harvest year of all time. Having more than 1 million deer population, Arkansas witness approximately 750 to 850 hunters participate in urban hunts killing 800 to 1000 deer yearly.
Though after 2012 Arkansas saw a decline in deer harvest, there was an increase of nearly 5000 from the prior year in 2019 with the harvest of 210,065 deer.
The modern-day elk hunt started in 1998 with populations numbered in the millions across most of North America. However, illegal hunting, unsuitable habitat contributed to its shrinking popularity over the ages.
Realizing this, the AFGC along with private citizens and the National Park Service worked to improve elk habitat along the Buffalo River. As a result, at present Arkansas’ elk range covers approximately 315,000 acres with a slowly expanding elk population.
Arkansas, therefore, offers exceptional opportunities not only for elk hunting but also wildlife-viewing to interest more hunters each passing year.
The increase in numbers of black bears in recent times with an estimation of 5000 bears, provide more recreational opportunities to hunters in Arkansas.
In 2019, 432 bears were killed endangering the species with low harvest numbers. Due to the slow decline, hunters are only allowed to kill one bear per season.
Alligators are native to the land of Arkansas for thousands of years. Alligator hunting in Arkansas has changed over time.
Though the alligator population saw a decrease during the 60s due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting, the AGFC population surveys (2002-2004) proved that alligators were widely distributed at low densities throughout their range in Arkansas.
At present, it counts as one of the most pursued sport hunting opportunity.
1.5 Small Game Species
Rabbits, squirrels and quails are the most hunted small game species of Arkansas. Arkansas rabbit species include the cottontail, likely to found along over-grown fence rows and the swamp rabbit in low-lying areas.
Squirrels offer more opportunities than any other species in terms hunting in Arkansas being plentiful in numbers. Quail hunting also remains as one of the favorite sport hunting in Arkansas.
The high quantity of waters in the state offer visitors suitable places to hunt ducks.
The Bayou Meto Wildlife Management area and White River National Wildlife Refuge are the most visited places in Arkansas for waterfowl hunting.
Arkansas has a long history of harvesting furbearing animals such as beaver, bobcat, opossum, raccoon, coyote, muskrat etc. There are strict regulations on hunting them to maintain a good predator and prey ratio.
1.8 Feral Hogs
Feral hogs are a destructive species causing damage to agricultural resources, natural pastures, livestock and people. The population of these non-native invaders have increased exponentially since the 1990’s.
Thus, hunting of these animals are highly encouraged in Arkansas.
2. Season Dates And Bag Limits
Hunting season refers to that time of the year when killing, seeking or pursuing a certain species of wildlife for sport or food is legal without any restriction.
In the United States, each state ascertains its own specific dates to hunt a certain sport animal considering the complete understanding of its breeding and incubation period, ideal distribution of age and gender and also the economic concerns of the state.
During open seasons, hunters are allowed to hunt a particular species whereas in closed seasons, hunting an animal becomes illegal. In Arkansas, hunters can hunt throughout the year knowing which species to hunt at what time. The dates of each season and bag limits differ in state and zones.
- Dear season starts from September to February. Hunters may kill as many as 6 deer with no more than 2 bucks. The seasonal bag limit and usage of particular weapons may vary from zone to zone. Furthermore, baiting a deer is not allowed on Wildlife Management Areas.
- Elks can be hunted in the month of October allowing only one elk of either sex to be hunted per season.
- Hunters can hunt bears from September to November. Some of the zones are closed to hunting. Only one bear of either sex can be killed by any method.
- Alligator season opens in the month of September with a season limit of one alligator of 4 feet or longer per person.
- Rabbits are hunted from September to February with a daily bag limit of 8 and possession limit of 16. Squirrels are likely to be hunted from May to February. Hunters are allowed to hunt 12 squirrels on a daily basis whereas 48 can be possessed. Rifles or handguns larger than .22 caliber rimfire cannot be used to hunt rabbits and squirrels unless a modern gun or muzzle loading deer season or bear season is open.
- Quail season starts from November to February. The daily hunt limit is 6 and possession limit remains at 12.
- The open season of furbearers vary from different species to different zones of hunting.
The above-mentioned species are among the most hunted animals of Arkansas. For any further information regarding to zone wise bag limit and season dates, one can refer to the AGFC website.
3. Where To Hunt
3.1 Public Land
The Arkansas Game and Fishing Commission has more than 100 public, state-owned wildlife management areas offering every hunter ample opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
Spreading over 382,600 acres 61 WMAs are entirely owned by the AGFC or state agencies. The other 57 “cooperative” WMAs are owned by in cooperation with other agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army, the University of Arkansas and others.
The last type of WMAs are leased lands such as Big Timber, Casey Jones, Cherokee, Gum Flats, Howard County etc.
3.2 Private Land
Almost 90% of Arkansas’ land are privately owned and the state offers many programs in order to assist the landowners to manage the wildlife and environment.
4. License Requirements
4.1 For Arkansas Residents
Resident aged 16 or above must acquire a hunting license. A person who has lived for at least 60 days, active-duty military members and non-resident full-time students living in Arkansas are considered as legal citizens.
Though hunting licenses expire on June 30 of each year, Arkansas residents can purchase a lifetime hunting license. For example, there are different types of resident licenses such as Combination Sportsman’s License, Resident Wildlife Conservation License,
Resident Trapper’s Permit, Resident Hunting Guide License etc. Some of the licenses can be obtained from dealers and regional offices whereas some of them have to purchased online.
4.2 For Non-Residents
Non-residents are required to buy a permit to hunt waterfowl on certain wildlife management areas along with a valid hunting license.
4.3 Youth Hunting License
Arkansas residents and non-residents aged 15 or under are exempted from purchasing a hunting license.
4.4 Senior Hunting License
Residents of 65 or older may purchase the 65 Plus Lifetime Hunting License. The applicant has to present proof of age and residency to apply for this license.
All the senior hunting licenses are available from the AGFC Little Rock Office and AGFC regional offices.
4.5 Disability License
The Resident 3-Year Disability Hunting License are only for permanently disabled persons and also residents of Arkansas. The applicant needs to produce disability certificate to acquire this license.
Hunters suffering from mobility impairments and other disabilities may apply for Mobility-Impaired Access permits.
4.6 Military And Veteran License
Active-duty military members stationed in Arkansas and also those working outside Arkansas are eligible for a resident hunting license. Resident veterans can purchase the Resident Military Retiree Lifetime Hunting License.
In addition to this, all hunters aged 16 or above must acquire the Arkansas Waterfowl Stamp and the Federal Duck Stamp to hunt migratory waterfowl.
5. Hunting Education
To hunt in Arkansas, anyone born after 1968 must complete a hunter education course and carry a valid hunter education card while hunting.
However, children below 16 do not require hunter education card if they are supervised under an adult of 21 years old. Arkansas recognizes hunter education programs issued by other jurisdictions.
The Arkansas hunting education cards are also acknowledged by all U.S. states, provinces and countries including Canada and Mexico.
5.2 Traditional Classes
The traditional hunter education method is to train the participant with a hands-on demonstration led by an instructor for 10 hours. The timing of the classes varies whether it’s a long three-four nights course or a full day one.
The hunter is expected to pass the test at the end of the course to get the hunting license.
5.3 Online Course
In order to avail the online course, the student needs to be at least 10 years old and a native resident. Only after successfully clearing the test, one must print the online course completion document to get ready for hunting.
6. Hunting Laws And Regulations
6.1 Property Regulations
- Hunters who own or lease property are allowed to hunt near any other person’s residence.
- One must obtain a written permission before hunting within 150 yards of a residence or using archery equipment within 50 yards of a residence from the landowner or the occupant.
6.2 Archery Equipment
Hunters are allowed to use long, recurve and compound bows considering all the regulations of bow hunting. Big-game hunters must use arrowheads at least 7-8 inches wide. Scopes, string locks and mechanical string may be used as well.
6.3 Hunting With Rifles And Guns
Hunters may use muzzleloaders, modern guns or archery equipment during modern gun seasons. During small game hunting, hunters can use air rifles.
6.4 Hunter Orange Requirements
All hunters are not required to wear safety colors. Only during open modern Gun or muzzleloader deer, bear or elk seasons, hunters and their accomplices must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange, chartreuse or blaze camouflage above the waist and a head garment of those same safety colors.
6.5 Prohibited Practices
- Hunters are not allowed hunt except during open hunting seasons.
- Hunters cannot use a boat at night, a moving motorized land vehicle or even an aircraft to chase or pursue any species of hunting animal.
- Any use of electronic tracking or computer-assisted hunting equipment is strictly prohibited and considered as a punishable act.
- It is illegal to use deadfalls, drugs, chemicals, poisons to immobilize wildlife.
- Hunters cannot import any native or exotic animal into Arkansas without proper AGFC permits.
- Baiting any animal is considered illegal in Arkansas without exceptions.
- Hunters must not fail to report a hunting-or trapping-related incident.
The land of Arkansas offers ample opportunities to hunters all year around making a handful of animals available for open season with very specific and regulated zones. Hunters planning to visit are advised to review the requirements and regulations before leaving.
For further detailed information on all the above topics, visit the website of The Arkansas Game and Fish Department: https://www.agfc.com/
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