(Updated December 5, 2016)
Arkansas youth hunters harvest nearly 9,500 deer
Cooler temperatures and the first good signs of rutting activity beckoned well for the first youth hunt of the 2016-17 deer season and Arkansas's young guns did not disappoint. Hunters harvested 9,429 deer during the two-day season.
According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the harvest is lower than last year's 12,000-deer youth hunt, but is very similar to the 2014 season, in which youth hunters took just over 9,700 deer.
Since the development of internet and telephone checking, biologists and the public can see the harvest in real time by visiting www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php.
Hunters harvest 44 elk during permit hunts
Forty four elk were harvested during the second half of the 2016 permit hunt from the Core Elk Zone in northern Arkansas. Hunters participating in the second segment of public land hunts harvested four bulls and 12 cows, while hunters in the private land quota hunt took 12 bulls and 11 cows.
Wesley Wright, elk program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the extremely warm weather throughout elk season made the hunt go a bit slower than usual.
"We saw a little less bugling and rutting activity," Wright said. "But the bull hunters cashed in during opening day of the second hunt. After opening day, things got very slow for the remaining hunters."
Wright says most adult bulls harvested this year have been good-quality elk, with an average Boone and Crockett gross score of 280 to 300 inches. A possible state-record elk, which scored 361 inches, was harvested during the first hunt by Doug Young of Malvern, but no bulls taken during the second hunt reached that high mark.
An additional six bull elk have been harvested throughout the state, thanks to a new regulation that allows hunters outside the Core Elk Zone to take an elk if they see it while legally hunting deer.
Leave those gadgets behind
Duck hunters heading to public land in Arkansas should double-check their regulations this year before plugging in the battery-charger to their motorized decoys. During its May 2016 meeting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission banned the use of all mechanical decoys on AGFC-owned wildlife management areas. The National Wildlife Refuge System in Arkansas also adjusted its regulations to eliminate their use as well.
The AGFC manages many WMAs that are on land owned by other agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or U.S. Forest Service. Mechanical decoys are allowed on public land that does not belong to the AGFC or National Wildlife Refuge System. Ownership of each WMA is listed directly underneath the area's name on pages 45-59 of the 2016-17 Waterfowl Hunting Guidebook.
"Many hunters felt like their hunting was being unfairly impacted by the decoys," Naylor said of the reasoning behind the ban. "During open surveys and through comments directly from hunters during the season, duck hunters were very vocal about the widespread use of mechanical decoys lessening the quality of their hunts, particularly on public land."
Many variations on the original spinning-wing decoy exist, and many other mechanical contraptions have emerged to add some sort of motion to a decoy spread without the hunter's help. With all the motion decoys on the market, muddying the water, the Commission decided to make the rule as simple as possible. Anything that creates or simulates motion in the decoy spread other than a standard, hand-operated jerk string, is not allowed.
"The intent of the regulation is to get back to the standard decoy, weight and string we all grew up hunting with," said Col. Pat Fitts, chief of the AGFC's Enforcement Division. "If it's got moving parts, shakes, splashes or falls under some other form of gadgetry, it's not allowed on our WMAs."
New officers sworn in
Fifteen newly sworn Conservation Officers will be patrolling areas of assignment across Mississippi this upcoming fall. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) held a graduation ceremony honoring its 15 new Conservation Officers at Roosevelt State Park near Morton.
House Speaker Philip Gunn was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony and challenged the new officers to remember why they chose and were chosen to become a Conservation Officer, "That is to protect those who cannot protect themselves and be a servant, all the days of your career."
Riecke receives coveted fisheries award
MDWFP Fisheries Biologist Dennis Riecke was recently named Fisheries Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). Riecke was presented the award at the Association's 69th annual meeting in Baton Rouge.
Riecke currently serves as the Fisheries Bureau's Environmental Coordinator, representing MDWFP on the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality permit board. Other Fisheries Bureau programs that he coordinates include technical guidance, commercial fisheries, and community fishing assistance. He is also an expert in issues related to public water access, aquatic nuisance species, and instream flow. Additionally, he is also highly involved in drafting and revising fisheries regulations and laws.
"This award is a well-deserved tribute to the value and contribution of Dennis's work for the fisheries resources in Mississippi," said Larry Pugh, Fisheries Bureau Director. "Dennis' experience and knowledge are invaluable assets to MDWFP."
SEAFWA is comprised of fish and wildlife agencies from 15 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
WMA waterfowl draw hunt applications
The MDWFP is now accepting online applications for Wildlife Management Area (WMA) waterfowl draw hunts. Applications can be submitted at www.mdwfp.com/draws. All applicants must have a valid WMA user permit to apply. WMA user permits are available for purchase online at www.mdwfp.com or may be purchased anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
Trim Cane and Tuscumbia WMAs will be available for draw applications beginning with the second draw period, which began Nov. 14. Each consecutive round of application periods will begin the day after the previous round has closed. Successfully drawn applicants will be notified by email. To learn about other opportunities such as stand-by hunting on draw-only WMAs, please see individual area regulations.
For more information regarding WMAs in Mississippi, visit us at www.mdwfp.com/wma or call us at (601) 432-2199. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mdwfp or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MDWFPonline.
West Tennessee hunters harvests elk
Kevin Hart, from the West Tennessee community of Yuma, took a bull on Oct. 19, a 4x3 that field dressed with a weight of 256 pounds. Since the historic first managed hunt in 2009, 33 elk have been legally harvested. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has worked to make elk habitat improvements at North Cumberland WMA. The first arrival of 50 animals came in December 2000, the first wild elk to be in Tennessee since they were last reported in Obion County in 1865.
Sport fishing regulations set for 2017-18
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission has established the state's 2017-18 sport fish regulations. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Fisheries Division had earlier presented its original proposals for 2017-18. The TFWC had requested the TWRA consider lowering the creel limit for crappie from 30 to 20 fish per day on Kentucky Lake. After the amendment to the proclamation passed in the fisheries committee, the full commission passed the next day.
Among the other changes include harvest regulations to a 15-fish creel limit, in combination, for striped bass, hybrid striped bass, and white bass on Douglas Reservoir.
Boat and bank anglers on Dale Hollow Lake can use four fishing rods at one time. This is a change from the current regulation of three fishing rods for boat anglers and a change from six for bank anglers. The 4-rod limit also applies to the seasonal walleye run restrictions.
Changes to the live bait proclamation keeps existing creel limits for Class A and Class B baitfish, and established a possession limit of twice the daily creel limit for these classes. The change established a 50 fish per day limit for Class C bait fish, all species combined, with a possession limit of 100 fish. The new proclamation regulates possession of both live and dead baitfish.
TWRA presented three annual statewide divisional awards. Perry Massengill was named Fisheries Technician of the Year and John Hammonds is the Fisheries Biologist of the Year. David Whitehead was named the Wildlife Biologist of the Year while Tony Duncan received the Wildlife Technician of the Year award. Melvin McLerran was named the part-time Boating Officer of the Year and Brad Bagwell was named the Boating Officer of the Year.
In addition, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative "Firebird" awards were presented to Wes Winton, TWRA AEDC/Bark Camp Barrens WMA Manager, and Brittney Viers-Scott, Quail Forever Farm Bill Biologist.
State record hybrid striped bass caught
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reports that Mark McArtor of Camdenton became the most recent record-breaking angler in Missouri when he caught a hybrid striped bass on the Lake of the Ozarks.
The new "alternative method" record hybrid striped bass caught by McArtor weighed 9-pounds, 1-ounce with a length of 27 inches. McArtor caught the fish with a jug line in front of his house on the lake.
McArtor said he was using shad for bait trying to catch blue catfish when he caught the large hybrid striped bass.
MDC staff verified the record-weight fish using a certified scale in Camdenton. This is the 15th state record fish caught this year by an angler.
Missouri state-record fish are recognized in two categories: pole-and-line and alternative methods. Alternative methods include: throwlines, trotlines, limb lines, bank lines, jug lines, spearfishing, snagging, snaring, gigging, grabbing, archery, and atlatl.