Friday, October 12, 2018

Becoming an Outdoor Woman

FERNDALE - More than 130 women took up the torch of carrying on our outdoors passions to the next generation at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop, held at the C.A. Vines 4-H Center west of Little Rock during the last weekend in September.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is a special workshop held each year to introduce many different aspects of the outdoors specifically to women. Lea Gray, coordinator of the event and the AGFC’s new Hunt Natural program, says offering the program enables women to build confidence in these activities that have been dominated by men for generations.

“Many women who hunt and fish were introduced by a father or a husband who pursued the outdoors,” Lea said. “We try to get as many female instructors as possible to help women who may not have those influences gain the confidence and knowledge they need to get out there on their own and learn how much is available for them outdoors.”

Eighty-five of the women participating in the event were first-time attendees. Women from all walks of life and ages were represented as well.

“We had one woman who had six children and was excited just to have a little time to learn something for herself, and we had others who were students at [University of Arkansas at Little Rock],” Gray said. “Ages ranged from 23 all the way into their 80s.”

Boo on the Bayou

PINE BLUFF – For the 16th consecutive year, the Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center will host “Boo on the Bayou” in celebration of the fall holiday season. The popular program will be held Oct. 26-27 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Jason Hooks, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission nature center, says the event is always popular, with roughly 5,000 people attending each year.

“Boo on the Bayou and Spring Break week are the two biggest draws we have during the year outside of our regular programming,” Hooks said. “They’re great ways to get people to the center to learn more about the outdoors and enjoy some quality time with friends and family.”

The interior of the center recently reopened after a month of maintenance, and school groups already are coming in to learn about nature and the outdoors.

“The annual fall event will help greet people back to the center,” said Lori Monday, education specialist for the AGFC. “We’ll have exhibit tables with animal skulls and furs, some live animals and fun games for everyone to enjoy. We also plan to have an inflatable bounce house, archery and BB gun shooting and face-painting for attendees.”

Monday says a Jack-o-lantern contest, sponsored by the Kiwanis club, will be held and all entries will be on display on the trail leading to the archery and BB gun booths.

“We’ll also have a DJ for music and food trucks available at the event,” Monday said. “And admission is free, like always.”

Parking is available across from the softball fields, with a bus providing transportation to the front gate. The public is encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes.

Monday says the event’s success really relies on the many volunteers needed to operate the booths, activities and exhibits.

“The community has really helped us in the past, and we really appreciate everyone pitching in to make it such a fun event,” Monday said. “We’re always looking for more volunteers to make it even better. Local businesses or organizations can even volunteer to increase their exposure to the community while they have fun.”

Interested people and businesses can call the nature center at 870-534-0011 to learn more about volunteering or partnering with the center. 

Take Two...

LITTLE ROCK - Sitting in a deer stand or chasing a wise old gobbler may be comfortable as a solo endeavor, and when silence is the name of the game, many hunters prefer to go it alone. On the other end of the spectrum are dove and duck hunts, where groups of up to 10 hunters in a single set are not uncommon. Somewhere in between, you’ll find folks who favor some quiet conversation in the squirrel woods.

“Squirrels are much more forgiving than deer or turkey, and there are lots of them to give you plenty of opportunities,” said Clifton Jackson, small game program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “It’s a great way to bond with kids or enjoy a good time with friends and family, but you still can’t be out there hooting and hollering and expect to get too many shots.”

You’ll find Jackson in the woods with a larger gun during deer season, but his true passion lies in holding a .22 rimfire rifle in pursuit of gray squirrels and fox squirrels during fall.

“There’s just no sport as mentally stimulating to me as squirrel hunting,” Jackson said. “I’ve hunted with the same group of squirrel aficionados for decades and it never gets old or less challenging.”

The lessons learned during a squirrel hunt make it an ideal way to introduce anyone to the sport of hunting. Newcomers can quickly learn from seasoned hunters how to identify many species of food-producing trees, including hickories, maples, beech trees and oaks. This translates into excellent woodsmanship when looking for deer-hunting areas in the future.

“I’ve watched my son mature in the squirrel woods from ‘lucky to get one’ to joining our group’s harvest expectations,” Jackson said with a note of pride. “Even now, we all hunt with rifles and within hearing distance of each other, so we can sort of gauge squirrel density and activity by the report of the various rifles.

“Sometimes, I hear shots seemingly all around me while I may not even see any semblance of a squirrel, but that bolsters my expectations. We usually get to the truck and provide each other an in-depth review of the morning hunt as we unload our game vests.  Seasoned and competent hunters like myself still struggle some days, just as novice hunters take their next step to being an accomplished squirrel hunter.”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Cutthroat catch breaks 32-year state record

MOUNTAIN HOME – An Arkansas fishing mark that had held for nearly 33 years finally fell last weekend when a Kansas angler making an annual trek with friends to the White River pulled in a cutthroat trout weighing 10 pounds, 2 ounces. The catch was certified by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s chief of fisheries today.

Mike Bowers of Abilene, Kansas, who said he has fished these waters for longer than the record had held and who makes two or three trips to Arkansas’s northern trout streams each year, caught the 26-inch-long trout on a No. 15 baitholder hook with salmon eggs in the Norfork Tailwater (North Fork of the White River). He landed it in front of Gene’s Trout Fishing Resort. At first, he and his fishing partner, Jack Wickersham, thought Bowers had a brown trout on the line before pulling it in and noting the distinctive cutthroat marks. Onlookers at Gene’s sensed it was something special, and the scale on the dock indicated as much.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Field tour promotes quail conservation on farms, ranches and timberland

PERRYVILLE - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will host a special in-the-field workshop to teach interested landowners how to balance Northern bobwhite habitat with agriculture, livestock and timber production from 4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 9 at Diamond Trail Riding Stables in Perryville. 

Clint Johnson, private lands biologist for the AGFC, has been overwhelmed with the positive response from Arkansas landowners in helping bring back bobwhite habitat to Arkansas’s landscape.

“Really the only reservations people who contact us have are costs associated with establishing habitat and whether quail conservation will conflict with their current goals for land use,” Johnson said. “But there are ways to offset those costs and promote sustainable quail habitat alongside many other land use practices.”

Johnson hopes the field tour will help people visualize exactly what good quail habitat looks like and how it can coexist with agriculture.

“We’ll tour a working farm and cover some of the innovative ways the landowner was able to increase the wildlife habitat for quail and many other species on his property,” Johnson said. “We’ll even go into some of the benefits to water quality seen from this work as well as the variety of habitat types available with quail restoration.”

The tour is free, but registration is required. Visit https://quailfieldtour.eventbrite.com to register. For more information, contact Johnson at 877-470-3650.

Arkansas Wildlife TV Returns for Fall 2018 Season

LITTLE ROCK – You can go on an outdoor adventure in The Natural State without leaving home when the new season of “Arkansas Wildlife” debuts this weekend.

The fifth season of the popular Arkansas Game and Fish Commission television show kicks off Saturday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 7 on stations in central and northwestern Arkansas television markets. “Arkansas Wildlife” airs at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on KFTA Channel 24 in northwestern Arkansas, 9 a.m. Sunday on KARZ Channel 42 in central Arkansas and 11 p.m. Sunday on KARK Channel 4 in central Arkansas. Each episode also will be posted to the show’s YouTube channel the Monday after it airs on television. 

“The show will continue to offer viewers insights about our state’s abundant outdoor opportunities, as well as the important conservation work being done by the Game and Fish Commission,” said Trey Reid, the show’s host and producer. “Because fall means hunting seasons in Arkansas, you’ll see a little more hunting this season than you do in the spring, but we’ll still hit some good fishing holes, too. And of course, we’ll keep you informed about the Game and Fish Commission’s work to conserve healthy fish and wildlife habitats for our native species to use and for the public to enjoy.”

The Fall 2018 schedule includes segments on deer, elk, squirrel, rabbit and waterfowl hunting, as well as fishing segments about crappie, bass and trout. Viewers can also go behind the scenes with AGFC wildlife officers and biologists and learn about their work to pass along Arkansas’s legacy of conservation to future generations.

“No matter the subject matter, it all boils down to telling stories,” Reid said, “and we strive to tell compelling stories about our state’s fish and wildlife, the people at Game and Fish who work tirelessly to protect these resources, and the citizens who enjoy them.

“We’ll also take some wild game into the kitchen and share some of our favorite recipes with viewers,” Reid said.

The fall season features 13 unique episodes that will air through the end of 2018 before re-airing during the first three months of 2019.

Arkansas hunters tag 81 alligators

LITTLE ROCK - With 81 filled tags, Arkansas’s 2018 alligator hunting season ended just shy of the record harvest set last year.

Mark Barbee, AGFC biologist at the Monticello Regional Office who coordinates the hunt, says this year’s hunting conditions were not as favorable as last year, when hunters took 98 alligators during the season.

“We had some rainy conditions and colder nights this year, but the hunt was still excellent,” Barbee said. “I didn’t talk to any of our hunters that didn’t at least have an opportunity to get a gator.”

The success rate on Arkansas alligator hunts remains extremely high, with only 108 hunting tags available. This year saw the addition of five tags in Alligator Zone 2, the south-central portion of the state, which had never been open to hunting before. However, no alligators were checked from this zone during the hunt.

The southeast zone was responsible for 39 alligators harvested, while the southwest zone had 42 harvested animals. The harvest is typically fairly consistent, with zones trading places in total number of gators checked, depending on the weather and flooding.

Barbee says the only reason for unfilled tags came down to personal preferences of hunters pursuing trophy-size animals.

“It’s pretty much the same story you hear every year that a person has scouted out a particular gator and holds out for that big one instead of just taking one that’s legal,” Barbee said.

One of those holdouts paid off, with a 13-foot, 6-inch monster taken from a private land at-large tag holder in Arkansas County.

“The record still stands at 13-feet, 10-inches, but this one got close,” Barbee said.