When the fall air is so cold and crisp its like biting into a tart apple; when the soft wet snow turns the fallen leaves on the forest floor to a damp earthy smelling carpet; when the first faint flush of green softens the barrenness of the trees, picture yourself outdoors in Arkansas. Picture yourself stalking the wily turkey, the fleet whitetail deer, or the shy black bear. As long as you're dreaming, picture yourself as the holder of one of the treasured few permits for an Arkansas elk hunt.
With more than 390 species of game and non-game wildlife, the Ozarks offers the outdoorsman who loves to hunt a lot of opportunities. There's a season open for something most of the year and the hunting is excellent and fun! Not quite so rugged as the younger mountains to the west, the Ozarks yet provide a challenging terrain and a diversity of experiences.
The primary game species are white-tailed deer, black bear, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbit and waterfowl. Add to that seasons for crow, coyote, and raccoon and trapping seasons for furbearers, and, of course, the special elk season in September and December.
There's something about these ancient hills, something about the skills required to hunt them, that may make a hunter want to emulate earlier settlers and Native Americans and increase his hunting repertoire to include crossbow, long bow and muzzleloader and all those weapons hold their niche in modern Arkansas hunts. Hunters who combine one or more of these weapons with modern gun hunting get the benefit of extended special seasons.
Deer seasons can make ghost towns in these Arkansas hills as everyone pulls out for deer camp. First day of deer season has even traditionally been a school holiday for some area districts. The whitetail population is near carrying capacity presently with a slightly high population of does. Bag limits are usually two per season. Turkey numbers are also very good, a tribute perhaps to the dedicated volunteers who have raised money for habitat improvement. Contributions by groups like National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have helped increase turkey, deer and elk herds by improving the cover, food supplies and water resources they need to thrive.
Hunting is allowed on public lands, both the National Forest and the National River, and on the Wildlife Management Areas, although special rules apply to those. Resident licenses range from $10.50 to $35.50 and non-resident licenses from $100 for a three-day trip license to $225 for an annual all game license. Waterfowl stamps and Harvest Information Program registration are required. Complete license information can be obtained from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or from locations around the state where they are sold. Any hunter born after 1968 must carry a hunter safety course certificate.
Seasons are set annually by the Commission but generally include an October-November archery and muzzleloader season for black bear and a modern gun hunt in November; a fall and winter deer hunt, with archery season starting early October and modern gun season beginning in November; squirrel season from September to February; coyote from September to March, crow from September to March, quail from November to February, rabbit from September through February, turkey in both fall and spring, trapping from November through March; and spring waterfowl seasons. Complete regulations are available from dealers and the Commission.
For Arkansans and for the visitors who join us, hunting is another of the many ways to enjoy the outdoors, the beauty, the diversity, the challenges, and the peace.