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Arkansas Outdoors

Arkansas Outdoors Weekly Newsletter

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Keith Stephens 501-223-6342, e-mail: kastephens@agfc.state.ar.us

June 25, 2014 Edition

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Today's Topics

Proposed early migratory bird seasons discussed
TEXARKANA – Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission last week discussed this year’s dove season, the unofficial opening of Arkansas’s fall hunting season, at its monthly meeting in Texarkana.
Early-season migratory game-bird season selections must be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Aug. 1. Approval for the early seasons will take place during the Commission’s July meeting. Proposed changes from last season are minor.
Mourning Dove and Eurasian Collared Dove
Sept. 6-Oct. 25 and Dec. 20-Jan. 8
Teal Season                  
Sept. 13-28
Rail Season                  
Sept. 6-Nov. 14
Woodcock Season                  
Nov. 8-Dec. 22
Snipe Season                  
Nov. 1-Feb. 15
Purple Gallinule and Common Moorhen Season                  
Sept. 1-Nov. 9
Early Canada Goose Season                  
Sept. 1-15
Northwest Canada Goose Zone Season                  
Sept. 20-29
In other business, the Commission:
*Approved the AGFC budget for fiscal year 2014-15, totaling $88,123,246.
*Approved a budget increase of $200,000 to aid in the completion of the Lower Cache River Restoration Project.
*Turned down a 23-acre land donation offer after AGFC personnel determined that the property was not suitable for a wildlife or nature preserve. The property is located on Highway 270 in Hot Spring County in a residential and agricultural area.
*Approved a budget increase of $540,987 to be used for State Wildlife Grant projects.
*Elected Ron Duncan of Springdale chairman of the Commission. Emon Mahony of El Dorado was elected vice chairman. The meeting was the last for out-going vice chairman Ty Patterson of Texarkana whose term expires this month.

Ty Patterson ends term as a Game and Fish commissioner
TEXARKANA –Ty Patterson needed just three words to sum up his abbreviated term as an Arkansas Game and Fish commissioner: “Short and sweet.”
Patterson, of Texarkana, served the final two years of an unexpired term on the commission with June 30 his final day. He was vice chairman of the agency and presided over the May and June meetings of the commission at the request of Chairman Ron Duncan.
Reflecting on his term, Patterson said the scope and complexity of the Game and Fish Commission were astounding to him after his appointment by Gov. Mike Beebe.
“I had no idea how big the commission was and how many things it was involved in,” he said. “Something that helped me a lot was the other commissioners. We bonded. They are all different people, but the way they come together is impressive. This is something I will always cherish – the closeness and the relationships with the other commissioners.”
Patterson touched on a uniqueness of the commission. Seven appointed members from all parts of Arkansas, plus a non-voting eighth one, the scientific member from the University of Arkansas, come together, agree and sometimes disagree then set the policies to steer the conservation agency that will celebrate its centennial next year.
“Game and Fish is a $90 million a year operation. It covers so many different fields,” he said. In Patterson’s tenure as a commissioner, he worked with his fellow commissioners on several major personnel issues, including a change in directors. The ending of a long landmark suit against the federal government resulted in a victory for the Game and Fish Commission. This was the destruction of timber by prolonged flooding on the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area in northeast Arkansas.
Also in Patterson’s term, deer hunting successes reached a record high in 2012 and almost matched it in 2013. The multi-year slump in turkeys checked by hunters turned around in the spring 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Patterson has interests in several automobile dealerships and especially enjoys duck hunting, turkey hunting and bass fishing on both lakes and rivers. He said, “I’m from southwest Arkansas, and Ron Duncan introduced me to fishing for smallmouth bass on the streams in the mountain areas. This has been special to me.”
Patterson has three children – Evelyn, 11, Jackson, 10, and Martha, 6. “The girls are more into fishing than hunting, but Jackson really likes hunting,” he said.
He added, “I want to thank the other commissioners for working with me, and I certainly thank Governor Beebe for appointing me to the Game and Fish Commission.”
AGFC wildlife officers gear up for Operation Dry Water
LITTLE ROCK – Wildlife officers across Arkansas and the U.S. are gearing up for Operation Dry Water – the nation’s boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. The nationwide event will take place June 27-29. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths in the United States.
During the three-day Operation Dry Water weekend, law enforcement officers at local, state and federal levels will be on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws. In 2013, officers contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BUI arrests during the three-day weekend. Thousands of law enforcement officers, along with their boating safety partners, will be on the water during Operation Dry Water educating boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as removing from the water those who choose to boat impaired.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Law Administrator Stephanie Weatherington says that BUI is a big concern for Arkansas wildlife officers. “It’s no different than driving a car under the influence. When you’re driving a boat you’re putting both yourself and others in danger,” she said. “So far this year we’ve already had 26 reported boating accidents around the state with eight fatalities. Statistics show that the Fourth of July holiday weekend is the most dangerous weekend during the boating season,” she added.
Last year AGFC wildlife officers made 60 BUI arrests. So far this year, there have been eight BUI arrests. During last year’s Operation Dry Water, 82 officers worked over 1,500 hours over the three-day weekend making contact with hundreds of vessels and boaters, Weatherington said. “They made 11 BUI arrests with the highest BAC level of .20 which is more than double the legal limit,” she added. Since 2008, officers have made 449 BUI arrests.
Wildlife officers with the AGFC will be participating in Operation Dry Water 2014 again this year. The enforcement operation will be held June 27-29, just prior to the Fourth of July. Those caught operating a vessel under the influence will find their voyage terminated and their vessel possibly impounded. Penalties may also include arrest, fines and loss of boating privileges. Officers also will be passing out citations to kids for good behavior on the state’s waterways. The citations are good for a free ice cream cone at Sonic.
"The mission of Operation Dry Water and the law enforcement officers who participate is to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related deaths on the water,” says John Fetterman, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Deputy Executive Director. “Boating should be a fun and enjoyable time spent with friends and family; we are asking that boaters make sure their voyage remains enjoyable by boating sober. Too many accidents and deaths are caused by those who choose to boat under the influence.”
In 2009, NASBLA, in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, launched Operation Dry Water to help draw public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. According to the 2013 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, from 2009 to 2013 there has been a 37 percent decrease in the number of recreational boater deaths where alcohol use was listed as the known primary contributing factor. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 31 percent decrease in the number of alcohol-related recreational boater deaths – the most significant decrease in the past five years.
For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit www.operationdrywater.org.
Lake Columbia back in action and fishing is going strong
MAGNOLIA–The extensive drawdown was scheduled for Lake Columbia just outside Magnolia. The two years of drought that followed were not in the plan.
Fisheries biologists of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission routinely use drawdowns as management tools. Among other results, drawdowns allow natural vegetation to sprout around the edges, and this has been a positive for Columbia, said Jason Olive, district fisheries supervisor for the AGFC.
The drawdown was in 2010. The droughts followed in 2011 and 2012. Fishing in general suffered although it did not entirely disappear. Some anglers grumbled, and Columbia is managed as a trophy largemouth bass lake.
“Columbia is a shallow lake,” Olive said. “Our drawdown dropped the water level five feet then the two years of drought dropped it more, about eight feet. The fish were crowded into little space, and the crappie were especially hit hard.”
The water level came back up in 2013, fresh stockings of fish were made, and here in 2014 the catches are encouraging for bass, bream and catfish. Crappie? Not yet, Olive said. But these are coming along.
“The lake manager told us about a 12-pound bass brought in just a few days ago,” Olive said.
There is a special regulation for largemouth bass fishing on the lake. Ten bass a day may be kept, but only one can be more than 20 inches long. Also, common carp cannot be used as bait for any type of fishing.
Columbia is a water supply for Magnolia and other communities. It is an impoundment of Beech Creek and covers 2,950 acres with management of the fish in charge of the AGFC. There are several boat launching facilities on the lake, and bait, tackle and other supplies are available in nearby Magnolia. It is reached by Arkansas Highway 344 northwest of Magnolia.
Unattended fawns may not be abandoned
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission continues to get calls about people in Arkansas are finding newborn wildlife. The state is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and their offspring.
Throughout the spring and summer, it is not uncommon to come across unattended baby wild animals. Many people discover what they feel to be lost or abandoned wildlife young and take them in, thinking they are doing the right thing.
This always does more harm than good, said AGFC deer biologist Ralph Meeker. “We get quite a few calls about people thinking fawns have been abandoned by their mothers. Early in life, fawns lay very still so as not to attract predators (like well-intentioned humans), and are frequently mistaken for being in distress or abandoned,” Meeker explained.
“More often than not, their mothers are usually within hearing or visual range,” he added. In addition to being removed from their mother's care, many people try to care for these fawns, which is illegal under the Arkansas Game and Fish Code of Regulations as of July 1, 2012.
Wildlife are just that, wild. If you feel that a fawn is in immediate danger by laying in or very near a road or in the path of haying equipment, pick it up and move it over a few feet. However, you should never remove it from the immediate area. The mother will periodically check on her young. Meeker says most wild animals don't spend very much time at their young's side in order to not attract predators to the area. “Bottom line; just leave them alone," he said. “Allow them to be wildlife. If you remove them from the wild they cease to be just that.”
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
2 Natural Resources Drive | Little Rock, AR 72205 | (800) 364-4263 - (501) 223-6300 | www.agfc.com
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