Turkey season may open at the beginning of April, but now is the time to begin your planning for a successful season. One of the best ways to be successful on public land is to apply for one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife management area turkey hunt permits beginning Jan. 15.
Many good public turkey hunting opportunities exist, particularly on the large cooperative WMAs owned by the U.S. Forest Service. However, turkeys and turkey hunters need room to spread out, which can lead to conflicts between hunters on some smaller WMAs. To increase the quality of the hunt on some of the most popular public areas, the AGFC restricts the number of hunters allowed during turkey season through random drawings.
Only permit holders may hunt on the WMA during the permit hunt. However, a permit holder can have a friend alongside them to call for them to help them harvest a bird. Friends and family may camp with permit holders at designated campsites on the WMA.
“Spring is a great time to be out in the woods with family and friends, and we want to help keep that tradition going, even if only one person is hunting,” said Jason Honey, Turkey Program coordinator for the AGFC.
Applications are taken electronically through www.agfc.com, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, and winning applicants will be notified via email.
Applications require a $5 nonrefundable processing fee, but winning applicants are not required to pay any additional fees other than the purchase of their hunting license.
“The new system was put in place last year, and really streamlined the application and draw process,” said Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC. “Each year, many permits were left unclaimed because people applied who did not go through with purchasing the permit. With the up-front fee, only people who are serious about claiming and using a permit are likely to apply.”
Carner says the new system saw a decrease in the number of applicants to the AGFC’s permit draws for all species which was expected, but harvest numbers and participation in the hunts remained high.
“We received some reports from our staff of noticeable increases in participation for some hunts,” Carner said. “And with the streamlining of the process, unclaimed permits were minimal when it came time to sell them, which resulted in much less confusion.”