LITTLE ROCK — Hunting opportunities on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s newly expanded Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement program will officially begin with white-fronted goose opportunities on Nov. 14-15. Applications for these draw hunt opportunities on private rice fields will be accepted Nov. 5-8.
The WRICE program initially was a conservation program that offered rice producers a financial incentive to leave the waste grain on their fields after their fall harvest instead of tilling it under. Last year, a new twist was added to the program, offering landowners more payments if they would allow public hunting opportunities through a limited draw hunt format on weekends. The results were so encouraging on the 10 fields available last year that the AGFC was able to secure Federal funding to expand the program this year.
“We originally were not sure if there would be any opportunities for specklebelly hunters early in the year, and the late harvest had us really wondering the last few weeks. Fortunately, we now have a few fields that are ready to hunt and many areas of the Delta are already having some birds arrive with the last round of cold fronts that have come in,” Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator, said. “Only a fraction of the fields that are in the program will be available for these first draws because a few farmers still need to harvest crops and finish field preparations, and some areas simply don’t get a lot of early specks, but we’re looking at more than 40 locations available when duck season rolls around for people to apply for a chance to hunt.”
White-fronted goose season was expanded to Oct. 31-Nov. 16, Nov. 21-Dec. 4 and Dec. 6-Jan. 31 this season. To accommodate the longer season, the daily bag limit had to be reduced to 2 white-fronted geese per hunter. Only white-fronted and lesser snow and Ross’s (light) geese will be legal to harvest during the Nov. 14-15 hunts.
Visit www.agfc.com and click the “Buy Licenses/Check Game” tab at the top of the page. The WRICE program applications are listed under “WMA Applications” on the licensing site. Applications for each open weekend of waterfowl season will be accepted during the Thursday-Sunday prior to the date for which you are applying. Successful applicants will be notified the Monday before the weekend for which they drew permits. Check back at www.agfc.com/wrice soon for more information about enrolled fields and draw and hunt dates.