As the modern gun deer season winds down, sportsmen may want to consider taking advantage of increased opportunities available for coyote hunting on Wildlife Management Areas owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
This year, the coyote hunting season has been expanded on most Commission-owned WMAs and is open during daylight hours from July 1 through Feb. 28, and reopening the first day of spring turkey season and running through June 14 with no bag limit.
Firearms restrictions on these areas have been relaxed and hunters can now use rifles up to .30-caliber to take coyotes during the entire season.
While the extended coyote season applies to all WMAs, hunters on areas managed cooperatively with other agencies are still restricted to the use of either a .22-caliber rifle or whatever equipment is legal for other open seasons.
Regulations approved this summer also make it legal for feral hogs to be taken during any open daytime hunting season on WMAs using the weapons legal for that hunt, including the large caliber firearms approved for use in the coyote season on Commission-owned areas.
Feral hogs, which are not native to the state, have become an increasing problem in Arkansas since they compete for food with game species, damage fields, levees, crops and timber, and can also carry diseases that can result in significant negative economic impacts on domestic livestock.
Because of the damage they cause, the Commission would like to totally eradicate them from all of its WMAs and would encourage private landowners not to tolerate free-ranging feral hogs on their property either.
Blake Sasse, the Commission biologist leading feral hog control efforts, said, "We're not interested in managing them for sustainable populations like we do for other wildlife species. We do not consider the existence of feral hogs on Commission property compatible with our mission to wisely manage our native wildlife species and their habitat. Commission personnel will be gearing-up with new equipment and using a wide variety of trapping and shooting methods to remove feral hogs from all Commission-owned WMAs. We see the efforts of hunters as another key component contributing to the success of our eradication efforts."
The Commission would especially like to encourage people to shoot feral hogs on these areas with very high hog populations: Cut Off Creek WMA (Drew County), Gulf Mountain WMA (Van Buren County), Petit Jean WMA (Yell County), Dr. Lester Sitzes Bois d' Arc WMA (Hempstead County).
Though hog populations are not as high on the following WMAs, the Commission would also urge more feral hogs to be shot on Gene Rush WMA (Newton and Searcy County), Harold E. Alexander WMA (Sharp County) and Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA (Lawrence County).
If you visit a WMA just to shoot feral hogs, you can do so as long as you posses a hunting license, except during special permit hunts when only permit holders may take them.
Feral hogs which have been killed by a hunter can be taken from the area or left where they were shot.
Hogs may not be taken with the use of dogs or bait, and cannot be trapped or removed alive from the area.
Taking a hog won't be easy, even on these problem areas since they move around a lot and are usually only active during the day around dawn and dusk.
When scouting for feral hogs concentrate on low, wet areas where they may have a wallow and also search for areas of thick brush where they may be sleeping during the day.
Hog signs, such as tree trunks with mud rubbed on them or large areas of ground they have rooted up in search of food, is usually easy to find in an area they are using frequently.
In order to take as many as possible, consider using a multi-shot, high-powered rifle, though they can also be brought down with more primitive weapons.
Make sure feral hogs are dead before approaching them as their tusks can cause serious injury.
Smaller-sized hogs can be good eating, but you should wear plastic or rubber gloves while dressing the carcass and cook the meat thoroughly.