It is very unfortunate that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has closed the 2009 fall turkey season.
We can understand that this may be necessary for the turkey population in Arkansas, however, in our view the decision-making process was flawed. The AGFC data shows that the number of turkeys taken by hunters in the fall hunt is less than 5 percent of the total number of birds taken by hunters. We also understand that the National Wild Turkey Federation data says the same thing. Hunters are not the problem and the AGFC should not bite the hand that feeds them.
Is it politics? Maybe it is, because they now have enough votes to flex their muscles.
So why did they change the season after the new hunting regulations and the new hunting licenses were issued?
We don't agree with the overall decision and they should have had sufficient information last March or April to make this decision, prior to the 2009-10 book and license being issued.
We have had several people contact the Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF) and express mixed feelings about their decision to cut out this years' fall turkey hunting. We feel that the commissioners are not listening to their own biologist that works for the Game and Fish Commission. What about the public opinion?
I know from AGFC public comment meetings I have attended, the public has asked for a shorter season in the spring and gobblers-only in the fall turkey hunt, until the population has increased to the numbers that AGFC biologists feel can be supported by the areas habitat.
We agree the turkey population in Arkansas is down and we would like to see some of the same numbers for turkey that we see in Missouri and other southern states.
I live in Yell County with chickens and turkeys that run free on my small farm.
Since April of this year, I have lost 26 chickens and nine turkeys to the coyotes on my property.
I hear the coyotes most nights in large numbers. I am also aware that currently there is a large population of feral hogs and feral dogs that roam hunting areas in Arkansas. Wild hogs not only eat and destroy the nesting hens and their eggs, they also destroy the land they inhabit, and carry several forms of disease that infect wildlife and humans.
Maybe we should focus on this problem instead of removing the turkey season.
For example, larger fines for those that let hogs and dogs loose in the woods and maybe a bounty for the removal of wild hogs as well as coyotes in areas that are identified as having an over-population would be a start to help the problem. AWF believes Arkansas hunters are strong conservationists and are committed to protecting and improving our wildlife habitats.
Hopefully the AGFC members will listen to their own biologists and respect the input and interest of Arkansas hunters to correct this problem.
Let's work together in the effort to increase the turkey population.
Don't blame it on the hunter.