"And a little child shall lead them."
The December Arkansas elk hunt followed this biblical passage, except it was plural -- children instead of child. Youth hunters set the pace in the five-day hunt on both public and private land in the Buffalo River country.
Jackson Clark, who turned 10 years old just a few months ago, scored with a 7X7 bull that may rank as the third largest in antlers of any elk taken in Arkansas, since hunting began in 1998. He used a .30-06 rifle. Clark lives in western Newton County and is a fifth grader in Jasper.
Kaelyn Mills, 12, became the youngest female to get an elk in Arkansas' 14 years of elk hunting with her impressive 6X6 bull. She used a 7mm-08 rifle. She is a sixth grader in Sheridan, and was one of 24 hunters with public land permits for the December event.
Buck Horton of Whitehall took a 6X6 bull. He is 12 and in the sixth grade. He, like Kaelyn, was hunting in the Richland Creek valley, a part of the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area. He used a .270 rifle.
Jared Yager of Russellville was successful with a 6X7 bull, which came from Gene Rush WMA. Jared is 15 and a student at Subiaco Academy.
The hunt was a difficult one. The permit holders had to contend with snow, streams swollen with rain runoff, nearly impassable back roads and cold temperatures. Elk tended to hunker down in sheltered areas and, with plentiful acorns in the woods, they didn't graze on grass in fields as much as usual.
Of the scheduled 24 permits for public land hunting, three persons did not participate. Nine elk were taken, but one was illegal -- an antlerless permit holder shot a 2X1 young bull elk.
The other successful public land hunters were:
Dean McWilliams of Desha (Independence County), cow elk.
Roy Branscum of Cord (Independence County), cow elk.
Bobby Brandenburg of Fort Smith, cow elk.
Alvin Brown of St. Joe, 6X6 bull elk.
Mike Mosely of Little Rock, 6X6 bull elk.
A separate but simultaneous hunt took place on private lands in five counties near the Buffalo River -- Carroll, Boone, Newton, Madison and Searcy.
Twelve hunters took elk on the private lands. They were:
Courtney Lacey, cow elk, Searcy County.
Kirk Jackson, cow elk, Searcy County.
Nathan Davidson, 6X6 bull, Newton County.
Bobby Sims, 1X5 bull, Newton County.
Shane Kelley, 5X6 bull, Searcy County.
Jackson Clark, 7X7 bull, Newton County.
Nathan Ogden, 6X6 bull, Madison County.
Kevin Elliot, 5X5 bull, Searcy County.
Lyndon Hendrix, 3X4 bull, Searcy County.
Stan Dixon, spike bull, Carroll County.
Ronald Graves, 6X7 bull, Searcy County.
Melvin Graves, 6X6 bull, Searcy County.
Arkansas residents may apply for 2012 elk hunting permits during the month of May.
A public drawing is held in late June during the Buffalo River Elk Festival at Jasper.
Both the applications and the permits are free for public land hunters. Some hunters send donations to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Elk Program, but contributions are not required, and they don't improve chances of being drawn for a permit.