Like many southern states, Arkansas has a broad variety of hunting habitats, game animals and birds. From the rocky hills and valleys of north Arkansas to the swamps and flooded rice fields of the 54,000 square mile state, Arkansas is a hunter’s paradise.
Arkansas’s state motto is “Regnat Populus”, which is Latin for “the people rule”, but for a large number of the state’s residents, the abundant game means “hunting” is king for them.
Arkansas Public Land Hunting
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers some of the best public hunting opportunities around through more than 100 wildlife management areas covering thousands of acres in almost every area of the state. Each WMA is considered a separate zone with regard to wildlife regulations and it’s important to make sure you know the rules and regulations of each area.
Hunting in Arkansas mostly centers around the Fall and early winter. That’s when it is deer season in Arkansas.There are generous and special seasons for bow, muzzleloader and modern gun hunters. For bird and waterfowl enthusiasts, Arkansas offers world-class duck, dove, crow and turkey hunting. Duck hunting in the Arkansas Delta has put the state’s waterfowl on the map, where they have laid claim to the home of the World Championship Duck calling contest for decades.
Small game like rabbit, squirrel, and quail are also available and there is even hunting on a limited basis for alligator, black bear, elk, hog and other wildlife. One thing that is unique to the Natural State is that it is the only state that grants both alligator and elk hunting licenses.
Some of the more popular areas include the Piney Creeks WMA, which covers 176,000 acres, the 6,000 acre Beaver Lake WMA, the 42,000 acre Dardanelle WMA, the 120,000 acre Mount Magazine WMA and the 14,000 acre Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA. There are also two huge National Forests which offer limited hunting, the 1.2 million acre Ozark National Forest and the 1.8 million acre Ouachita National Forest. Each area of the National Forests has separate regulations and seasons.
Many of the top hunting areas in the state are under lease, or belong to private landowners. The state has many exceptional guides, lodges and hunting services that can help hunters make the most of their time in the woods, especially for deer, duck and bear.
Arkansas Big Game Hunting
Arkansas sells about 300,000 to 350,000 hunting licenses every year and the most popular type of hunting is deer hunting. Hunters under 16 years of age do not have to purchase a license, so reasonable estimates would say that there could be a half million or more hunters in the woods on opening day of deer season.
Safety concerns are paramount with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission so wearing of hunter orange has been mandated and hunters are urged to use a full body safety harness when hunting from a tree stand.
As with many other states, hunters need to be aware that they are required to tag a deer as soon as they kill it and then call in and check it in with the state. This helps the AGFC gather important data and help manage the state’s large deer population, which is believed to be near a million deer. Because of that, the state has a very liberal bag limit, usually six per hunter. More than 200,000 deer are usually checked in every year.
Bear and elk seasons are much shorter than the deer seasons and are more closely regulated. The black bear population in Arkansas is strong and around 400 – 450 bears are harvested each season.
Arkansas Waterfowl Hunting
Whether you hunt public or private, flooded woods or rice fields, Arkansas is a must-hunt location for waterfowls. One of the most famous waterfowl areas in the nation is Stuttgart, located on the Mississippi Flyway. The flooded rice fields and timber bring millions of birds through the area. Besides duck hunting, the annual Wings Over the Prairie Festival and the World Championship Duck Calling Contest also bring thousands to this small town in southeast Arkansas.
The famous Claypool Reservoir is most talked about duck areas in the world. The private hunting mecca is located in the northeast part of the state.
Popular public duck hunting areas include Bayo Meto WMA, which is located near Stuttgart, and the White River and Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuges. The Bayou deView WMA offers 4,500 acres of hunting and even though you may not be able to hunt famous private spots like Claypools or Chicago Hole, this refuge is in the same general area. The Black River WMA and Bois D’Arc WMAs are also popular northeast Arkansas spots.
Many thousands of acres are available for lease, hunting clubs abound and public areas also provide great hunting, either on your own or with a guide. Either way, hunters have plenty of choices.