ARKANSAS, USA — Turkey hunting was a challenge in The Natural State this spring, as there were only 7,000 wild turkeys checked in.
As a result, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) officers issued citations for 152 major wildlife violations during this year’s 21-day hunting season.
The AGFC said, "Some couldn’t play by the rules, resulting in an alarming trend noticed by wildlife officers whose business is catching those who cut corners and prevent honest hunters from seeing increased turkey harvest numbers."
Col. Brad Young, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Enforcement Division said, most wildlife officers take particular pride in catching turkey poachers, as the species is seeing a decline in many states across the Southeast.
“I’m proud of our officers for catching so many people breaking the law, but I’m concerned that they found so many major violations in the turkey woods this year,” said Young.
Hunting turkeys over bait was the top violation officers found this year, with an alarming 72 cases being made in three weeks.
“We had some regions where we found more baited sites than we had officers to sit on and catch the poacher in the act on opening morning,” said Young, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Enforcement Division. “We might not have caught all of the ones we found, but we will.”
Hunting in a closed season was the second most frequent violation AGFC wildlife officers found with 19 cases being made.
“Catching someone hunting outside the season is another one of those violations that require a lot of boots-on-the-ground work and dedication on the part of the officer,” Young said. “In most cases, a call from a concerned hunter or landowner sparks an investigation, but by the time we are able to respond, the poacher may be long gone.”
Young said changes to the Arkansas turkey season structure this year may have contributed to the increase in poaching, but those changes were made to try and help the state’s turkey population, and violating them is only hindering the future of the sport.
“I’m an avid turkey hunter myself,” Young said. “It’s not supposed to be easy; you know that going into the hunt. But not following the regulations isn’t just shooting yourself in the foot for next year, it’s taking opportunities from others to enjoy this sport. That’s why we work so hard to keep hunters honest and catch those who won’t play by the rules.”