The bear hunt for southern Arkansas will be in small-sized stages | Outside

Arkansas will celebrate its 42nd straight year of modern bear hunting this fall. For the first time since the black bear was restored to the wild, hunters from the Gulf Coastal Plain may be allowed to participate.

According to Myron Means, AGFC Large Carnivore Program Coordinator, staff will be offering limited black bear hunting in this year’s regulations for fall 2022.

“The proposed season structure has yet to be established as we still have reports to receive from the University of Arkansas at Monticello before finalizing season dates and quotas,” Means told commissioners. of Arkansas Game and Fishing at last week’s regular meeting. “More than likely, the frame will be very limited as we start the season in this part of the state.”

Means says the bears breed much more slowly than other big game animals in the state, and their overall population is naturally smaller than that of animals such as deer and turkeys. maintain the population at a healthy level.

“We are likely to see a later opening day than bear zones 1 and 2, which will hopefully allow more sows to feed and start farrowing before the season starts in the zone. 3, much like we already see in bear areas 5 and 5A. .”

Means says that even with these precautions in place, there is still an issue of overharvesting that will need to be watched carefully.

“Most of Zones 3 and 4 are private land, and hunters will have deer feeders that will attract bears, making them more accessible to hunters than bears in Zone 2, where large blocks of public land dominate the landscape,” means says. “I anticipate that the quota will be reached in this area very quickly, and this quota may even be exceeded on opening day, so we will develop the framework to start these new areas in small steps to reduce the risk of overexploitation. “

Most of southern Arkansas, including Columbia County, is in Zone 4.

Means also highlighted the statewide 2021 bear harvest during his report, saying 493 bears were captured by hunters last fall. While that may seem like a steep drop from the previous year’s record of 665 bears harvested, it’s still in line with the steady harvest numbers seen since 2001.

“That’s the year we started allowing bear baiting on private property in Arkansas,” Means said. “This has greatly stabilized the harvest near the established quota in Zone 1, where a lot of private land allows hunters to take advantage of bait to harvest a bear.”

Bear Zone 1 in the northern and northwestern portion of Arkansas led the state, as it has since the establishment of modern bear hunting, with 333 bears captured in 2021. Hunters from Bear Zone 2, which is made up of west-central Arkansas in the Ouachita Mountains, harvested 144 bears. Hunters in Areas 5 and 5A along the White River Corridor in southeast Arkansas captured 12 and 4 bears, respectively.

Bear Zone 2, which is the only zone with no harvest quota, has significantly more public land where baiting cannot be used, according to Means.

“It’s much more of a self-regulating harvest in this area,” Means said. “We’ve had quota there in the past, but the harvest hasn’t warranted a quota there since 2015.”

Seventy-one percent of bears harvested in Arkansas were taken with archery gear, which is typical for bear hunting in The Natural State.

“Before we started separating quotas by method, we saw some years where the bear quota was filled in certain areas before the muzzleloading or modern weapons seasons even started,” Means said. “Now we have quotas set by method to allow people using muzzle-loading rifles or modern weapons to harvest a bear, but the overwhelming majority of harvesting still takes place during the first three or four days of archery season.”

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