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Harpooning alligators, fooling crows, and avoiding leprosy, all SOPs for Arkansas hunters

TThe daring and skill it takes to master the Arkansas wilderness and supply Deep Freeze can be old for seasoned hunters. However, for the uninitiated, these forest rites do not amount to witchcraft.

Imagine floating through the swamp after dark, harpoon in hand, searching for the red glow of alligator eyes; the mind merges with dogs trained to ignore its instincts and do its will instead; nonchalantly opening the chest cavity of a mourning dove with the flick of a thumb. For an American country boy hobby, hunting gives off an aggressively druid vibe.

About 3 million acres of public land in Arkansas are open to hunting, but fewer people are taking advantage of it. Interest in the sport is on the decline in Arkansas and elsewhere. But as with other nature-focused hobbies of yesteryear (mushroom picking, herbology, witchcraft), what hunting loses in popularity it gains in mystique.

Is there a picture of you in grade school, fresh blood on your face as you hold the lifeless head from your first kill? If not, here’s a look at what you’ve been missing.

“Never assume an alligator is dead”

Lauren Wilcox Puchowski
Alligator hunters scan the surface for glowing red eyes.

According to keith stephens, communication director for the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission, it is alligators, not wild pigs, that are the most dangerous animals to be hunted in Arkansas. Alligator season arrives in September, but it is highly regulated and requires a lot of planning. Applicants can apply in June for a chance to earn one of 33 permits.

The Arkansas “Alligator Hunting Orientation and Training Manual” is as exciting as the title promises: “The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) has been a component of the native fauna of Arkansas for thousands of years. One of the earliest recorded accounts of alligators in Arkansas comes from the Arkansas Gazette, dated May 1828, which reported the killing of an 11-foot specimen on the north side of the Arkansas River in Little Rock.

Arkansas alligator numbers declined dramatically in the 1960s, but the state stepped in to regulate and restock. Populations recovered enough that hunting is back. A limited number of permits allow hunters to take alligators at least 4 feet long. But crossbows and pistols will not work. You have to use hand traps or harpoons on an alligator hunt or else your dead alligator is likely to sink to the bottom and be lost.

Lauren Wilcox Puchowski
Hunters can’t just shoot alligators, because the dead animals would sink to the bottom. Harpoons or traps are required.

You can shoot them dead after you have them in the lane, but don’t be arrogant. “Improper gun placement and discharge can only occasionally render the alligator temporarily unconscious. Therefore, never assume an alligator is dead.” He severs his spine with a knife, and even then, keep his jaws bandaged, advises Game and Fish.

If you don’t want to kill an alligator but wouldn’t mind setting your eyes on one, head south to the Arkansas Post National Memorial or Millwood State Park during the summer. Alligators are most active when the temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees.

Ooh, baby, ooh, said ooh

The smallest animal you can legally hunt in Arkansas is the mourning dove, whose fluffy-feathered coat belies its smallness. These migratory birds weigh only between 4 and 6 ounces. but if you can harvest enough, make them good to eat. Hunters can also target Eurasian white-winged and collared doves during Arkansas pigeon season, which changes each year based on the birds’ migratory schedule but typically covers a few weeks in September, October, December and January.

bloody bunnies

Lauren Wilcox Puchowski
A disease that causes rabbits to bleed to death has yet to reach Arkansas, and Game and Fish has measures in place to keep it away.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is affecting domestic and wild rabbits in other parts of the United States, and Arkansas doesn’t want it here. The highly contagious, often fatal disease would be terrible news for the cottontail and swamp rabbit species native to eastern Arkansas.

pigs forever

There are no rules here. “Wild pigs are not a game species. The public can kill them 365 days a year, 24 hours a day on private property,” Stephens said.

But then what? “You can eat them, but you have to be very careful how you slaughter them,” she said. “They also carry up to 45 bacteria, diseases and parasites, including trichinosis, brucellosis and porcine herpes virus.”

Lauren Wilcox Puchowski
Butcher carefully.

Great game

The largest animal to hunt in Arkansas is the elk, which is about 5 feet tall at the shoulder and weighs about 500 pounds. The species was native here until overhunting and habitat loss wiped them out in the 1840s. Thanks to a moose restoration project launched in 1981, the Arkansas moose herd now numbers about 450. Each year A limited number of elk hunting permits are issued on a lottery system. Dates for the 2022 moose season have yet to be set, but are typically in October.

armadillo’s revenge

While there is no armadillo season in Arkansas, you can kill armadillos if they are digging and burrowing and causing a nuisance on your property. But should you? Armadillos are awfully cute. Also, some of them are carriers of leprosy and can transmit it to humans.

just squawks

Ravens are in season in Arkansas from September through February, and Arkansas Game and Fish offers some tips online on how to attract them. Take out decoys and get ready to take down the first raven you see. Ravens that travel in packs often send a scout ahead, and if the scout escapes, he’ll blow your cover with the rest of them.

Another tip: if you’re using a raven song, avoid doing a “squawk” cadence. That’s slang for DANGER.

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