A month after a hotly debated closing of the fall turkey hunting season, The Arkansas Game and Fish commissioners Thursday butted heads on spring 2010 turkey hunting.
By a 4-3 vote, with chairman Brett Morgan of Little Rock breaking a tie, the hunting dates were passed along with the creating of two new turkey zones.
The spring 2010 turkey dates:
April 10-27 for Turkey Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10.
April 10-20 for Turkey Zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A.
April 3-20 for Turkey Zone 17. This is land inside the main Mississippi River levees.
April 3-May 16 for new Turkey Zone 17A. This is land east of the Mississippi River adjoining Tennessee.
March 13-May 2 for new Turkey Zone 17B. This is land east of the Mississippi River adjoining Mississippi.
Turkey hunting is closed in Zone 1A.
Youth-only hunting will be April 3-4 for all zones except 1A, closed, and the Mississippi River zones. Zone 17 youth hunt will be March 27-28. Zone 17A youth hunt will be March 27-28. Zone 17B youth hunt will be March 6-12.
The dates for Zones 17A and 17B were set to coincide with the turkey seasons of Tennessee and Mississippi. These zones are privately owned land and are fairly small.
The division of opinion among the commissioners was over a Saturday season opening versus a Monday opening.
Voting for the Saturday, April 10, opening were Ron Pierce of Mountain Home, George Dunklin of DeWitt and Ron Duncan of Springdale. Voting in favor of a Monday, April 12, opening were Rick Watkins of Little Rock, Craig Campbell of Little Rock and Emon Mahony of El Dorado.
The 2010 turkey season will be two days shorter than the 2009 hunt. Turkey numbers continue to decline in many areas of Arkansas, wildlife biologists told the commissioners. The length of the spring hunting season was trimmed for the fourth straight year in addition to the closing of the fall hunt this year.
Consideration of a fall 2010 turkey season will take place during the process for setting other fall and winter seasons, with the commissioners to set these seasons next March.
In other action Thursday, the commissioners heard a report on the recent permit alligator hunt from Mike Harris and Mark Barbee of the AGFC wildlife management staff. Twelve alligators were taken by hunters, with the largest one by Brendan Burrell, a monster 12 feet, 11 inches long that weighed an estimated 600 pounds.
Matt Hodges of the wildlife management staff reported on the new Telecheck system that went into use Oct. 1 with the opening of deer hunting. Deer are checked by telephone or on the Internet, with wildlife check stations abolished. So far, 26,526 deer have been checked during archery and muzzle-loading hunts, an increase of 3,622 over the same period a year ago.
Relatively few problems have cropped up with the new system, Hodges said.