Our wild turkey situation is disturbing.
On one hand, we have statistics showing us that turkey numbers in Arkansas are on a steady decline. And on the other hand, we have hunters griping because the fall turkey season was stopped and spring turkey hunting has been shortened.
Here is the latest:
Arkansas’ turkeys are in trouble, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was told Thursday at its meeting in Harrison.
The somewhat dark report on current turkey conditions did not surprise the commissioners. A series of poor reproduction seasons has led to cutbacks in the number of days allotted to spring turkey hunting and the elimination of the fall turkey hunting season in Arkansas.
Next spring’s season will be set by the commissioners at their Nov. 17 meeting in Little Rock. More reductions in hunting are possible, AGFC staff members indicated.
Jason Honey, AGFC’s turkey program coordinator, told the commissioners that turkey brood surveys this year showed an average of 1.1 poults (young turkeys) to each hen. In 2010, the average was 1.4 per hen, and a favorable ratio is around 3 poults per hen.
Commissioner Emon Mahony of El Dorado said, "We are in trouble with our turkeys, and we are not alone." Other states surrounding Arkansas have reported declines in populations. Honey said, "Missouri is down a lot (in turkeys), but they had a lot more than we did."
Mahony added, "We may have to consider a drastic impact on hunting....I am very concerned."
David Goad, AGFC wildlife management chief, offered a bit of encouragement. "There has been intensive management on Gene Rush (Wildlife Management Area in north Arkansas), and the turkeys are responding."
What is to blame for the turkey decline? Take your choice of weather, wild hogs, fire ants, raccoons, skunks and other nest predators or terrorists.
In another issue, the commissioners heard a proposal for a major renovation of White Oak Lake in southwest Arkansas.
The 50-year-old lake has a chronic leakage problem, and a drawdown is needed to repair the gates at its dam, according to fisheries biologist Eric Brinkman.
Several routes to fix the problem have been studied, he said, and the suggestion is for a complete draining of the lake then repairing the dam and restocking its fish. This will take several years.
Mahony commented, "This is not the easiest recommendation, but it is the best in the long term."
White Oak is unique as a lake. It is in two parts, Upper White Oak and Lower White Oak, separated by a dam. The leakage is on Lower White Oak. The lake is west of Camden and is the second largest Game and Fish Commission lake behind Lake Conway.
The commissioners also heard a proposal for a trout education center at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home.
Ed Coulter, president of the college, and Steve N. Wilson, retired director of the Game and Fish Commission who lives near Norfork, outlined the possibility of a partnership between ASU-MH and the commission for the center.
Wilson pointed out the commtment AGFC made in 1996 for more conservation education in its campaign for a fractional sales tax, which was narrowly approved by Arkansas voters. As a result, four nature centers and four conservation education centers have been developed.
Nature centers are now at Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Little Rock. Conservation education centers are at Grandview west of Hope, Ponca, Yellville and Cook’s Lake east of Stuttgart.