Bearcat Hollow came into the Arkansas elk hunting scene a few days ago. The extensive multi-agency project south of the Buffalo River was opened to elk hunting for the first time, and the two permit holders were successful.
Cain Lusk of Hector got a 6X7 bull elk, and Billy Burleson of Lead Hill took a cow elk in Bearcat Hollow.
Other successful hunters were Doug Young of Malvern with a 7X7 bull elk on Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area; Ridge Fletcher of Little Rock with a 4X5 bull on Gene Rush WMA and Shane Lyerly of Jonesboro with a cow elk in the Richland Creek Sonny Varnell Conservation Area, a part of Gene Rush WMA.
Two hunters who were scheduled to work Buffalo National River land were sidelined by the shutdown, but they will have permits for 2014’s elk season.
Bearcat Hollow is a rugged area, and that is an understatement. Lusk is just 12 years old, and he had help both in finding the bull and in getting it out. Burleson had more difficulty.
"After I shot the elk, it took me an hour and a half to walk back to my truck," he said. "It was uphill all the way."
He had field dressed the elk on the spot.
At the truck, which was hooked to a camper, Burleson had cell phone service and was able to get word to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists working the elk hunt. They helped Burleson and his wife load the 400-plus pound elk onto a truck with the aid of a winch then take it to Burleson’s truck and camper.
Getting to the spot was an adventure for three biologists and a writer.
Rough logging roads were strewn with boulders, downed trees and brush. It was four-wheel drive nearly all the way from the community of Bass, a few twisting miles from Mount Judea in Newton County.
The Bearcat Hollow Project is an effort involving the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Ozark National Forest, Game and Fish Commission, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others. Wayne Shewmake of Dardanelle, Wildlife Federation president, has been a major driving force in the project, and he has enlisted a number of volunteers to help in cleaning up after dozer work, improving stream banks, removing old fences, installing gates at wildlife openings and putting up bird houses, bat houses and wood duck boxes.
But the Bearcat Hollow Project has its critics.
Objections have been voiced over controlled burning, the use of heavy equipment in the mountainous area, of removing trees for wildlife openings and of making the area a suitable habitat for elk. The elk were re-introduced to Arkansas beginning in 1981, and some critics say these elk from western areas are not the same as the eastern subspecies which once lived in Arkansas and are now extinct.
Bearcat Hollow already has attracted other wildlife in addition to elk. Bears, deer and wild turkeys are using it, according to Game and Fish Commission biologists. There is no shortage of squirrels, and rabbits are using the more open areas. Bird enthusiasts find a variety of year-round and migratory birds in the remote region.
For deer hunting, Bearcat Hollow has a season limit of two deer, of which no more than one can be a buck with archery, muzzle-loader or modern gun. Two does can be taken with archery or one during muzzle-loader season. Youths can take one buck with modern guns during Youth Hunts.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.