When the latter part of August arrives, hunting seasons are close behind. Many thousands of Arkansas outdoor people start countdowns to various season openings.

There are deer hunters, duck hunters, squirrel hunters and other "specialists" in these ranks. Then there are many who simply welcome opportunities to be outdoors and doing something, whatever the particular season at the time.

OK, it’s still a few days until dove season opens. That is Saturday, Sept. 5. This is an event eagerly awaited by quite a few Arkansas folks.

But dove season is not the first hunting opportunity coming up. You can go out Tuesday, Sept. 1, and hunt purple gallinules and common moorhens. 

Hunh?

Year after year these are listed in the Hunting Guidebook of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, but when was the last time you heard someone say, "I went gallinule and moorhen hunting today"?

Purple gallinules and common moorhens. Yes, we have them in Arkansas.

They are marsh birds, secretive creatures which are largely unknown to people outside of experienced birders.

An anecdote dates back to 1980 and a meeting of the Game and Fish Commission. The Game and Fish commisison was setting the seasons, bag limits and other rules for hunting early migratory birds that year. A staff member read off the proposal for purple gallinules then one for common morhens then one for Virginia and sora rails. One of the commissioners asked, "Does anyone hunt those things?"

Commissioner Rick Hampton replied, "Those are George Purvis birds."

Purvis, who died earlier this year, was the long-time head of information and education for AGFC and someone who had actually been out and hunted purple gallinules, common moorhens and rails.

The two species are cousins, members of the rail family. Scientific name for purple gallinule is Porphyrio martinica and for common moorhen Gallinula chloropus. That word gallinule stems from a Latin term for chicken, and in other parts of the world these birds are sometimes called water hens.

Purple gallinules and coomon moorhens are somewhat similar in appearance, with both having a prominent red front shield on their faces. The common moorhen is mostly dark gray or black, and the purple gallinule has a brightly colored front part, neck and shoulders, that gives its name. It also has a blue forehead and a green back.

Both have large feet and yellow legs. They swim like ducks but walk like chickens and use the large feet to walk across the top of floating lily pads. The diet of gallinules and moorhens is omnivorous, both plant and animal material. It includes seeds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed) , leaves and fruits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit)  of both aquatic and land plants plus insects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect) , frogs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frog) , snails (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snail) , spiders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider) , earthworms and fish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish.)

Gallinules and moorhens are 13 to 14 inches long with wingspans of 20 to 24 inches. Their size compares to skinny chickens.

The hunting season in Arkansas for purple gallinules and common moorhens is Sept. 1 through Nov. 15 and includes a daily bag limit of 15.

Bring in a limit of purple gallinules and/or common moorhens. You’ll be a center of attraction.