Increased applications leaves few turkey leftovers

The only WMA turkey hunting permits left for sale are for hunts where more permits were available than the number of people applying. AGFC will hold a sale of those permits on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8 a.m., March 1.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas is still seeing an increased interest in hunting and angling, this time in the form of increases in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Wildlife Management Area turkey permit applications. This year saw 4,425 applicants for regular turkey hunting applications and 368 applicants for youth hunts on some WMAs, representing a 35 percent increase in both categories.

While this is good news for hunting and fishing in general, it does mean lower odds for each hunter to draw one of the coveted tags on some of Arkansas’s best public land opportunities for longbeards. With only 1,040 permits available for regular hunts and 236 permits available for youth hunts, only a quarter of the applicants were able to draw successfully. And depending on the location, a much smaller percentage saw success.

“The odds can vary dramatically depending on where you apply for,” said Brad Carner, AGFC chief of wildlife management. “Last year, we saw 100 percent of applicants for some areas get drawn, and even have leftovers where not enough people applied for a particular hunt. But some of the well-known hotspots saw as little as a 6 percent chance of drawing.”

To help hunters choose where they could apply for a good chance to hunt, the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division posted a chart on www.agfc.com/turkeypermits to show hunters the number of permits available and the number of the previous year’s applicants. For hunters willing to drive and explore new areas, some WMAs offered good chances to draw. The overall harvest of these areas is historically lower than some of the more coveted locations, so hunters had to weigh the odds to decide if they were willing to risk it for a hotspot or have better odds of getting a spot on an area where birds are not as prevalent.

As usual, a few hunts still had more permits available than applicants, and the AGFC will hold a sale of those permits on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8 a.m., March 1.

The only WMA turkey hunting permits left for sale are for hunts where more permits were available than the number of people applying, but that doesn’t mean the areas are not good hunting locations. Some wildlife management areas that have excellent success rates often fly under the radar because all the attention is placed on one or two standouts. In some cases, very good WMAs are left as a fallback option, in case hunters don’t draw the more popular hunts.

Additionally, many of the WMAs that annually have the highest turkey harvest numbers do not require drawn permits because they are large enough to accommodate many hunters at a time. The Ozark National Forest WMA, Mount Magazine WMA and Winona WMA typically rank in the top 5 WMAs for harvest, and all are open to hunting without a specially drawn permit.

Each leftover permit will require a $5 processing fee. Each hunter may purchase one permit for each of the remaining WMA permit hunts.

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