Turkey Hunting in Arkansas

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  • C
  • -100,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Easterns

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 107,131

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $25

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • $55 to $350

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

This great state is known for greenheads not gobblers, and maybe there's a reason for that.

Upside: This hunting destination offers more than 3 million public acres, with 650,000 overseen by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).

Nonresidents can choose from many licensing options.

Downside: As mentioned here at the start, there are many management concerns in the air about Arkansas turkey populations, including poaching. On this, more shortly.

Conservation Challenges

Back in 2009 the AGFC voted to abruptly cancel the fall turkey season, even after it was officially listed in the lawbook.

Low kill numbers and poor hatches were cited.

This hinted at declining flock populations, then estimated at "130,000 to 140,000" according to the National Wild Turkey Federation. That number has now flattened to a "-100,000" as we enter the 2022 spring season.

Arkansas hunters killed and checked in 7,010 Eastern wild turkeys during the 2021 spring season. While the harvest showed a similar decrease to that of surrounding states, AGFC biologists are hopeful for the future.

“We did expect to see a decline in checked birds,” Jeremy Wood, AGFC Turkey Program coordinator, says. “With conservative season dates and new regulations in place to spread hunting pressure, we tried to give turkeys as much of a chance as we could to breed and create future hunting opportunities while maintaining a reasonably good hunting experience. We have to think about the resource first if we want to see the population increase.”

[Newsmaker: Turkeys for Tomorrow Group Aims to Help Declining Southeast Populations]

One other conservation challenge includes poaching.

Regarding the 2021 spring season, the AGFC's Randy Zellers, says: "Some couldn’t play by the rules, resulting in an alarming trend noticed by wildlife officers whose business is catching those who cut corners and prevent honest hunters from seeing increased turkey harvest numbers."

Law enforcement officials were kept busy.

“Business was good,” Col. Brad Young, chief of the AGFC’s Enforcement Division, says. “I’m proud of our officers for catching so many people breaking the law, but I’m concerned that they found so many major violations in the turkey woods.”

How many? AGFC officers issued citations for 152 major wildlife violations during last year’s 21-day hunting season. They also assisted Nebraska and Kansas by uncovering 16 violations that occurred in those states during investigations in Arkansas.

Hunting turkeys over bait was the top violation officers found last year, with an alarming 72 cases made in three weeks.

Turkey Hunting in Arkansas (c) Tes Randle Jolly photo

Season Changes

Eighteen turkey zones were reduced to two last spring, and all zone boundaries were based on county lines. This continues for the 2022 turkey season. Also, bearded hens aren't legal, an official change for the 2021 season, moving forward.

The statewide bag limit is two legal turkeys, no jakes. Exception: Hunters 6 to 15 years old may harvest one jake as part of their two-bird limit during the season (including the youth hunt).

Additionally, no more than one legal turkey may be taken during the first 7 days of the regular season.
No more than one legal turkey may be taken per day. Zoning regs are as follows: 

  • Zone 1: One legal turkey, no jakes (see statewide turkey bag limit for exceptions). Hunters who kill a turkey in this zone must travel to Zone 2 to attempt to take a second turkey.
  • Zone 2: Two legal turkeys, no jakes (again, see statewide turkey bag limit for exceptions).

The season's opening date has also been tweaked as well, pushed back an additional seven days from last year’s opener. April 18, 2022 is one of the latest starts for Arkansas’s turkey season in recent history.

According to the AGFC, this coincides with the long-term average peak nest initiation (egg laying) date in Arkansas. The additional delay is an effort to let more reproduction take place before hunters begin to remove the mature gobblers from the landscape.

– Steve Hickoff

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