LITTLE ROCK – Dove season is right around the corner marking the first statewide fall hunting season, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is providing several opportunities for sportsmen to include permit hunts on private lands.
“I look forward to opening weekend every year and love the fast action dove hunting can provide. Dove are fun to hunt with friends and family and make great table fare, Garrick Dugger, assistant chief of the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division, said. “After four months, I know that hunters are eager to return to the outdoors.”
Hunters may apply for permits to the AGFCs four private-land permit dove hunts beginning Thursday, Aug. 1. The application process will run until midnight Aug. 15, with a computerized draw held Friday, Aug. 16. Arkansas’s dove season begins Sunday, Sept. 1.
The AGFC has expanded the private land hunts to four counties, including two in Northwest Arkansas. Hunts will return to the leased, privately farmed 20-acre field near Blakemore (Lonoke County) where the hunts originated in 2017. The popularity of that hunt, with more than 1,100 online applicants last year, led the AGFC to find additional private-land opportunities for permit dove hunts.
Additional fields for the permit draw are in Prairie, Washington and Benton counties. The fields will be listed by county on the application form on www.agfc.com. A licensed hunter is allowed one application; the cost to apply is a nonrefundable $5. Hunters who are selected may bring one additional hunter of any age with them to the hunt, but both must hunt from the same station.
According to Sandee Schultz, AGFC habitat assistant and permit administrator, hunters can make two choices on the application: They may apply either for two separate fields and their choice of weekend dates available, or they can try for the same field on two different weekends. Hunters will be notified by email if they have been selected. The confirmation email will also contain a hyperlink to a map and directions to their field.
The four fields are of various sizes and food sources, and will offer a variety of dove hunting experiences, according to Dugger. The Lonoke and Benton county fields (the latter being near Siloam Springs) are planted in sunflowers; the expected longer availability of sunflower seeds in those fields will allow them to be hunted the first three weekends of the season. The Prairie County field, near Slovak, is the largest of the private-land options, and is a harvested corn field with top-sown wheat. It will be available for the first two weekends of the season. The Prairie County field will allow space for twice as many hunting stations, 40, as the next closest field, Lonoke with its 20 stations.
The Washington County field, near Lincoln, will be composed of millet and will be hunted the first two weekends.
Drawn hunters may choose their station at each field on a first-come, first-served basis, but hunters must hunt at their chosen station, rather than wandering a field, for safety purposes, Dugger said.
“We want a safe, quality dove hunting experience for everyone,” he said, encouraging hunters to wear eye protection while in the field, such as sunglasses or shooting glasses.
Hunters not chosen for the permitted hunts will still have an array of AGFC Wildlife Management Areas hosting tracts of land prepared for dove hunting, as well as two fields being prepared in a partnership between the AGFC and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Arkansas. The WMA lands available for dove hunting will be announced in the coming days and will be listed at www.agfc.com by mid-August.