Saturday, December 20, 2014

Field Notes: Muzzle Loader Hunt -White River Refuge

2014 was the first time in ten years  I'd applied for a  muzzleloader hunting  permit on White River refuge.   Kinda glad I did.


With my  permit for the "south unit" in hand, my plan  was to  be on the refuge at daybreak on the Friday, the day before the 3 day season opened.

A lot of ground would  need to be explored. Prior years stand locations would be revisited and new ones sought out.   No amount of daylight could be squandered.  I would travel light for the day with just my day pack, maps, compass, gps, pack lunch and water.

Here is the recap.

Friday October 17th,  Refuge Scouting:

In the best of times, finding concentrated deer activity on the refuge can be difficult and always requires  a lot of foot work.  A bumper crop of acorns this year didn't make it any easier.  Overcup and Nuttall acorns were found carpeting the refuge everywhere.  Yes..plenty of fall food for deer but when their favorite food is scattered everywhere in this way...deer are also scattered.    With my daylight to dark wide ranging scouting effort I was able to locate three promising stand locations.


Fresh scrapes around  lakes edge . 
Location #1: West side of the river via Smoke House Hill access.  Concentrated Deer activity under an Overcup oak  not too far from the river's edge.  The river provides a natural edge that deer tend to follow.  This location would combine the funneling effects of the edge with an active feeding area.

Location #2:  Long lake Near the Surround. Concentrated feeding activity under a large Nuttal oak near the "Surround".  Good feeding location but no edge benefit.

Location #3: Lakeside East side of the river via Indian Bay access.  Fresh scrape/rubs line along the edge of one of  the refuge's many isolated lakes.(unnamed for obvious reasons.)   Lakes, like the river in location #1  also provide  natural edge that deer tend to follow. The combination edge effect and scrape line looked promising.

Lunch and nap on lakes edge.
Saturday October 18th, The Hunt.  It was a toss up between locations #1 and #3.   I liked the quality of deer and buck sign at both locations but the awesome beauty and remoteness of the isolated lake at location #3 was totally irresistible to me.  I opted to start the hunt at location #3.

Saturday morning no deer sighted.

Saturday afternoon about 5pm, a young fork horn stealthily appeared  fifty yards to my right  walking along the lake's cypress lined edge.  As he was about to pass between me and the lake he finally caught my got scent...he reversed course, bolted a short distance  then resumed his lazy stroll until he was out of sight.

Other than a midday lunch break and lake side nap  I remained in my summit climber till dark. Throughout the day,  I  never heard or encountered a single hunter. Excepting a few faintly heard, far off distant shots as the morning passed I was totally alone.   Thanks to the remoteness of the refuge's 160,000 acres forest, and the laziness of most hunters it is still possible to hunt in solitude.

After shooting time was over and darkness slowly fell over the lake, I removed my 209 primer from my gun.  Using my rope I  lowered my muzzleloader to the leaves below.  Once I was  down, using the blueish grey glow of my LED flashlight, I quietly removed my Summit climber from the tree. With treestand now on my back I quietly began my trek back to the ATV.   I had made the decision that tomorrow morning I will relocate 12 miles South  to location #1.


Sunday October 19th,  Before daybreak Sunday morning I  would carry  my climber treestand  on the long hike to  location #1. As a crow flies it was  12 miles south of where I had hunted opening day and was accessed  via the Smoke House Hill entrance.  

Though this location had a much shorter ATV  ride it would require a 7/10s' of a mile hike to the river.  A few years back I re-purposed an old elk aluminum pack frame  by attaching it to the bottom of my Summit climber.  It makes for much better packing than the cheap straps supplied by the treestand folks.  So with my treestand on my back and my day pack slung across my stand I marched off  into the dark, flashlight in one hand, gun in the other.

For hunters that venture  in and out of the forest in the dark you  know all too well that  the 15 foot  cone of hazy light projected from a bouncing flashlight does nothing to show you where you are going...only where to place each step.  The weight of the stand, pack, gun and  early morning darkness would make the hike seem  much, much longer.

My compass provided continued corrections to my heading while my flashlight  showed me where I needed to place each step along the way.

Rivers edge. 
Success:   I arrived at the rivers edge  just as daylight was cracking. I quickly positioned my climber  high in a tree with the open river 75 yards behind me.

The open sky over the river allowed the rays of  morning sun to hit the forest floor much sooner than might elsewhere. The wait was not long before the  woods came alive.   As the suns rays continued to scatter beams across the forest floor a coyote seemed  to seek one out.  He hopped up on a log and stopped to soak up the sun for few seconds before continuing off  with that purposeful gait that coyotes always seem to have. They  never linger and always seem like they have some place else to be.  But on this morning his schedule allowed him to stop and bask in the warmth of the morning  sun.

My hard earned prize. 
Around 8:15am I glimpsed a  chocolate  racked buck  under some tall Overcup oaks ninety yards in front of me.   As he ambled toward my stand I cocked and  readied my muzzle-loader.  At 60 yards I raised to shoot..I  squeeze ...then. snap!... but no boom.   In the  rush of excitement combined with my un-practiced hand I had flipped the safety/hammer block the wrong way preventing the falling hammer from striking the pin.  I fumbled to re-cock the hammer as the buck moved closer... now  almost under me.     This time...I squeeze and boom!  Big buck down.
Drag system in place. 

Down just 15 yards from the base my tree  BUT a very long 7/10's of a mile through the woods to the  4-wheeler.   I was certainly happy at my success  but while  contemplating the work  that lay ahead of me it seemed pretty clear that sometimes there is a debt to be paid for what you are given.  A text to my worried wife showed it to be 1:44pm  when I finally  managed to get all my gear, treestands and my prized chocolate horned buck to the truck.  How do you define trophy?  A measure of a trophy is not just the measure of a buck rack size but by the challenges and experiences he affords you.  Challenges, before and after you take him in this case.  

TIPS FOR HUNTING BIG WOODS BUCKS
Big woods bucks are notoriously difficult to hunt.  Vast un-broken forest with  no fence rows or man made  pinch points or bottle necks make it difficult to predict movement of big woods bucks. Consider these  tips if you're  thinking about hunting areas like White River , Felsenthal or Cache River national wildlife refuges.

1. Find natural occurring edges. River edges, lakes and sloughs make natural edges that deer follow.

2. South facing lake edges and river banks.  (another edge effect.) These south facing edges receive more light near the forest floor.   The response is that the under brush, honey suckle and other browse appear as food and cover along these south facing edges.  

3.  Pinch points.  Use your map. With the refuge's many lakes, slough you can often find pinch points where sloughs or lakes are in close proximity making natural funnels  to intercept traveling deer..

4. How to deal with large acorn mast crops like we are experiencing this year.   I covered a lot of foot miles on the refuge. Overcup and Nutall oaks acorns where abundant.   Though the vast majority of these trees had sparse deer activity,  I would still occasionally find lone trees, maybe one in twenty, that would be torn up with feeding activity.  It's as if that once a deer discovers a tree that's dropping abundant acorns they will often use it to the exclusion of other acorn abundant trees.  My guess is that deer are simply  returning to what they know.  So keep looking under acorn bearing trees until you locate the one with high deer activity








Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Real Reason You Aren't Allowed to Take Feral Hogs on WMA's this year.

My wife Teresa,  doing her part to control
 feral  hog numbers while deer hunting.
Near Cascoe, AR Nov 2014 

Feral Hogs populations have exploded in Arkansas. Unbelievably prolific, sows can have 2 or 3 litters each year with  8-14 piglets in each litter.   Experts estimate that you would have to kill 70%-85%  of feral hogs each year just to keep the population in check.

So, if you're like me, you might be scratching your head over the AGFC's  new restrictions on killing hogs on most WMA's this year.    My first thought was like: Really?....You've got to be kidding me.  Am I missing something?

Some back ground on the rules.. Active hog hunting has long been banned from WMA's.  It has always been "incidental" taking only. This was to discourage hog hunting activists from releasing hogs into the wild.  Yes it has happened. And by the way its now a felony in Arkansas to do so.

Also the new rules do not apply to private lands. You can still take  hogs by any method year round on your own property.

Let me address some statements the AGFC has put forth  as reasons for the new rule.

1. "Hog trapping is more effective than hunting".
Sure it is.  But what does that have to do with a bowhunter up in a tree shooting a hog that just happens to walk under him? How can it be argued that eliminating this "incidental" taking of hogs as beneficial to the state's efforts to control the hog population?

2. "For trapping to be effective the area must be undisturbed."
How has the AGFC's rule against  the "incidental" taking of hogs on WMA's changed anything regarding disturbance? The bowhunter will still be in the same tree. The dog hunters will still be running their nine or ten barking and baying dogs.  In the grand scheme of things I hardly think bowhunters are the source of any disturbance or hindrance in the trapping of wild hogs.

Active Hog Hunting is the Real Problem
Outfitted for hog hunting
The real problem stems from a few bad apples that have been actively hunting hogs with dogs while masquerading as legitimate squirrel or coon hunters. Examples provided; AGFC officers have encountered some hunters outfitting their dogs with cut vests and cut collars. (items made of heavy canvas to  protect the dog from a hogs slicing tusks)   Yet when questioned by officers these hunters claim that they are just squirrel hunting and any hogs they kill are "incidental".

Unpopular Options
One might argue that the most objective and effective solution would be for the AGFC to simply ban dog hunting on the WMA's.  I'm certainly not advocating that.  It would be unfair to punish legitimate law abiding dog hunters.  But for discussion sake you would have to agree that it would eliminate the real "disturbance" issue.

On one hand the AGFC is pushing for  rules that will reduce illegal "active hog hunting" yet on the other they don't want to alienate any particular group of hunters. Their solution as we now know it today, is to eliminate incidental taking of hogs on WMA's for not just dog hunters but, bowhunters and  small game hunters as well. In this way no one group is singled out or picked on, but the terrible bureaucratic trade off is that we have this seemingly nonsensical rule.

Jim Taylor

One other thing.  You may ask; What about federal refuges like our White River NWR  following the rule?   It is known that the AGFC requested that the refuge go along with the new rules. Being federal, the refuge is not obligated to follow state wildlife management actions but felt a need to be a "team player", and not conflict with state rules. After expressing their  reservations  refuge managers reluctantly agreed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Senate Approves $10 Price Hike for Duck Stamps

Another example of hunters paying the way for our nations conservation programs. The Senate yesterday, approved a $10 price hike for the federal  duck stamp. The House had approved it just two weeks prior.

The speed at which this bill moved through the House and Senate was an obvious indication that the long overdue increase was well supported on both sides of the political isles.  Conservation and the importance of preserving wildlife habitat are things so fundamentally important to all, that they go beyond politics and receive bipartisan support. In fact you may be surprised to know that the lead sponsor of the bill was  tea party Louisiana Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming, who ranks as one of the most  solidly conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives.  Proof that even the most conservative among us are wise enough to know that supporting the environment and habitat conservation is just plain good business.  It's good for tourism. It's good for sportsmen. It's good for the habitat. It's good for wildlife.

The duck stamp bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature before becoming law.

Since the debut of the duck stamp program in 1934, it has generated more than $900 million for the protection of more than 6 million acres.  The competition to design the stamps is spirited, and the stamps are collectors’ items.

Jim Taylor

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Duty



"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.'

So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people.

The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain the unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations.

The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."

Teddy Roosevelt.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Errant Arrows

The bright side of a well placed miss.  (of which I have much experience at) 

I get the rush and excitement that I hunt for without having to dress, drag and clean a deer. And that lucky doe, who is now a little wiser, lives to quicken my pulse again another day.  Smiling JIM  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

White River Refuge Expansion Plan Tabled



The US Fish and Wildlife Service officially tabled the expansion efforts proposed by leaders at the White River National Wildlife Refuge in a news release issued last week.

No thanks to our congressmen on this unfortunate decision…as they successfully snatched defeat from what was destined to be one of the greatest conservation victories in Arkansas history.

Unbelievably they chose NOT to support Arkansas sportsmen and instead fought the refuge’s plan at the urging of a few “fat cats” that they depend on for donations.

Refuge leaders had proposed a plan to slowly acquire neighboring lands from WILLING sellers using duck stamp money and/or Land and Water Conservation funds.

Each winter this shrinking habitat serves as host to the largest concentration of wintering Mallards in North America. This habitat is why our state is nationally revered for its incredible duck hunting. The plan would have returned millions of dollars in DUCK STAMP monies back to our state. Yet our disconnected congressmen shunned the refuge plan and Arkansas' sportsmen for political gain.

Sportsmen, wildlife enthusiasts, and Arkansas habitat will suffer as the Fish and Wildlife Service is now forced to take our duck stamp money to more receptive states.

JIM TAYLOR

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Refuge Expansion in Jeopardy

After a year long campaign by Arkansas sportsmen and conservation groups the refuge expansion proposal is now in jeopardy. Apparently stalled by some politically connected anti-refuge “fat cats” that your congressmen depend on for donations.

The expansion proposal was the refuge’s ambitious plan  to preserve some of the last  remaining bottomland forests near the lower White River, while adding over 125,000 acres of public land for Arkansas hunters. Approval would have allowed the refuge to buy land from willing sellers, using money from hunters Duck Stamp dollars and LWC Funds. (No general taxpayer dollars would be used)

Bowing to pressure from elected officials, the USFWS issued a news release Friday “pausing” the proposed 125,000 acre expansion of the Dale Bumpers/White River National Wildlife Refuge that was widely supported by Arkansas Sportsmen and conservationists. In the press release David Viker, SE Region Chief said: “While there is significant support for the expansion…..we take the concerns of those who oppose it seriously.”

At the outset some opposition was expected from the radical fringes. It was a given based on the size,  scope and visibility of the expansion plan. Though it may be a noble effort by the USFWS, it is not practical or realistic  to convince every wacko “sovereign citizen” Cliven Bundy rancher to embrace the  benefits of having a National
Cliven Bundy vs Public Lands
Wildlife Refuge. These people couldn't give a rats ass about wildlife, the habitat,  or conserving them for future generations. If they can't immediately benefit from it or it doesn't make them richer…They're not gonna support it.

If it were up to a vote today, refuge expansion supporters would blow away the naysayers in sheer numbers. Consider the Friends of White River’s 15,000+ FaceBook fans, the 1,200 petition signers, as well as the public support from the thousands of members of the: Arkansas Bowhunters Association,  Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Arkansas Audubon Society, ArkLA Squirrel & Coon Hunters, Arkansas Canoe Club, as well as the National Wildlife Refuge Association. With 47% of Arkansas hunters dependent upon public lands it’s not surprising so many Arkansas sportsmen support it.

Frustratingly for Arkansas’ sportsmen and conservationist, the actions of these congressmen confirms what many of you already intuitively knew…., they do not represent the interests of the majority but are instead ruled by the well connected few they so desperately depend on for donations. Their hope is YOU won't pay
attention. Their hope is YOU won’t bother to get involved. In this way they can continue to cater to their donors while ignoring the sportsmen of Arkansas.  In doing so Arkansas conservation efforts will suffer as potentially millions of dollars in Duck Stamp monies along with LWC Funds will now be diverted to other states.

Arkansas, the natural state.

--->Jim Taylor

Speak up and let them know you support the refuge expansion and  that you disapprove of their actions:

Senator Boozman's Office:
Chris Caldwell
chris_caldwell@boozman.senate.gov
D.C. Office: 202-224-4843
Little Rock Office: 501-372-7153

Senator Pryor's Office:
Russell Hall
Russell_Hall@pryor.senate.gov
FAX: 501-324-5320
D.C. Office: 202-224-2353 D.C.
Little Rock Office: 501-324-6336

Representative Rick Crawford
Call Jay Sherrod
jay.sherrod@mail.house.gov
FAX: 501-843-4955
Little Rock Office: 501-843-3043


Show your support of  the refuge by sharing:
 Show your support by sharing!





Friday, April 4, 2014

How Do You Define Adventure?

I was in awe when I first saw this TV trailer.....seems so few of today's "hunting shows" have the talent, ability, or inclination to capture the essence of what hunting is all about.  Over and over again most hunting shows fail miserably in conveying any sense of the adventure and compulsion that drives hunters to do what we do.  I have remained uninspired and empty hearted with the quickly woven together, slam bam, thank ya ma'am, condensed kill sequences of today's hunting shows. Not a romantic nor accurate representation of hunting to say the least.  A hunt without the elements of the wilds....from its beauty, to its struggles, sacrifices and agonies is not much of a hunt.  This new Donnie Vincent trailer makes it clear ....he has the talent to elevate hunting shows to a level I've never seen before.

With breath taking cinematography in some of the most rugged wilds of North America this Donnie Vincent trailer gives me comfort and a glimmer of hope that it is possible. We will see..    -Jim Taylor

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get Involved! Make your voice heard... Support the refuges' proposed expansion by signing this ONLINE PETITION. Your letter will be sent to Dan Ashe, Director of the USFWS as well as to your Arkansas elected officials.

Do your part today. Sign it NOW.

“An inch of movement will move us closer to our goals than a mile of intention”.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Aldo Leopold

Many recognize Aldo Leopold as a great conservationist through his beautiful writings. Did you know he was also a bowhunter and bowyer?   This is a portion of his letter to Herbert Stoddard in 1934. He writes:   

Dear Herbert:


    “I am sending you by express a yew bow, which I have been making for you this winter.  I have enjoyed it because it was a way to express my affection and regard for one of the few who understands what yew bows—and quail and mallards and wind and sunsets—are all about.”  


“One cannot fashion a stave without indulging in fond hopes of its future.”. . . “On many a thirsty noon I hope you lean it against a mossy back by cool springs.  In fall I hope its shafts will sing in sunny glades where turkeys dwell, and that one day some wily bucks will live just long enough to startle at the twang of its speeding string.”   Aldo Leopold- 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

White River NWR's Race Against Foreign Land Buyers

Article by Jim Taylor

A foreign buying spree of U.S. forest lands is underway.   A Sept 27, 2013 report from the USDA  documents the dramatic rise in foreign ownership of U.S. timberlands.  Foreign ownership of US timberlands  doubled from approximately 7 million acres in 2005 to 14 million acres in 2011.*   Arkansas  has 780,544 acres of land under foreign ownership.**   

AndersonTully/Forest Lands Group LLC., one of the largest private timber holding companies in the United States, has expressed interest in selling land to White River NWR, located in Southeast Arkansas.  The property, 70,000 acres of prime river bottom habitat, sits just South of the refuge’s border.


Currently the refuge is prohibited from making an offer since the property lies just outside the refuge’s current acquisition zone, so it has been just talk up to this point.  Yes, even if Anderson Tully/FLG offered it up at a  bargain price  or even to donate it, they would  be out of luck.  For this reason the refuge initiated a proposal last year to expand their acquisition zone to include this ecologically important forest.

The proposal has garnered enthusiastic support from Arkansas sportsman as well as businesses in the surrounding communities. Sportsman stand to benefit tremendously from the added hunting and fishing opportunities while area business will reap the added economic activity it will generate.

Though it will be a windfall both environmentally and economically to the region some  leaseholder /hunting-clubs within the area are disgruntled at the thought of their land owner, EVER having talks with a potential buyer.  While we might understand their plight,  their self serving efforts to scuttle the refuge’s proposed acquisition zone will not stop AndersonTully/FLG from selling.  The actions of the leaseholder/hunting-clubs have not only put them in direct conflict with the land owners best interest, but it could also put this  property at risk for easy pickings by foreign real estate investors.  
A fire sale on US real estate to
foreign buyers is underway

Yes, the potential to lose this property to foreign investors is very real. Consider the following. If the refuge is eliminated as a potential buyer, Anderson Tully/FLG’s ability to sell such a sizable block of forest will be greatly diminished. Obviously the market for 70,000 acres of flood prone bottomland is very limited.  Excluding the refuge from the buying process would open the door to foreign real estate investors who would swoop in to buy it cheaply.

You can bet that any foreign owners will not likely be the “good stewards” of our natural resources as Anderson Tully/FLG has proven to be over the years.

The US government tracks forest ,  agriculture, and other  real estate sales to foreign corporations/investors.      
* Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land through December 31, 2011, by the Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture.,  Figure 7, Trends in Foreign Holdings of Agricultural Land  by Type of Use for the Period 2001 - 2011

**. Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land through December 31, 2011, by the Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture., page 13, U.S. Agricultural Land holdings of Foreign Investors By State as of December 31, 2011.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No Habitat. No Hunting.

What would bowhunter and conservationist Fred Bear
say about the attitudes of today's hunters?  
Article by Jim Taylor Why Arkansas hunters should support new habitat expansion opportunities proposed by our White River National Refuge.

Renowned bowhunter, conservationist, as well as my childhood idol, Fred Bear summed it up best:  "
If you are not working to protect hunting, then you are working to destroy it."
Did you know that only 10% of Arkansas' bottomland forest remain today?  You don’t have to have a PhD in Wildlife Management to understand why such habitat loss is a  problem. 


It’s real simple for me, as it should be for all true hunters. For you to have successful hunting experiences you have to have abundant game.   If you  want abundant game to hunt you have to have equally suitable habitat in which the game can thrive.  If you want suitable habitat  you must support efforts to protect and expand it.  

Bottom line is this. We  have a  once in a generation opportunity to  acquire wildlife rich  bottomland habitat bordering our White River NWR.  We can acquire it using our own sportsman derived funds like “duck stamps" (not general tax dollars)
from willing sellers.

Listen, it’s not  about being a touchy-feely treehugger, or weakening your conservative armor.  It’s just a common sense approach for protecting our hunting heritage, not only for ourselves but for our children’s children.   

Thursday, October 31, 2013

ABA Members to Show Support for White River Refuge's Proposed Expansion

by Jim Taylor


Jim Myers, Arkansas Bowhunters Association's newly elected president, has announced his organization's endorsement of White River National Wildlife Refuge’s, proposed expanded "land acquisition areas." He has made a "call to action" for all his ABA members to write letters of support for the proposal.

In endorsing the plan Mr Myers noted that this proposal simply allows the refuge to buy from timber companies or landowners that are WILLING sellers. The proposal does not force anyone to sell if they choose not to.

Only about 10% of Arkansas forested wetlands remain. This proposal helps conserve what is left of some of our states most ecologically valuable bottomland forest in the lower Mississippi River Delta.

If approved it could open up an additional 125,000 acres to public access while conserving it for future generations. A large portion of this would possibly be purchased from a large private commercial timber company who has expressed interest in selling. Currently, even if the timber company wanted to donate its land to the refuge, the refuge would be prohibited from accepting it, simply because it falls outside the approved acquisition areas. This proposal would fix that.

Mr Myers noted that as with so many ABA conservation initiatives this effort will benefit ALL Arkansas sportsman not just bowhunters.

Members are asked to send support email/letters to the following:



1. US Fish Wildlife:
Tina  Chouinard,
Natural Resource Planner,
US Fish and Wildlife Service.   
email is:  tina_chouinard@fws.gov   

Please include "White River NWR Acquisition Boundary" in the subject line.


2. Congress:

Congressional Contacts:  Phone                FAX                   Email Link

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Public outrage over the government shutdown of our refuges.

Arkansas is home to ten national wildlife refuges that are critical in protecting a wide variety of wildlife habitat, providing sportsman needed access to hunting and fishing opportunities as well as providing much needed economic benefits to the communities that surround them.  This continuing  government shutdown has impacted us greatly and serves to remind us of how vitally important these conservation lands are to the hunters of our great state.  


The fact that Washington bureaucrats can direct our wildlife refuges to close  visitor centers, national, regional, and local offices  where manpower is required is one thing, but to close  gates to refuge roads that simply provide access to undeveloped  forest lands comes across as spiteful.

I have found inconsistent policies regarding public access to forests after reviewing the  various government agency contingency plans for this current shutdown.  For instance forest lands of the National Parks Service and Wildlife Refuges have been “closed to public access” yet contingency plans of the National Forest Service  and BLM  make no such statements and are not denying access to undeveloped forest areas during this shutdown. The BLM simply refers to “Visitor Management”  on page 2 of their plan by stating they will close visitor centers  and “post signs that no patrols, maintenance...”  or other support  will be provided to visitors.    

I have a simple common sense solution.  Adopt language in our refuge contingency plans that allow undeveloped forested areas of our refuges(like the National forest and BLM)  to remain open in the event of future government shutdowns. You just know that this is going to be an annual event in Washington. That way future government shutdowns of refuge offices, visitor centers and other facilities can take place without affecting the forest lands that must remain open for the enjoyment of  Arkansas hunters and other outdoor enthusiast.  

Done..solved! Now the Washington bureaucrats can go back to entertaining us with their incessant squabbling.

Jim Taylor

Monday, June 3, 2013

White River Refuge Seeks Opportunities to Expand


                                                                                                                          Article by Jim Taylor

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed .... We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”

― Wallace StegnerThe Sound of Mountain Water


Land owners who have property bordering or near White River National Wildlife Refuge may soon have the opportunity to sell their property to the refuge if they so chose.
Currently, no matter how badly a property owner would like sell his land to the refuge, if his property falls outside of the refuges approved acquisition zone he is just out of luck. At a recent public meeting in Dewitt talk of missed opportunities was common. With reports of large tracts of land bordering the refuge being sold for a bargain price of $800 acre that the refuge missed out on because the property in question fell outside of its "approved acquisition zone". It's easy to see why action needs to be taken. Currently the refuge is forced to sit on the side lines while these bargain basement real estate deals are transacted. These missed bargain buying opportunities are a loss for the refuge and the habitat it seeks to conserve. For the taxpayers and users of the refuge it's a missed opportunity to obtain land at bargain prices. It is a loss for the landowner/neighbor who certainly would have benefited from having one more interested buyer brought to market.
Refuge Manager, Keith Weaver explains "Acquisition boundaries"
 to attendees  at one of three public  input meetings in May.   



Keith Weaver, refuge manager,  is championing the the effort to correct this handicap.  But like most things in the government this effort is not easy. The Fish and Wildlife service has  an arduous approval process just to establish/approve the geographic area that  a particular refuge may purchase property.  Many things have to be  taken into consideration in laying out the suggested acquisition boundaries.  Refuge biologist and refuge leadership have to consider the environmental significance,  economic burdens to refuge management and recreational opportunities.     

If approved, what does it mean to landowners who are inside the acquisition zone?   The biggest benefit is that they will  have a serious buyer(Federal Government) injected in the market.   The acquisition area does not change the hunting regulations or your rights as a property owner what so ever.  The refuge will not "claim" your land or force anyone to sell.    You can keep your land forever if you so choose or you may sell it to your brother in law.   The new acquisition zone is an abstract line that gives the refuge permission to make a purchase offer to a landowner if it so chooses.    


For outdoors-men, wildlife enthusiast and hunters this is a win-win program that needs your support.  The refuge is seeking input/comments during this phase of the approval process.  Please take a moment to let the refuge know of your enthusiastic support of the new acquisition zones and to be updated about new development in this project.   .  

I have put together a quick example email for you to  show your support-  Feel free to copy and paste and send your email off today.  We need all the support we can get. 


Please include "White River NWR Acquisition Boundary" in the subject line


send email to:  tina_chouinard@fws.gov 

Tina Chouinard
Natural Resource Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ref:  White River NWR Acquisition Boundary

Dear Mrs. Chouinard, 

I would like to see our refuge be able to acquire environmentally important woodlands when they become available.  Please consider this email as my voice of support for the proposed acquisition Boundaries on White River NWR.   

Please include me in any future communications, updates, meetings, and decisions regarding this environmentally important project.  

Thank you, 

Your name
Address. 
  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

White River National Wildlife Refuge Seeking to Expand

                                                                                                                     Article by Jim Taylor

Habitat loss of our forests remains the biggest threat to hunting opportunities and wildlife populations in Arkansas.  Here is your opportunity to voice your support for expansion of White River National Wildlife Refuge.

Establishment of our White River Refuge   by President  Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 5, 1935 continues to serve as a shining example what it means to preserve these unique areas. Today the refuge is enjoyed by wildlife enthusiasts of all types.

As noted this is not a federal land grab. It is simply allowing the refuge to purchase land from willing sellers near the refuge.  Now, with funds from duck stamps sales and excise taxes from the sale of guns and bows, the refuge would like to buy additional lands near its borders.

The Refuge has put forth the following Press Release:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites you to share your input about a proposal to increase the size of the acquisition boundary for surrounding White River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Land purchases for the refuge can only be made within its approved acquisition boundary. If approved, the acquisition boundary for White River NWR would increase by 125,349 acres and the new acquisition boundary would encompass 297,806 acres in Desha, Monroe, and Phillips Counties, Arkansas, and Bolivar County, Mississippi. Once this new "acquisition boundary" is approved the refuge could buy land from willing sellers.

Proposed Project Schedule


August 2012 - May 2013: Preliminary information-gathering meetings with government agencies and public officials and key partners within the proposed expansion area. COMPLETED
May 2013 – June 2013: Public scoping period, including three public meetings. -COMPLETED
July 2013: Develop Draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment along with associated NEPA documentation for Public review and comment.- IN PROCESS
August/SEPTEMBER 2013: Public comment period, including possible public meeting.(As of Aug 5th dates have not yet been established)  
September - October 2013: Develop final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment along with associated NEPA documentation.
Winter 2013-14: Decision by the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.



If approved, the Service will draw funding for this land acquisition primarily from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These are not derived from traditional tax revenues, but are collected from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, entrance fees from certain national wildlife refuges, and import duties on arms and ammunition (Migratory Bird Conservation Fund), and from the sale of offshore oil leases (Land and Water Conservation Fund). The money is intended for land conservation.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

History of hunting on White River National Wildlife Refuge.



Brief History of Hunting on White River NWR 


There is a long history of hunting at White River NWR, which began in 1956 with the first archery deer hunt.  Five years later in 1961 the refuge held its first gun deer hunt.  The refuge was one of the first tracts of public land in the southeastern United States to implement either sex deer hunting, which was very controversial at that time.

1935-1955 Refuge closed to all hunting; Fishing allowed from March 1 to October 31.


1956 Received approval to conduct a bow and arrow hunt for deer. Approval was also received to take
squirrel, bobcat, rabbit, and raccoon with bow. Hunt was conducted from October 18 -31; 288
permits issued and 5 deer killed.

1957 Bow season October 16-31; 303 permits issued and 15 deer killed.

1958 First hunt plan prepared and submitted 6/5/1959; recommended archery hunt for deer and allowed incidental taking of squirrels, rabbits, and bobcats with bow.

1959 Prepared and submitted amendment to plan recommending gun squirrel hunt. First squirrel hunt;  October 1-31; 4,200 permits issued. Deer archery season; October 8-31; 833 permits issued and
26 deer killed.

1960 Taking of squirrels, rabbit, and deer was approved by Central Office and notice was published in Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Squirrel hunt October 1-7; Archery Deer Hunt October 10-29; 808 permits issued and 27 deer killed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Arkansas's Most Productive Public Deer Lands

                                                                                                                   Article by Jim Taylor

The Arkansas Arkansas Game and Fish commission has  reported that  210,000 deer have been harvested so far during the 2012/2013 deer hunting season.  This surpasses the record held since the 1999/2000 season when 194,192 deer were harvested.   These are combined numbers for all methods of deer hunting. 

So this season was good, but what was Arkansas's most productive public hunting area?  I analyzed the year-to-date deer harvest data from Arkansas's 132 wildlife management areas(WMA) and national wildlife refuges(NWR)  for the 2012 season.  Rather than  just looking  at the total number of deer taken,  I compared each wildlife management area's deer harvest numbers to the total area within the WMA to arrive at a “harvest per square mile” ratio. This enabled me to find the true producers among Arkansas's  public deer hunting lands.
To make the data more manageable, I focused on popular  WMA's and NWR's that had checked  at least 100 deer during the 2012/2013 season thus far.  (Through the first week of January 2013) I then ranked/sorted  them  in order of the most productive deer producers in the chart below.  This is a more accurate  method of comparing deer hunting  productivity  than just looking at the total number of deer taken.   For example, a hunter might be initially impressed with the 1,112 whitetails bagged on  White River National Wildlife Refuge, until you consider its vast expanse.   The 250 square miles within the boarders of  White River National Wildlife Refuge produced a deer harvested per square mile ratio of 4.4.   This harvest ratio places the refuge in the  number 8 ranking on our list of  top deer hunting lands in Arkansas.

Like it has for the previous two seasons, the primitive weapons only area of  Trusten Holder  reigns supreme again as Arkansas's most productive public land for deer hunting.  At 10.6 deer harvested per square mile Trusten Holder  is 56% more productive than the newly established Moro Big Pine Natural Area WMA, the number 2 spot on this years list, and a whopping 141% more productive than the popular White River NWR.    











Deer Harvest

2012/2013 Harvest Report Acres Harvest Harvest/sq mi.

Trusten Holder WMA 8173 136 10.6

Moro Big Pine Natural Area WMA 16000 169 6.8

Cache River NWR 54000 568 6.7

Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA 19184 166 5.5

Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA 17524 146 5.3

Howard County WMA 26000 193 4.8

Fort Chaffee WMA 66000 462 4.5

White River NWR - South Unit+ NORTH 160000 1112 4.4

Felsenthal NWR 65000 445 4.4

Dave Donaldson Black River WMA 21150 141 4.3

Lafayette County WMA 16739 110 4.2

Poison Springs WMA 17604 115 4.2

Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA 16739 105 4

Pond Creek NWR 27000 164 3.9

Big Timber WMA 37742 204 3.5

Lake Greeson WMA 38000 144 2.4

Bayou Meto WMA 33832 120 2.3

Casey Jones WMA 83832 297 2.3

Sylamore WMA 150000 496 2.1

Mount Magazine WMA 120000 318 1.7

Winona WMA 160000 326 1.3

Buffalo National River WMA 97730 186 1.2

Muddy Creek WMA 146206 214 0.9

Cherokee WMA 105313 144 0.9

Caney Creek WMA 85000 95 0.7

Piney Creeks WMA 180000 191 0.7