05 June

Meet Patrick Fitzmorris, Project Leader- Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge

I was fortunate to have spent the opening three days of our 2024 Turkey season with the new manager of our Dale Bumpers White/ River National Wildlife Refuge, Patrick Fitzmorris. I learned that Pat brings a diverse and valuable background to his position as the recently appointed refuge manager. His experience working in refuges across the US, including with black brants in Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and at the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota's "duck factory" region, made him a natural candidate to lead a nationally known waterfowl refuge like our Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge.

What was really cool that I found out about Pat was that, before his work within the refuge system, 
Patrick's passion for duck hunting led him to work as a biologist for Ducks Unlimited, where he dedicated seven years of service. Additionally, Patrick spent eleven years managing a state Deer Association, where he played a crucial role in fundraising efforts and coordinating volunteer initiatives.

It is also comforting to note that Pat, as an avid hunter, has consistently advocated for hunting and fishing opportunities for the general public. Pat said, “We are land stewards, and that respect and care for public lands is why I got into this profession. I value public lands, fish, wildlife, and habitat more than I can explain. Trying to make a difference in outdoor recreation and providing that experience is what I’m all about. I think the vast amounts of public land in the U.S. are what make America great! Providing hunting and fishing opportunities is in our mission statement, and protecting wild lands and abundant wildlife is essential to the quality of life in America.”

During his short time as manager of our refuge, Patrick has successfully collaborated with volunteer organizations dedicated to public land stewardship, like the Arkansas chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Friends of the Refuge. His background in working with private non-profits has proven to be a valuable asset in fostering these partnerships.

Patrick acknowledges that balancing the need to protect and conserve the refuge’s habitat and its wildlife for future generations while maximizing outdoor opportunities for today's sportsmen can be challenging. Having a degree in wildlife management will only get you so far when heading the largest and most popular wildlife refuge in the state, as it is more about managing the public than managing wildlife.

There has been a lot of buzz around some state-level hunting regulation changes for 2024, and some refuge users have questioned how it might affect the rules on Dale Bumpers

White River National Wildlife Refuge. As most know, the refuge, following its more restrictive wildlife refuge mandate, may or may not follow state regulations. To get the refuge facts, I reached back out to Pat to get the skinny on how these new state rules might affect the refuge regulations this year.

1. Spinning Wing Decoys: Though state WMAs are going to allow them, the refuge will NOT.

2. Straight-Walled Cartridges: Straight-walled cartridges will not be permitted during the refuge's muzzleloader hunts.

3. Maximum Size of UTVs: The maximum size of UTVs is increasing from 1550 lbs dry weight to 1750 lbs dry weight, allowing most 4-seat SXSs. We have had a lot of requests for this and have decided to allow larger UTVs.

4. Take of Feral Hogs: For all those who have said “Huh?” when told you could NOT shoot a hog during early bow season, the refuge will allow the take of feral hogs during any BIG GAME season. Previously, you could only take feral hogs from November 1 on. Now, you can take them anytime archery deer season is open, as well as during the modern gun and muzzleloader seasons.

5. Afternoon Scouting for Ducks: Afternoon scouting for ducks will NOT be allowed.