Arkansas game wardens growing concerned about turkey poaching | in the fresh air

With an increase in turkey breeding last year and a strong start to the 2023 spring turkey season, biologists and staff with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are optimistic about recent trends in Arkansas’ turkey forests. One trend that continues to worry AGFC game wardens is the continued use of bait by some hunters to illegally shoot turkeys.

According to the AGFC’s Code of Regulations, hunters, whether on public or private lands, may not catch turkeys with the aid of bait. An area is considered grafted if any food (including shelled, shredded or uncut corn, shards, wheat or other forage that could act as a lure or attractant to wildlife is present or has been present in the past 10 days. The area must be entirely free from bait for at least 10 days before they become eligible for fishing.

So far this season, Arkansas game guards have issued 75 citations or warnings for gross violations related to the turkey catch. Twenty-one of these violations were stalking baits.

“It takes a lot of time and hard work to catch people who feed turkeys,” said Col. Brad Young, AGFC Chief of Law Enforcement. “There is a lot of pre-season work figuring out where the baits are, and then you might spend a lot of early mornings there before the offenders show up. It might take several sessions before you finally catch them.”

Rangers have many tools available to help find baited locations, Young says, but the two most important tools are tips from ethical fishermen and good old-fashioned lashing.

“We need our athletes and women to file these reports if someone is feeding turkeys on the property near where the hunt is,” Young said. “Even if we can’t catch them in the act right away, our game wardens take notes and use the information for future operations. Some sat at a known poaching site for a few seasons before they could be caught in the act, but eventually it will happen. Fellow hunters Those who care about resources are the best help we have in this effort.”

In addition to being unsportsmanlike, the bait can have a serious impact on the turkey population.

Bait carries with it some concerns about disease transmission as well as concerns about nest predation. Studies of nest success in wild turkeys indicate that nests close to the bait area have higher rates of nest predation than those in these locations. Raccoons, skunks, and other predators attracted to the free meal at bait sites were able to more easily find nearby turkey nesting sites, eliminating the chance of a successful hatch.

“A lot of biologists and rangers, myself included, are avid turkey hunters, too,” Young said. “When a turkey hunter shoots a bait, they are stealing that bird from someone who is willing to follow the rules and accept the challenge that turkey hunting presents. We take it personally, and so should every other hunter who does it right.”

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