1) Hunting, and
2) Complaining about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).
Hunters always think they have better solution to improving the game populations in the state than the people the governor appoints to the commission. After all, for all its egalitarian past, hunting is now a rather blue collar activity. Most of the bona fides of the game and fish commissioners boil down to the financial support provided to the governor in the last election.
That’s not to say the commissioners are not sportsmen or don’t know what they are talking about. However, most hunters know that the commission positions are given out as favors to political supporters. The commissioners got their position because they know Ray Thornton, not because they can call like Ray Eye. In a populist sport like hunting, that instantly puts the commissioners in an awkward position vis a vis the hunter.
Which brings us to the commission’s 4-to-3 vote last week to cancel this year’s fall turkey season. According to the AGFC biologist, only 522 turkey were taken during last fall’s turkey season. The commission said the cause of this low harvest was poor hatch numbers. So they shut down the season. No doubt some turkey hunters are complaining, but not many. Most turkey hunters don’t hunt the fall season. It just isn’t as popular as the spring season.
One reason is that you hunt turkeys differently in fall than in spring. Spring is the turkey mating season and you attract male turkeys by mimicking the calls of a female turkey. With fall hunting you have to find the turkeys without the benefit of libido. Turkeys are weary by nature and the only time a male turkey isn’t cautious is the spring time when he’s looking to score. Even then he’s mighty hard to kill.
The fall season is different in that you have to find the mostly silent birds and get close to them at a time when they aren’t throwing caution to the wind. Adding to the difficulty is that in the fall turkeys move in groups. Instead of one set of eyes looking for danger, fall turkey hunters must avoid being spotted numerous birds. Some hunters hunt fall turkey like deer by waiting in a tree stand or blind. In some areas hunters use dogs to find and bust up flocks and then calling them back to gather by imitating the noise turkey use to locate each other after they’ve been split up. There are even tales of people stalking turkeys by moving slow enough to not be detected by the sharp eyes of the birds.
In short, fall turkey season is a completely different hunting experience and it brings a different type of hunter. The methods used to hunt turkey in the fall are often more difficult and more specialized and are useless in the spring season. By outlawing the fall season, AGFC essentially outlawed unique forms of hunting that cannot be used in spring. There was only one opportunity for them to hunt with these techniques. This year, that opportunity is gone.
No doubt the AGFC was right in taking action to improve the turkey population. But it isn’t fair to the hunters whose only chance to hunt in the unique styles of the fall has been taken away because the season was closed. This attitude is especially dangerous in a day in age where many in society frown upon hunting. Today, all hunters are in the minority.
For once most hunters aren’t grumbling about a decision the commissioners made because it doesn’t involve them. But if they were smart they would be grumbling about this decision more than the decisions that impact the majority of hunters. There is strength in numbers and last week the strong were not the ones targeted. How unsporting.