September 23, 2020

Is Arkansas Pulling The Wool Over Non-Resident Hunters Eyes?

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A few days ago I received an email via the tip line from George Atkinson from Texas. He wanted to give me a heads up about hunting license changes in Arkansas. Thank you George for the alert. Maybe this will save someone from being charged for illegal hunting. This is what he said.

I dont know if you or your readers are contemplating on hunting in Arkansas, as a non-resident. You should be aware of a few changes in their laws concerning non-resident hunter license fees and deer quotas.
Two hunting seasons ago Arkansas saw fit to issue non-resident deer quotas in relation to the type of license bought.
Example: 3 day – 1 buck, 5 day – 1buck, 1 doe and the annual non resident license was the same as a resident, 2 buck, 1 doe. This may seem just fine except that this was done without any published notice to non-resident hunters or the sales personnel at the license outlets.

The near catastrophic dilemma occurred when Atkinson’s party went to tag their first deer. According to Atkinson, they were not aware of any changes in the quota for non-resident deer hunters. Atkinson says he’s been hunting in Arkansas since 1985. When he bought this year’s license, he was not told or given any publication to indicate that there were changes.

It was only after his party tagged their first deer were they told of the quota changes. They asked for something in writing because they couldn’t believe no one in the group was aware of any changes. Nothing could be produced to verify the quota changes.

Atkinson wrote to the Arkansas Fish and Game asking for verification and an explanation. He received a letter back stating that in fact they had changed the quota for non-residents but if I understand Atkinson correctly, there was no other explanation. I do not have a copy of the print publication of the Arkansas hunting guide but Atkinson claims there is nothing in the book about the changes. He says the only place it is written is on the license which you have to buy first.

Does the licensing agent just assume that everyone, even from out of state, is aware of these changes? These are quota changes. Breaking quota laws can become quite costly. Why isn’t the state publishing the changes in the law book? Most states that I am familiar with will have a section in the rule book that specifically states all rule changes for that season. This way they don’t have to completely re-write the book each season.

I sent an email to the Arkansas Fish and Game asking for verification of this rule change. I first received this response.

Mr. Remington,
Yes that is correct.
A non-resident Annual All Game ($300) comes with 4 deer tags and two
turkey tags.
Non-Resident 5-day ($150) comes with 2 deer tags and 2 turkey tags.
Non-Resident 3-day ($100) comes with 1 deer tag and 1 turkey tag.
Thank you,

Sandra Garrett
AR Game & Fish Commission
Wildlife Division

Kim Cartwright
Information Officer
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

Obviously, this verifies the change in quotas according to the license I would elect to purchase as a non-resident hunter but it doesn’t solve the problem. What if I were a first-time deer hunter to Arkansas from out of state? If I had made my plans to go on a hunt there and I went to the website to purchase my non-resident license, which I can do quite easily, how would know anything about this? I searched everywhere because I had been tipped off and I couldn’t find anything that described deer quotas for non-residents. It showed cost differences between a non-resident full season, five-day and three-day but nothing about quotas.

Had I opted to buy my license this way and went to Arkansas to hunt, I could be facing some serious charges for breaking game laws.

Then within minutes I received another response.

Tom, I think this is what you are asking for.
http://www.agfc.com/fishing/anglers-corner/license-info-fishing/prices-d
ecriptions-fishing.aspx

I have forwarded your previous question to the department that would
best answer it for you. I will send you the response as soon as I get
it.

Kim Cartwright
Information Officer
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

That was all well and good if I was going to Arkansas to fish. I am looking for published information so that if and when I opt to buy an Arkansas deer hunting license, I know what the laws are concerning quotas.

I responded to that email pointing out the error in their link and am now awaiting another response. I was going to wait on this post until I had collected all the information but I felt it important enough to alert would-be non-resident license buyers.

Atkinson further points out another troubling aspect of this change that makes one wonder just exactly what is the state up to.

When we hunt in Arkansas, we hunt on the wildlife management areas which in most part are obtained by a application and fee draw system. When successful, a permit is issued after the fee is paid but the permit reflects the same deer quota as a resident hunter. The permit quota is not consistant with the hunting license quota.

I’m not a lawyer but it seems the state would have a difficult time getting charges to stick that concern non-resident deer quota infractions. This is a confusing mess. One the state needs to address immediately. But there is another issue that Arkansas might not being seeing but then again maybe they are. I’ll explain.

In the email I received from Atkinson he explains what has happened to his hunting party since they found out about this new quota changes.

I am the only hunter in our camp from Texas, the rest come from Maryland and Pennsylvania of which we lost three hunters this year because of these changes.

He further explains.

The result of all of this is a sizeable reduction of hunter dollars spent in the state and local community. We are now considering a move of our camp to another state.
I have been hunting as a non-resident, in the state of Arkansas, since 1985 and the deer quota was always the same as the resident quota. There was never a reason to suggest otherwise. It makes no sense to us.

Many questions need to be answered. Is Arkansas so disorganized and the fish and game so poorly run that they are not aware of the potential problems this law change without any notification or publications alerting license buyers can be? Or is this a deliberate back-door way of forcing non-resident hunters out of the state?

If it is the second, and I doubt that it is, they don’t need to be so sneaky about it. The Supreme Court has ruled in other states that each state can set its own seasons, license fees and quotas for non-resident hunters. This was challenged as part of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution that states that a business in one state should be able to conduct business in another state in a free and equal manner. Some have tried to link hunting as a business, especially when it comes to guiding, etc. The courts have failed to see it that way.

This seems more of a case of poor planning and foresight. It is difficult to fathom that a state agency would make such a significant law change and not carry out the entirety of the change to ensure that all non-resident hunters are aware of any and all changes. If Arkansas intends to continue offering non-resident hunters a place to go and spent their dollars, they better be addressing this problem now.

I will await further responses from the Arkansas Fish and Game.

Tom Remington

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