The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced in its weekly newsletter released Wednesday it will allow hunters who use duck blinds on the Big Lake state-managed wildlife management area to access, clean and repair those duck blinds in preparation for the 2004 hunting season.
Local hunters whose families constructed the blinds as long as 60 years ago, when the land was privately owned, had been told the state would decide whether the blinds would be allowed to remain. Game and Fish told hunters during the 2003 duck hunting season the duck blinds could be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if a local hunter stocked and repaired a blind he or she has always used, if other hunters from another area got to the blind first, the out-of-area hunters were to be allowed to stay in the blind and hunt.
After the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year saying they would destroy duck blinds on federal lands, it had been feared Game and Fish would also decide to remove the blinds.
However, in its newsletter released Wednesday, Game and Fish said anyone who wishes to assist will be allowed into the duck blinds areas from Sept. 10-26 to maintain blinds, waterfowl hunting holes and boat lanes. No permits will be required, and the action will be open to the public because the blinds are open to the public during duck season.
The following regulations will be in force during the maintenance period:
-- Only blinds that are in good condition may be maintained. Blinds that have been destroyed or are no longer safe or serviceable may not be rebuilt.
-- Maintenance is limited to repairs necessary to keep the structure in a safe and serviceable condition. Construction of new blinds is not permitted and existing blinds cannot be enlarged or replaced.
-- Blinds determined by the AGFC to be unsafe, unserviceable or to have been illegally built, moved or altered will be removed.
-- Certain levees and roads usually open to vehicular traffic may be closed because of construction or logging operations in Big Lake and Dave Donaldson/Black River WMAs. Only ATVs will be permitted beyond signs, locked gates or barricades for maintenance purposes. The Reyno Levee on Dave Donaldson/Black River WMA is under renovation and it is important that vehicular traffic, other than ATVs, not be permitted on that levee for safety reasons. Signs will be posted to inform sportsmen of the closure. Also, the east levee of Big Lake is being used by two different logging operations as a haul road. There is a lot of heavy equipment, road maintenance equipment, skidders and log trucks running the levee at all times during the day. Passenger vehicles will not be allowed on this levee for safety reasons.
-- Identification numbers that have been placed on or near blinds are not to be removed or painted over.
-- Boats, four-, six- or eight-wheeled ATVs may be used on existing roads or trails to access blinds or hunting areas. Utility trailers may be used with ATVs to transport repair materials and/or equipment to blind locations.
-- No trucks or other passenger vehicles, farm tractors or implements, including implements for use with four-wheelers, riding mowers or power mowers, will be allowed on the areas.
-- No chemicals, herbicides or defoliants are to be used.
-- Chain saws will be permitted only for the cutting of fallen logs from boat lanes, trails and hunting spots.
-- No standing trees are to be cut, regardless of size.
-- No new holes or clearings are to be created.
-- Non-powered hand tools or gasoline-powered string trimmers not equipped with metal blades may be used to clear grass and weeds from hunting areas provided that no trees are cut or damaged.
-- Soil may not be plowed, cultivated or disturbed in any manner and no seeds of any kind are to be planted.
-- No maintenance may be done in areas that have been closed to hunting by painted boundaries or signs. Signs or red paint on surrounding trees mark these areas.
-- Illegally cut trees, application of chemicals or defoliants or the enlargement or creation of new openings will result in the permanent closure of that location to hunting.
For more information on hunting dates and regulations, consult the Game
and Fish Web site at www.agfc.com.