Commission hears proposed sanction

SPRINGDALE — The state Game and Fish Commission heard a proposal Thursday to curb potentially dangerous pre-dawn “boat races” by duck hunters on state wildlife management areas.

Bayou Meto WMA, a duck area of world renown, has been the scene of many of the watery speed contests resulting from hunters hurrying to choice spots before daylight. Some accidents have occurred and officials fear the prospect of more injuries and possibly deaths from the races.

Holding its regular monthly meeting in Springdale, the commission heard a proposal from Brad Carner, chief of the agency’s Wildlife Management Division, to assign six violation points to boaters convicted of dangerous or reckless boating.

Game and Fish has a system of violation points for hunting offenses that can result in license suspensions or revocation, but in the past the point system has not included boating violations. The commission agreed to study the proposal and consider the change at its October meeting in Little Rock.

On another waterfowl hunting related issue, the commission agreed to allow hunters to leave boats with decoys in them overnight at designated points on the Dave Donaldson/Black River WMA in northeastern Arkansas near Pocahontas and Corning.

Leaving decoy spreads on management areas is prohibited. A dozen spots on the management areas have been designated for hunters to leave their vessels, usually called slough boats, with decoys on the area.

On Wednesday, the commissioners in committee meetings heard protests from several meat processors about the recent action to prohibit hunters bringing in carcasses of cervids, deer family members, from other states. They cited probable loss of some business from the ban.

Hunters can still bring in meat that has been removed from bones and clean skulls. The import prohibition is aimed at keeping chronic wasting disease (CWD) out of Arkansas.

A proposal to adjust commission rules on importing primates to concur with a newly passed state law was presented to the commissioners. They will vote on the matter in October.

Among other provisions, the news state law requires owners of primates — monkeys and other apes — with county sheriff’s offices.