2023 Turkey Hunting Regulations Update
Increased Penalties and Permit-Only Hunts
This year, penalties for baiting wild turkeys have escalated to a Class 3 violation. Significant changes include the requirement of permits for turkey hunting in specific Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Petit Jean River and Cypress Bayou WMAs now mandate permits for turkey hunting. Additionally, new permit hunt opportunities are available at Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita, Cypress Bayou, McIlroy Madison County, and Petit Jean River WMAs.
Introduction of Hybrid Permit Hunts
In a unique development, hybrid permit turkey hunts have been added at Longview Saline, Trusten Holder, and Warren Prairie WMAs. During these hunts, the initial three days are exclusively for hunters with permits, but from day four onwards, any licensed hunter can participate. A similar format is adopted for the hybrid permit hunt on Sylamore WMA.
Ozark National Forest WMA Merge
The Ozark National Forest WMA has ceased to exist as an independent entity, instead integrating into the surrounding co-op WMAs. For precise WMA boundary information, hunters should refer to the AGFC interactive map at AGFC's website.
Legal Turkey Identification
A legal turkey is primarily an adult gobbler, with the exception that hunters aged 6-15 may take one jake as part of their two-bird limit, which includes the youth hunt.
Identifying Adult Gobbler and Hen Characteristics
An adult gobbler's traits include black-tipped breast feathers, prominent size, vibrant head coloring, beards longer than 6 inches, and spurs typically over 1/2 inch in length. Conversely, a hen can be identified by brown or buff-colored breast feather tips, smaller size, a bluish head with minimal red caruncles, and typically no beard—though a small percentage may possess one.
Determining Jake Features
To differentiate a jake— a juvenile male—observe that the outermost wing feathers lack complete white barring, the central tail feathers are more prominent than the rest, and the beard does not exceed 6 inches.
Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey Participation
AGFC invites hunters to engage in the Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey for insights into hunting efforts and results statewide. Participants will track and report their hunting activities, thereby contributing to data-driven management and communication strategies. Interested individuals can call 501-382-3650, visit agfc.com/turkeysurvey, or scan the provided QR code.
Recap of 2022 Turkey Harvest
Last year's youth turkey hunt took place on April 9-10. The regular 21-day season started on April 18 and concluded on May 8. Hunters reported a total of 7,595 turkeys, marking an 8% increase from the previous year. The Special Youth Hunt Weekend contributed 891 harvested turkeys to this tally. Detailed harvest statistics are available at agfc.com/turkeyharvest, where hunters can also scan the QR code for immediate access.
Turkey Hunting Regulations Overview
Legal Equipment for Turkey Hunting
- Only shotguns of 10 gauge or smaller are legal.
- Archery equipment, including crossbows, is permitted.
- No use of shot larger than No. 2.
- Hunting from boats is illegal.
- Turkeys cannot be taken from 30 minutes post-sunset to 30 minutes pre-sunrise.
- Hunting is not allowed within 100 feet of the center of any public road or on certain WMAs/NWRs (with area exceptions).
- Firearms must be unloaded and cased on boats during the specified non-hunting hours.
- It's illegal to hunt turkeys using traps, snares, nets, hooks, explosives, dogs, or live decoys.
- Electronic or mechanically driven callers are not allowed.
Specific Hunting Regulations
- Youth turkey hunts limit coyote and bobcat hunting to youth hunters only.
- It's illegal to hunt or shoot from the main west levee of the Mississippi or Arkansas rivers within a defined boundary.
- Individuals must be at least 6 years of age to harvest a wild turkey.
- Releasing domestic turkeys into the wild is prohibited.
- Capturing wild turkeys or collecting their eggs is against the law.
Restrictions Regarding Baiting
- Hunting over bait is illegal.
- Areas remain a no-hunt zone for 10 days following bait removal.
Zone and Area Specific Provisions
- WMAs are considered separate zones with specific regulations.
- Private land within WMA boundaries adheres to WMA regulations.
- Private land surrounded by National Wildlife Refuge or Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission land follows the adjacent state management zone regulations, plus additional federal rules.
Rules for Hunting on Private Property and Near Residences
Hunting Proximity to Dwellings
- Landowners or lessees can hunt on their property regardless of distance to another residence.
- Hunters must obtain written permission to use firearms within 150 yards or archery equipment within 50 yards of any residence not their own.
Private Property Access for Hunting
- Written consent is required to hunt, fish, trap, release hunting dogs, or track wildlife on private lands.
- Relatives of the landowner or leaseholder, specified as spouse, children, siblings, and extended family including in-laws, nieces, nephews, and grandparents, are exempt if permission is verifiable.
Turkey Harvest Reporting Procedures
Online and Phone Checking
- For private land turkey harvests, refer to the zone map.
- Public land harvests use the zone map on pages 22-23.
- Hunters under 16 need a free Customer ID from agfc.com.
Two Options for Checking Turkeys
- Check the turkey immediately upon harvest and before moving it, using:
- AGFC website,
- AGFC mobile app,
- Phone: Call 877-731-5627.
- Use a game tag from your license or fill out the provided template.
- Complete all details in ink, excluding Check #.
- Alternative materials with required hunter information and harvest details are acceptable.
- Attach the tag to the turkey's leg.
- Check the turkey via AGFC's online platform, the official mobile app, or by phone within 12 hours of the harvest.
- Record the check number on the game tag.
Additional Tagging and Transport Details
- Checked turkeys don't need a tag if kept with the hunter.
- When left at a facility, retain harvest information with the meat.
- Entrails can be removed, but evidence of sex must be intact until checked.
- Transporting un-checked turkeys across state lines is prohibited.
- For gifting game post-check, a completed game transfer form is necessary.
Guidelines for Transferring Wildlife
Giving Game to Another Person
- When transferring any part of your game, provide the recipient with all details from the sample tag.
Record-Keeping for Facilities
- Hunting camps, commercial processors, butchers, cold storage services, fur buyers, and taxidermists must record and keep all information from the sample tag.
- Records must be readable and retained for one year from the date of acquisition.