Arkansans looking for one of the state’s most exciting hunts wrapped up their efforts last weekend with the conclusion of the 2022 alligator hunting season.
When first light began to break Monday morning, signaling the end of the two-weekend night-hunting-only season, 157 alligators had been tagged and reported to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Mark Barbee, assistant regional manager in the AGFC’s Monticello Regional Office who coordinates the hunt, said the hunting went very smoothly, and that all successful hunters have been issued CITES tags to complete the federal requirements of their harvest. Alligator hunting is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the AGFC must follow survey and harvest protocols each year to maintain Arkansas’s alligator hunting season.
Alligator hunting is by permit only in Arkansas. The AGFC issued 43 public hunting permits, with hunting allowed only in designated areas of the Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA, Sulphur River WMA, Little River below Millwood Lake, Millwood Lake and the Lower Arkansas River Wetland Complex. All other public areas were closed to alligator hunting.
In addition to public hunting opportunities, hunters who owned or had permission to hunt on private lands within the three Alligator Management Zones were able to hunt through a quota-based system similar to private land elk hunting and bear hunting in Arkansas. They were required to obtain a permit through the AGFC’s online licensing system. Harvested gators had to be reported as soon as possible to the AGFC.
In Zone 1, 64 total alligators were harvested. Thirteen of those animals came from public land. In Zone 2, six alligators were taken. No public land opportunities were available in Zone 2, so each of the six came from private land. Alligator Management Zone 3 saw the highest harvest, with 87 alligators taken (11 of which came from public land).
Barbee said that although some public land tags were left unfilled by the end of the hunt, it was not for lack of opportunity.
“All of the public land hunters I’ve talked to pretty much saw gators,” Barbee said. “But they tend to hold out for a little larger one. Many have told me in the past that they passed on 8- and 9-foot gators, hoping for a 10-footer or better, and time ran out on them. But they always say they had a great experience and an opportunity to harvest.”