South Arkansas residents may get calls from adventure-seeking friends this weekend to see if there’s an opportunity to take part in this year’s private land alligator hunt.
The 2021 hunt is today through Monday, and from September 24-27.
While public hunting opportunities have all been awarded through the AGFC’s draw process in July, private land hunting for alligators follows a quota system that offers more opportunities for people who weren’t lucky enough to draw a public hunting permit.
Arkansas is the only state that has both an alligator and an elk season. While getting permits to hunt public land for either of these species requires a draw process, private land hunting for both species is regulated by a quota system.
Just as with elk hunting, anyone with access to private land in one of Arkansas’s open alligator zones may purchase a $5 private land alligator hunting permit in addition to a valid hunting license and try for an alligator until the quota for the zone is filled.
Last season was the first that the new quota-based private land hunts were implemented, and hunters responded to the change with a record harvest of 174 alligators statewide.
“The previous record was 98 gators taken in 2017,” Mark Barbee, AGFC wildlife assistant regional supervisor in southeast Arkansas who coordinates the alligator hunts. “And we also saw a near 14-footer taken last year.”
Barbee says the increase in harvest likely was the result of the change to the quota-based permit system.
“Before, there were many tags that went unfilled because someone who had drawn a permit was holding out for a larger alligator and never managed to get it,” Barbee said. “But last year, more people were able to participate in the hunt, so they were more apt to close the deal when they saw a legal gator.”
The quota system also enabled some landowners to see a nuisance alligator as an opportunity to hunt.
“I talked to several landowners who had gators show up in their cow pond or fishing pond over the summer who were able to take care of it themselves and enjoy an alligator hunt on their own property,” Barbee said. “Even some who didn’t want to hunt the gator themselves were able to offer that opportunity to a friend who enjoyed the hunt.”
Hunting is allowed only from 30 minutes after sundown until 30 minutes before sunup and is only open during the last two weekends in September. An alligator must be at least 4 feet long from the tip of the tail to the tip of the snout to be legal, and the seasonal limit is one alligator per permitted hunter.
Alligator hunters on private land should call the AGFC Wildlife Hotline at 800-440-1477 after 2 p.m. the day of their hunt to check if the quota has been met in their zone.
Hunt quotas for the three alligator zones are as follows:
Alligator Management Zone 1 – 47 (Lafayette County is in Zone 1)
Alligator Management Zone 2 – 5 (Columbia, Nevada, Ouachita and Union counties are in Zone 2)
Alligator Management Zone 3 – 65