Arkansas is a blessed land not just because of the incredible diversity of habitats and game, but also because there is access to these varied habitats and game. Lots of access. This state offers nearly 3.2 million acres with more than 150 wildlife management areas plus national wildlife refuges and two national forests.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission WMAs
Public land is never far in Arkansas. AGFC Wildlife Management areas cover the state from border to border ranging in size from hundreds of thousands of acres to little jewels of a few hundred acres. You can find them in the hilly uplands as well as in areas that require a boat and they offer opportunities for big game and small. Bears, bucks, squirrels, swamp rabbits, turkeys, and waterfowl can all be found on various WMAs. Go to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website for details as well as locations of the WMA best suited to your pursuits.
Ozark-St. Francis National Forest
The Ozark National Forest spans more than 1.2 million acres across northwest Arkansas. Hardwoods mast trees—mostly oaks and hickory with scattered stands of beech—mean tons of food for wildlife. White-tailed deer are the stars of this hunting show, and while there are plenty of them, they aren’t easy. This country is a rugged country. Wear good boots, pack a lunch and portable water filter (creeks run everywhere), and explore the hollows.
Arkansas was once known unofficially as “The Bear State.” While the bears never left, their numbers did dip. But now they’re back in the black and one of the bigger challenges of bear hunting in Arkansas is getting yours before the zone quota is filled. The Ozark National Forest along with state Wildlife Management Areas within the forest are consistent top bear producers.
For those who crave a lonelier adventure, check out the designated wilderness areas within the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Leatherwood, East Fork, Hurricane, and Richland all offer an opportunity to get lost in the best way with towering bluff lines, waterfalls, and mile upon mile of nothing but woods.
Ouachita National Forest
In west-central Arkansas, the Ouachita National Forest sprawls across 1.8 million acres. Legend says that the name is derived from “Washita,” a Native American word that roughly translates to “good hunting grounds.” This forest also has hardwood mast trees but is characterized by pine-covered ridges. The best, yet subjective, way to describe the difference is that the Ozarks have an Appalachian vibe while the Ouachitas feel more “Western.”
This is also extremely rugged terrain with many areas almost untouched because most hunters simply won’t expend the effort. Boot leather and want-to can easily get you away from the crowds and into a hunting experience increasingly difficult to find in this day and age—solitude with no cell service.
There may be more deer here than in the Ozarks. Black bears roam here, too, with this region ranking right with the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest as prime black bear habitat.
Within the Ouachita National Forest, Muddy Creek Wildlife Management Area is one of special note for its production of outsized white-tailed bucks and spring gobblers… but this is kind of a secret so don’t tell anyone.
Visit Arkansas Tourism to plan your trip.