Big game and premier birds get most of the press, but Arkansas small game is bountiful, accessible, relatively hassle-free to hunt, and all make for fine eating.
The First Fall Season
The fall hunting season kicks off in Arkansas with the Labor Day Weekend dove season, Mourning doves, white-winged doves, and Eurasian collared doves are all legal game and bag limits are generous for all three. The best hunting is along natural flyways, water sources, and near agricultural fields. You can find some fine spots on public land, with a few duck hunting lodges also offering this early-season opportunity. Steel shot is required for dove hunting on public lands, but lead shot is legal on private land. Either way, you’ll likely need several boxes along with a cooler of cold drinks for the after-hunt celebration. But you cannot fully experience Southern hunting culture without attending at least one September dove hunt.
Squirrel season in Arkansas runs from the middle of May until the last day of February. That’s a lot of mornings to slip through hardwood creek bottoms or across an upland ridge. Take your favorite .22 and test your stalking skills in the wide-open winter woods. If you want a mess for the skillet quicker, bring a scattergun to the leafy green of late spring and early autumn. Hone your stealthiness, fill the freezer, or just enjoy time in the woods with a chance to collect meat. Almost every piece of public woodland in Arkansas will hold gray or fox squirrels, and often both.
Beagles and Bunnies
Excited yips on a frosty morning in the bottomlands as little hounds first strike a rabbit is music to the ears. The chorus grows louder as the chase circles back to you and you ready your shotgun, looking hard for the bouncing ball of tawny fur and pray you can hit it. Both cottontail and swamp rabbits call Arkansas home. The former is found everywhere, but most abundantly in the lowlands. The latter is only found near water and has adapted to a nearly amphibious life. Swamp rabbits are legendary in their ability to evade beagles. One of their favorite tricks is taking a swim and dissolving their scent trail. You don’t need dogs and shotguns for rabbits, though. That .22 rifle will work as you ease through the tangles looking for a tell-tale shiny black eye or the subtle shapes of a hiding rabbit. Rabbit season typically opens in September and runs through February in Arkansas. Public lands in central and eastern Arkansas are prime areas.
More Ducks, Please
Mallards, mallards, mallards…seems like all you hear about are mallards, and pintails, and all those other “big” ducks. But teal zip through Arkansas skies early, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recognizes this with an early teal season typically opening mid-September. It runs for only a couple of weeks, but is a fantastic chance to scratch that shotgunning itch and live the crazy idea of duck hunting in only a T-shirt and possibly barefoot. Several lodges take advantage of the duck-hunting preview and offer guided hunts, but you can find teal on public land, too, and likely with few other hunters after them. Local tip: Islands found in the Cache, White and Arkansas Rivers are teal hot spots of special note.
Visit Arkansas Tourism to plan your trip.