Michelle Rupp: Trey Reid with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission joins me today. Trey, thanks so much for coming in.

Trey Reid: Thank you for having me.

MR: We’re talking hunting, and it’s starting to feel a little, well maybe it’s not starting to feel a little like hunting season.

TR: It will, though.

MR: It’s September. So that’s right. It’s going to get there. The first question I have is, what are some of the things hunters need to know that might be new this season?

TR: Yeah, I mean, not a lot has changed since last season, but you know, a couple of things that I would remind hunters about. Deer hunting is by far the most popular activity in Arkansas. We’re just a couple of weeks away from archery deer season. Dove season opened a couple of weeks ago. Muzzleloading season and then modern gun season begins in early November. So, there’s kind of this progression and step up in our deer hunting season. But probably the big thing that I would remind hunters about is, you know, we do have chronic wasting disease that’s been detected in the state’s deer herd. And for those that aren’t familiar with it, it is a fatal neurological disease that affects members of the deer family in Arkansas. That means elk and whitetail deer. It was first identified in a captive herd in Colorado in the late sixties and so endemic we think to kind of the mountain areas of western Colorado and Wyoming. But it started showing up. One of the first times it was found in the east was in Wisconsin in the early 2000s. In Arkansas, we found it in 2016.

There’s no evidence that it can pass to humans. But because of some research done, I mean they have demonstrated that a primate can get it, and because of the issues with mad cow disease in the U. K. And Canada back probably 15, 20 years ago … It’s in the same family of diseases. Mad cow is bovine spongiform encephalopathy. I hate to get all technical, but this is sort of the version that that affects members of the cervid family, again, deer and elk in Arkansas. It is an insidious disease that can persist in the soil. Plants can take it up. So, it’s been a challenge for our whitetail deer management in Arkansas for the past five years. I would highly encourage people to have their animals tested to be safe and have that peace of mind.

MR: Well, on that happy note, are there any new licensing requirements?

TR: No, I mean not so much with licensing. We haven’t really changed anything. Over the past couple of years, we have had some changes to nonresident access on our wildlife management areas for waterfowl hunting, places like Bayou Meto, Dave Donaldson Black River up in northeastern Arkansas. But those have been in place a couple of years, and most folks have become accustomed to that.

MR: So, if your first-time hunter, what’s the one or two things you need to know?

TR: Yeah, I mean number one, have your license on you. Get your license. You’d be surprised at how many times our wildlife officers encounter people that don’t have their license with them. They have ways to look it up, and they usually issue a warning ticket. You know, one thing, it’s relatively new, Michelle, but we’ve been doing it for a few years; paper licenses are kind of a thing of the past now. You can buy your license online and print and print out a license. But most folks nowadays are just carrying either a photograph of that or a downloadable PDF on their phone. It makes it easy and convenient for folks to carry their license that way. You can board an airplane, you know, with your phone or by a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and now you can have your hunting and fishing license on it.

MR: That’s pretty cool. If you are an old-timer hunter and you’ve been hunting all your life, what do you need to know?

TR: The main thing I would say is to be safe. I mean the safety message, I don’t want to sound preachy, but you know, always positively identify your target. Don’t go on to other people’s land that’s not yours. I mean, you’d be surprised. We still have to write some citations for that sort of thing. You know, going back to your question about new hunters. I would like to point out our resources that are available to everybody, whether you’re a new hunter or an experienced hunter, that’s maybe going to a new area or taking up a different kind of hunting than you’ve done in the past. We have a wealth of resources that game and fish, not only at our website, AGFC.com but throughout the state. We have nine nature and education centers across Arkansas, from downtown Little Rock to our newest one in Springdale, the JB and John L. Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center. They’re not only, I think many people look at those as a place to look at exhibits and things like that, but we offer all kinds of classes. Some geared to young hunters, some geared to female hunters, you know, so they can go in and have a non-threatening atmosphere with other women to learn new skills. And then some that are for everybody. If you want to learn how to crappie fish, if you want to learn how to hunt deer with a bow and arrow, say you’re a rifle hunter or a muzzleloader hunter, and you want to learn about hunting, we have that. We have an incredible number of resources, and we’ve got a great new events calendar at AGFC.com that tells you where they are. You can filter it by distance from where you live, by your particular interest, and Michelle, it’s not just hunting. I mean, we’re talking hiking, paddling, good places to go out and watch birds.

MR: Anything? All right, we’ll try. That is great information, and I had no idea just what all is offered with game and fish.

TR: We have been known as an agency about hunting and fishing, but our mission is to protect the resources of Arkansas and, more so than that, connect people to those resources. The more people who care about our natural resources in our natural world and our environment here in Arkansas, the more support we have for conservation issues, and the greater chance we can preserve these incredible resources for future generations. And it’s a beautiful state. We don’t call it the natural state for nothing.

MR: That’s right. Thanks so much.

TR: Thank you, Michelle.