New Arkansas Zone Yields 28 Black Bears During First Hunt

The Natural State’s black bear hunters took full advantage of a new zone.

New Arkansas Zone Yields 28 Black Bears During First Hunt

Hunters in the Natural State took advantage of a new zone to harvest 28 black bears. Photo:

While overall black bear harvest numbers were down for 2022, hunters in south Arkansas’ much-anticipated bear season took full advantage of the December hunt and killed 28 bears in the newly opened Bear Zone 4. 

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials said the 2022 harvest total was 469 bears, with most of those coming during archery season in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. Bear Zone 1 (north and northwest Arkansas) saw 303 bears harvested, and Bear Zone 2 (west-central Arkansas) saw 126 bears. Hunters in Bear Zones 5 and 5A (southeast Arkansas along the White River) had bear harvests of nine and three bears respectively. None were killed in the newly opened Bear Zone 3, which had a five-bear quota. 

“We really didn’t expect to see much of a harvest, if any, in Zone 3,” Myron Means, large carnivore program coordinator for the AGFC, said. “It’s a much smaller zone than Zones 1, 2 and 4 and doesn’t have the same sort of habitat in Zones 5 and 5A. But we have had enough reports of bears in that area during earlier portions of the year to open a limited season there.” 

Even with the new zones, the statewide harvest was slightly lower than the 2021 season harvest of 493 bears. But it was in line with stable harvest numbers seen since 2001, when baiting was allowed for bear hunting on private land. 

The newly opened zones grabbed many hunters’ attention. The bear population has expanded into the Gulf Coastal Plain of Arkansas, and bears had been recorded at deer feeders on a regular basis for a decade. After substantial monitoring, research performed in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Monticello, the AGFC bear management team submitted a limited hunt proposal to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission this past year, which was approved. 

“We intentionally set this new season with a small quota and scheduled it later in the year to try to protect as many female bears as possible,” Means said. “They typically would begin their denning cycle by December, so we were hopeful we’d have limited female harvest to keep the population stable. We did have some females harvested, but I’ve heard from a few hunting leases (that) intentionally passed up females they saw with cubs. It’s good to hear of that sportsmanship taking place during the hunt.” 

Overall, the harvest in Zone 4 was split evenly, with 14 males and 14 females taken before the 25-bear quota was reached. The three additional bears were taken because the quota was exceeded on the third hunting day before the zone was able to be closed. 

Of the bears harvested in Zone 4, nine were taken in Union County. Eight were taken in Ashley and Bradley counties, two in Drew County and one in Calhoun County.


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