by Max Brantley
This is special for duck hunters. And maybe history buffs.
The state Game and Fish Commission has won, on what sounds like a venue technicality, a lawsuit challenging its move to end use of private duck blinds in wildlife management areas.
This means a rule against leaving decoys overnight and hunting from permanent blinds applies in four areas.
Hunters who use the blinds had raised the "takings" argument against efforts to restrict the practice. A wildlife expert of my acquaintance says the dispute goes back to just after the Civil War and the "Big Lake War" that ended in 1915 when Woodrow Wilson sent in troops. Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge was created and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commisison was formed then. Some history here:
When railroads developed extensively after the Civil War, with the invention of ice making following, market hunting of ducks, geese, deer and other game was a major activity in the Big Lake area. Meat went to St. Louis, Chicago and other northern cities.
Wealthy sportsmen, most of them from out of state, bought and leased land for hunting clubs and conflict with the market hunters arose. The “Big Lake War” lasted off and on for about 40 years, with shootings, some fatal, along with beatings, burnings and threats. Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, and gradually the violence subsided.
The Game and Fish release follows.
On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Philhours determined venue is improper in Poinsett County in the case of the St. Francis Lake Association vs. the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and has dismissed the action and the stay on removing the blinds.
In August, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission amended its regulations that had once allowed leaving decoys overnight and hunting or attempting to hunt from permanent blinds on Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands, and Dave Donaldson Black River WMAs. These amended regulations are in effect for the 2012-13 waterfowl season.
Individuals may not hunt from or attempt to hunt from permanent blinds or leave decoys overnight on WMAs, including Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands, and Dave Donaldson Black River WMAs. Any person found in a permanent blind on a WMA in possession of hunting gear or equipment during waterfowl season will be considered by the Commission to be hunting or attempting to hunt in violation of AGFC Codes 20.06 and 24.06. Any person leaving decoys out overnight during waterfowl season will be in violation of AGFC 24.05.
The public is encouraged to use WMAs for their recreational pursuits in compliance with federal and state law and AGFC regulations. As public stewards of the land, AGFC will continue to maintain these areas for public benefit in accordance with Amendment 35.