It happens every fall when the Arkansas elk hunt approaches. Someone, many someones to be precise, ask, "Where do I get one of those elk hunting permits"?
The quick answer is you apply during the month of May. That is now for the October 2013 hunts.
The applications and the permits are free, making this one of the top bargains anywhere in the field of hunting. There is a catch, of course, Your name has to be drawn from several thousand applications.
The odds have improved a little for elk permit seekers in that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission now requires a current valid hunting license for people to apply. Make that a Sportsman License or a lifetime license, the AGFC now says. The basic $10.50 resident hunting license is not accepted.
Yes, hunting licenses expire June 30 each year, so a winner of an elk permit will have to buy a new $25 Sportsman License to go after elk in October.
What this change in the application rules has done is to eliminate the non-hunters and other casuals who apply for elk permits just for the heck of it. A few years back, a woman in Florida was drawn for an Arkansas elk permit. A phone call to her brought the reply, "Oh, I do not hunt. I applied for that permit just because it was free."
Elk permits for public land hunting are for Arkansas residents only. Her non-resident status slipped past a human check of applicants. Now this checking is done by computer.
The drawing for the permits is done the old-fashioned way – in public from a squirrel cage holding all the applicants on Jasper’s Courthouse Square during the Buffalo River Elk Festival on Saturday, June 29. It is not a random computer drawing, the technique commonly used today but mistrusted by skeptics.
OK, these elk permits are free. All you need is your name to be drawn on June 29. There is something else needed although not officially required. AGFC suggests, but does not require, advance scouting. That means go up to the Buffalo River country and look around where you will be hunting.
It is not a walk in the park.
The notion persists among many Arkansas people that hunting elk means driving up to one, stepping out of the vehicle and shooting the big animals. This misconception comes in part from the popular "tourist" elk in Boxley Valley that are often close to the highway.
Boxley Valley is closed to hunting. Where the other elk are is rugged mountain country. This is the reason for the advance scouting suggestion that probably should be a requirement.
In spite of letters and instructions from the AGFC, a few of the two dozen-plus permit winners show up each year for the hunt with no preparation, no scouting and some without helpers. One person may be the hunter, but it takes two and preferably more to (1) find elk and (2) to deal with the animal after it is shot.
Applicants must be at least 6 years old to hunt big game in the state — elk, deer, bear and turkey. For the elk permits, a person under 18 must have a hunter education certificate to apply.
All applications must be made online on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website, http://www.agfc.com/licenses/Pages/PermitsSpecialElk.aspx.
One additional permit for the 2013 hunt is issued to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for fundraising purposes. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds from this granted permit is returned to Arkansas for wildlife habitat work. In addition, a youth permit is given the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation for fundraising activities.
Three permits will be issued to Arkansas residents who complete applications during the Buffalo River Elk Festival at Jasper in late June. For these, the winners must be present.
Two hunts, five days each, are scheduled this year - Oct. 7-11 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.