JONESBORO — Small game hunting interest may have dwindled as Arkansas’s deer herd has climbed, but many basic hunting lessons can be gained from a day in the squirrel woods. Squirrel hunting opportunities abound across the state, with public hunting within reach of most hunters.
Seven wildlife management areas within an hour or so of Jonesboro offer excellent public land squirrel hunting and plenty of land to hunt. These management areas range in size from roughly 5,000 acres to 30,000 acres, offering a total of over 100,000 acres to chase bushytails. The types of habitat you’re likely to encounter range from bottomland swamps and hardwoods to the ridges of Crowley’s Ridge and the foothills of the Ozarks.
Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA
Earl Buss Bayou DeView WMA near Weiner offers 4,501 acres of excellent squirrel hunting. This area provides fairly easy access and ample parking areas. Squirrels can be found throughout this area. As with any squirrel population, numbers cycle up and down in relation to acorn production in prior years. Oak and hickory are the major fall food sources and the squirrels will often focus on certain oak species over others. This bottomland hardwood area as well as others in Arkansas offer squirrel hunters an advantage as the forest floor is usually devoid of leaves. Periodic flooding wipes the ground clean, which allows for quiet stalking through the forest.
St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA
Tracts of St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA can be found along the St. Francis River, from near St. Francis at the northeast tip of Arkansas to near Marked Tree in Poinsett County. At around 30,000 acres this WMA offers lots of land to hunt. Identifying property boundaries is key in effectively hunting this area. Formed by the New Madrid Earthquake, much of this land is very low and populated by cypress and tupelo trees. This makes scouting and the use of a topographic map an essential part of success. Higher ridges, only two to three feet higher than the surrounding terrain, will produce oaks and other mast trees and will draw squirrels from a wide area. Access can be tricky; there is limited vehicular access due to the abundance of water. This makes parts of the area difficult to reach, but it also provides an opportunity to hunt areas with very little pressure for the hunter willing to put in the work.
Big Lake WMA
Big Lake WMA is in Mississippi County, just east of Manila. As with many other WMAs in east Arkansas, it is a lowland area composed of many acres of tupelo and cypress. The east side of the 12,000-acre WMA, however, does hold an ample supply of hardwoods, providing excellent squirrel habitat. Access on the east side is fairly good and the many boat trails and manmade navigation ditches provide easy paths to ease through the area looking for bushytails.
Dave Donaldson Black River WMA
Dave Donaldson Black River WMA offers about 25,000 acres of excellent bottomland hardwood hunting for squirrels. Taking in land in Clay, Greene and Randolph Counties, the area boasts an excellent oak population with several hickory and pecan trees scattered throughout the area. Access is somewhat limited with a vehicle, but a boat opens up an almost infinite amount of hunting land as Black River dissects the area and several boat launches offer access to its waters. As with many other lower elevation areas, scouting is essential as water height has a great impact on the mast trees that are present. Higher ground will host a wider array of mast trees and offer great hunting, especially early in the fall.
Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA
Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA, just over 11,000 acres in Lawrence County, also features bottomland hardwood forests along the Black River. One portion of the area lies south of Portia on the east side of the river while the remaining land is on the west side of the river near Lynn. There are plenty of oaks as well as a few hickories and most all the area offers excellent squirrel hunting opportunities. There are several roads in the area that allow excellent access to the timber. If desired, a boat or a kayak could provide more access along the bays and sloughs
W.E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA
A unique feature in Northeast Arkansas is Crowley’s Ridge. Sitting atop the ridge in Greene County is W. E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA. At about 5,000 acres, Scatter Creek offers an upland hunting opportunity in the Arkansas Delta. Broken into several tracts, a map is essential to hunt Scatter Creek. Each tract has its own highlights and most have a good series of trails. Oaks dominate the ridges and several hickories can also be found especially around openings and old home sites. The heavy oak forest and a forest floor of crunchy oak leaves makes the hunting a little more difficult, but it can be a rewarding squirrel hunt. A focus on the WMA roads and field systems can help in locating likely hunting areas.
Harold E. Alexander WMA
For those that might want to venture a little farther, Harold E Alexander WMA near Hardy should be noted. Located along Spring River in the Ozark Foothills, Harold E. offers just over 13,000 acres of excellent squirrel hunting. County roads cut through the area and several fire breaks, WMA roads and food plots offer excellent access. There also are some nice, primitive camping areas in the WMA.
Any of these areas can offer a great opportunity to chase squirrels and a good chance at a hefty game bag. For those interested in taking a peek online at these public possibilities, a page is set up for each in the “Where to Hunt” section of www.agfc.com. The map on the WMA’s page will highlight areas for parking and camping as well as trails, boat launches and a general look at the terrain. For a more detailed map, click on the Resources tab and then Maps to locate the AGFC Interactive Map which provides even more details.
The daily bag limit for squirrels in Arkansas is 12, which is plenty to keep even the best hunters busy all day. Squirrel season begins May 15 each year and closes at the end of February. A free General Use Permit (obtained from any license dealer or agfc.com) is required to hunt on WMAs. Please check all rules and regulations before hunting WMAs as each area can have a unique set of regulations that could limit hunting times or tracts open to hunting.