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With archery deer season cranking into gear Sept. 24, many hunters will be headed to the woods for the first time for the year soon. While you’re out and about in one of the many wildlife management areas throughout the state, you might notice a few additions to the facilities available for outdoors enthusiasts this year. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been able to add a few new archery ranges to some of the WMAs, shooting ranges and parks to help archers stay on target this season.
Curtis Gray, Archery in the Schools Program coordinator for the AGFC, says he managed to complete five new known-distance ranges this summer when he wasn’t working with Arkansas elementary, middle and high schools to get more kids shooting bows and competing in field archery.
“Developing new ranges and rebuilding some of the old historical ones on our WMAs has been one of those jobs that I started doing to help promote all those archers we’re trying to create in Archery in Schools,” Gray said. “Getting them shooting is one step, but we want to keep them interested and give them places to enjoy the sport. Moving them to WMAs while we’re at it might get them more interested in maybe getting in the woods and making that next step to being a bowhunter.”
Gray says the ranges often are using portions of land on the WMAs that aren’t suitable for hunting or other uses. For instance, the new range at Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA sits right by the area workshop on an old railroad spur that dead ends at a nearby creek. A new range on University of Arkansas Pine Tree Wildlife Demonstration Area sits alongside a road in a location that once held an abandoned softball field.
“These places really didn’t have much use before, but now people can come out and shoot at some nice known-distance bag targets,” Gray said. “Bowhunters might bring a few extra arrows with field tips and do a little shooting between morning and evening hunts to make sure they stay in good shooting shape throughout the year. Or local archers may just want to drive over and shoot if they don’t have an area large enough to accommodate it.”
In addition to Pine Tree and Dagmar WMAs, Gray has established a known-distance range at Ed Gordon Point Remove Alex Smith Park in Miller County near Sulphur River WMA and the new rifle and pistol shooting range in Warren.
“They are working on some trails down at the Warren range, and as soon as I can get some new 3D targets to place, we’ll be able to have another great 3D course for folks in south Arkansas to enjoy.’
Gray says that 3D courses with lifelike big-game targets are available at many other locations as well.
“Most of our nature centers have 3D targets, as well as the AGFC range in Mayflower and the (Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation) range in Jacksonville,” Gray said. “Believe it or not, we’re still having problems with getting 3D targets because of the supply chain issues with latex from COVID-19. It was a major component in the foam targets.”
Much like Alex Smith Park’s range, some of Gray’s efforts are partnerships with local municipalities. He is contacted regularly by towns looking to add archery ranges to a park, and continues to build a list of prospective locations.
“I’m interested in establishing those sorts of ranges, but our time and resources for building and maintaining them is still very limited,” Gray said. “But some cities have really stepped up. Mulberry renovated some bathrooms next to the range location and maintains the grounds to make it more comfortable for archers to enjoy a day of shooting. Thanks to these sorts of partners, we’ve been able to place a total of 25 ranges throughout the state so far.”
The following locations have AGFC archery ranges free for the public to enjoy:
Field Archery Ranges (Known Distance 20, 30, 40)
- Alex Smith Park Miller County/Sulphur River WMA
- Camp Robinson Special Use Area
- Cypress Bayou WMA
- Ed Gordon Point Remove WMA
- Harold E. Alexander Spring River WMA
- Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA
- Holland Bottoms WMA
- McIlroy Madison County WMA
- Mike Freeze Wattensaw WMA
- Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA
- Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA
- St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA
- University of Arkansas Pine Tree WDA
- William E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA
Ranges with 3D Targets and Known-Distance Field Archery Targets
- James E. Moore Range Mayflower, AR
- Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Nature Center Columbia, AR
- Potlatch Cooks Lake Nature Center Casscoe, AR
- Fred Berry Crooked Creek Nature Center Yellville, AR
- Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center Pine Bluff, AR
- AGFF Shooting Sports Complex Jacksonville, AR
- J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center Springdale, AR
Cooperative Partnership Archery Ranges
- City of Augusta Augusta, AR
- City of Mulberry Mulberry, AR
- Lake Charles State Park Powhatan, AR
- Warren Shooting Range Warren, AR