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Walton Short’s long elk legacy comes to an end

From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

-- MAGNOLIA – Arkansas’s premier elk hunter has died at the age of 84. Walton Short’s legacy will be forever intertwined with the state’s elk herd. Short died Sunday, Jan. 18.

In the 11 years since Arkansas’s first elk hunt, Short became a prominent figure in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s elk program. His bull from the September 2007 hunt completed an improbable quest – Short’s goal of taking two elk in each of the state’s four public-land elk zones.

“It means a lot to me,” said Short at the time. “I just love it. When I get an elk in my sights, I just tremble. I love to hunt elk and I love even more to be able to hunt elk in Arkansas.”

Short didn’t set out to kill eight bulls in Arkansas. The AGFC awards most elk permits through a random drawing at the annual Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper, and donates two permits each year to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which auctions the tags to raise money for habitat work. In 1999, the second year of the state’s hunt, Short paid $10,000 for a permit at a RMEF auction. After taking a 6x7 bull that year, he was hooked. The next year he bought a permit for $15,000.

“I started out and killed two bulls in the first zone,” said Short. “And then I decided I’d just keep going and try to get two in every zone.”

In eight years of hunting elk in Arkansas, Short paid $159,000 for permits.

“He’s doing it because he loves these elk,” said Steve Whitehead of Magnolia, a close friend who has assisted Short on his last three Arkansas hunts. “He’s the best friend the Arkansas elk have ever had.”

Mike Cartwright, former AGFC elk program coordinator, cited the significance of Short’s contributions.

“He wanted to help the resource, and it has been real important to us,” Cartwright said. “The work we do is very expensive – controlled burns, openings, timber work, research projects, helicopter surveys – it adds up. In part, his contributions are responsible for future generations being able to hunt elk and view elk in Arkansas.”

The sun has set on Short’s days as the leading man of Arkansas elk hunting, but not on his legacy. “I just want people to remember it,” Short said. “No matter how they remember it, just remember it.

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