Arizona Commission sets spring hunts

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Mar 8, 2011
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Commission sets spring hunts

Turkey permit levels down due to Wallow Fire

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Aug. 6 set the 2012 spring hunts for turkey, javelina, buffalo and bear, but the hunt permit level for turkeys is down significantly due to the Wallow Fire.

The commission also set the first-ever hunt (2 permits initially) in Hunt Unit 13B for Rio Grande turkey, which were introduced to Arizona in 2008.

The commission was advised that the spring 2012 hunt application process may become available online during the application period, but the online system is still undergoing testing to assure it will meet the applicant needs and the intense short-term application pressure – it’s looking favorable so far, but not guaranteed.

Currently, the department is looking to have the spring hunt regulations available on its website at www.azgfd.gov around Aug. 17 (tentative) and the printed version should be available at license dealers across the state in early September. You can start applying once you have the information available online. The spring hunt application deadline is Oct. 11 (the second Tuesday in October).

The expectation is to have 2012 hunting licenses available online starting Aug. 19, but they won’t be available for purchase at license dealers, such as sporting goods stores, until Aug. 29 or so (depending on when the dealers receive the shipments).

The commission also:

Set the waterfowl and snipe season for 2011-2012.
Modified existing commission hunt orders, such as those for big game species like elk, pronghorn and deer, to fully deploy department recommended strategies relating to hunting within municipalities in light of Senate Bill 1334.
Set the hunt-tag application schedule for the spring 2012 hunts.

Game Chief Brian Wakeling advised the commission that due to the Wallow Fire, the department recommended a 775-permit reduction for turkey in Hunt Unit 1 and a 1,000-permit reduction in Hunt Unit 27. After lengthy discussion, the commission adopted the department’s recommended permit levels.

The commission also approved over-the-counter juniors-only turkey permits in hunt units 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 6B (except Camp Navajo), 7, 8, 10 and 12A.

All juniors-only turkey hunts this past season had less than 35 percent of the total spring harvest for those units. Wakeling explained that once juniors-only turkey harvest in any particular unit exceeds 35 percent, then it transitions to a draw-type “permitted” hunt.

For javelina, Wakeling advised the commission that in 2011 the department issued about 98 percent of the 11,496 general permits available, 79 percent of the available archery permits and 85 percent of the handgun, archery and muzzleloader (HAM) permits, and 82 percent of the juniors-only permits.

Wakeling explained that if everything works as expected and the department is able to take spring hunt applications online, it is likely that applicant pressure will increase and the number of permits for first-come, first-served will decrease.

For spring buffalo and bear, almost nothing has changed from past years; permit levels and hunt strategies remain fairly constant.

A common thread to all the commission orders, including those already established, was deploying department recommended changes regarding hunting within municipalities.

A law passed this last legislative session, SB1334, prohibits municipalities and counties from enacting any ordinance, rule or regulation limiting the take of wildlife during an open season established by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

SB1334 also amends state law (Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3107) by permitting the discharge of a firearm within the limits of any municipality while lawfully taking wildlife during an open season established by the Game and Fish Commission.

However, nothing in SB1334 prohibits municipalities from regulating the discharge of firearms within a quarter mile of occupied structures.

To all hunters, that means the Game and Fish Commission has sole authority to regulate hunting within municipalities. The commission also realized that to retain these authorities in the future, it is necessary to minimize potential conflicts while it is doing its best to realistically maximize available hunting opportunities.

For most municipalities, determining where to hunt is pretty straightforward – you must obey existing state laws and not discharge a firearm within a quarter mile of an occupied structure.

However, in the Phoenix metropolitan area, there is a densely populated core area where the commission is being asked to exclude hunting as it did with the dove regulations. This is a well-defined congested core area bounded mostly by major roadways (see map on the department’s dove pages).
 

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