It was a beautiful Saturday morning when 14 sportsmen and women set out from the headquarters of the Shadow Mountain Ranch to work on a brush clearing project in Unit 16A.
The wildflowers were blooming and the sound of Gambels quail could be heard everywhere. Cottontail rabbits scurried into the brush when they heard the sounds of vehicles approaching.
This was a much-anticipated project. It was in the planning stages for many years, and finally the paperwork was approved and a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Habitat Partnership Committee and the ranch owner made it all come together.
The project was started by Officer Lainie Antolik, who is the wildlife manager for Unit 16A. The ranch is located about 87 miles south of Kingman on the west side of Highway 93.
Working with the ranch's managers, Harry and Lola Chiantaretto (who, by the way, are two of the nicest people I know), Antolik secured a grant to install a much-needed well in an area on the 28,000 acre ranch that didn't have a reliable water source for wildlife and the livestock.
The ranch is actually owned by out-of-state people who live in the upper Midwest. They partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to make this project happen.
Plans called for a well to be drilled where currently there is only a 13-foot well that was dug by hand. The shallow well does produce water, but in dry years there is no water for the wildlife and livestock.
The well will be installed by professionals, but volunteers were needed to clear brush encroaching on the old road that leads to the well site.
Antolik asked me if I could find some volunteers, and I was happy to help out.
I had met the Chiantarettos a couple of times when I was hunting on the ranch. Both times I found them to be pleasant people who didn't mind hunters on the ranch.
I believe that we, as sportsmen, should be willing to help out on public and private lands where we are still allowed and even welcomed.
I put the word out as best as I could. Unfortunately, as often is the case on these kinds of projects, not many showed up.
Fourteen people were there, including four officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Region III. Those officers were Luke Apfel, Ben Selby, Tim Shurtliff and Antolik.
Others present included Tom Blum, who seems to be at all of the these kinds of events; Pierre Langlois, owner of On Target Enterprises; Shayne Shipman, a hard-working employee at On Target; John Beauchamp, who is the chapter president of the Mule Deer Foundation, which helped sponsor the event; and Sally Lester, Page McDonald and myself.
Amanda Moors, who operates a website called coues.com, also helped sponsor the project.
Harry and Lola helped out, and Lola brought a lunch of tamales and burritos to hungry volunteers.
Volunteers were asked to bring chainsaws and/or loppers, and I'll tell you something - there were five chainsaws in the field and every one of them was going full-time cutting brush and juniper trees.
The worst stuff we encountered, in my opinion, was the cat claw. That bush is well named! By day's end several of the volunteers had rips and tears in their shirts and the ones who wore short sleeve sleeves (like me) spilled blood all over the landscape.
It was hard, dirty work, but everyone gave it their all. In the end, we got it all done.
The guys on the chainsaws - Shayne, John, Tim, Ben and Luke - worked as hard as I have ever seen men work with a saw. They kept ahead of those of us who were pulling brush and limbs of the road.
At the end of the day, after a great meal, good fellowship and a long, hot shower, I felt good about what we had accomplished.
I only wish that more of the hundreds of deer, javelina, quail and predator hunters who hunt in this area would have given us a hand.
Antolik said that some of the people she contacted told her that "it is too far to go".
To that I say, "Bull!"
If Saturday had been the opening day of any of those hunts I spoke about (except predator hunters) how many would have said, "It's too far"?
I just don't buy it.
But this happens all the time.
For years and years I've said that we, as sportsmen, need to show private landowners that we respect their lands. We must also help with projects that improve habitat on those properties.
The fact that only a handful of sportsmen and women showed up to help out on a one-day project that will benefit hundreds of Mohave County sportsmen is, in my opinion, just downright shameful.
Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by:
Hey thanks guys. Now there won't be so much brush blocking my shot when I go out there and park by the trough.
Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by:
Hey Capt.Nice--you really need to get the facts strait man. The ranch you speak of is owned by the Navajo Nation and the ranch that we worked on this weekend is owned partly by the rancher and partly by us. The chance of anyone charging anybody to access this land is non existent. If we do not work with ranchers to benefit wildlife we will never be able to access some ranches. We have tried to work with this ranch and get this well built for years but up until this last year that did not happen. The desert mule deer that used to live in that area were fantastic--i know, i have hunted in 16A and 18B my entire life and i am not a spring chicken--also i am a native.
The game and fish work very hard to help our wildlife and to work with ranchers--and to try (heavy on the try) to make people happy but we all know you just can't make everyone happy. As for the ATV and UTV--i agree--i think that law hurts all of us who live by the law and lets the others get off with a free ride..
I hope you can dig a little deeper and find out the "why" and not bash the game and fish--the game and fish is why that ranch will keep the gates open--and for $60.00 to get in i think that is pretty good. Some ranches won't let you in and they have big outfitters who charge a fortune for people to hunt--people like me who will never have that kind of money and if i did i would never pay it.
To those who worked on this project--good for you!!! For those who didn't make it i hope you can make the next one. Times are tight right now for many people and sometimes we have to pick between helping on a project or paying our water bill...
Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by:
Mr. Martin I thought the money we spend on ATVs and UTVs was supposed to pay for things like this, oh that's right, someone lied to us and all that money "millions" went into the general fund. This ranch which most of us have never heard of is in cahoots with the game and fish which will eventually talk the owners into charging a fee to go on the property, if they haven't already. They are in the process of charging a fee on another large ranch that let people on for nothing.....What would we do with out the game and fish? Probably save a lot of tax payers money!