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1:11 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

December youth hunt in Unit 16A might be on the AZGFD chopping block

The December youth hunt might be eliminated, preventing other young people like Karli Moline from getting her first deer.

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The December youth hunt might be eliminated, preventing other young people like Karli Moline from getting her first deer.

Sometimes it is amazing what information you learn when you attend a public meeting like the one I recently attended at the Region 2 office of the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

The topic of the meeting was a presentation of the Departments’ hunt guidelines for the next five years.

These guidelines are reviewed internally by the hunt guideline team, and then the proposals are made public through a series of meetings throughout Arizona and via the internet.

According to the Department, “The guidelines are designed to be used by Arizona Game & Fish Department wildlife biologists when formulating hunt recommendations. The hunt guidelines are intended to provide general guidance on the parameters for which hunted or trapped species are managed. Like hunt recommendations, the hunt guidelines are shared with the Arizona Game & Fish Commission and approved in public session following a regular review cycle described in the preceding pages.”

Normally, these meetings do not generate a lot of interest from the general public.

And this one wasn’t much different. There were two G&F officials and only three members of the general public.

Erin Butler oversaw the presentation via live webinar at the Region 3 office while the information was disseminated by Amber Munig, the Department’s Big Game Management Supervisor.

I really wasn’t surprised at the low turnout for this meeting. Sadly a lot of sportsmen just won’t get involved with these kinds of things, even though when changes come out, they start howling how the Department isn’t responsive to their needs or desires.

And I admit I don’t attend all of them either, but I do go when my schedule allows.

While I sat through Munig’s presentation, I jotted down some notes of issues that were of particular interest to me.

Munig dutifully covered all the big game species in the state, and even small game and predators.

People from all over Arizona who were participating in the webinar had the opportunity to send in questions or comments.

Everything was going along smoothly when an item appeared that caused me to recoil in my seat.

Munig started to read off the recommendations for deer when she broached the subject of youth hunts, and specifically youth hunts in Unit 16A, the Hualapai Mountains.

That hunt was established in 1999 due to the work of area sportsmen, including myself, who let the region and Department know that a December youth muzzleloader hunt was desired.

If memory serves, there were two main reasons locals wanted the youth hunt.

The first reason was there was — and still is — a large number of sportsmen in Kingman and Mohave County that are muzzleloader enthusiasts. As such, they wanted to recruit their children into the sport of muzzleloader hunting.

The second reason was that even though the Department proposed deer hunting for the state’s youth at various times, area sportsmen wanted a hunt that fell into the Christmas break for their children.

This proposal met with approval of many local educators who didn’t feel children missing school to go hunting was a valid reason.

Before I go on, let me say that this proposal is not due to a biological issue. There are just 25 tags issued annually for this hunt, and the children take from 10-13 deer annually. Are these huge trophy caliber bucks that are harvested? Nope, they are spikes, forkies and small three points and every now and then a youngster will take a small 4 x 4.

I asked this question: if this hunt is removed, would the Department then open the unit to unlimited archers who can hunt there with over the counter tags?

The answer was “Probably!” Really? In December, archers have over 30 units statewide they can hunt. Local archers have a large number of units to hunt in, and I’ll bet most of them wouldn’t want to see the children lose that hunting opportunity just to open up another unit close to town.

I asked for and received a statement from Ms. Munig as to the hunt guideline team’s reasoning to drop this hunt.

Here in its entirety, is her answer.

“The Department offers youth hunt opportunities as a tool for hunter recruitment. The hunts are meant to introduce new hunters to the basic skills of hunting (in an ethical manor that includes scouting, tracking, field dressing, meat preparation, etc.).

“The hunt guideline team received comments about quality and increasing these opportunities. These comments included several that indicated that youth hunts should not be offered during these quality opportunities because of the overall demand and interest in hunting during that time frame. In the last guideline cycle, the team clearly stated that youth hunts would not be offered in alternative management units.

“December deer hunt opportunities fall into the ‘quality’ timeframe, so the team decided to clearly state that youth hunts would not be offered during the rut.”

So there is the Department’s reasoning behind the proposal.

My personal opinion is that it is just plain wrong!

Since this hunt was created, the Department has tried on two if not three different occasions to drop it out of the hunt recommendations.

I’m proud to say I led the fight every time to keep that from happening. And it hasn’t happened because of the letter writing and phone calls to the Commissioners convinced them not to drop the hunt.

But here we are again, seeing where the Department is once more recommending that the hunt be dropped. And remember, if adopted, these proposed hunt guidelines would be in effect for FIVE YEARS!

So folks, it’s time to fire up the computers and phones and let the Department know how you feel about this proposal.

I can tell that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Terry Herndon from the Mule Deer Federation (who by the way is having a fundraiser here in Kingman on June 23 at the Beale Celebrations) is already on record as opposing this change.

Emails to the Arizona Deer Association Board of Director resulted in the Board reviewing this proposal. I was told privately that the ADA would also oppose this action by the Department.

That is good to know.

I’m hoping that the Mohave Sportsman Club, and its Board of Directors, will send an email or letter to the Department and Commission in opposition of the proposal. If you’re a member of that group, I encourage you to let the Board know how you feel.

I don’t know if the Mohave County Board of Supervisors is interested in making a comment on this proposal, but I’ve already received an email from Supervisor Hildy Angius asking for information.

I can tell you from personal knowledge that there have been children from each of their districts that have drawn tags for this hunt in the past.

While the Board doesn’t recognize the need to change the County Seal and display an animal that actually is native to Mohave County, maybe they’ll recognize the need to weigh and represent a lot of their constituents’ feelings on this matter. And it won’t cost the County a dime to do it!

And while all of this support is needed, it is the Arizona sportsman who needs to weigh in on this and it can’t get much simpler than this.

Send an email to azhuntguidelines@azgfd.gov and let them know how you feel. All the emails will be recorded and forwarded on to the Commission.

If you’ll take five minutes to do this, I have no reason to believe that this Commission won’t act the same way that previous Commissions have done; which is to tell the Department not to go forward with this proposal.