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Youth muzzleloader hunt input reveals not much action from the state’s sportsmen

Did you send in comments about the G&F proposal to end juniors muzzleloader hunts in Unit 16A? Young men like this 13-year-old hunter may not get to hunt deer with a muzzleloader after the Commission meeting last Friday in Williams.

DON MARTIN/For the Miner

Did you send in comments about the G&F proposal to end juniors muzzleloader hunts in Unit 16A? Young men like this 13-year-old hunter may not get to hunt deer with a muzzleloader after the Commission meeting last Friday in Williams.

On Friday, a decision will be made by the Arizona Game & Fish Commission on whether to accept the department’s recommendation that the youth muzzleloader hunt in Unit 16A in December be eliminated.

As you know, I have been actively advocating the department to keep this hunt. I have written several stories about the proposal and asked sportsmen to send in their comments to the department and commission. I made a presentation to the board of directors of the Mohave Sportsman Club and they voted unanimously to write a letter of opposition to the department and commission deleting this youth hunt in the December time frame that it is currently in.

I even asked the Mohave County Board of Supervisors to take a position of opposition to the proposal, and I only heard back from one Supervisor, Hildy Angius. Hard to believe that the board couldn’t find five minutes to look over the proposal which affects all youth in Arizona, including the children of many local sportsmen and women in Kingman and throughout Mohave County.

There is absolutely no scientific reason why the hunt should be eliminated. Juniors take 10-13 bucks a year on this hunt and the department has already said they will “probably” open up the unit to archery deer hunting. That means anyone can buy an over-the-counter archery deer tag and hunt there.

But here is what is really disappointing.

I asked Amber Munig, the department’s big game management supervisor, terrestrial wildlife branch, to furnish me a tally on the number of letters and emails that they had received from the public on this issue.

In dealing with past commissions and issues where sportsmen objected to a proposal by the department, I found that unless there was overwhelming opposition by the public, most likely the department’s proposal would be adopted.

I wrote that I felt that unless at least 100 comments against the proposal were received, I believed the commission would adopt the department’s position. I’ll fully admit that the number of 100 was arbitrary, but the bottom line is I truly feel that the commission had to see that the general public, folks like you and me, were not in support of this proposal.

So here is the bad news.

According to Munig, the Department received just 24 comments about the proposal. Four were in support and 19 were in opposition.

I asked Munig if I could read the comments they had received. I was curious to know who had taken the time to write and express their opinion, both for and against the proposal.

I was told that they couldn’t release the names or addresses of those people. But she did say that the comments would be put on the department’s website for preview.

I know I am pessimistic about the proposal being turned down by the commission, and I hope I am wrong.

There is going to be a small contingent of sportsmen – including myself – who just happen to be hunter education instructors who are going to the meeting and will speak for the allotted three minutes against it.

Former Director of the AZGFD, Larry Voyles wrote: “Hunters have a duty to remain politically active and protect the outdoor lifestyle we have enjoyed for generations through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Make your voice heard.”

One of the tenets that of the North American Model says, “Science is the basis for wildlife policy.” In this case there is no science to substantiate this elimination of this hunting opportunity for our youth.

Over the years the department and commission has repeatedly said they listen to the public they serve, and when compatible with their mission, make policy based on science and public input.

Unfortunately in this case, sportsmen haven’t really stepped up and let their voices be heard.

One other thing. It is a shame that this and the hunter education issue that I have also previously wrote about is going to be discussed Friday.

By hearing these matters Friday, rather than Saturday when the rank and file who hold regular jobs could be there, I believe there won’t be a lot of people in attendance who will speak on these issues.

For those that took the time to send in your comments, thank you. If you haven’t written a letter or sent a text, do it now. Send them to azhuntguidelines@azgfd.gov

It’s not too late. As former Director Voyles said, “Let your voice be heard!”