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Arizona Game & Fish Commission votes 3-1 to eliminate youth December muzzleloader hunt

Outdoor Writer Don Martin addressed the Arizona Game & Fish Commission at a meeting on Friday in Williams. Martin asked the Commissioners to not approve a Department request to eliminate a December youth muzzleloader hunt in Unit 16A, Hualapai Mountains. Despite the plea, the motion passed on a 3-1 vote.

COURTESY

Outdoor Writer Don Martin addressed the Arizona Game & Fish Commission at a meeting on Friday in Williams. Martin asked the Commissioners to not approve a Department request to eliminate a December youth muzzleloader hunt in Unit 16A, Hualapai Mountains. Despite the plea, the motion passed on a 3-1 vote.

Larry Voyles just retired from the Arizona Game & Fish Department after serving many years as the director of the agency.

In the 2016-2017 Hunting Regulations, Voyles said, “Hunters have another 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…”

Saturday at the Arizona Game & Fish Commission meeting, a majority of the commission, in my opinion, chose not to hear the voices of a lot of Arizona citizens, when it elected to follow the department’s suggestion to remove the December youth muzzleloader hunt along with the companion juniors javelina opportunity.

This is an issue I am passionate about and have authored a number of stories about it in the Daily Miner and on social media.

I have and will continue to support the department and commission on many of their decisions on how to manage our most precious natural resource, our wildlife. But I think this was a really bad decision, one not based on any biology or science.

When I learned that the hunt was going to be eliminated, I immediately sought to engage the public in stopping this proposal in its tracks.

This hunt has been in place since the 1990s and despite previous attempts by the department to eliminate the hunt in past, each time sportsmen stepped up to the plate and, like Voyles said, we made our voices heard. In those cases, the commissions that were hearing the matter then, rejected the department’s recommendation and the hunt continued for many years.

That is until now.

I know I may be beating a dead horse, but in reviewing the facts, one just has to wonder why the commission voted as they did.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation states that wildlife is held in the public trust. That means wildlife belongs to everyone, even folks in Mohave County.

The model also says that the limited use of wildlife as a renewable natural resource is based upon sound science.

In making a decision to end that hunt the commissioners had to know the proposal was not based on any science. It was in fact was based on a group within the department called the “Hunt Guideline Team” who just didn’t want youth to have any hunts during the rut.

But here are the biological facts. There were only 25 permits issued for the hunt and each year the kids took an average of 10-13 bucks a year. Despite the department claims that this was a “quality” hunt, most of the bucks taken were young ones, not the old breeders that they would have the public believe.

And when asked if the department would open the unit to other hunters, Amber Munig a supervisor at the AZGFD said, “Probably” which in government speak means yes.

That will probably mean good news for archers, for there is no way that this unit in the near future will be considered a premium hunt. Hmm, there are what, 44 game management units open in December for archers, so they really need another one?

There were 24 comments received on this proposal. Of those 19 were against it, and only four supported it.

One of those was from the Mohave Sportsman Club board of directors, who voted unanimously to oppose the change. And they did this on behalf of the over 2,400 members of that group, many of which are parents of young hunters here in Mohave County.

Another person who sent in a comment was Terry Hendon, who is the regional director for the Mule Deer Foundation. He didn’t support the department’s proposal either.

I’m miffed that the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSFWC), which counts the Mohave Sportsman Club (MSC) in its membership, didn’t take a position on this.

According to Jim Unmacht, the executive director of the AZSFWC who attended the commission meeting Friday but didn’t speak on the deer issue; the matter was on the AZSFWC board of directors agenda in July. Unmacht said no presentation was made by the MSC Government Liaison to support the MSC’s position on the matter and the Board voted to take no position on the proposal.

By the way, the Arizona Deer Association, which is a member of the AZSFWC did not independently take a position on this issue, which I find disappointing. Guess it wasn’t a big enough issue for them to get involved.

I know there were folks from Mohave County who wanted to go but couldn’t attend the meeting to address this issue. The reason? They had to work. Would have been nice to have had this discussion with the commission on Saturday when working folks could have attended.

I want to thank those that wrote letters in opposition to the proposal. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough opposition to it.

I do want to note that commissioner Kurt Davis was the lone commissioner who was against the proposal. Unfortunately the three other commissioners including Pat Madden, Eric Sparks and chairman Jim Ammons voted in favor of the proposal.

So much for “Make your voice heard.”