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Mon, Oct. 21

Column | The answer to why 21 conservation groups agree with AZGFD on prohibiting coyote contests

A hot topic for many Arizona sportsmen is the proposal by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to prohibit organized coyote calling contests. (Adobe Image)

A hot topic for many Arizona sportsmen is the proposal by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to prohibit organized coyote calling contests. (Adobe Image)

As I am sure you are aware, one of the hottest topics for many Arizona sportsmen is the proposal by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to prohibit organized coyote calling contests.

This proposal, barring some miracle, last-minute intervention, is probably going to pass.

One of the most compelling reasons this will pass is the fact that 21 of Arizona’s conservation groups have gone on record as supporting the proposal.

This may come as a shock to many when you see the names of the groups that are part of an organization called the Arizona Sportsmen For Wildlife Conservation, a group which asked member organizations how they felt about the proposed rule.

Here is who and what they are, according to their website:

“Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSFWC) is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to educate and inform sportsmen, wildlife conservation organizations throughout the state and the public at large on important issues related to wildlife and wildlife habitat, and to provide, via grants or other sources, funding to conserve Arizona’s wildlife populations through habitat enhancement initiatives.

The organization is comprised of member groups, individual members, affiliate members, and partner organizations whose goals and objectives are consistent with the mission of AZSFWC. There are thousands of individuals who are direct members or members of a sponsoring member organization.”

Jim Unmacht is the executive director of the AZSWFC, and I’ve known him personally for many years. I’ve actually been on a javelina hunt and a fishing trip with him in the past. Jim is a smart man, and I like him.

But sometimes we don’t agree.

Recently when I expressed my displeasure to him on the way this proposed rule was going, he sent me information along with some thought-provoking questions.

I will share those with you, and then you can make up your own mind on how you feel.

Here is what Mr. Unmacht sent to me:

“We had 29 groups weigh in on the predator contest issue with various reasons for how they voted. Twenty-one groups voted to support the commission’s recommendation, three groups voted to oppose and five groups abstained.”

According to Unmacht, here is the comment that was sent in to AZGFD by AZSFWC.

“Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSFWC) and 21 of our member organizations listed below support the Commission’s suggested rule change relative to predator contests, as it was proposed and originally written.” It was signed by Unmacht.

AZSFWC Organizations Supporting the Commission’s Proposal

Anglers United, AZ Antelope Foundation, AZ Bass Nation, AZ Big Game Super Raffle, AZ Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation, AZ Chapter of Safari Club International, AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, AZ Deer Association, AZ Elk Society, AZ Flycasters Club, AZ Houndsmen, AZ State Council of Trout Unlimited, Christian Hunters of America, Outdoor Experience 4 All, SRT Outdoors, Southern AZ Quail Forever, The BASS Federation of AZ, Valley of the Sun Quail Forever, and Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club.

What was not shared in the comments to the department were the three organizations that voted not to support the proposal and the five groups that abstained. I asked Unmacht who those groups were and he wrote, “AZSFWC Board votes are confidential for the members.”

One bit of information that Unmacht did share was that Mohave Sportsman Club was one of the three groups that voted not to support the commission’s proposal.

When I inquired about the rationale for supporting the proposal, I received this from Unmacht:

“Don, with the legislature poised to act if the commission did not, and antis pondering a ballot initiative, the proposal put forth by the commission made sense to the majority of our member organizations.”

I sent out texts to Representatives Regina Cobb and Leo Biasiucci, along with Sen. Sonny Borrelli, asking if they had heard about any proposals in the legislature like Unmacht alluded. Only Cobb responded, and she said that she had not heard anything about a contest ban being proposed.

Unmacht also posed some questions to me that I think are worth sharing.

• How would you propose “we” fight at every level and never give in on anything?

• Who would do the fighting, and for that matter, how would you propose “we” fund the fight?

• How are “we” going to win ballot initiative fights with less than 20% of the voters that hunt?

• If “we” don’t support the commission action to control and manage some of these issues, do you really think letting the legislature or an anti-hunting ballot initiative are going to serve us better?

Unmacht concluded by saying, “In this case, if the commission acts, predator hunt organizers can still work with AZGFD to conduct volunteer events, much like other conservation groups to coordinate timing of the fawn drops. They simply couldn’t register people, require an entry fee or give away prizes.”

Unmacht concluded, “Losing ‘contests’” is not going to eliminate predator management and predator hunting. On the other hand, if the commission doesn’t act, your guess is as good as mine relative to what the legislature might do or how creative the antis might be with a ballot initiative. AZSFWC and 21 of our member organizations weren’t willing to gamble on either of those other options.”

So there you have it. Now the question is how do you as a sportsman see this? Is this the right way to handle this situation, giving away a little, or are these groups running scared of what could happen?

This is my opinion. “Death by a thousand cuts is still death!” At what point will sportsmen in Arizona along with AZGFD say, “Enough is enough.”

Only time will tell.

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