Game and Fish Commission sets remaining 2008 fall hunts; Creates over-the-counter turkey tags for young hunters

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Initiating the first-ever over-the-counter turkey tags for youth in designated units and approving the first-ever permitted archery deer hunts in specific units based on a harvest apportioning formula were two of the changes approved by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission during its April 19 meeting at the new Game and Fish headquarters building on Carefree Highway.Another new opportunity for young hunters being offered in this year’s fall hunt regulation package is that all the fall javelina hunts are juniors-only. In addition, those youth javelina hunts coincide with juniors-only antlered deer hunts in the respective units.

This is the first year the Game and Fish Commission is implementing the new hunt guidelines it adopted last August. Those hunt guidelines will be in place for two years and constitute evolutionary steps to improve the Arizona hunt scene. These guidelines reflect an over-arching desire to increase the hunting prospects for everyone while also standardizing hunts where feasible.

“The department’s overriding goal is to ensure wildlife populations and hunting are sustainable way into the future,” said Game Chief Leonard Ordway. “Another major thrust is to standardize and simplify the regulations – we still have a ways to go, it’s an evolving process.”

As usual at its April meeting, the commission approved the various commission orders setting hunting seasons for deer, turkey, javelina, bighorn sheep, buffalo, bear and mountain lions, and established season dates, bag and possession limits, permit numbers and open areas for the remaining 2008-09 seasons not previously addressed (elk and antelope have already been drawn).

The commission also set the various small game hunts for a two-year period. There is also a longer tree squirrel season – it was increased five weeks – and it now closes on Dec. 31.  In the past, the squirrel season has traditionally closed at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday. This new season gives everyone, especially youth, an opportunity to hunt squirrels during the holidays, especially the winter school break time.

Yet another regulation improvement is the Gambel’s and scaled quail season opener will now be the first Friday in October each year. Mearns’ remains unchanged, with a season opener of Nov. 28 this year. “We are expecting good Gambel’s quail reproduction this year, which should improve hunting prospects for this fall. The weekend opener gives everyone a chance to go after birds,” Ordway said.

These newly-adopted fall regulations are expected to be posted online on April 30 at www.azgfd.gov. The printed regulation booklets should be available at license dealers around the third week of May.

The deadline to apply for the remaining permitted hunts (elk and antelope were already drawn) is June 10 (the second Tuesday in June) at 7 p.m. MST – postmarks do not count. Also keep in mind that there is no online application process available right now – it is a manual paper-permit process.

Be sure to write down this date – May 29 – which is the end of the application grace period. During the grace period, if you apply for one of the remaining fall hunts and make a mistake on the application, we will attempt to call you three times in a 24-hour period and allow you the opportunity to correct the mistake. After that date, mistakes can cause your application to be rejected.

Those who are interested in the hunt guidelines or the packet the commission considered can view them online. Please keep in mind that the commission did make some changes to the hunt recommendation packet as submitted, so you cannot use that proposed packet to apply. However, it will give you an excellent idea of what hunts are when, and what the level of permits will be.

For the fall turkey season, it is now relegated to shotgun shooting-shot-only and there are 6,100 permits, which is a 230-permit increase over 2007. Plus there are six units (Hunt Unit 1, 6A, 8, 10, 12A, 23, and 27) with juniors-only seasons where over-the-counter nonpermit tags are being offered – for the first time ever.

Another plus for young hunters is the fall javelina seasons which are now exclusively for juniors only. The commission also approved a youth-only 600-permit antlerless deer season for Unit 12AW in response to continued high-fawn production on the Kaibab Plateau.

A significant change this year is the permitting of specific archery hunts based on a harvest apportioning formula. In units where archery season structure was down to a single early season and harvest exceeded 20 percent of the overall harvest, the commission established the first-ever archery draw permits.

“This step was taken to create fairness based on demand,” said Ordway. “It was not done to reduce hunting opportunity for archery hunters, but rather to regulate it like other methods of take in these units.”

This new apportioning formula as established will help alleviate a growing trend – unrestricted hunting seasons impinging upon hunt opportunity for others, especially generally firearm hunters, who might or might not get to hunt each year depending on their luck in the draw. Good examples are the much sought after premier deer hunts north of the Colorado River.

Ordway explained that archery hunters still have a guaranteed opportunity to go deer hunting each and every year if they so desire, and they get to pretty much choose where in the state they go with only few restrictions.

 “In reality, we are leveling the playing field some, but archers continue to enjoy the most unrestricted ability to hunt deer of any of the methods of take.  We do not want to eliminate the ability for general hunters who are unsuccessful in the draw to then go out and archery hunt, as this a vital hunter retention tool,” Ordway said.

However, he said, archers also gained a hunting prospect they haven’t had in the past – a permitted archery hunt was created in the very popular Hunt Unit 13B, which has not had an archery season in past years. In addition, the season length for some archery hunts in specific units was also increased.