The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) works in a collaborative effort with stakeholders to set its hunt guidelines in a rolling five-year structure.
The process includes the following:
- Hunt Guidelines – set on a five-year cycle.
- Survey and field data – this is obtained annually from hunter harvest reporting and game surveys by employees of the department.
- Hunt Recommendations – occurs three times on an annual basis.
- Commission Orders: The department provides its recommendations for the Commission. These recommendations were to discuss and approve to some degree establishing the guidelines for the upcoming five years.
AZGFD opened up its guidelines on January 1st, 2022 to the general public for the standard thirty-day open comment period. During that window, 3,148 official comments were received. Over seventy percent of the comments were specific to recommendations regarding how black bear, mountain lion, and bobcats management should occur in the state of Arizona.
Since the majority of public comments focused on these species for the upcoming five-year structure, this article will focus on those comments. The AZGFD received a full gamut of comments ranging from completely banning the hunting of black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats to the need to increase hunting opportunities and everything in between. The comments had a few common themes fluctuating between “science-based wildlife management”, “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation”, “trophy hunting” and “ending hound hunting”. The AZGFD responded back to some of the comments provided by people. However, they didn’t respond to everyone. But, the AZGFD did make changes to its original recommendations regarding the management of black bears and mountain lions.
These changes are as follows
- Since mandatory reporting is required on black bears and mountain lions, the department decide to recommend a new focus. This new focus is on the percentage of female harvests taken in units/zones. Based on the number of females taken it could result in the closing of areas for these species before the normal close of a season.
The last step of the process concluded on April 1st, 2022 at the AZGFD headquarters when the hunt guidelines were presented to the commission. Prior to the commissioners approving the guidelines, there was a final “call to public”. There were approximately thirty-five people that went on record to speak on the guidelines. The majority of the public comments were in favor of the guidelines as presented.
However, there was a percentage of comments that were against the guidelines. Proponents that were against the hunt guidelines stated that over ninety-five percent of the residents in Arizona do not hunt. Likewise, they stated their desire to end spring bear hunting and to move the mountain lion hunting start date to December 1st of each year.
Science-based wildlife management once again prevailed and the state of Arizona now have their 2023 – 2028 guidelines in place. We at Ehuntr support science-based wildlife management. It is clear that hunting is under attack and since this method didn’t work be prepared for future ballot initiatives regarding the future of hunting in Arizona and other states.