Fewer Elk Permits

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Drought is having an impact on elk populations and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is recommending 5,459 fewer elk hunt permits this year compared to last year.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission will be considering the department's 2002 big game hunt recommendations during its meeting in Phoenix starting at 8 a.m. April 13 in Phoenix at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #2 at 12851 N. 19th Ave. (just south of Thunderbird Road).

Once the commission adopts the commission orders for the various seasons, applicants will have the necessary information to begin applying. The adopted commission orders should be posted on the Game and Fish Internet Home Page at www.azgfd.com no later than April 19. The printed hunt regulations will be shipped to the various license dealers by May 15. The deadline to apply for the big game hunts is 7 p.m. June 11.

Big Game Supervisor Brian Wakeling said there are a number of factors leading to the recommendation for an elk permit reduction, but the most significant is the prolonged drought. "We have just experienced one of the driest decades, and one of the driest winters ever recorded. There's no relief in sight. Habitat conditions are poor. Our recent on-the-ground surveys indicate that elk calf numbers are down significantly in most herd units," Wakeling said.

Elk permits for the General Elk Season are recommended for a total of 14,305, which is a reduction of 1,715 permits from last year. The Archery Season is recommended for 5,608 permits, which is a reduction of 2,729 permits from last year. Muzzleloader permits are recommended at 923, a 490-permit reduction from last year. Juniors-Only Season permits are recommended for 1,090, a reduction of 280 permits from last year.

For the second year, the department is recommending "Limited Opportunity" hunts for the general, muzzleloader and archery seasons. These hunts are employed as a management tool to reduce elk numbers in various areas. For instance, some of the hunts target resident elk that stay year round in elk wintering areas.

The Limited Opportunity General Seasons are recommended for 1,855 permits, which is a reduction of 285 from last year. The Limited Opportunity archery and muzzleloader permits are recommended for 105 and 50 respectively, which is no change from last year.

Pinetop Regional Supervisor Richard Remington said that based on last year's field experience with the Limited Opportunity Hunts, modifications were made this year. "Last year in Region I, we had eight Limited Opportunity Hunts. This year we only recommend four. However, we recommend increasing the number of days hunters can be afield, which should boost hunter success. Therefore, we expect the elk harvest level to be comparable to last year's, while increasing hunter satisfaction," Remington said.

Once again this year, Game and Fish officials are advising hunters applying for the Limited Opportunity Hunts to not expect a cakewalk. Wakeling pointed out that these hunts can be tough. "Elk densities are typically low. It can take a lot of effort to fill a tag. These aren't our typical 'quality' hunts," Wakeling pointed out.