G&F Commission Adopts 2004 Hunt Regulations

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The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on April 17 adopted the 2004-05 hunt regulations, which should be posted on the department’s Web page at azgfd.com by April 30.

The printed version of the hunt regulations should be available at license dealers around May 12. The deadline for submitting big game hunt-permit applications for the fall hunts is June 8. Game and Fish officials say there are a number of regulation changes this year hunters will want to keep in mind, including:

- A $15 Habitat Management Stamp is required for the North Kaibab: All 12A (North Kaibab) deer hunters are now required to purchase a $15 Unit 12A Habitat Management Stamp. Stamps can be purchased at any license dealer and cannot be obtained through the draw process. Application for Kaibab deer hunts no longer requires the additional $5 fee per person.

- Successful archery deer hunters must contact Game and Fish. All archery deer hunters must contact a Game and Fish Department office in person or by telephone at (866) 903-DEER (3337), within 10 days of taking a deer unless the deer has been checked through a mandatory hunter checking station.

- You can now buy a bonus point: If you will be unable to hunt this season, yet wish to keep up-to-date with your bonus point accumulation without risking being drawn and losing your bonus points, you many now “buy” a bonus point for each bonus point species. There are special hunt numbers for which you can apply that have no hunt permit-tags associated with them.

- There are changes to the mountain lion regulations: Hunters may not take spotted kittens or female mountain lions accompanied by spotted kittens. Successful mountain lion hunters are now required to provide a premolar tooth from the harvested mountain lion to the Game and Fish Department.

- The Mearns’ quail bag and possession limit were changed: The Mearns’ quail bag limit is reduced to eight this year.

The Game and Fish Department is also reminding hunters the supplemental hunter pool is purged annually on April 10. Interested hunters must reapply to be eligible for future population management hunts.

The Game and Fish Commission has directed the department to implement a change for next year regarding the allocation formula for determining which season — general season, muzzleloader or archery — gets what share of the available hunt permit tags for deer, elk, and antelope. The allocation formula takes various things into account, including hunter success and applicant pressure. Last year, archery hunters experienced increased success, which means this year the archery portion of the allocation pie was reduced.

Archery hunters requested that hunter success and the other variables be averaged over time. It was agreed to use a five-year average. That averaging will go into effect for the proposed hunt packages next year.

Deer permits decrease slightly
The Game and Fish Commission set 36,325 permits for the general deer season, which is a decrease of 700 from last year.

Game Branch Chief Tice Supplee explained that statewide fawn-to-doe ratios have improved over last year’s low levels but the prolonged drought is still resulting in the lowest deer hunting opportunity since records were started in 1946.

Department biologists say that despite the reduced number of permits, the deer outlook is more promising this year thanks to increased fawn reproduction and retention but say large-scale population improvements over last year’s low level have not occurred. It could take years of normal or above normal precipitation for the state’s deer population to recover from the prolonged drought.

Juniors antlerless hunt set for Kaibab
A 500-tag antlerless hunt for juniors only has been set for Unit 12A on the Kaibab to keep the deer population in line with the available winter habitat.

Last year’s fawn crop was 67 fawns to 100 does in Unit 12A. The department is seeing 70-percent use on cliff rose, a primary browse species, in the crucial wintering area.

Several management triggers are used to help determine if and when antlerless removal is recommended. Those triggers include forage monitoring and population modeling. The department has agreed to work with the Arizona Deer Association to “ground truth” that modeling, in part by doing a deer population survey.

Elk numbers increasing slightly for the general hunt The elk-permit picture improved slightly for general season hunters this year because archery elk hunters last year experienced good hunt success.

Hunt success and hunt application pressure are two of the variables in the department’s formula for determining each year’s permit allocation among general, archery, muzzleloader and juniors-only.

Elk permits for the general seasons are 13,635 permits, an increase of 1,160 from last year, while archery-only permits are 5,108, a reduction of 1,500 from last year. Muzzleloader permits are 1,233, an increase of 165. Juniors-only permits are 1,025, which is 50 fewer permits than last year.

Permits for antlerless harvest were increased in Management Units 4A, 5B south, 7W, 9, 10 and 19A. Antlerless permits have decreased in Units 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5BN, 6B, 7E, 23 and 27. Units 6A (Verde Valley) and 23 (Canyon Creek) have new limited opportunity hunts that represent permit increases.

Hunters thinking about applying for limited opportunity elk hunts should consider three primary factors: odds of getting drawn are typically good; these are often tough hunts with low hunter success rates and; getting drawn means burning your bonus points.

A few more limited opportunity hunts were added this year. That translates into an increase of 47 permits to 872 for the general limited hunts. There are 100 permits for archery-only limited hunts, which is a 55-permit increase from last year. The Unit 12A and 12B general limited opportunity elk hunt was reinstated.

Bighorn sheep permits reduced
The Game and Fish Commission approved the department’s recommendation for 82 bighorn sheep permits, which is a 15-permit reduction from last year.

Management Units 15B and 15C suffered substantial population declines, as did Units 44A, 45A and 45B, resulting in a decrease of 15 permits for those units.

A disease outbreak that caused bighorns to go blind in the Silver Bell Mountains near Tucson resulted in that unit being closed to hunting, which is a loss of two permits. Units12B East and 16A were given a 1-permit increase each.

Mountain lion bag limit changes proposed
The commission approved a change to the legal animal this year for mountain lions from “any lion” to “any lion except spotted kittens or females accompanied by spotted kittens.”

"This recommendation will have little impact on Arizona’s mountain lion harvest,” says Zornes.

The Game and Fish Department is also requiring mountain lion hunters to submit a premolar tooth—the small tooth located on the upper jaw just behind the large canine—for aging. The tooth submittals are important for mountain lion data collection and population profiling.