Nonresident Hunting Limits likely to be Reinstated and Expanded
Many local hunters are likely rejoicing today, after the Arizona Game and Fish Commission decided to move forward with a proposal to reinstate a 10 percent cap on the number of out-of-state hunters who can receive tags to hunt for the most desirable big game species in our state each year. The decision was one of several high-profile moves made by the commission at its August 2005 meeting in Flagstaff, Ariz.
"The public input we received was overwhelmingly in favor of putting the nonresident cap back in place," says Richard Rico, assistant director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's special services division, which is responsible for hunt draws.
Arizona's original 10 percent cap on nonresident hunt tags was created to protect hunting opportunities for Arizona residents. Last year, a U.S. District Court declared the cap unconstitutional and prohibited enforcement of it, citing the federal Commerce Clause as the reason. However, Congress recently took action to renounce interest in regulating hunting and fishing permits under the federal Commerce Clause, opening the door for states to impose caps and other limits on nonresident hunt opportunities.
"It will take some time, and we'll have public hearings before a final change is made," says Rico, "however, we're moving in the direction of putting a cap back in place, if the court lifts its injunction as expected."
The previous cap and similar limits applied to bull elk, buffalo, bighorn sheep and some antlered deer hunts in Arizona. The Game and Fish Commission voted to add the rest of the antlered deer hunts, plus pronghorn antelope, javelina, and turkey hunts to the list of those that would be affected by a reinstated cap. For most species, the new cap would be applied as no more than 10 percent of the tags available for each hunt number.
Some other important decisions by the commission at its August meeting include:
1. Reaffirming Commissioners' direction to provide an online application for Arizona's hunt draws by the fall 2005 draw or sooner, if possible. The department has taken a one-year hiatus from online applications to better evaluate options and technologies and will once again provide this service to make it easier for hunters to apply for Arizona's draws.
2. Approving the Arizona Game and Fish Department's recommendations for spring 2006 hunts, including hunt application dates, hunt season dates, and bag limits.
3. Approving more than $100,000 in additional funding for shooting range development grants. Call your local Game and Fish office or the Phoenix headquarters at (602) 942-3000 for more information about how to apply for these grants.