1. The Department's mandate is that when the archery harvest in a hunt unit exceeds 20% of the total deer harvest (all weapons) in that unit, they either close archery hunting seasons or move the entire archery hunt for that unit to a drawing. This is flawed because the 20% is just an arbitrary non-changing number. No matter how much of the population leaves rifle hunting and moves to bowhunting, this would never change to match the new dynamic.
2. As they continue to close more and more units to bowhunting, they do nothing to limit the number of OTC permits that can be sold, and that number is increasing each year. Those increasing numbers of bowhunters have fewer and fewer units to hunt each year, which causes them to exceed the 20% harvest limit, which in turn closes them to OTC bowhunting. The only possible outcome of that continued management trend is that virtually all OTC hunts will be closed within a very few years.
3. The Game & Fish's mandate states that the 20% bowhunter quota for each unit will be calculated based upon three years of harvest data, but by their own admission they are only using the last two years (2019-2020) for this year's proposal since the few years prior to that had very low survey response from hunters, and therefore the data was useless. 2020 was an anomaly, in that a much higher than normal amount of people took to the field to hunt (and many more OTC permits were sold) due to the pandemic. So, the dozens of recommended hunt closures are a result of a spike in the harvest in 2020 which will very likely not be repeated in 2021.
4. And as a more controversial point, but one I think is highly relevant, it has become a ridiculously easy point of abuse for people to obtain handicapped crossbow permits and use them during archery-only seasons. While the G&F Department has not responded to requests for this data, I have seen reports that hunters obtaining handicapped crossbow permits have increased from 100 to 2,000 over the past five years. I doubt that there has truly been a sudden spike of handicapped bowhunters by 20 fold in the past five years. It would also not be surprising if the hunting success of hunters using scoped crossbows is higher than those using hand-held bows, but the Department does not track this so they just allow the increased harvest to be counted against bowhunters, and seasons are closed as a result. While this last issue is not addressed by the alternate proposal, I think it is important that the Department should amend the survey to ask the question about whether a crossbow was used and further look at this issue in the very near future.
In my opinion, the alternative proposal would allow the Department to continue to sell as many OTC permits as they wish (supporting their revenue stream) while limiting the take in each unit and protecting the deer populations as desired. It would be instantly responsive throughout the year to any anomalies that temporarily increase harvest, rather than only revisiting them every few years (or ignoring them completely), and would protect the populations even better than the proposal by the Department.
So the harvest percentage of the total is not correct from the outset.
I believe it was all done by rifle hunting biologists who were jealous that Bowhunters got to hunt mule deer every year and were killing the odd big buck that was not available to them when they got the rifle draw tag. Maybe also an anti-hunting tactic because it greatly reduced the overall number of hunters in the field. Maybe that’s even more the case in Arizona?
I also feel this would increase some pressure on NM's January draws as there's a lot of us who like to do a January hunt and there's not a lot of big game hunts in January.
Lastly, I'm with Bob in that I'd rather see OTC hunting go away in the West (except for AK - we have room for OTC hunting up here). I just don't see how you can manage game numbers when you give out unlimited tags.
Where OTC hunting exists and it's been the bulk of what I've hunted, the age structure and male:female ratios when compared to LE units are just not natural. There is a balance and game managers certainly have the ability to find a balance between opportunity and not slaughtering the herd.
You set a quota of how many deer can be killed in each OTC unit, require successful hunters to call an 800 number to report harvest within 48 hours, and then close the units as they reach their harvest objective. That's what the sportsmen's proposal is recommending. Then, it wouldn't matter how many statewide OTC tags are sold. Arizona currently manages OTC lions and bears this way, and has successfully for many years. So, why wouldn't it work for deer without any significant danger of hurting the resource?
It’ll be fraught with guys gaming the system. Rather than report a kill, they’ll ignore it so to protect the unit from closing so their buddies can hunt it the following weekend.
Dnewer has no idea what he is talking about! Most guys... I say 75-80 percent can not shoot "Accurately" past 60 yards, maybe even half of that at an animal!! Crossbows are just rifles that shoot arrows, only for the truly disabled during archery season!
That's patently false. I practice out that far, but I've never taken a shot on an animal past 55 and almost all my shots are in the 10-22 yard range. Just because you use a trad bow does not allow you the freedom to claim that all compound users are killing animals out that far. You're just assuming.
Regarding the check in and end the season: I still don't like it even if the calls are easy. And here's why: When I plan a hunt, a lot goes in to that. There's travel, sometimes booking a VRBO, hotel, or lodge, or setting up and breaking down a camp which takes a lot of time. And that's all after the research that goes in to where I'm hunting.
I don't want the stool kicked out from under my feet. I don't want to get to a hunt with a week planned to hunt and be able to hunt one day. Honestly, I'd rather hope for a tag as my second or third choice or even draw a LE tag to hunt.
I don't see why, with how many units AZ has, why it shouldn't be easy to draw a deer tag with a 2nd or 3rd choice.
Also, I feel that this ridiculous 20% arbitrary number that AZG&F has pulled out of thin air with no real science or reason behind it in game management has created a phony problem.
Have you read where Howard Hill shot an elk at 185 yards with a stick bow?
Fix the root of the problem.
Then manage for efficiency and maximum return on investment.
Archery hunting will always deliver the maximum revenue return for managing the resource. From that perspective, rifle hunters should be more limited. From a success basis, each rifle tag represents about ten or more archery tags.
Why not enhance and encourage more archery tags and adjust the rifle tags as necessary for herd management? That is the obvious solution for maximum revenue for the resource.
The problem here will be overload. There will be so many different ideas from so many different angles that the bureaucrats will just do the simplistic thing and go with the closures as proposed.
Any questions? Just look at how screwed up Colorado is. Not one day of archery only. Sucks. Gets worse every year.
As far as AZ8's comments, you believe that hunters will blatantly lie to G&F about their deer harvest, but are honest about calling in their bear harvest just because there is a later physical check-in requirement? If someone is willing to lie by not submitting a mandatory (by law) report, you really think it matters whether it's a phone or physical check-in? If "gaming the system" so that their friends can harvest is done for deer, it's likely being done for bears as well. The system works, or it doesn't. I just don't see deer being that different from bears in any of the ways you describe.
Tavis, I definitely agree that it is perplexing why recent changes in many states seem to be limiting archery opportunity for no good reason. Does P&Y, or other bowhunting org, have the ability to offer an opinion on these matters that could carry some more weight than just comments from individuals?
Although the sportsman's propsal does offer a potential solution, it is still following the anti-archery hunting basis that is at the root of the problem. How can AG&F justify their statistics without 100% mandatory hunter surveys? If the deer herds are declining, then would it not make sense to focus on reducing the weapons that have the greatest impact per tag on the herd? What does a 20% of the total harvest success in a unit have to do with herd management?
I am not sure if the information is available from AG&F, but it would seem to make sense to build some graphics for discussion that illustrate:
1. Total Archery versus Rifle deer harvest by unit (based on their flawed lack of true rifle data, initially) 3. Total AG&F revenue from Archery tags sold versus Rifle tags sold. 2. AG&F revenue from Archery tags per harvested animal versus revenue from Rifle tags per harvest.
If the information is available, do it over a number of years to develop trends.
As more units and seasons are shut down or moved to drawing only, Arizona's arbitrary 20% of the total will become more prevalent, leading to more archery seasons pulled off the boards and more units closed until OTC archery will be gone. It has a flawed premise that needs to be corrected.
The alternative may be the best option for now but will also raise more issues without getting buy in from the AG&F that they get the most "Bang for the Buck" from archery.
Hell, maybe the data would make it appear that one or more units do, indeed, need to be on a draw because there's too many hunters. I doubt it though. I think this is a phony problem.
Realwarrior, I never said that Jim's opinion was a guess. I never said he removed the "educated" part from his "educated guess". I'm perfectly willing to accept this his "opinion" is a "highly educated hypothesis". It's still only an opinion, even if it is a highly educated opinion because G&F simply does nothing to obtain the data needed to know the actual answer. I know Jim personally, and as I said I highly respect him. However, without the actual data needed, his is still just an educated guess made using his personal observations and beliefs. One could be a NASA scientist talking about rocket science, but it's still just an educated guess if they don't give the scientist any actual data to use. And I certainly don't think they are doing any of the airplane surveys of vehicles that you are describing. I've never seen any data like that provided by the Department. Do you know how much that would cost in a state the size of Arizona! Not to fault them for not doing it, however. The AZGFD receives no general tax revenue to run its agency. They are funded solely by revenue from hunting/fishing licenses and a small share of Federal sporting goods taxes. Arizona has a relative fraction of the numbers of deer and other big game animals that other states have, so license and permit sales are a fraction as well. Arizona's hunters take less than 10% of the number of deer per year than are taken by hunters in your state. That doesn't provide a huge amount of revenue to manage the wildlife in a state this size. But, they could ask for the needed data in the surveys they do perform, at no additional cost to them. That's really the point.
The changes in Alberta were promoted by Brent Watson of the Alberta Bowhunters Association (ABA). He championed the cause.... I spoke with him on the phone on this matter before this proposal was being debated at the Alberta Game Management Group (AGMAG) consultation meetings. He was adamant that there were "too many bowhunters" and that the draw would be a good way to weed out those less serious about bowhunting. I personally reviewed the government data used to support the proposal to expand draw only seasons for archery mule deer, proved that a significant proportion of the data was flawed and invalid, showing that the arbitrary thresholds have not been exceeded. Brent Watson and the ABA refused to acknowledge this research. Brent was adamant in having Mule Deer go on a draw. Without Brent's and the ABA's support for the draw, these changes in Mule deer hunting management would not have occurred.
At the same time, Brent personally wrote and submitted a proposal to the AGMAG for the elimination of spears and atlatls as legal weapons for hunting big game in Alberta.
Brent was and still is very content, even proud, to advocate for eliminating other hunters from the field if it might advance his own personal hunting goals.
Gotcha, but they don't typically conduct wildlife surveys during hunts. Bowhunters wouldn't be very happy to have low flying aircraft spooking the game as they are hunting it.
I have seen numerous surveys during the desert mule deer rut hunts. A WM told me that was their preferred time to survey since the deer were most active then. You could bet on a good buck when their aircraft circled a spot.
As far as the OTC hunts, go to a statewide draw. It’s only a matter of time before they do anyway. The growth in central AZ is unbelievable. There is a limited resource that can’t hold up under drought, habitat loss, more hunting pressure and predation.
It's also easy for people that live in whitetail states to say that we should put them all in a drawing because they are guaranteed to get to bowhunt in their own state each year (often getting to kill numerous deer a year). Not getting to hunt in Arizona wouldn't be as devastating as it would be for a resident. It takes years and years for even a resident to draw most AZ big game species now, so for many bowhunters in Arizona, the OTC deer hunt could be their only available big game hunt each year. You even have to draw a spring turkey tag in Arizona in most of the state now. And granted, if all the units were placed on a draw basis they could probably get a tag, but that only allows them to hunt a couple of weeks out of the entire year. The OTC tag provides hunting opportunities on and off throughout the year. You can hunt the northern forests in the summer, then switch to the southern deserts during the winter. You don't HAVE to hunt during an assigned short hunting window or forego your bowhunting for the entire year if you can't go then. If you had to draw a tag and then you got sick, or have a family event or emergency, or any other number of things that could occur and limit or cancel your two-week assigned hunting window, you have just lost your opportunity to hunt for the year.
Another thing to consider is that hunt success often increases substantially once a unit is put into a drawing. Since there are three long periods per year that offer OTC deer hunting, a hunter can hunt in one and not be too concerned about taking a deer (or even be happy to not take a deer) because then they will get to hunt again later in the year. Many hunters hold out and try to take a nice buck during the first season or two, passing on the young deer in order to preserve the chance to hunt more later during the year. But when all of that is taken away, and you are told you can only hunt in a specific unit one time a year for 2 or 3 weeks, then you get very serious about trying to take a deer. Hunt success rises. I also suspect that non-residents have a much higher success rate on these OTC hunts than do residents for this exact same reason (although we don't know because G&F is not interested in finding out). A resident usually doesn't mind not getting a deer in January, because then their hunting opportunities aren't ended for the year. They can try again in August, and then again in December. A lot of non-residents only come for the January hunt, when the weather is so much nicer than their home state (and no hunts are occurring at home). They come out for a week or two, and there is no downside to taking a deer. They aren't trying to save their hunting opportunities for later in the year, they are here to kill something. Also, I'm guessing the average bowhunter that goes out of state to hunt might be a better hunter on average than many bowhunters that just hunt their own state, so their success might be naturally higher anyway. Please note that I said, "I'm guessing the average bowhunter...". I'm not looking to get in a pissing match about whether bowhunters that hunt out of state are better than in-state bowhunters that have more beginners in their mix, or not. That's really not the point of my post.
Look what happened in CO last year when so many units in SW CO went from OTC to draw for elk: You could buy the tag as a leftover.
These units that are currently OTC are not going to suddenly have 15 or 25 tags like 13A/13B currently have. There's going to be a ton of tags.
Also, because there's really no reason for an avid bowhunter to put in anywhere for deer in AZ besides 13A/B or 12, if Joe Blow who lives in Phoenix/Tucson and drives 1-2 hours every year to hunt for 1-3 days (which is how many days most hunters hunt, per the studies) is now forced to look at his options of not being able to do his yearly hunt vs put in for the Strip or Kaibab every year like he does now because, why wouldn't he? Well, now, perhaps, he's putting in for his local hunt every year because he wants to hunt and perhaps draw odds for 12 and 13 actually get better.
There are hundreds of guys in San Diego every year who put in for the A22 tag as first choice when it's drawable on a 2nd and 3rd choice because they either don't understand the system or they just want to make sure that they've got that one tag that they really want and they don't care about building up points for the superior northern California units because bowhunting to them is hunting San Diego with a long season every year, so they're happy to burn their point every year even though they don't have to.
Nonetheless, I just can't see living anywhere in the contiguous lower 48 and not being able to BOWhunt deer every year in the state in which I live - that's just crazy. This 20% thing is just a crock of crap and a big middle finger to resident bowhunters.
Look on the bright side Ed, it's only a 3.5 hour drive to Blythe and you've got the entire CA Mojave on an OTC tag that you'll have for the rest of your life ;)
Javelina hunting used to be an OTC statewide tag for bowhunters, and that eventually went the way of a statewide draw. I have really missed being able to hunt a few days here and there around the state with different friends, rather than now having to choose one unit only. Sure, you can still get a permit every year, but I no longer hunt with friends because we all want to apply for our own favorite unit now.