Arizona's Hunter Education Program turns 50
By Tom Cadden,
public information officer, Arizona Game and Fish Department
activity would you guess is safer: hunting or driving your car to
It might surprise most
non-hunters to know that the answer is hunting. In 2004 there were
1,151 motor vehicle fatalities in Arizona. Only three hunting-related
accidents happened in the state during each of the last two years,
Hunting is one of the
safest outdoor recreational activities in Arizona. One of the main
reasons for this is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s
Hunter Education Program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary
this year. The program relies on dedicated volunteers who teach
a curriculum of firearms safety, hunter ethics, wildlife conservation
principles, first aid and other topics.
education classes were offered, we had an alarming rate of hunting-related
accidents across the country,” says Bill Larson, a hunter
education coordinator for the department. “One newspaper clipping
from a Midwestern state in the late 1930s predicted there would
be 11 hunting fatalities in that state on opening day alone.”
Hunter education programs
have changed that. They began appearing in different states in the
late 1940s and early ’50s, and hunting-related accidents began
declining shortly after that. Every state in the country now has
a hunter education program.
record over the years has been exemplary. “We have 1.6 million
hunter days in this state per year, with an average of only four
hunting-related accidents per year and one hunting-related death
every five years,” says Larson.
which started in 1955, was originally called the Arizona Firearms
Safety Training Program. By the end of 1956, about 400 students
had completed the course. The Arizona Game and Fish Department now
certifies more than 4,800 students each year and uses 800 volunteer
Who are these
dedicated volunteer instructors?
our friends and neighbors from all walks of life—doctors,
lawyers, teachers, mechanics, mail carriers, retirees,” says
Larson. “They are folks who love the outdoors and have a strong
desire to teach and make things better for their community.”
Keith Paul is an architect
and volunteer who has taught hunter education for 11 years, seven
of them in Arizona. He says he was motivated to become a hunter
education instructor for two reasons.
“As an unschooled
novice hunter, I accidentally shot someone’s breakfast plate
out from under him from a mile-and-a-half away while on my first
deer hunt in Michigan,” he says. “Fortunately, no one
was hurt, but I learned firsthand the three primary rules we teach:
(1) Treat every firearm as if it is loaded; (2) Always point your
muzzle in a safe direction; (3) Be sure of your target and beyond.
Later, I took my first hunter education course and saw the value
it offered. In an increasingly urban society, hunters have a great
deal of knowledge to share about outdoor safety, wildlife and wildlife
management. I teach this course so that hopefully no other hunter
will spoil someone's breakfast, or worse.”
The department offers
two different hunter education courses: a 20-hour course that focuses
on basic hunter education and a 28-hour course that combines the
basic course with a nationally recognized bowhunter education course.
Anyone age 10 or older is eligible to take either course and become
certified upon successful completion. Youth ages 10 through 13 who
wish to hunt big game in Arizona must have their hunter education
certifications along with the proper hunting licenses and tags.
Adult supervision is highly recommended.
has been nationally recognized and has served as a model for other
states and even countries. More than 175 hunter education classes
are offered in the state each year. For
more information, visit the department’s Web site or contact
the department at (602) 942-3000.
back to top
By Pat Barber, predator and furbearer biologist, Arizona Game and
Many of us who weren’t
lucky enough to draw a late deer tag or a coveted sheep tag are
wondering what to do with our hunting gear and ourselves in December.
In the previous issue of Hunting Highlights, biologist Mark Zornes
wrote enthusiastically about abundant small game opportunities.
His prediction of a good year for the small game hunter is proving
to be accurate, and the abundance of small game (prey species) indicates
that it should be a pretty good year for predators—and predator
Predator hunters generally
go after coyote, bobcat and fox (gray and kit). They also hunt mountain
lion and bear. Because of the abundant prey statewide this year,
most adult predators survived the past summer; we also saw a high
rate of survival for this year’s young. Next year, predators
should be even more abundant as this year’s pups and kittens
reach full adulthood. Predator hunters should find success in most
parts of the state this fall and winter, and even better success
The most successful
method for hunting predators is calling with predator or varmint
calls. These are found in many sporting goods stores, in various
catalogs and at online stores. Hunters can choose an inexpensive
mouth call or a more expensive electronic call. Electronic calls
are relatively easy to use, while mouth calls require practice.
To improve your technique or find someone to hunt with, contact
one of the state’s wildlife-calling clubs (visit
our hunting resources page for a list).
bobcat and fox
Season dates for smaller predators are found in Commission Order
& Fur-bearing Mammals. The season for coyotes (and skunks)
is year-round. The season for bobcats and foxes (along with raccoon,
ringtail, weasel and badger) runs from Aug. 1 to March 31. To hunt
on national wildlife refuges, check the regulations for season dates,
since they differ from the statewide seasons. Bag and possession
limits for these species are unlimited.
Game and Fish Department collects jaws from coyotes, bobcats and
foxes to determine the age structure of the state’s populations.
Hunters can assist by removing the entire lower jaw from harvested
animals and dropping them by the department’s Phoenix
office or one of the regional
Bear seasons (Commission
Order 9) are open at various times in each
unit, and are managed using female harvest quotas in addition to
season dates. Successful hunters are required to report their harvest
to the department in person or by phone within 48 hours and then
submit a pre-molar tooth from the harvested animal. When a unit’s
female harvest objective is reached, the hunt will close at sundown
on the Wednesday immediately following.
Bears are all about eating
during the fall season, as they build up their fat stores prior
to winter hibernation. Bears are typically concentrated at lower
elevations gorging themselves on prickly pear fruit or at higher
elevations gorging themselves on acorns. Figuring out where the
food is separates successful hunters from unsuccessful ones.
This year’s favorable
precipitation patterns brought plentiful pear fruit and acorns.
This means that earlier in the season, when most bear harvests usually
occur, bears were not concentrated in small areas but dispersed
throughout suitable habitats. On the bad side, fewer hunters than
usual were successful at that time of year. On the good side, many
female harvest objectives were not met as early as usual. When this
article was written, some bear hunts were still open. Before going
into the field, call the bear line at (800) 970-BEAR (2327) to see
which units have closed. Always check the commission order notes
for specifics (good advice no matter what species you’re hunting).
Mountain lion seasons are set in Commission
Order 10. Seasons are
currently open statewide all year. The state’s lion population
has been relatively stable over time, and lions can be found almost
anywhere in the state (the southwest corner of the state has only
a sparse lion population). The bag limit is one lion per year, except
in units with a multiple bag limit. In these units, a hunter may
take one lion per day until the unit’s harvest objective is
met. After that, the unit reverts to the statewide limit of one
lion per year. Units in the southwest part of the state are combined
into one hunt with a harvest objective of one—when one lion
is harvested there, all of the units close. Successful lion hunters
must report their harvest within 10 days and submit a pre-molar
tooth to the department. Check the notes in Commission Order 10
your big game hunts are over, or you were never drawn, or you got
a cool new gun for Christmas, or you’re tired of being at
home, remember that you always have an opportunity to head for the
hills (or the flatland if you prefer) and hunt predators. Take a
friend with you, too.
By Brian Bellah, Tucson
I got this real
nice gobbler just a few minutes past daybreak on opening day this
year. He came to my call and decoy from about 125 yards away, out
of his roost, giving me a nice 45-yard shot that dropped him in
his tracks. What a beautiful bird. He sure was good eating.
in Arizona: cottontail rabbit
By Mark Zornes, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish Department
“Cook! Where’s my hasenpfeffer?”
It’s one of my favorite lines from a classic cartoon. This
year, I assure you that your hasenpfeffer won’t taste of carrots.
Hasenpfeffer is rabbit stew, of course—in our case, the cottontail.
You’ll find plenty of these fine small game animals here this
year. Above-normal precipitation in much of the state over the past
year has expanded cottontail populations dramatically. Some rocky
areas in central Arizona with the proper dense-brushy cover are
crowded with cottontails.
Three species of cottontail occur in Arizona: the Nuttall’s
or mountain cottontail, the eastern cottontail and the desert cottontail.
Because of their abundance and year-round season, cottontails are
a great species to go after when introducing a young (or old) person
Most people still-hunt (sneak) along desert washes, rocky foothills
or canyons, harvesting the animal with a small-caliber rifle or
pistol, or with a shotgun. Go slow, search all available cover (you
often see an eye before you see the rest of the rabbit), and be
prepared for a quick shot: Once Mr. Cottontail realizes he’s
been spotted, he’ll quickly seek cover elsewhere. I love hunting
cottontails with archery tackle, which can produce many shots and
quite a challenge.
Hunting cottontails with dogs (usually beagles) is a popular pastime
in the Eastern states. It is not popular in Arizona due to our inhospitable
vegetation and terrain, plus the tendency of western cottontails
to seek a subterranean refuge in the blink of an eye instead of
coursing before a yapping dog. It is also hazardous to the yapping
dog: making high-pitched squealing noises in the desert can attract
something bigger and nastier than yourself.
Cottontails are tasty, with delicate, light-colored meat. To reduce
potential exposure to disease, never harvest and handle a cottontail
that appears ill or excessively tame. After getting a healthy rabbit,
cool the carcass as quickly as possible by field dressing it immediately.
Take normal precautions during field dressing and cleaning by wearing
rubber gloves. Allowing the carcass to cool prior to carrying it
in your game bag will allow any ectoparasites (like fleas) to seek
a new host besides you. Sealing the rabbit in a Ziploc or bread
bag is another good way to keep the “ectos” away from
you. Ice the carcass as soon as possible to prevent spoilage. Any
cottontail properly cared for in the field will yield a delicious
So now you know the answer to the question, “Where’s
my hasenpfeffer?” It’s in the field, waiting for you.
Get out there and have yourself a great holiday bunny hunt (don’t
forget your family)!
By the Hensley family, Glendale
This is my son Shawn’s
first dove hunt and his first white wing. My daughter Kristen is
our bird girl: she misses none. The photo was taken last year. My
girl says she will try her brother’s .410 this year.
a wildlife manager
By Ron Day, law enforcement branch chief, Arizona Game and Fish Department
start of December means that every avid Arizona duck hunter has
already spent a weekend or two up north trying to make that old
duck call work while watching their favorite duck decoy float (or
sink, if it’s a really good one). So it’s not too early
to answer the annual question about possessing lead shot while duck
For years, anyone hunting
waterfowl in Arizona has been required to hunt with non-toxic shot.
This prevents the accumulation of lead shot on the bottom of waters
frequented by wintering waterfowl. Lead accumulation becomes an
issue as ducks ingest lead shot while feeding off the bottom and
die from toxins produced as shot is digested. Non-toxic shot initially
meant steel shot. But in recent years this category has grown to
include bismuth, tungsten and a variety of other replacements.
The question of possessing
lead shot while duck hunting is often asked by desert duck hunters
who wish to take advantage of Arizona’s multiple hunt structure
by hunting quail while duck hunting. This is legal if done correctly—and
what a great way to spend a day in the field. Here are the guidelines:
A hunter may
not possess lead shot while in the field hunting waterfowl.
“In the field” does not mean in your truck, but away
from your truck actively hunting waterfowl. So if you have parked
and are walking up to a tank to jump ducks, you may not possess
lead shot on your person. You may have lead shot in your vehicle,
but not in your hunting vest, game bag or pockets. This obviously
also applies to sitting in a duck blind over a spread of decoys.
If you are doing this, you are duck hunting and may not possess
lead shot on your person or in your blind.
If you are driving between
tanks and see a covey of quail, you can lawfully hunt these birds
with lead shot. You are not duck hunting at this point, even if
you started the morning going out after ducks. Now, you are actually
hunting quail. Of course, you can’t shoot them from the truck
window—that would be illegal. But, you knew that!
The hard question is:
What do you do when you are sneaking up to your favorite duck tank
and discover a covey of quail? Hopefully at this point you do not
have lead shot with you. If you do, you are in violation and may
be issued a citation. In this circumstance, jump the tank in anticipation
of a swarm of mallards getting up at your feet. Then walk back to
your truck, swap your non-toxic shot for lead, and return to pursue
the covey of quail.
I hope this will answer
the lead shot question, at least for another year. Be safe and enjoy
your day in the field.
dressing quail is simple
By Rory Aikens, public information officer, Arizona Game and Fish
you want to get in on this season’s great
quail hunting and would like to know how to field dress these
excellent game birds? Here’s an easy five-step process. The
key is to dress (gut) quail as soon as possible, especially during
the hot part of the season.
1: Hold or place the quail belly up and pluck the feathers
from between the anus and the bottom of the breastbone. Pluck a
few feathers at a time by pulling with sharp jerks toward the tail.
Use caution: The skin tears easily.
2: Make a small cut through the skin across the area you
just plucked, without cutting the intestines.
3: With a small gutting hook or your finger, reach up into
the body cavity (toward the head) and gently pull out the intestines.
Pull or cut off the intestine and anus.
4: Remove the lungs (the red-pink spongy stuff in the body
cavity) and wipe or rinse out any blood. If you wash the body cavity,
be sure to wipe it dry.
5: Remove the crop. With the bird on its back, feel for
a lump at the front of the breast at the base of the neck. Slit
the skin and you will find a thin, leathery pouch about the size
of a large marble. Pull it out and discard it.
it: You are done with the field dressing.
Get birds on ice quickly. Don’t leave them in a game bag,
in the trunk or in direct sunlight. Keep them dry in the ice chest
(use plastic bags). Water promotes contamination and growth of bacteria.
When you get
home, remove all internal organs, such as the heart, kidneys and
windpipe. Next, pluck the bird. There are two plucking methods,
dry and wet. The dry method involves pulling a
bunch of feathers at a time toward the bird’s tail (with the
grain). Wipe the body cavity dry if the internal organs were not
ruptured by the shot. If they were, rinse out the body cavity with
water and wipe it dry.
method makes it easier to avoid tearing the skin. Fill
a good-sized pot about halfway with hot water (about 130-140 F),
deep enough to allow complete immersion. Dunk one quail at a time
for about one minute. Remove the quail from the water and pluck
the feathers. Wipe the inside and outside dry. Cut off the feet
at the first joint above the feet, and cut off the head.
You can freeze quail to eat later using one of the following methods:
- In water:
Place five or six cleaned quail in a half-gallon milk carton.
Fill it with water to within one-half inch of the top crease on
the flat sides. Close the top and label it with the contents and
- In plastic
bags: Place cleaned birds in a bag, squeeze out air and seal shut.
If water gets onto the seal, it may fail—be sure to check
- In heavy
butcher paper: Tightly double wrap several quail and label the
package with contents and date frozen.
By John Koleszar, vice president
How did your group get started? We wanted
to create an opportunity for money raised in Arizona to stay in
Arizona. Since we began almost five years ago, we’ve raised
over $1.2 million for Arizona wildlife and habitat. We also wanted
to create a group that could work quickly to get things done, and
we have. For example, we were able to see the 26,000-acre Burro
Creek Allotment conserved for wildlife use in just six months.
is AES’s purpose? The mission of the Arizona Elk Society
is to raise funds to benefit elk and other wildlife through habitat
conservation and restoration and to preserve our hunting heritage
for present and future generations.
members do you have? 1,000+
AES do? We raise money and do projects that benefit people
and wildlife. For youth, each year in June we hold our Wapiti Weekend,
taking more than 100 kids and training them in hunting skills. It’s
a blast for the kids. We also work with the Arizona Deer Association
on a unit watch for the junior elk hunts. Each year we also host
a banquet that raises money for wildlife. And our member volunteers
spend a lot of time making sure that money gets spent wisely.
conservation spotlight is shining on AES, what would you like to
say? One reason to get involved in one of the many conservation
organizations out there is to give back. Rather than just taking
hunting opportunities, we wish more hunters would give their time
and resources back to wildlife and habitat.
people reach you? Visit www.arizonaelksociety.org.
Mountain Elk Foundation in Arizona
By Lyle Button, RMEF Arizona state regional director
your group get started? Founded in 1984, the Rocky Mountain
Elk Foundation (RMEF) has evolved into an international conservation
leader powered by 138,000 members.
first RMEF chapter formed in Flagstaff 20 years ago. Arizona now
has 4,200 members and volunteers in 12 chapters. The total value
of RMEF efforts in Arizona through 2004 is in excess of $14 million.
RMEF’s purpose? RMEF is an international non-profit wildlife
conservation organization dedicated to ensuring the future for elk,
other wildlife and their habitat.
the Arizona chapters of RMEF do? In Arizona we have completed
311 projects focused on conservation education, habitat enhancement,
hunting heritage, wildlife management, research and land conservation.
We are particularly proud to have assisted the Arizona Game and
Fish Department with its purchase of the White Mountain and Cross
L ranches near Springerville. These areas provide critical winter
range for elk.
conservation spotlight is shining on the Arizona chapters of RMEF,
what would you like to say? This is a critical time for elk
country in Arizona. Our natural resource base is under increasing
pressure from recreation and private land development. These pressures
must be mitigated in order to promote multiple use, manage game
responsibly and support rural lifestyles. Millions of acres of federal,
state and private lands will be impacted over the next decade.
Leaving a legacy
in elk country: what could be more intriguing, rewarding and challenging?
We are pleased to announce the establishment of the Arizona Conservation
Initiative: “AZCI.” This will be an organized approach
toward prioritizing and successfully addressing resource issues
that affect elk and other wildlife throughout Arizona’s elk
range. The initiative program will have three areas of primary focus:
landscapes, collaborative partnerships and long-term strategies.
Working with our partners, the RMEF is spearheading the initiative
planning process. The initiative budget over the next 12–15
years could easily exceed $20 million.
The Rocky Mountain
Elk Foundation and the dedicated volunteers in Arizona are working
today for wildlife tomorrow!
people reach you? Visit
our chapter online.
opportunities for hunters
By Sandy Reith, volunteer coordinator, Arizona Game and Fish Department
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s volunteer
program provides opportunities for volunteers to participate firsthand
in managing Arizona’s wildlife resources. Our goal is to provide
you with a congenial and cooperative atmosphere where you can build
relationships with staff and other volunteers, and gain knowledge
about Arizona wildlife and wildlife management. We recognize that
your time is important and strive to provide rewarding and educational
listed an opportunity below that we think you might find interesting.
To learn about other opportunities or to submit information about
a project that would benefit from our volunteers, check
our volunteer page.
project: line safety officers needed at Ben Avery Shooting Facility
Responsibilities include checking the safe condition of customer
firearms, observing participants while they are shooting on the
range, maintaining safe operation of the shooting line, and providing
superior customer service by answering customer questions about
firearms. Volunteers shoot for free at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.
Contact our volunteer coordinator
at (623) 236-7680.
1 No. 3 Dec. 2005
In this issue:
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and contact information. Edit
Visit the archives:
us your stories and questions!
We welcome mail from readers and will feature the following in each
Do you have a photo and story you’d like to share about your
recent hunting trip? We’d like to include one hunter's story
in each issue of Hunting Highlights. Send your picture and a brief
story to the Hunting
Do you have a photo and story about a youth hunt (your own, or that
of your child or grandchild)? We’d like to share one junior
hunter’s story in each issue of Hunting Highlights. Send your
picture and a brief story to the Hunting
Are you excited about the mission and activities of your wildlife
conservation organization? In the Conservation Spotlight, our readers
will share your excitement. To get your group into the spotlight,
e-mail the Hunting
a wildlife manager
Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask a game warden?
All questions are fair game in this regular feature. If you’ve
got a question for our wildlife managers, e-mail the Hunting
education classes are scheduled throughout the year in many
locations around the state. This list is updated weekly and new
classes are being offered all the time.
If you are planning on hunting in another state, please check with
that state well in advance of your hunt to see if proof of hunter
education is required.
Remember our safety phrase: T.A.B. T=Treat every gun as if it were
loaded. A=Always point your muzzle in a safe direction. B=Be sure
of your target and what is beyond. Happy hunting!
From the "North
American Hunting Club Wild Game Cookbook"
- 1 rabbit,
cut into pieces
- 2 T vegetable
- 1 bay leaf,
- 1 garlic
- 1 spice
- 2 T bacon,
- 2 small
- 1/2 cup
- 1 1/2 cup
- 1 cup sour
cream or evaporated milk
vegetable oil in sauce pan. When hot, add bay leaf, garlic clove,
spice clove, bacon, carrots and mushrooms. Add rabbit and simmer
Mix vinegar and water and pour solution over meat. Cover pan and
simmer until tender. Before removing pan from heat, add cream or
Serve hot with dumplings or large noodles..
Dec. 9–10: Arizona Game and Fish Commission meets
Dec. 16–Jan. 31: Archery-only non-permit tag deer season
Jan. 1: Archery javelina season opens. Dove season ends.
Jan. 20: Arizona Game and Fish Commission meets
Jan. 21: Meet the Commission banquet
Feb. 3–5, 2006: Becoming
an Outdoors Woman deluxe weekend
March 25 and 26: Arizona Shooting
Showcase, Ben Avery Shooting Facility
to consider raising license, tag prices
The Arizona Game and Fish Department held a series of meetings
across the state in November, seeking public input on a proposal
the prices of hunting and fishing licenses and big game tags.
year, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill raising the fee ceilings
under which the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is authorized to
establish license, tag, stamp and permit prices. The commission
is seeking price increases within those ceilings so the department
can meet rising costs of doing business.
Game and Fish Department will make pricing recommendations at the
meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, Dec. 9-10 at the
Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort, 26000 W. Gila Bend Highway,
Casa Grande. If approved by the commission, those recommendations
would go through the formal rulemaking process. The increases would
affect licenses, tags and stamps that will be used beginning in
your calendars for the commission awards banquet
Don't forget to mark your calendar for Saturday, Jan. 21 to attend
the Arizona Game and Fish Commission's annual awards banquet starting
at 5:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort, 5401 N. Scottsdale
Road, Scottsdale. Individual tickets are $50 and tables of 10 are
$480—a discount of $20 over individual prices.
there have been more than 180 recipients of commission awards, which
are given for contributions to Arizona's wildlife resources. For
more information or to request a reservation form, contact Josh
Avey at (602) 942-3000.
your quail hunt
Help the department manage quail and get a printable diary of your
seasonal record every time you make an entry in the online
quail log. The Arizona Game and Fish Department and a sportsman
group, Western Gamebird Alliance, have developed this log to survey
quail hunters statewide.
This new survey
tool will allow the department to collect general locations and
time-of-harvest for all four quail species in Arizona. Anyone with
a hunting license and a computer can help the department collect
quail survey data to analyze in real time.
your hunter questionnaire
The department uses the hunter questionnaire to estimate harvest
numbers and hunter activity levels. Your response is essential for
obtaining accurate harvest and hunter data, and for making management
Reasons to return your
- Returning your questionnaire
is voluntary and is not used for any law enforcement purposes.
- Accurate data is
important for making management decisions, and may provide more
It is important
to return your questionnaire even if you did not hunt or were unsuccessful.
Good hunting to you all! And when you receive your Arizona hunter
questionnaire in the mail, please send it back.
Thank you hunters!
Arizona’s rich outdoor heritage is enjoyed by all, thanks
to hunters like you, whose purchase of hunting equipment supports
wildlife management and habitat enhancement in the Grand Canyon
State. When you purchase a rifle, ammunition, archery equipment
and other sporting gear, you pay a federal excise tax and import
duties. Since 1937, this money has been collected by the federal
government and redistributed to the states using a formula based
on hunting license sales and the state’s land area. In 2004,
that meant over $5 million for game management in Arizona. This
money paid for game surveys, hunter education classes, wildlife
water catchment construction and wildlife research, among other
projects. Hunters like you are part of the largest and most successful
wildlife conservation programs in the world… Thank you.