Arizona Game and FIsh Department - Managing Today for Wildlife Tomorrow: Arizona Game and Fish Department

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Comprehensive Game Management Planning

Arizona's Comprehensive Game Management Plan (CGMP) will provide a mechanism for delineating and implementing improvements with regards to the management of the state’s game animals and their habitats.

The CGMP vision is to develop a tool that links existing management plans and to allow the layering of visual data elements like roads, development pathways, wildlife linkage corridors, habitat areas of critical species, and other data that have an influence on Arizona’s natural resources and wildlife.

This tool will give wildlife biologists and managers a holistic view to make better decisions to protect, restore, and manage game populations.

The CGMP is composed of two main components:

Species-specific Planning and Management

  • The Species-specific approach references existing plans, species guidelines, and conservation strategies, as well as identifies statewide issues, opportunities, concerns, and threats.

Management Focus Area (MFA) Planning and Management

  • The Managment Focus Area approach focuses on an array of management objectives for a geographic area, typically consisting of one or more Game Management Units (Units). The MFAs are analyzed for the combined management needs and actions of big and small game species, migratory birds, predators, and furbearers. The MFAs also serve to capitalize on opportunities, mitigate threats or weaknesses, and identify impediments, through habitat management projects, game management activities, collaboration, data management, and outreach planning.

    MapEach MFA will be reviewed and revised as new information becomes available and/or Department objectives change for one or more of the criteria listed above.


Introduction and Purpose

The purpose of the Game mangement subprogram is to protect, restore, and manage game populations and their habitats, to maintain the natural diversity of Arizona, and to provide wildlife-oriented recreation opportunities for all present and future generations. "Game" includes big game, small game, fur-bearing animals, predatory animals, upland game birds, and migratory game birds.

The Game subprogram uses hunting programs in support of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which relies heavily on hunters and hunting as cornerstones for social, political, and financial support for wildlife conservation and management.

Game management is performed in a biologically sound manner according to hunt guidelines, which incorporate scientific data, professional knowledge, public input, and are approved by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission (Commission). Providing diverse hunting opportunities that meet the needs of the hunting public is essential to fostering continued public commitment to wildlife conservation.

To fulfill its purpose, the Game subprogram uses the following activities:

Game Survey

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) is required by state statute to establish programs for the management of game species for both hunters and non-hunters.

Because the demand for Arizona's game resources generally exceeds the supply, careful regulation of take is imperative, particularly with respect to ungulates. Although, capitalizing on opportunity to the extent possible is equally important.

Regulation of the annual harvest requires an inventory of the game resource and an estimate of the harvest of each species. Together, these data constitute the basic information needed to formulate hunting harvest limits and season lengths. This information is also published to provide the public with a reasonable chance of success in either hunting or observing game commensurate with the available supply and biological welfare of the particular species. This information is used by wildlife managers and land administrators to make decisions toward balancing wildlife resource abundance with available habitat and to make informed decisions that affect the management of forests and rangelands for multiple users.

The Department conducts routine surveys of different species of wildlife using a variety of survey techniques, including aerial line transect, and block surveys. Surveys are conducted to document occurrence and to estimate abundance, relative ratios of animals based on sex and age, and recruitment success of particular species of wildlife for a given Game Management Unit (Unit).

The Department frequently uses helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to survey deer, pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, javelina, buffalo, and waterfowl on a statewide basis. Where feasible, aerial line transect and block surveys are used to estimate populations. Surveys conducted from fixed wing aircraft are flown at about 70 miles per hour, and at least 200 feet above ground level, while observers in the aircraft record the number, age, and sex of the animals surveyed. Surveys conducted from helicopters are flown at about 40 miles per hour, at a minimum of 200 feet above ground level. Low-level operations are conducted only on the portions of flights occurring over habitat in which the species being surveyed is likely to occur. These habitats include most vegetation associations occurring in Arizona.

The Department estimates abundance of deer, elk, and pronghorn using models that are based on simple life-table calculations and simultaneous double count survey calculations. The estimates assist in the determination of population size necessary for estimated annual removal of animals (harvest and non-hunt mortality) over a series of years to produce observed effects on male:female ratios. The principle is that hunts for male animals reduce male:female ratios below those found in non-hunted populations. The extent of this reduction is dependent upon the size of the harvest, recruitment rates, natural mortality, and the population size.

This information can be found in the annual issue of Hunt Arizona 2010: Survey, Harvest and Draw Data [PDF, 9.5MB]

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Hunter Questionnaire Program
The Department estimates harvest numbers and hunter activity levels through a series of hunter harvest questionnaires.

During a typical year, 14-15 different questionnaires are mailed to hunters and an additional 3 are used from mandatory checkouts.

Each questionnaire is designed to provide information necessary to evaluate seasonal hunter activities and to judge programs designed to manage game animal populations.

  • This information can be found in the annual issue of Hunt Arizona 2010: Survey, Harvest and Draw Data
    [PDF, 9.5MB]

  • A report on improving the hunter questionnaire program was conducted in 2008. Click here to view a pdf copy of the report [PDF, 692kb]

Hunt Recommendation Process
All game species are managed according to Species Management Guidelines and Hunt Guidelines. These are dynamic documents that provide specific targets used to manage species and assign hunt recommendations.

The purpose of these guideline documents is to provide a simplified, consistent framework to determine seasons and permit numbers each year. All are developed to provide maximum hunting opportunity, increase hunter recruitment and retention, and eliminate barriers to hunting recreation, while assuring that game populations remain sustainable over the long-term.

Species Management Guidelines are revised periodically to ensure that appropriate and current guidance is available to steer management activities such as surveys, forage monitoring, translocations, and population trend assessments.

Hunt Guidelines are revised every 2 years and approved by the Commission. Hunt Guidelines identify the biological and sociological sideboards for developing hunt structures, season dates, and permit levels. Hunt Guidelines are developed using a public process whereby public opinion is sought and incorporated into a final guidance document.

Hunt Recommendations are developed by following the Species Management Guidelines and the Hunt Guidelines using the parameters they provide (for example, buck:doe ratios, fawn:doe ratios, hunt success, and population trend). Hunt Recommendations are developed by Wildlife Managers, reviewed by Regional Game Subprogram Staff, reviewed and adapted to a statewide recommendation by Game Branch Staff, reviewed by Executive Staff, and approved by the Commission in the following schedule:

  • Elk, pronghorn, and population management seasons are approved at the December Commission meeting;

  • Deer, fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep, fall buffalo, fall bear, and mountain lion seasons are approved at the April Commission meeting;

  • Trapping and small game seasons are approved during even years at the April Commission meeting;

  • Webless migratory birds and special big game seasons are approved at the June Commission meeting;

  • Waterfowl, spring turkey, spring javelina, spring buffalo, and spring bear are approved at the August Commission meeting.

Hunt recommendations for migratory birds are coordinated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This coordination is done through the Flyway system, where states send representatives who consult with the USFWS and manage migratory birds cooperatively. Surveys and other biological parameters determine reasonable and sustainable harvests of birds within each of the 4 geographic flyways; Arizona is within the Pacific Flyway.

Translocation is an important management tool and is used to establish, relocate, reintroduce, or augment existing populations.

Translocations follow habitat assessments of the suitability of the release site, population assessments of the source site for availability of surplus wildlife, and the probable implications of releasing wildlife at the release site.

The translocation process is described in Department Policy, as found in the Department Operating Manual section I1.2 (DOM I1.2).

Species in Arizona that have benefited greatly from the Department's translocation program include the Gould's turkey, pronghorn antelope, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, blue grouse and many others.

In some cases, translocations have reintroduced speices that were eliminated from the state's landscape, or brought species back to historic areas those animals once inhabitated.

Translocation Histories by species:

Habitat Partnership Committees
Habitat Partnership Committees (HPCs) play an important role in developing proposals that benefit wildlife and reduce conflicts with other public land uses.

In Arizona, Habitat Partnership Committees originated as a means to deal with elk-livestock conflicts. The process has evolved to benefit all big game species.

HPCs also provide a forum for furthering discussion and collaboration about wildlife management decisions. Projects are annually solicited for submission by September 1 and are evaluated by an internal Department team to establish a priority ranking.

Funding of projects is then sought through a variety of sources, although, primarily through Special Big Game License Tag Funds. The sale of Special Big Game License Tags provides a funding source that can be used to match funds from outside partners, including land management agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and federal fund sources, to create and implement landscape habitat plans.

Projects funded through this source are coordinated with the nongovernmental organizations that raised the funds, through the auction or raffle of the Special Big Game License tags. Other fund sources (for example, Landowner Incentive Program grants) are incorporated into the process and often used as supplemental or matching funds. An Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner chairs the Committee that approves final projects.

Special Big Game License Tag Fund Process
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission publicly awards the annual Special Big Game License Tags, sometimes called Commissioners’ tags, to selected 501(c)(3) wildlife conservation organizations to raise funds for wildlife.

Under the authority of Arizona Revised Statute 17-346 and Commission Rule R12-4-120, the Commission annually awards 3 Special Big Game License Tags for each of the 10 big game species to qualifying conservation organizations.

The selected organizations must market and sell the tags. All revenue is returned to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to be directly used to benefit those species through wildlife and habitat management in coordination with the Arizona Habitat Partnership Committee. Administrative and marketing costs must be covered by the wildlife conservation organization.

Regional and National Habitat Management
Because the availability of suitable habitat largely determines wildlife distribution and abundance, the Department manages habitat to benefit wildlife wherever there is an opportunity.

Tthe Department has developed multiple Guidelines for Wildlife to assist in the development and implementation of projects and activities that can reduce impacts to wildlife.

There are a number of grant opportunities for small regional projects to benefit wildlife, which the Department aggressively pursues. Working with local landowners, through the Landowner Incentive Program, to enhance wildlife habitat has been effective in many areas of the State.

In the case of migratory birds, effective habitat management often extends outside Arizona’s borders to benefit birds that migrate through Arizona.

In Arizona, the duck stamp program provides funds to support wetland habitat projects benefiting Arizona waterfowl.

Species Background and Operational Approaches
In all the approaches, annual harvest objectives are derived from past harvest estimates and recent habitat conditions.

Game species include antelope, black bear, buffalo, desert bighorn sheep, elk, javelina, turkey (Merriam's and Gould's), mountain lion, mule deer, and white-tailed (Coues') deer.

Arizona's small game species include cottontail rabbits, tree squirrels, upland game birds (quails, chukar, grouse, and pheasants), and migratory game birds (ducks, geese, swan, sandhill cranes, coot, gallinule, common snipe, mourning and white-winged doves, and band-tailed pigeon).

These harvest objectives are well within the range of sustainable harvest. Below are links to information and operational approaches for guiding the management of Arizona game species.

Big Game Species Small Game Species
  • Tree Squirrel

  • Cottontail Rabbit

  • Quail

  • Dusky Grouse

  • White-winged and Mourning Dove

  • Band-tailed Pigeon

  • Waterfowl

  • Snipe, Coot, and Common Moorhen

  • Sandhill Crane

  • Non-native Game Birds: Valley Quail, Chukar, and Pheasant

  • Furbearing and Predatory Mammal

Operational Plans
To accomplish its mission, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) uses an integrated planning process to allocate the agency’s resources into a comprehensive management system based on a three tiered-planning process. This process consists of a strategic plan (Wildlife 2012), an operational plan and associated implementation plans.



Arizona Game Management Successes


Rocky Mountain Elk
Gould's Turkey
Bighorn Sheep

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