Another mild winter in conjunction with other factors resulted in a record 24,760 elk hunt permit tags being set by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission Saturday, with a corresponding low record number of deer permits being set again this year.
The mild winter has also resulted in an increased number of fall turkey tags being set and an optimistic outlook for squirrel hunting again this fall.
Tice Supplee, game branch chief, said mild winters can create favorable conditions for turkey and tree squirrel survival rates because the animals don’t have to dig through deep snow to obtain food.
Arizona has had back-to-back mild winters. Due to the good turkey hunting opportunities, last year, she explained that the number of squirrel hunters increased to meet the department’s strategic objectives.
“That increased hunter participation was probably a result from a combination of factors,” Supplee said. “There was a lack of deer hunting opportunities, an increased effort by the department to raise public awareness about the good squirrel hunting opportunities, and the hunters experienced good success in the field.”
Joe Janisch, information branch chief, said that last year, a concerted department outreach effort encouraged parents to take their youngsters tree squirrel hunting.
“For many adults, such hunting trips were a rediscovery of the fun they had small game hunting as youngsters,” Janisch said.
Hunters will be faced with similar choices again this year. While there is a record number of elk permit tags available, wildlife officials expect to have a record number of applicants again to partially offset those increases. There are also record low numbers (45,850) of deer permit tags available again this year.
“Just like last year, we are expecting to have a record number of people being unsuccessful at getting drawn for big-game permits,” Janisch said. “But just like we said last year, don’t get dejected, use it as an opportunity to rediscover the joy of small game hunting and maybe mix in some fall fishing at the same time.”
In various surveys over the years, hunters have said the most valuable part of going big-game hunting is not the harvest, but the time and camaraderie afield.
“There is absolutely no reason to miss out on those quality of life aspects to being afield hunting,” Janisch said. “There are lots of fun alternatives.”