Arizona Game and Fish Commission considered several changes to the 2018 and 2019 elk and pronghorn hunts at their Dec. 2, 2017 meeting. Although part of the normal bureaucratic process, the changes will affect some hunters’ choices in the upcoming drawing.
Well respected for conservative management of wildlife, AZ Game and Fish has exceptional opportunities for both pronghorn and elk. Although permit numbers are low, trophy quality may be the best in the nation, and any unit can produce a 350 or better bull or an 82-inch pronghorn. Each year, thousands of hunters track herd performance, points and rainfall patterns to determine where to apply. The changes proposed for some units include complete changes in season and several reductions in the number of permits available.
For example, 15% of the rifle tags and 9% of the archery tags for pronghorn were removed from the popular Unit 10 hunt (reduced by 20 tags overall), which will eliminate two nonresident tags. If applicant numbers remain the same, the chances of drawing one of these tags decreased by about 20%. Four rifle tags were added to Unit 4A and five rifle tags were added to 4B, potentially improving draw chances by 10 to 15%.
Elk hunts are an even bigger story. AZ offers a combination of archery hunts (largely pre-rut, but when elk can be concentrated on water), muzzleloader (both rut and post-rut) and general rifle hunts (again, pre-rut and post-rut). Unlike some other states, however, they do not offer all seasons in every unit, and they have historically rotated hunt types in some units to balance out the herd and harvest. The new recommendations are no different. The proposed changes include entirely eliminating certain hunts and adding others. The early (rut) muzzleloader hunt is eliminated in Unit 9 (35 tags gone). The very popular rifle rut hunt in units 1, 2B and 2C has been eliminated, but a muzzleloader hunt with nearly the same dates has been added (40 tags converted from rifle to muzzleloader). Theoretically, this will reduce the harvest, as muzzleloaders are less proficient than rifles (but only marginally).
Applicants should look at the new application regulations once they are available to ensure they know what hunts are still available. Compare the seasons with the recommendations on permit numbers to make final selection before applying. The booklet will be available online (www.azgfd.com) this month and applications will be due Feb. 13, 2018.