July 20, 2004
Arizona will issue more permits to kill antlered deer and bull elk this season to comply with a court order.
The proposal, approved by the state Game and Fish Commission during a special meeting Monday, will result in an extra 127 tags being made available to hunt deer on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Colorado River. That is above the 1,220 animals that commissioners concluded would be an appropriate "take" in the upcoming season.
And the number of permits for bull elk hunted statewide will be boosted by 678, to 9,164.
The move drew questions from Pete Cimellaro. a guide and a board member of the Arizona Deer Association.
Cimellaro said his organization has a history of urging commissioners to issue fewer permits than those it proposes to keep the deer population healthy. This, he said, is absolutely contrary.
Steve Ferrell, the department’s deputy director, said that while Monday’s solution is not ideal, the order issued last week by U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield leaves few options.
"We don’t believe there’s any significant biological impact created by adding these permits," Ferrell said. He noted that this is a "onetime, one-year-only" plan.
Commissioners will begin work next month on a longer-term solution. Anything they devise could have the net effect of creating fewer hunting opportunities for Arizonans.
The move became necessary when Broomfield ruled that the state’s 10 percent cap on the number of hunting tags that can be issued to out-ofstate residents is unconstitutional. The cap was imposed in 1991 amid pressure from Arizona residents.
Broomfield said that arbitrary number interferes with interstate commerce.
The ruling came just as the state was preparing to mail tags to the hunters who were successful in the lottery for the fall hunt. That lottery was run using the now-voided caps. Broomfield denied a last-minute request Monday to allow those tags to go out anyway.
This plan, Ferrell said, ensures that no Arizonan in line to get a deer or elk hunting tag this season is denied one. That meant, though, other permits had to be issued to out-of-state residents who, except for that 10 percent cap, would also have gotten a tag.
There was another option: Have the entire drawing redone.
But Ferrell said that would create chaos, affecting not only the "capped" hunts at issue in the federal lawsuit but also every other hunt. That is because hunters make a single application for various hunts, listing their top five preferences.
Not affected this year are the buffalo, antelope and bighorn sheep hunts, all of which also limit the number of tags for nonresidents.