Becoming an Outdoors Woman deluxe workshop is back again

PHOENIX — With the new year comes new experiences and the opportunity to get a fresh start and enjoy a fun filled weekend with like-minded women. The Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) deluxe program will be held Jan. 26-28. Sponsored by the Arizona Wildlife Federation with support from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the workshop will feature lots of outdoor fun without the inconveniences of camping!

Nestled on the banks of the Salt River at the Saguaro Lake Ranch, women will develop outdoors skills while enjoying the beauty that Arizona has to offer.

This year, BOW will offer sessions on hunting, fly fishing, kayaking, desert survival, birding, archery and more. Women also have the opportunity to relax on a trail ride and enjoy views of the picturesque Bulldog Cliffs.

Along with outdoors skills development, award winning photographer Lisa Langell will be teaching landscape photography.

BOW offers something for every kind of woman and every kind of interest. The $380 registration fee (add $95 for the trail ride) includes instruction, program materials, use of equipment, deluxe lodging, and meals. There will also be evening entertainment and a wine and cheese tasting for women to enjoy.

Create new connections, learn, laugh, and enjoy. To get a taste of everything BOW has to offer, check out this video produced by AZGFD in 2016.

Details of class descriptions and a registration form can be found at http://www.azwildlife.org/ht/d/sp/i/60573/pid/60573 or by calling 480-644-0077

Arizona winter visitors: prepare to clean, drain and dry

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds boaters to “clean, drain and dry” – and especially decontaminate — their watercraft and equipment before exiting waters designated as having aquatic invasive species (AIS).

This reminder is especially important for out-of-town visitors who moor their boats at AIS-infected waters and are preparing to head out of state.

Afraid you might be transporting aquatic hitchhikers?

AZGFD has contracted with a local business to provide free decontaminations for those with boats that have been on a quagga mussel-infected water for six or more consecutive days.

Call the Arizona Game and Fish AIS Program two to three weeks in advance of departure to schedule a free inspection and decontamination at (623) 236-7608 or Woods to Water LLC. at (602) 920-4891.

“As outdoor enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to be stewards of the places that we love,” AZGFD Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator Erin Raney said. “Stopping the spread of AIS is a big job, but with everyone pitching in, we can all do our part to protect our waters. All it takes is a few minutes.”

Aquatic Invasive Species are non-native species that are often unintentionally introduced by human movement. They do not have predators outside of their native range, and are able to outcompete native species. They can be animals, plants and even pathogens that cause disease in native fish or other aquatic animals. They can often be invisible to the naked eye, making them even more difficult to control. Once introduced, they can alter ecosystems by interrupting food chains, cause damage to boats and other recreational gear, clog up water and power infrastructure and pose safety hazards.

Stop the spread of AIS and keep our waters clean and beautiful for ourselves and future generations.

Remember to:

  • Clean boats, waders, anchors, equipment and gear by removing mud, plants, attached animals such as snails or quagga mussels. Freeze waders overnight to eliminate fish pathogens and other hitchhikers.
  • Drain all residual water from engines and motors, ballast tanks, live wells and bait wells. Pull your bilge plug and leave out during transport. Store in a location where you will remember before launch; for example, next to boat keys in glove box.
  • Dry all equipment that comes in contact with water, such as life jackets, ropes, buoys, tubes, etc.

Under Arizona law, boaters and all recreationists who take watercraft and other equipment out of waters designated as having aquatic invasive species must use the above steps when leaving a listed water.

There are additional steps to complete for watercraft that have been on AIS-listed waters for six or more consecutive days.

Arizona’s Operation Game Thief program issued 76 citations for wildlife violations in 2017

PHOENIX — “Poachers are criminals.” If you talk to any of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s wildlife managers, you’re likely to hear that phrase repeated as they go about their work as part biologist, part law enforcement officer. As part of their duties, the department’s 97 wildlife managers work to investigate potential poaching cases to ensure that the state’s most precious natural resource — its wildlife — is effectively managed so that future generations can enjoy the more than 800 species found in Arizona.

At the heart of the effort to eliminate and investigate poaching is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program, a silent witness initiative that encourages the public to report information or suspicious activity. Last year, more than 1,000 calls came into the Operation Game Thief hotline (1-800-352-0700) as well as 75 submissions via the online form. Those reports contributed to 76 citations being issued statewide for wildlife issues including the illegal take of big game, fishing violations and the unlawful killing of raptors.

“Poachers are thieves. They do not represent the hunting community, and the majority of the reports come from hunters and anglers who are out in the field and witness suspicious activity,” said Scott Fischer, program manager for Operation Game Thief. “The hunting community does a great job of policing itself. If you see something, say something. Together we can make a difference for Arizona’s wildlife.”

2017’s top five reported violations were:

  1. 356 for the illegal take of big game (resulting in 55 of the 76 citations)
  2. 63 for fishing violations
  3. 59 for feeding wildlife
  4. 52 for the illegal take of raptors
  5. 52 for possession of restricted live wildlife

Individuals who make a report to Operation Game Thief will remain confidential and can report anonymously if needed. The program pays rewards for information that leads to an arrest.

In 2017, wildlife violators were assessed $74,500 in civil fines, and that money goes directly into the department’s Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund, which pays for the rewards as well as promotion of Operation Game Thief. In addition, 51 individuals had their hunting and/or fishing license revoked by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission as part of their penalty, one of which was a lifetime revocation. The department receives no general fund money from the state of Arizona.

It’s also important to note that mistakes and accidents happen, and the department will work with hunters and anglers who immediately self-report their actions to the Operation Game Thief hotline.

“Mistakes happen in any endeavor, and the amazing thing about hunters is they frequently report themselves,” Fischer said. “Hunters respect wildlife and because of that respect they’re willing to risk penalties in order to ensure meat from the wildlife they take is not wasted.”

Meat from seized wildlife is inspected by department wildlife managers and typically donated to charities for human consumption.

Arizona’s Operation Game Thief program began in 1979, making it the second oldest initiative of its type in the U.S. The hotline (1-800-352-0700) was implemented at the time and takes reports of wildlife violations 24×7. Wildlife is the property of the state, meaning that every Arizonan has a vested interest in protecting it. Anyone who witnesses a violation — whether it’s related to hunting, fishing, feeding wildlife or illegally possessing wildlife — is encouraged to report that information to Operation Game Thief and act on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, the wildlife.

Meet the Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Saturday, January 13

PHOENIX — The public is encouraged to meet the members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in an informal setting and hear about the commission’s upcoming priorities at the “Meet the Commission” event this Saturday, Jan. 13, beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Courtroom MN, 11111 N. 7th St., Phoenix.

The meeting will begin with the chairman’s welcome and commissioner introductions, followed by a discussion of commission priorities. The public is welcome to ask questions or provide comments. No official action will be taken by the commission.

Two mule deer does poached near Nelson Reservoir

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is investigating the poaching of two mule deer does.

On Saturday morning, December 23, 2017, the does were illegally killed on Forest Road 8058, west of Highway 191 and south of Nelson Reservoir. One doe was taken from the field and the other was mostly left to waste.

Investigators are seeking information about a maroon or red truck with a silver or gray stripe along the lower frame of the truck, which is believed to be associated with this crime.

“We need assistance from the public to find the individuals responsible,” said AZGFD law specialist Nancy Huser. “This is the action of a criminal, who stole wildlife assets and resources from the people of Arizona and must be brought to justice.”

There was a lawful, open cow elk hunt going on at the time of the poaching. Investigators hope hunters and recreationists who were in the area may have valuable information about the crime.

Anyone with information about this case can call the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.gov/ogt and refer to case #17-004986.

Callers may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000 in this case. An additional $500 reward is being offered by the Mule Deer Foundation upon arrest and conviction of the poachers. All caller identities will remain confidential upon request.

Online applications for 2018 pronghorn, elk hunts now being accepted

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department now is accepting online applications for 2018 hunt permit-tags issued through the draw process for pronghorn antelope and elk.

To apply online, visit https://draw.azgfd.gov and scroll down to “Apply for a Draw.” For an overview of the online application service, including license requirements, applying for bonus points and payment information, see Page 10 of the “2018 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information” booklet. Printed booklets also are available at all Game and Fish offices and license dealers statewide.

Applicants should note separate deadlines for paper and online applications:

Online applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, February 13, 2018.
In an effort to provide better customer service by announcing draw results sooner, all paper applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Postmarks do not count.

Paper applications can be mailed to: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Drawing Section, P.O. Box 74020, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1052, or dropped off at any regional office statewide.

The department encourages all applicants to sign up for a free AZGFD portal account and apply online. The portal allows customers to create a secure account where they can manage and view their draw applications, license history, bonus points, gain access to their “I Support Wildlife” membership and more in the “My AZGFD Dashboard” section. A portal account also provides convenient access to the online license purchase and draw application systems. Draw results will be posted to portal accounts.

It’s easy to create an account. Just click on “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner of the www.azgfd.gov home page and then select the “Register” option, filling in the requested information. A portal account is mobile-friendly, so customers can view their information on their smartphones.

AZGFD is dedicated to assisting applicants with the online process. All department offices are equipped with customer computers that can be accessed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Customer service representatives can be reached by calling (602) 942-3000. As a reminder, customer service representatives will be available to provide assistance only until 8 p.m. February 13. (deadline day).

A valid hunting license (or combination hunting and fishing license) is required to hunt wildlife in Arizona. No one under 14 may hunt big game without having completed a Hunter Education course. While it is not necessary for anyone 10 to 13 to complete a Hunter Education course before applying for a hunt permit-tag, these courses fill quickly. Consider registering now by visiting www.azgfd.gov/huntered or calling 623-236-7239.

Why wearing a life jacket should be one of your New Year’s resolutions

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

PHOENIX — The importance of wearing a life jacket while out on Arizona’s waterways was sadly reflected in the boating tragedies of 2017. A majority of the recreational boating fatalities were individuals who drowned and were not wearing a life jacket — the most important piece of safety gear one can wear whether on a boat, personal watercraft or paddlecraft.

This was the case for eight of the 12 fatalities that occurred last year. And it’s a number that’s echoed nationally: The U.S. Coast Guard reported that 83 percent of drowning victims in 2016 were not wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard also names alcohol as a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, which was reflected in Arizona. Operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs was a contributing factor in five of the fatalities.

“As you make your New Year’s resolutions, add boating safety to the list,” said Tim Baumgarten, boating law administrator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Designate a sober operator, wear a life jacket and ensure that others on your boat do so as well. Together we can prevent many boating tragedies and keep Arizona’s waterways safe for everyone.”

AZGFD aims to both keep the public safe by patrolling the state’s waterways and also educating people on best practices for boating safety and operation. Enforcement efforts including sobriety checkpoints and participation in initiatives like Operation Dry Water allow officers to make contact with watercraft users throughout the state and share the important messages about sober boating, while helping to stop unsafe behaviors.

The department’s Boating Safety Education program holds free monthly courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City with the goal of reaching as many Arizonans as possible. The classes include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, navigational rules, legal requirements and boating emergencies.

“Our courses are beneficial for both those new to boating and veterans of the waterways,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for AZGFD. “The classes are always free, and the investment of your time will pay off the next time a question or unexpected issue comes up when you’re on the water.”

AZGFD also wants to remind the public that life jackets must be worn by children 12 and younger anytime they are onboard a boat or watercraft, and that a properly fitting life jacket must be available for all passengers. For boaters who do not have enough or the right size of life jackets for everyone going out on the water, life jacket loaner stations have been installed at lakes Apache, Bartlett, Canyon, Havasu, Mohave, Patagonia, Pleasant and Saguaro as well as Cattail Cove on the Colorado River.

Whether boaters need to borrow a life jacket or (better yet) come prepared with their own safety gear, taking the step of wearing a life jacket can help prevent a tragedy.

Information needed for deer poaching near Kingman

KINGMAN – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking information about the recent illegal killing of a fawn mule deer doe near Kingman.

The fawn was found near Twin Hills Road in the Blake Ranch area of the Peacock Mountains located in Game Management Unit 15B. Only the head of the fawn was found at the scene with evidence that it had been removed by someone. The crime is believed to have been committed the night of December 30 or early morning of December 31, 2017.

Evidence was collected at the scene, but help from the public will play a critical role in finding those responsible, said Wildlife Manager Cody Johnston.

“This is not the act of a hunter, it’s the act of a poacher,” said Johnston. “The vast majority of hunters practice outdoor ethics, have a respect for our wildlife resources, and comply with wildlife laws. Poachers are simply individuals who steal a valuable and limited resource from the people of Arizona. It is important for anyone with information to come forward and help Game and Fish bring those responsible to justice.”

Johnston noted that the hunter community does a good job of policing itself, and most reports of wildlife law violations received through the Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline are reported by hunters.

OGT rewards are paid from the Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund, which is funded largely by criminal fines and civil restitutions from wildlife violators. No reward money comes from the sale of hunting/fishing licenses.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the department’s OGT hotline at (800) 352-0700, or visit https://www.azgfd.com/ogt/, and refer to case #17-005055. Callers may be eligible for a reward up to $500 in this case. Callers identities’ are confidential and can remain anonymous upon request.

Paper application due Jan. 30 for 2018 elk, pronghorn draw

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department has posted the 2018 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information online at www.azgfd.gov/draw.

The department now is accepting paper applications for hunt permit-tags. Paper applications can be dropped off at any department office statewide or mailed to:

Arizona Game and Fish Department
Attn.: Drawing Section
P.O. Box 74020, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1052

The printed “2018 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information” booklets are expected to be available the first week of January at department offices and license dealers (PDF) statewide.

In an effort to provide better customer service by announcing draw results sooner, all paper applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Postmarks do not count.

The online application service for the random draw is expected to be available in early to mid-January. Online applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

The department encourages all applicants to sign up for a free AZGFD portal account and apply online. The portal allows customers to create a secure account where they can manage and view their draw applications, license history, bonus points, gain access to their “I Support Wildlife” membership and more in the “My AZGFD Dashboard” section. A portal account also provides convenient access to the online license purchase and draw application systems. Draw results will be posted only to portal accounts.

It’s easy to create an account. Just click on “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner of the www.azgfd.gov home page and then select the “Register” option, filling in the requested information. A portal account is mobile-friendly, so customers can view their information on their smartphones.

AZGFD is dedicated to assisting applicants with the online process. All department offices are equipped with customer computers that can be accessed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Customer service representatives can be reached by calling (602) 942-3000. As a reminder, customer service representatives will be available to provide assistance only until 8 p.m. February 13. (deadline day).

A valid hunting license (or combination hunting and fishing license) is required to hunt wildlife in Arizona. No one under 14 may hunt big game without having completed a Hunter Education course. While it is not necessary for anyone 10 to 13 to complete a Hunter Education course before applying for a hunt permit-tag, these courses fill quickly. Consider registering now by visiting www.azgfd.gov/huntered or calling 623-236-7239.

Roosevelt Lake among 2017 U.S. “Waters to Watch”

The National Fish Habitat Partnership has unveiled its list of seven “Waters to Watch” for 2017, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

Roosevelt Lake in the Tonto National Forest was listed for its collaborative partnership that has been formed to address habitat issues.

“We’re honored to have this project recognized by the National Fish Habitat Partnership and it wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of our outstanding partners,” said AZGFD aquatics branch chief Chris Cantrell. “We hope that within the next 5-10 years anglers can enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake. This effort should also have a positive economic impact on local communities.”

Read more about this Tonto National Forest Lakes Habitat Improvement Project that is a cooperative effort with numerous anglers, as well as volunteers from organizations such as Gila Basin Angler Roundtable and Midweek Bass Anglers.

Supporting agency partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, Tonto National Forest, and the National Fish Habitat Partnership-Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership.