Registration open for Mormon Lake elk viewing workshop August 19

FLAGSTAFF — Ever wonder what it would be like to see hundreds of elk in one place at one time? That opportunity is possible during the elk viewing workshop hosted by the Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience (AWWE) with support from the Game and Fish Department’s WOW (World of Wonder) program and Mormon Lake Lodge.

Workshop presentations are scheduled for 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. The workshop includes a presentation and a field trip to watch elk in their natural habitat near Mormon Lake.

Mormon Lake is unique as it is only one of two natural lakes found in Arizona. During the early fall, hundreds of elk can be observed at the site and along Lake Mary Road.

“The AWWE is a collaborative group represented by dedicated individuals from the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, U.S. Forest Service, the Arizona Wildlife Federation and the Game and Fish Department providing 30 watchable wildlife sites within 30 miles of Flagstaff,” said Betsy Emery with the City of Flagstaff. “This workshop is a great way for people to learn about AWWE and the watchable wildlife opportunities in Northern Arizona.”

The workshop will include a minimal fee of $10 per person and kids 12 years and under are free. Presentations are starting at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. Participants will attend a presentation, located in the Town Hall at Mormon Lake Lodge and also go on a field trip. The field trip location will be determined that day based on where the elk are observed.

Spotting scopes will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring binoculars, water, snacks and appropriate clothing.

Anyone interested in registering for the workshop will need to go to the Game and Fish portal.

Mormon Lake Lodge is located about 25 miles south of Flagstaff (take Lake Mary Road and turn off on Mormon Lake Road). For directions, visit www.mormonlakelodge.com.

Game and Fish seeks information on elk poaching case

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking the public’s assistance in finding the individual or individuals responsible for illegally killing a cow elk in a poaching incident in northern Arizona.

The poaching may have occurred during the weekend of March 16. Evidence discovered at the scene indicates that the elk was shot twice, with a center fire rifle, from Lake Mary Road near the Narrows, about 12 miles southeast of Flagstaff. The entire animal was left to waste, leaving investigating officers to believe that the suspect(s) may have been scared off by another vehicle, were spotlighting, or just randomly shot the elk from the road.

“We investigate numerous poaching cases throughout the year and rely heavily on the public’s help in catching the people that do this.” says Wildlife Manager, Lee Luedeker. “The weather was really nice that weekend and a lot of people were out, we need information from someone who was in that area. Luedeker adds, “They may have enough information for us to bust the poachers, all it takes is one piece of evidence to break a case.”

Anyone with information regarding this case can call the department’s Operation Game Thief Hotline toll free at (800) 352-0700 or use the online form at www.azgfd.gov/thief. Callers should provide case number 13-000609 when calling. All calls may remain confidential upon request. A reward of up to $1,350 may be available for information leading to the arrest of the violator(s).

Challenging elk hunts offered for fall hunting season near Flagstaff

Hunters that are looking for a physically challenging hunt in an area with limited vehicular access should consider applying for tags for the “Peaks Hunt Area” in Game Management Unit 7 East, just north of Flagstaff.

FLAGSTAFF—For the second year in a row, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has approved any-elk and antlerless elk tags in the Peaks Hunt Area in Unit 7 East to promote successful aspen regeneration. Approximately 90 percent of all aspen found on the Coconino National Forest are found in this limited hunt area. Recent wildfires have killed some of the adult aspen trees, but have also stimulated extensive sprouting of young aspen that elk prefer to eat especially during the fall. Wildlife biologists believe that by focusing elk management in this area now, chances will increase for robust aspen regeneration.

“We are offering these permits in coordination with the Coconino National Forest as another habitat management tool for aspen regeneration on the Peaks,” says Carl Lutch, wildlife program manager for the Flagstaff regional office. “There are other factors impacting aspen trees, but reducing the number of elk that utilize aspen is one piece of the puzzle in helping aspen recover on the Coconino National Forest.”

For more than a decade, wildlife biologists and land managers have been working to keep aspen stands healthy on the San Francisco Peaks. The U.S. Forest Service has invested more than $600,000 in recent years to promote aspen regeneration in the area through a variety of methods. Monitoring indicates that without intervention many of the aspen in the area could be lost. In addition to browsing by wildlife and livestock, some of the factors that affect aspen health include lack of fire, disease, drought, insects, late frosts, and crowding by other species of trees like conifers. While aspen are short-lived trees that are susceptible to many disturbances, their natural defense is to sprout vigorously from the roots when adult trees die. If sprouts are killed several years in a row, the root system and the trees will eventually die.

Game and Fish and the Forest Service want hunters who put in for this area to know that the hunts are primarily wilderness hunts that are more physically challenging than other hunt areas. These hunts are tailor-made for hunters who want to get away from roads and hunt on foot or horseback. An added benefit to hunters is that the Peaks Hunts are offered at a time of year when elk are rutting and the aspen are in full fall splendor. The unit includes both the San Francisco Peaks and the very scenic Hart Prairie.

The Flagstaff Ranger District on the Coconino National Forest is anxious to help motivated hunters who choose this hunt unit. Limited areas of the unit are closed to horseback access to protect Flagstaff’s water supply in the inner basin. Special regulations also apply in the Kachina Peaks wilderness, but with advance planning this unit provides outstanding opportunities to hunt elk in a remote setting. The Forest Service will have a special link on their website that will provide Peaks Unit hunters with updated information and tips on access into prime hunting locations.

“This hunt unit offers the type of setting you would normally expect somewhere like Colorado or Montana, so the tactics need to be a little different,” says U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Mike Elson. “In addition to providing a unique experience in Arizona, this hunt is also a critical tool in helping us manage for healthy aspen and healthy elk habitat.”

The 2013 Pronghorn and Elk hunt regulation booklet is available now. The deadline to apply for hunts is by 7p.m. on Tuesday, Feb.12.

To view the hunting regulations and apply for fall hunts on line, go to www.azgfd.gov/draw.