Come on out to the AZGFD Outdoor Expo March 24-25

PHOENIX – The largest hands-on outdoor recreation expo in Arizona is coming soon! Dates are set for the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo presented by Shikar Safari Club International. Come out Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25 to the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix. Admission and parking are free.

One big change this year is we’re expanding the size of our amAZing wildlife tent, which has been a huge attraction the past couple of years.

You’ll have the opportunity to see live “ambassador animals” from the department’s Wildlife Center and learn fun facts. As always, there will be plenty of hands-on fun for all ages like kids fishing tanks, target archery and other shooting sports in a safe, supervised, controlled environment on the range.

Get a feel for specialty shooting disciplines like clay target, cowboy action, practical pistol, black powder, and air gun. Check out the many firearms manufacturers, including some new brands this year.

Don’t miss the always popular cowboy mounted shooting competition. See OHV and ATV exhibits. Give kayaking a try at the “Lake Paddlemore” kayaking pond. Hike a field course and learn cool camping tips. Learn about boating and how to stay safe on the water. Talk to experts about Arizona’s wildlife, fishing, hunting and more. Visit with more than 100 exhibitors, including outdoor recreation and conservation groups, government agencies, and commercial vendors of outdoor products and services.

The department will auction off its annual collection of wildlife assets at the Expo. Sets of antlers, hides, skulls and head mounts, as well as wildlife artwork and taxidermy – all seized during law enforcement investigations, obtained from animals killed in vehicle collisions, or acquired through donations – will be put on the auction block both days. Funds generated from the auction are used to purchase equipment and technology used in the investigation of wildlife crimes and to protect the state’s wildlife resources.

Concessionaires will have food and beverages available for purchase, and many accept only cash — ATMs will be on site. There is a nominal charge for ammunition at some of the target shooting venues.

Expo hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 25. The Outdoor Expo is easy to find, located on Carefree Highway, about 1/2 mile west of I-17 in Phoenix.

See more information about the 2018 Expo.

OHV riders: Protect the habitat and stay safe, don’t go mudding

PHOENIX — It’s tempting to go out riding on off-highway vehicles (OHV) after a rainstorm — the ground is fresh, dust is down and it’s cooler out. But when rainstorms leave roads and trails wet and muddy, riding on them can create long-lasting damage that negatively impacts the habitat and the experience for other outdoor enthusiasts.

When you come upon wet and muddy roads, turn around. When the area is wet, riding can tear up the roads and trails making them impassible for others. In addition, OHVs can do serious damage to meadows, streams and other areas important to wildlife and Arizona’s water supply. Even a lighter-weight OHV with low-pressure tires can do lasting damage.

“A majority of people are staying on roads and being responsible, but riders who disregard the rules can cause a lot of damage to natural areas, some of which may never recover,” said Mark Terrill, OHV law enforcement specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “It also creates a bad experience for responsible riders and makes the whole OHV community look bad.”

While the practice of “mudding” — purposefully driving through wet areas, whether it’s a meadow, lakeshore or water tank for wildlife or ranchers’ animals — may be touted as fun on places like social media, it can cause long-lasting damage to the habitat and forest roads. OHV riders can be issued citations and be held liable to fix the damage caused. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair an area and an untold amount of time for a habitat to recover.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, mudding has many negative impacts:

Rips up native plants — when plants are gone soil washes into nearby streams and lakes, and it creates the opportunity for noxious weeds to move in.

Compacts soil — tire tracks create hard soil that keeps water from moving into the ground and they make it difficult for plants to grow.

Harms wildlife — when vehicles tear up meadows and wetlands, it removes nesting and hiding cover, interferes with feeding, and may push animals out into areas where they may not survive.

Smothers fish — many species of fish and amphibians use gravel to build nests and bury their eggs. Driving through streams destroys these gravel areas.

It’s also a safety issue for riders. OHVs handle differently on wet roads than they do on dry ground, so use caution and drive at slower speeds when roads and trails are wet.

If you see someone mudding, call 1-800-VANDALS. It’s helpful if you can get a license plate number and description of both the OHV and the operator as well as a location of the activity so law enforcement personnel can follow up on the information.

Recent storms serve as reminder for boaters and OHV operators to use caution

PHOENIX — Monsoon season is in full swing and the Arizona Game and Fish Department warns boating and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users that weather conditions can change quickly and could be dangerous for those who aren’t prepared.
The severity of monsoon storms varies greatly from a minor dust storm to a violent thunderstorm capable of producing hail, deadly lightning and/or flash flooding.
Recent storms brought high winds, thunderstorms and rough water to the Lake Pleasant area. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies made multiple water rescues on July 14 and 15:
  • Two paddle boarders were rescued July 14 after being knocked into the water by a severe thunderstorm; one of them was not wearing a personal flotation device. One of the women was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was released after treatment.
  • Also on July 14, three juveniles operating a Wave Runner personal watercraft encountered storms. One of the juveniles was rescued by a family member, while the other two were secured by Lake Patrol deputies.
  • On July 15, 10 people were pulled from the water and no one sustained significant injuries.
In addition, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that there were multiple instances of property damage — four boats sunk, another beached after becoming partially submerged, and damage was incurred to numerous other boats.
“Arizona is known as a great place for outdoor recreation and activities. But whether you’re out on a boat or riding an OHV, weather is a critical factor that everyone must pay attention to,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “If severe weather is likely or storms are appearing nearby, it’s a good time to safely get off of the water or riding trails and move indoors.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating and OHV Safety Education programs offer users the following tips to protect themselves and passengers during the monsoon season.
When on a boat or personal watercraft:
  • While life jackets are legally required for children 12 and younger, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Storms can create large waves that could knock a passenger from the boat.
  • Monitor the weather around you, and use a weather radio for updates from the National Weather Service. If storms are predicted or are building, pull your boat out of the water or consider postponing your outing.
  • Secure all gear above and below decks.
  • Keep everyone aboard away from electrical and ungrounded components, and remain as low in the boat as possible.
  • Slow down but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. It may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
  • Boats should head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. Personal watercrafts should head directly into the waves.
When on an OHV:
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including a helmet, eye protection, long sleeves, pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Carefully seek shelter indoors as storms are developing or are nearby.
  • Never cross running water. While it may look shallow, it may be deep enough that it could push the vehicle downstream or you may get stuck in loose sediment.
  • Drive slowly to not lose control on muddied trails.
  • To avoid being struck by lightning, avoid open fields, high land, trees, poles or other tall objects and standing bodies of water.
  • Be aware of and avoid flash flood zones.
For more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. For more information on riding an OHV in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/OHV.

Survey looks to measure off-highway vehicle financial impact

PHOENIX — The popularity of off-highway vehicles (OHV) has exploded throughout the state and, Arizona State Parks and Trails and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are turning to OHV enthusiasts to help shape the future of the activity statewide.

With 365 riding days per year, scenic trails and great weather, Arizona continues to draw OHV enthusiasts from across the country to access our motorized trails. To better plan for the future of the activity statewide, Arizona State Parks and Trails partnered with Arizona State University to produce an economic impact study to measure the broad effect the activity has in our state.

“Having a better understanding of spending behaviors, travel trends and trail needs will aid State Parks and our partners to provide enhancements to the statewide trail system, programs, and information to OHV users,” said Skip Varney, State Parks State OHV Coordinator.

Over the next 12 months, the public is invited to complete a survey, either electronically at www.azstateparks.com/OHV or at various riding areas throughout the state. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete, however only completed surveys can be used in the reporting process.

“There are nearly limitless riding opportunities and Arizona offers some of the best views available,” said Nathan Gonzalez, AZGFD public information officer. “In addition to guiding future trail development, the results of this survey are vital to helping AZGFD anticipate current and future safety and education program needs. Our goal is to ensure our education methods are adequate to meet the needs of our growing OHV community.”

The economic impact study was last completed in 2002 and found that OHV recreation in Arizona had a $4.25 billion impact. In addition, the activity supported nearly 37,000 jobs, contributed to $1.1 billion in household incomes and added $187 million to annual state tax revenues.

To participate, please click here to complete the survey.

For more information on OHV riding in Arizona and to take an online safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/OHV.

If an OHV is on the holiday list, don’t forget the safety gear

PHOENIX — Another year has passed and if a new off-highway vehicle (OHV) is in the cards this holiday season, the Arizona Game and Fish Department advises you to remember the wear the following equipment.

  1. A helmet. Whether riding in a side-by-side utility-type vehicle (UTV), all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or dirt bike, all riders younger than18 years old are legally required to wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. Helmets are strongly recommended for all riders older than 18.
  2. Eye protection, such as riding goggles, is legally required for all riders if the OHV is not equipped with a windshield.
  3. Riding gloves should be worn at all times to protect your hands while riding and enhance your grip while driving.
  4. Wear proper clothing, including a long-sleeve shirt, pants and over-the-ankle boots.

Register your OHV and purchase an OHV Decal. All vehicles designed primarily for travel on unimproved terrain and weighing less than 1,800 pounds are required to have a $25 OHV decal to operate on public and state lands. License plates and decals are available at any Arizona Motor Vehicle Division location or at www.servicearizona.com.

Take a safety course. Safety courses teach new and veteran riders the techniques needed to safely operate and ride an OHV, including the importance of shifting their weight, maintaining control of the machine, evasive breaking and maneuvers. For information on where to take a course or to take one online, visit www.azgfd.com/Education/OHV.

Always remember to supervise children under 16 years old and check to ensure your child is riding an age-appropriate vehicle. Machines may be too large and powerful for a child to safely operate. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s safety.

Riders should only carry the number of passengers for which the machine is designed. One of the biggest causes of OHV-related injuries is riding with more than the recommended number of passengers. Proper riding techniques require operators to shift their weight and change position to keep control of the machine. Carrying a passenger can make riding difficult and change how the vehicle responds.

For additional OHV safety information, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.