What's Really Keeping Hunters Away from Southern Arizona?
This headline caught my eye: "Only on Fox (Tucson, Ariz.), Tucson Border Activity Has Hunters Avoiding Southern Arizona."
After reading the report, you might believe that illegal aliens, smugglers and bandits crossing into three counties in particular -- Cochise, Pima and Santa Cruz -- are the main reasons whitetail, mule deer and javelina hunters are not applying for tags from the state-run lottery hunting system.
Not so fast, says Mark Hart, Tucson-based public information officer for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. In the Fox News' article, Hart mentions that the main reason for increased border crossing is because about 15 years ago, the Clinton administration tightened border controls in San Diego, Calif., and El Paso, Texas. That means bandits, smugglers and illegal aliens prefer to enter the country through Arizona.
Hart, in a conversation with me on Nov. 26, said that public perception is that hunting in those counties might be more dangerous than hunting in other places in Arizona. He also said that there are some monster whitetails and mule deer there, and that javelinas are ripe for the picking. Meanwhile, Fox News reported, "With all the illegal activity on the border, hunters are chasing game elsewhere. Making it tough for establishments down South who are starving for business."
And then, Hart said something really interesting, which contradicts the Fox report. According to Hart, when the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers the leftover tags from the lottery draw as over-the-counter sales, they sell out. In fact, this Mon., Dec. 3, the department will offer leftover javelina tags, including non-resident tags for about $200. They may be purchased online.
Hart also mentioned that recently the AZGFD recently held a women's whitetail hunt near Arivica and a juniors' deer and javelina clinic near Amado. And annually, Boy Scouts and other volunteers are in the area cleaning up "layup" places (where illegal aliens change clothes, shave and get ready to head north). So, I ask, how dangerous is it, when women hunters and Boy Scouts are running around down there?
The article also states that some of the locals feel that an increased presence by law enforcement and in the past, the National Guard, is another reason why hunting sales have decreased in the area. Although Hart mentioned that a U.S. Border Patrol chase interrupted a Boy Scout outing there at one time, he did not believe that increased law enforcement and National Guard presence in the area impeded hunting. In fact, he said that when you increase the presence of law enforcement, that since the numbers of illegal aliens and others crossing goes down, it leads to more hunting.
Hart gave this advice in the article for hunting southern Arizona:
- Let others know where you're going and when you're returning.
- Carry a GPS unit and know how to use it.
- Avoid suspicious areas where there's lots of garbage.
- Avoid abandoned cars and back your vehicle into a parking space.
- Be reluctant to render aid to someone who appears injured.
- Contact the Border Patrol is you see suspicious active at 1-800-BE-ALERT.
Another valuable piece of information from Hart referred to route preferences. He said drug smugglers like mountainous ridge tops so that they can stay up and away from easy access. Illegal aliens like to flank the mountains, as a map to future employment.
So, as always, hunters need to be vigilant.
Would I go down there to hunt?
In a heartbeat. How about you?