PHOENIX — This is the time of year that Arizona’s small game and waterfowl hunters have been waiting for.
In addition to the start of tree squirrel and band-tailed pigeon seasons Friday, hunters can pursue dusky (blue) grouse through Nov. 10 and chukar until Feb. 9, 2020. The season for cottontail rabbit runs through June 30, 2020, and the start of the season for Gambel’s and scaled quail is just around the corner (Oct. 18).
Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), predicts tree squirrels — Abert’s, Kaibab, red squirrels — will be fewer in numbers coming off last summer’s drought conditions. The good news: Whatever snow fell in the White Mountains over the winter was rarely deep or persistent, which means there should be more acorns and pine cones this fall to provide excellent resources for squirrels that survived to rear young.
“Where drought conditions were milder last year, you may find pockets where hunting is good, and squirrels are a fun species to introduce to new and novice hunters,” O’Dell said. “Because this last winter was so wet, Arizona gray and Mexican fox squirrel populations should be improving. Their numbers were down the last few years with poor winter rains, so a good wet winter should have boosted their numbers statewide.”
For more information about hunting Arizona’s small game, check out AZGFD’s small game forecast at www.azgfd.gov/hunting/species/smallgame/forecast/.
Meanwhile, the general waterfowl and snipe seasons in the “Mountain Zone” (Game Management Units 1-5, 7, 9, 11M, 12A, and those portions of Units 6 and 8 within Coconino County) begin Oct. 4, 2019, and run through Jan. 12, 2020.
AZGFD recently completed a fall waterfowl survey in Units 5B, 6A and 8. Because of good precipitation levels last winter and spring, most wetlands still have water in them. A few smaller wetlands are dry.
The majority of waterfowl were found in Units 5B and 6A. Unit 8 appeared drier and had fewer birds than Units 5B and 6A. Teal were the most common species observed, followed by mallards. Overall, wetlands ranged from fair to excellent in terms of their quality for waterfowl hunting.
The general waterfowl and snipe seasons in the “Desert Zone” (Game Management Units 10 and 12B through 46B, and those portions of Units 6 and 8 within Yavapai County) begin Oct. 18, 2019, and run through Jan. 26, 2020.
The following (excluding scaup) are legal wildlife in both Mountain and Desert zones: ducks, including mergansers, coots and common moorhens (gallinules); white geese (snow, blue and Ross’); and dark geese (Canada and white-fronted).
Scaup can be harvested in the Mountain Zone from Oct. 19, 2019 through Jan. 12, 2020, and in the Desert Zone from Nov. 2, 2019 through Jan. 26, 2020.
All waterfowl hunters 18 and older must possess a valid Arizona hunting license and state migratory bird stamp, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp. All waterfowl hunters 16 and older must also possess a federal migratory bird stamp.
Need a license? Visit www.azgfd.gov/license/. Keep in mind that a combination hunt and fish license is only $20 more (for state residents) than the price of an individual hunting or fishing license. As a reminder, a youth combination hunt and fish license (ages 10 to 17) is only $5 and includes the privileges associated with the state migratory bird stamp.
AZGFD has posted the 2019-2020 Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations at www.azgfd.gov/Hunting/Regulations/. For more information about waterfowl hunting, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting/species/waterfowl/.