AZGFD recommends amending spring bison hunts

PHOENIX — To increase total harvest and improve hunter satisfaction, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is recommending the Commission amend the spring bison hunts for 2020 and 2021.

The Commission approved the 2020 and 2021 spring bison hunts and hunt permit-tag numbers in April 2019 as part of the two-year recommendation package. AZGFD, however, is concerned about the availability of bison during the approved seasons.

A total of 25 hunt permit-tags were issued for the year’s first House Rock herd hunt (April 5-June 2), yet hunters harvested only two bulls. A combination of late heavy snowfall that limited hunter access, and the fact that bison remained longer than usual on winter range inside Grand Canyon National Park, resulted in a significantly higher days-per-harvest ratio for this hunt than in past years.

As a result, hunter satisfaction was low and resulted in several complaints received by AZGFD.

AZGFD recommends amending Commission Order 8 by:

Lengthening the first bull hunt by 10 days, extending it into normally drier weather when bison can be found more predictably on the Kaibab National Forest.
Maintaining the 13-day bull hunt in mid-June, but reducing the number of permit-tags from 12 to 10. No more than nine bulls have been harvested during the current June hunts, so the reduction of two permit-tags should not decrease the harvest.
Combining the third and fourth bull hunts for a 34-day hunt beginning in late June. This will allow for a longer season, when the presence of bison is less predictable on the Kaibab National Forest.
Combining the two summer cow hunts into one hunt with a reduction of eight permit-tags (the typical harvest is four or five). This recommendation should not reduce the overall cow harvest, while providing more flexibility for hunters.

The recommendation is for an overall reduction of 22 permit-tags (14 bull, eight cow) each year, with the expectation that total harvest and hunt success will return to previous levels. The amendment only applies to the 2020 and 2021 spring hunts, and does not affect the 2019 or 2020 fall hunts.