In eastern Arizona, the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache Reservations and Game Management Units (GMUs) 1 and 27 are noted for producing big bull elk, with trophies scoring 390 and above. As this issue was being prepared in mid-June, the "Wallow" fire, the largest in the state's history, had been burning out of control in this area since May 29, had consumed over 500,000 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and was only 38 percent contained. Driven by continuing dry and windy weather, it had also spread into western New Mexico (Game Management Units 15 and 23) and backburns were already being set in that area to stop the fire's progress.
The Wallow fire was only the largest of three fires burning out of control in Arizona, in one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.
What, if any impact will these Arizona wildfires specifically, and western wildfires in general, have on traveling hunters this coming season? The answer, happily, is probably not much, even for hunters who have drawn coveted elk tags in Units 1 and 27 or have already booked an Apache Reservation hunt for the 2011 season. There is no provision for refunds on an Arizona permit, or to turn down the permit and still retain bonus points.
In fact, the fires may even create more hunting opportunities. As our Email Extra subscribers already know, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which sets all seasons and permit quotas in Arizona, had already requested that wildlife biologists provide a summary of the immediate effects of the Wallow fire prior to their June 24 and 25 meeting, with an eye toward possibly issuing more elk and deer permits if needed to balance game populations with remaining food resources. If more permits for this fall season are issued, our Email Extra subscribers will know in time to apply.....