Subscriber Stu Mauney reports on a successful November, 2011 elk hunt in Arizona's Game Management Unit 23 with Haigler Creek Outfitters (928-462-3100; www.haiglercreekoutfitters.com). Mauney praises the quality of the outfit, the camp, food, equipment and trophy care and tells us outfitter/guide Kevin Clark is "hard working, knowledgeable, and the best hunting guide in North America." Our Hunt Report database also includes one other report (4486) on Clark under the name KC Haigler Guide Service and two reports on elk hunts in Arizona Unit 23 (357 from 1998 and 7037 from 2008) with other outfitters. While Mauney recommends the hunt, his report comments on the declining quality and quantity of elk in the unit, which raised red flags for us. He attributes this decline to elk management hunts on the adjoining White Mountain Apache Reservation (immediately east of Unit 23), increased numbers of elk permits in the unit, and elk-proof fencing (installed to reduce elk/vehicle collisions on a major highway bordering the unit) which limits migration. We asked correspondent Michael Bodenchuk to investigate and give his assessment. Here's his report:
Digging deeper into the current situation in Arizona's Unit 23 unearthed a very interesting picture of a public-land hunting unit in transition. Subscriber Stu Mauney clearly had a great hunt last fall. However his observations about elk numbers and trophy quality also raised some concerns about the future of what has been considered a prime public land elk opportunity.
Examining the numbers, we find Mauney's claim that the White Mountain Tribe (http://wmatoutdoors.org/new%20trophy%20elk.shtml) has increased management hunts is absolutely correct. The tribe hunts about 1.6 million acres, and tags offered for the west end of the reservation could affect Unit 23. For 2011, the White Mountain Tribe offered 152 guided bull elk hunts to non-members and 457 self-guided cow/calf/spike and raghorn permits. They also offered 872 tribal member tags, 550 of which were cow/calf/spike tags.
Does this harvest adversely affect the hunting in Unit 23? The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) estimates the elk herd in Unit 23 increases........(continued)