If you are planning to hunt elk on the famed White Mountain Reservation in Arizona, you should know that long-time elk hunt manager John Caid was recently fired by tribal officials over a disagreement regarding the hiring of guides. Before going into the details of the dispute, it is worth noting that Caid has been widely credited for the success of the White Mountain elk program, which in recent years has offered the best free-range elk hunting in the country, producing more record-book bulls than any place else, including several that scored well over the magic 400-point barrier. This kind of success has allowed the tribe to raise the cost of their hunts to $12,000 over the years - and hunters have been only too glad to get on their waiting list. Also, once clients hunt here, they have the first right of refusal for the following year, and 70 to 80 percent of the hunters typically return, many year after year. Hunters have known their money was buying a first-class hunting opportunity, complete with qualified guides.
All of that bring us up to this past summer, when the Tribal Council apparently considered replacing the elk program's experienced, qualified guides with out-of-work tribal members. Keep in mind, now, that a White Mountain guide under Caid had to have three years' experience as a guide's helper and attend classes in scoring, skinning, caping, field judging and first aid classes, among others. Not surprisingly, Caid warned the Council that it would be disastrous to replace these guides overnight. Their reaction, one month later, at closing time on the day before the first hunters arrived, was to notify Caid that his position had been eliminated. The person assigned to take over his duties is Jon Cooley. When I called him at press time, I was not able to confirm that the idea of hiring new guides was dead, but he did say experienced guides were being used this year. He said the trophy hunts had just been completed and the results were good. Specifically, it appears that four of the bulls killed this year will make the........(continued)