Deer season will open soon in many of the units around the Rim country and hunters will be scouring the countryside for their prey. Seasoned tag-holders realize some of the best White-Tail habitat in the state might be found in majestic Pine Creek Canyon northeast of Pine.
The area abounds with does and bucks who scurry through the ponderosa forests much like cottontail rabbits.
But hunters shouldn't expect to hunt the area --most of it is off-limits because of the many hidden subdivisions that dot both sides of the canyon.
State statute (17-309 A4) makes it unlawful to discharge a firearm within 1/4 mile of an occupied residence while taking wildlife. The residences include barns, sheds and cabins which hunters should consider as occupied.
According to game and fish officials, shooting near a home is one of the most common violations of hunting laws.
The subdivisions of Pine Canyon are not the only ones that lie in the vast woodlands of the Rim country forests which are also prime habitat for wildlife.
Some others include Whispering Pines,Washington Park, Rim Trails, Portals IV, Beaver Valley, Forest Lakes, Hunter Creek Ranch and Tonto Village. The subdivisions are mostly located in the eight hunt units that surround Payson and are screened by the forests. The trees render the homes almost invisible to the hunter -- especially rookies on a first time trip to the Rim country.
Tales abound locally of hunters who arrive in the Rim country during late-night hours and set up camp only to awaken in the morning and find they are in someone's back yard.
Game officials say the best way to avoid such an embarrassment and also a citation for shooting too close to a home is to scout units before the hunt.
Officials also recommend contacting local residents who are familiar with the hunt units.
Also, they say, be certain of your location, your target and what lies beyond the bullet's path.
To be sure you're on-target in adhering to hunting rules, pick up a copy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's 1999-2000 hunting regulations which can be obtained free of charge at any location licenses are sold.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department also has a Web site at www.azgfd.com.
Hunt violations can be reported by calling Operation Game Thief (800) 353-0700.