The Buck Stops Here

Robots, cameras help game officers catch poachers


Arizona Game and Fish officials say their job has been made easier thanks to gifts from the Mogollon Sporting Association, and the current and upcoming fall hunts are a good example of how these gifts are being used.

Two new digital video cameras and tripods add to the growing list of donations MSA members have made to Game and Fish through their support of the local banquets. The cameras feature digital-zoom and night-vision capabilities, making it easier for officers to provide indisputable evidence of game law violations.

Officers have also set up robotic deer and turkey decoys to find hunters shooting across roads, from their vehicles and at night, which are violations of current law. Wildlife manager Henry Apfel said this really helps with a number of safety issues and also works to protect the natural resources.

"This operation will go on in the Payson area this weekend," Apfel said. "We don't really want to hide these operations. We want people to know about them, but if there's a violator out there, they need to know that one of these days, we'll catch them."

Anywhere you have people hunting with the aid of a vehicle, it increases the safety risk for other hunters," field officer Craig McMullen said.

Officials are currently overseeing elk hunts on top of the rim, as well as the unit 23 bear hunt, the turkey season which opens this weekend and cow elk hunts which open Oct. 20.

"Pretty much every weekend from the last week in September through Jan. 1, we have a big-game hunt opening somewhere in the Payson area," McMullen said.

"We've also had a real problem with people using aircraft to pursue wildlife, and these cameras and tools will also help with the prosecution of those violations."

The cameras which Game and Fish officials are using during these hunts are not the only gifts which MSA members have donated.

"They have also provided metal detectors for use in the past and we have made some excellent cases by using those," Apfel said. Officers can recover bullets from animals which are killed or injured as a result of game violations.

"One case that I dealt with, the individual had shot two elk and then walked away from them," he said. "We then recovered the bullets from one of the elk and we were able to match those bullets to the gun of the suspect, and he was convicted."

MSA has also been the primary sponsor of the Payson Wildlife Fair for a number of years. It has played an active role in numerous water- and spring- development projects, and has helped publish a brochure on elk and human interactions.

"They've provided money, manpower and tools, and really made our jobs a lot easier," Apfel said. "They also have provided comments and recommendations through the Payson Natural Resources Committee along with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, ranchers and others," he said.

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