Court Ruling Means More Tags For Out-Of-State Hunters

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A temporary solution has been found to a federal judge's ruling that forced the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to revamp the way it issues elk and deer permits.

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More hunting permits will now be allocated for bull elk and deer to satisfy an earlier court decision that the state's 10-percent cap on nonresident hunt permits violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Monday morning, the commission opted to allocate more hunt permits for bull elk and deer to satisfy U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield's decision that the state's 10-percent cap on nonresident hunt permits violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The commission's decision ended five days of debate which began with game and fish officials set to issue elk and deer permits and later putting the brakes on the process because of Broomfield's ruling.

After the judge's decision, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission filed for a temporary injunction that would allow the fall permits to be sent out. The judge denied the state's request for more time, forcing Arizona to come up with a new way to hold the hunt draw.

At a 3-1/2 hour commission meeting July 16 in Phoenix, more than 100 hunters packed the room asking the department to find ways to solve the lawsuit and protect their rights to hunt.

After the meeting AG&F Deputy Director Steve Ferrell, said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling.

"We believe that maintaining resident opportunity is the best way to support conservation," he said.

Local hunter and licensed guide Ty Goodman agreed.

"I think it's a bad deal," he said. "We live here and we should have the privilege of hunting in the state. If (out-of-state hunters) can come here and hunt, we should be able to go to other states and hunt."

Goodman said the judge's ruling will hurt future generations of Arizona hunters.

"(The ruling) probably means that it will be tougher for my kids to get drawn for a tag," he said. "An answer might be to up the prices to the outsiders."

After Broomfield's ruling that threw out the 10-percent cap, the commission had to either discard the results of this year's drawing for elk and deer permits or issue additional permit tags most of which will go to non-residents.

The commission chose to add 805 hunt permits.

"We had to follow the judge's order," Ferrell said. "We determined that allocating more permits would harm the fewest amount of people without significantly affecting wildlife, either."

If the commission had decided to conduct the entire drawing again, some hunters would not have received their permit's in time for the first day of hunting season, which begins Aug. 6, Ferrell said.

According to AG&F officials, hunters already drawn for bull elk or antlered deer in units 12A, 12B, 13 A and 13B will receive permits in the mail by July 30.

To accommodate the judge's order, officials say, an additional list of applicants will be put together without using the non-resident cap.

The new list will result in 805 additional hunters receiving permits. Most of those will go to non-residents. If a resident applied to hunt with a non-resident friend or relative, they could also receive one of the new permits.

Those selected for one of the additional tags will receive them by Aug. 10 for hunts that begin in mid-September.

The hunt permit controversy began with Montoya vs. Shroufe, a lawsuit that was filed four years ago. In it, Lawrence Montoya -- professional hunter and guide from New Mexico -- sued the Arizona Game and Fish Department claiming the 10-percent cap on non-resident hunt permits violated the U.S. Constitution. Broomfield's ruling agreed with Montoya's contention.

The commission will meet Aug. 14 in Flagstaff to discuss long-term options regarding the court ruling.

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