A new law making it illegal to intentionally interfere with a lawful hunt in Arizona became effective today.
The law does not apply to incidental interference arising from lawful activity by public land users, including recreationists, ranchers or miners; nor does it apply to landowners engaged in agricultural or livestock operations.
The law, A.R.S. 17-316, protects the rights of licensed hunters by prohibiting people from intentionally disrupting hunts through such actions as vandalizing a hunter's equipment or property, obstructing or making physical contact with a hunter, or intentionally placing themselves between wildlife and someone attempting to legally hunt that wildlife.
Violation of the law is a misdemeanor, potentially punishable by a fine of up to $750 and four months in jail.
"The key word in the new law is the word ‘intentional,'" says Larry Voyles, law enforcement branch chief of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "We won't be citing people for lawful activities that might accidentally affect a hunt.
We will cite people who either have been previously warned, or who have indicated through action or word that they intend to disrupt a legal hunt."
Certain animal rights activists have attempted to disrupt legal hunts in the past. "This new law protects the rights of hunters and allows our officers to take enforcement actions to help ensure the safety of hunters and those who would attempt to disrupt their hunts," says Voyles.
As always, hunters need to continue to exercise safe hunting practices when out in the field.
"Hunters must be absolutely aware of their surroundings and people who might be present," says Voyles. "Remember, you are responsible for your actions when you discharge a firearm."
Voyles recommends that all hunters take a hunter education course, which emphasizes firearms safety and safe hunting practices. Arizona has one of the nation's best hunting safety records, attributable in large part to its hunter education program.
For a list of hunter education courses, visit azgfd.gov/education and click on the "hunter education" link.