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Don Martin: Why 21 conservation groups agree with state on prohibiting coyote contests

May 26, 2019

As I am sure you are aware, one of the hottest topics for many Arizona sportsmen is the proposal by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to prohibit organized coyote calling contests.

This proposal, barring some miracle, last-minute intervention, is probably going to pass.

One of the most compelling reasons this will pass is the fact that 21 of Arizona’s conservation groups have gone on record as supporting the proposal.

This may come as a shock to many when you see the names of the groups that are part of an organization called the Arizona Sportsmen For Wildlife Conservation, a group which asked member organizations how they felt about the proposed rule.

Jim Unmacht is the executive director of the Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, and I’ve known him personally for many years. I’ve actually been on a javelina hunt and a fishing trip with him in the past. Jim is a smart man, and I like him.

But sometimes we don’t agree.

Recently when I expressed my displeasure to him on the way this proposed rule was going, he sent me information along with some thought-provoking questions.

I will share those with you, and then you can make up your own mind on how you feel.

Here is what Mr. Unmacht sent to me:

“We had 29 groups weigh in on the predator contest issue with various reasons for how they voted. Twenty-one groups voted to support the commission’s recommendation, three groups voted to oppose and five groups abstained.”

According to Unmacht, here is the comment that was sent in to AZGFD by Arizona Sportsmen For Wildlife Conservation.

“Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation and 21 of our member organizations listed below support the Commission’s suggested rule change relative to predator contests, as it was proposed and originally written.” It was signed by Unmacht.

What was not shared in the comments to the department were the three organizations that voted not to support the proposal and the five groups that abstained. I asked Unmacht who those groups were and he wrote, “AZSFWC Board votes are confidential for the members.”

One bit of information that Unmacht did share was that Mohave Sportsman Club was one of the three groups that voted not to support the commission’s proposal. Unmacht concluded, “Losing ‘contests’” is not going to eliminate predator management and predator hunting. On the other hand, if the commission doesn’t act, your guess is as good as mine relative to what the legislature might do or how creative the antis might be with a ballot initiative. Arizona Sportsmen For Wildlife Conservation and 21 of our member organizations weren’t willing to gamble on either of those other options.”

So there you have it. Now the question is how do you as a sportsman see this? Is this the right way to handle this situation, giving away a little, or are these groups running scared of what could happen?

This is my opinion. “Death by a thousand cuts is still death!” At what point will sportsmen in Arizona along with AZGFD say, “Enough is enough.”

Only time will tell.

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