in Rim Country, White Mountains of Arizona & Beyond...

Shooting Sports in the White Mountains

By Dan Groebner


Having nice weather almost every day here in the White Mountains, we have great opportunities to sharpen our marksmanship skills just for the fun of it or for a more competitive angle if you are one of those kinds of people.  Summer visitors and year-round residents now have more opportunities than ever to enjoy the safe activities of organized shooting sports.  What are shooting sports?  Do you have to be former law enforcement, military or a current cowboy or Annie Oakley to participate?  Absolutely not!

Shooting sports include everything from traditional trap and skeet where you try your best to bust up a small fragile Frisbee, called a clay pigeon, with a shotgun shooting many bbs, to target shooting large caliber single projectile rifles at extremely long ranges.  In between are activities like sporting clays, where the targets move in directions simulating wild game, such as rabbits along the ground and waterfowl screaming past high in the air.  The most popular shooting sport is sometimes called “plinking” where low cost ammo and targets can provide hours of entertainment.  This can include small caliber and mild recoiling rifles to pistols designed for target shooting.

Shooting sports don’t always have to include firearms though.  Archery target ranges and activities are becoming very popular with many fun and relaxed events along with highly competitive and challenging contests.  Archers can use the economical and easy-to-use recurve bows as well as the modern compound bows with all the bells and whistles.  One nice thing about archery is that your ammo is mostly reusable (unless you regularly miss the target and keep losing arrows, like some of us).


Hailey, trusted partner of accomplished antler hunter Mark Terrill, looks over a recently discovered shed.

How to Become a Shed Head

By Dan Groebner, AZGFD Wildlife Biologist


Thanks to Mother Nature's desire to have males in the deer family look their very best and most majestic for the breeding season, folks in the White Mountains are provided with ways to make money off the land, decorations for their cabins and one more opportunity for healthy exercise.  What are we talking about?  Antler hunting, of course!


Every summer and fall, buck deer and bull elk spend considerable energy in trying to grow the largest “crown” of antlers, proven to be a sure way to attract more females.  Elk can grow almost an inch of antler per day in good habitat conditions. Mature bulls carry as much as 40 pounds of mineralized bone tissue during the fall, winter and into the spring, just to impress the cows and use in antler jousts with other bulls.  Every spring, when testosterone levels drop in the bulls, a weak layer of tissue forms at the junction of the antler and the skull allowing the antlers to fall off without any bleeding or harm to the bull.  By growing new antlers every year, bulls can make them larger and longer to match their body growth as well as making a new antler that doesn't have a deformity from a previous year's injury during the growth phase while in “velvet.” Large, uniform antler racks are like good looks, a fancy car and lots of money in the deer world!  And if you have sharp eyes and a little stamina, antlers can mean lots of money in the human world too!


Making the Most of Wild Game

By Dan Groebner

   Health conscious people already know the benefits of eating wild game.  No worries about genetically modified venison steaks or antibiotic-riddled wild turkey breasts or drumsticks.  Wild game meat has the same amount of protein with less fat than USDA Choice beef unless you're talking about a fall black bear fattened up for a long winter of hibernating.  Recipes for wild game feasts can be found all over the internet, just in case you don't trust Uncle Ernie's famous catfish pickling concoction.  However, the most important stage in bringing out the best flavors in game meat happens in the field long before you get to the kitchen.

   So, you made the shot and immediately retrieved your prey.  Believe it or not, it already may be too late to salvage any of the edibles of your quarry.  If you are not prepared to cool the animal down as fast as possible and you shot a big cow elk during the early warm season, all your steaks and sausage could be at risk.  But if you have the tools to skin and cool your elk or deer immediately, get ready for some delicious products of Mother Nature.  Being prepared pays off on fishing trips also, as those gutted, cleaned and rinsed tiger trout go best on a bed of ice in a cooler for the ride home before you put them to bed on some wild rice at the dinner table.

   For big game, you'll need a sharp skinning knife, sharpening stone, gloves, at least 12 feet of rope to elevate the carcass off the ground, plastic bags, towels and lots of fresh water to keep the flesh impeccably clean.  With a chest shot, most animals will be bled out sufficiently so cutting the animal's throat will probably not be necessary.  Field dressing the animal by removing the entrails through an incision made from between the legs up to the breast bone without piercing any of the internal organs is the first order of business to start the cooling process.  To get at the heart and lungs, you might have to reach up into the body cavity.  Many hunters covet the “hanger steak” cut, which is the part of the diaphragm attached to the spine side of the body cavity.   Save any internal organs in plastic bags if you enjoy using as much of your prey as possible. You can tie off the intestine as it leaves the body in the pelvis area and then cut around it as it goes through the pelvis so its contents remain in the intestine. READ MORE...

Elk hunting opportunities still available

No luck in the draw? Then pick up an "over the counter" nonpermit-tag

PHOENIX — If your heart was set on going elk hunting this fall, but you didn’t receive a hunt permit-tag through the random draw, there’s good news.


The Arizona Game and Fish Department is offering “over the counter” nonpermit-tags to hunt elk in limited population management zones, which are areas where the department does not want resident elk herds, such as the North Kaibab (Game Management Units 12A and 12B) and Arizona Strip (Units 13A and 13B). The elk nonpermit-tags are not valid in all units statewide.


There’s nothing like autumn on the North Kaibab and Arizona Strip. The nonpermit-tag hunts in Units 12A and 12B are open through Dec. 31, while the nonpermit-tag hunts in Units 13A and 13B are open through Sept. 11, then again from Nov. 4 through Dec. 31. All three hunts are for any elk.


There are several advantages to this unique, but limited, hunting opportunity: It’s a great way to hunt with family and friends, which isn’t always possible given the odds of being drawn for hunt permit-tags. It’s also an opportunity to spend time in some of the most spectacular backcountry that Arizona has to offer, particularly in those units north of the Colorado River.


Of course, elk numbers in these specific and limited hunt areas are low, which is expected to correlate to a low hunter success rate. Many of these hunting opportunities also occur at lower elevations where seasonal temperatures can be uncomfortable, making it crucial for hunters to quickly field-dress harvested game, including removing the hide before transporting. Plenty of coolers and ice are recommended to preserve the harvested game before leaving for the hunt.


Elk nonpermit-tags can be purchased ($135 resident, $650 non-resident) at department offices and license dealers statewide. An Arizona hunting license and an elk nonpermit-tag, both valid for 2016, are required. An elk nonpermit-tag may be used for either the general or archery-only elk nonpermit-tag hunts. A hunter does not lose or accrue bonus points when purchasing an elk nonpermit-tag.


NOTE: The department recommends that hunters thoroughly review the nonpermit-tag portion, including the associated notes, of the 2016 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information booklet.


For more information about boundary descriptions, maps of hunting areas, season dates and FAQs, visit

https://www.azgfd.com/hunting/nonpermitotctags/ and click on “2016 Elk Informational Handout for over-the-counter nonpermit-tag hunts.”

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