When the topic of outdoor activities in Arizona comes up, often the conversation can focus on major tourist hubs like the Grand Canyon. For those living in Mesa, the means to travel outside the metro area can be prohibitive; there is however, a variety of things one can do without ranging so far away. Tonto National Forest, a stretch of protected land east of Apache Junction provides a large area for exploration. A number of hiking trails have been created throughout the area, as well as campgrounds where one can set up for an extended stay in the wilderness. Some parts of Tonto forest require passes be purchased, though this is generally only necessary for the sections where development of infrastructure and maintenance takes place. Even then, only 50 of the 215 areas that have been developed require such use fees be paid to occupy.
Day passes can be purchased for $8 online, though annual passes are available from Tonto National Forest offices for $80; both forms of pass should be displayed in one’s vehicle visibly. A wealth of information is available regarding Tonto forest at http://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto/ including weather conditions, potential closures and more. Hunting and fishing are activities also possible around the state, and can be a source for sustenance for those willing to take the time to participate. Hunting and fishing also provides funding for wildlife conservation in the state, through the sale of licenses and equipment. “People often ask if their tax dollars go to Arizona wildlife,” said Amy Burnett, information and education program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.“We do not receive any of the state’s tax revenue. Agency funding comes primarily from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, exices taxes on firearms and ammunition, Arizona lottery ticket sales, and tribal gaming revenues.”
General hunting and fishing licenses are available separately for $37 each for residents, though a combination of the two costs $57. Non-residents wishing to hunt only have the combination license available, which costs $160. A short-term combination license can also be obtained, at the cost of $15 for residents and $20 for non-residents per day. The general hunting license cost only covers the harvesting of those species not specifically regulated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as requiring a tag to harvest. Game that does require hunt permit-tag purchases includes species like antelope, elk and bear. A drawing for individual species can be entered, and those selected through the process will receive the permit-tags to hunt. The 2016 spring hunt draw had about 39,000 applicants vying for the 25,000 permit-tags that were ultimately issued according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Another method of obtaining tags are the over-the-counter non-permit tags sold at department offices and license retailers. Burnett recommend that those interested in hunting can take hunter education course. “It covers ethics, safety, the importance of conservation, and our hunting regulations,” Burnett said. The Game and Fish department does more than regulate hunting and fishing though, according to Burnett. “We also manage non-game species,” Burnett said. The organization offers “many watchable wildlife programs throughout the year,” Burnett said. These events give people a chance to join an organized group in observing local wildlife.
For more information about hunting and fishing regulations visit http://www.azgfd.com Burnett also said that “they can call one of our regional offices and get their questions answered.”