Predator killing contests were in the crosshairs of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission Friday at its meeting in Bisbee.
Commission members unanimously voted to move forward with a ban on such events. In Arizona, predators are defined as foxes, skunks, coyotes and bobcats.
Commission members weren’t in the agreement with the idea of a ban, but members said they felt they had to vote the way they did. Commissioner Leland “Bill” Brake said on his ranch that small groups of predator hunters gather.
“It’s mainly a family activity,” Brake said. “They give out ribbons, plaques and a small amount of cash. Would this qualify as a contest?”
State assistant Attorney General James Odenkirk, who presented the measure to the commission, said he wasn’t sure, but also said it didn’t sound like a prohibited event.
“This (predator hunting) is near and dear to my heart,” Commissioner James Goughnour said. “I’ve done it with my family and friends and I don’t take the right to hunt lightly.
“I don’t believe this is all or nothing if we get rid of the contests. I don’t believe predator hunting stops because of this,” he said.
But that was a major concern of the nine Arizona citizens who spoke against the measure to end the contests.
“You are reacting to social justice whiners,” Ken Eaton said. “They’ll come back for more,” he said in reference to efforts to ban other contests or hunts. Eaton is a member of Arizona Predator Callers and Phoenix Varmint Callers.
Rod Boyle generally echoed those thoughts.
“PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wants to stop all hunting,” Boyle said. “They are going after us incrementally.”
Eddie Murdock also spoke, saying he has seen plenty of anti-hunting efforts.
“There have been films, social media campaigns and it’s hard to believe the commission would allow emotion to rule. The ultimate goal of these groups is to stop all hunting.”
No citizen spoke in favor of the measure during the public comment period.
Odenkirk, who recommended approving the measure, said “this is a just a starting point.”
“The commission was concerned that predator killing contests undermined public support for hunting,” Odenkirk said.
The stated rationale for the proposed rule was in response to concerns over hunting activities that involve killing an unlimited number of animals for economic benefit. It also read that “public controversy over predator contests has strong potential to threaten predator hunting in general as a legitimate wildlife management function.”
The measure, which would add a rule to Article 3, will now be published in the Arizona Register, then a public comment period would be open from April 12 to May 19. Then, the commission would vote before it headed to the Governor’s Council.
Odenkirk said the first the rule could go into effect was Nov. 1, 2019, but commission members suggested it would be better if it didn’t happen until Jan. 1, 2020.
Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.