Bighorn Fire Closure Could Affect Hundreds of Arizona Deer Hunters
The Coronado National Forest in Southern Arizona issued a closure order last week due to dangers associated with the Bighorn Fire in the Catalina Mountains. With fallen trees and potential flash flooding associated with summer monsoon rains, those dangers are very real. Entering the closure area for any reason is “punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both.”
The closure notice covers a significant portion of the mountain range and will run from the date of the posting “until November 1, 2020, or until rescinded, whichever is earlier.”
Hundreds of hunters are hoping for the “whichever is earlier” portion of that closure order. The Catalina Mountains are home to a substantial Coues deer population and the closure order affects a substantial portion of Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Unit 33.
Arizona currently offers five general Coues deer seasons in Unit 33 with 2,100 tags allocated in their draw process. 900 of those tags would be affected by a closure order that ran until November 1. In addition to the general season tags, Arizona offers 500 Youth Only tags (250 of which would be affected by the closure order running until November 1) and 300 Muzzleloader Only tags (none of which would be affected by the current closure order). The over-the-counter archery only season that opens in August will certainly be affected, too.
Like a lot of things in 2020, hunters with a Unit 33 deer tag are going to be in “wait and see” mode. Will the smaller section of the unit not affected by the order be crowded with hunters in October? Will the monsoon rains and clean-up efforts of the Forest Service allow the order to be lifted sooner than November 1?
The good news is that the Tucson branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department has reported that many animals have been seen moving safely to areas that did not burn.
Check back here and with the Coronado National Forest website for updates.