Gary Nabhan wrote an excellent article in the November PRT titled “What’s At Risk for Patagonia.” I appreciated how he emphasized the tremendous economic impact that birding has on the tri-counties of Southern Arizona (Santa Cruz, Pima, Cochise). As a longtime winter visitor and hunter to the area, I would like to point out the huge economic impact that hunting brings to the area also.
The Mountain Empire is the home of two species of wildlife that are found in few other places in the United States. The Coues whitetail (properly pronounced “cows”) and the Mearns Quail, also called Montezuma and ‘fools quail.’ Both these species bring hunters from all over the US and Canada to this area and they spend lots of money for food, gas, lodging, out of state hunting licenses and tags, etc. If you doubt me, please pay close attention to vehicle license plates.
Coues whitetail are a subspecies of the whitetail deer. They are often called the “poor man’s sheep hunt.” They are only found in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. They are named after Dr. Elliot Coues, an American Army physician stationed at Fort Whipple, AZ in 1865-1866.
Deceased outdoor writer and famous big game hunter Jack O’Conner, who made the .270 caliber rifle so popular, often wrote about the Coues whitetail and helped make this “gray ghost” such a popular animal to hunt. Retired local AZDGF game officer Kurt Bahti told me that his grandfather knew O’Conner and said that O’Conner loved to hunt the Coues in the Red Rock Canyon area.
Mearns quail’s home is Mexico and the nearby parts of the United States, mainly Southern Arizona, New Mexico and Western Texas. Mearns quail are the elite upland game bird to hunt with pointing bird dogs. This unique bird’s first line of defense from predators is to crouch and hide on the ground when being hunted, whereas all other upland game birds’ first line of defense is to run and fly.
This bird is named after Edgar Alexander Mearns who was a commissioned surgeon in the US Army stationed at Ft. Verde, AZ. Mearns is most famous for being a field naturalist from 1889-1909. He is responsible for identifying hundreds of species of fauna and flora.
So when you see men, women and children around town in camouflage or orange clothing spending money you will know what they are up to. This tri-county area is a very special place. Nabhan and I have a mutual appreciation for the scenery and the feeling of the wilderness and being in the old west. The Mt. Empire area is an enchanted place. I, too, do not agree with what is happening in the area when “wholesale habitat destruction” is allowed.