Game warden Brittany Oleson explains hunting laws to the audience at the Sonoita Fairgrounds. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Two Representatives from AZ Game and Fish met with more than 50 residents Saturday, January 20, at the Sonoita Fairgrounds after complaints were raised about hunters seen taking a deer in the Sonoita Hills area. “We’re not here to listen to a bunch of complaints,” Brad Fulk, Wildlife Manager Supervisor for Sector 8, said. “We’re here to provide information on road hunting and trespassing.”

The incident which sparked this discussion occurred on January 14. Four hunters in a truck were seen driving through the subdivision, stopping in front of the home of Darcy Mentone and Mike Gilbert. When asked to
leave, the hunters allegedly replied that it was legal for them to hunt on private property, and then drove off
through the neighborhood. Neighbors called the sheriff’s department, and a deputy arrived just as the hunters dragged a deer out to their vehicle, Mentone said.

According to Mentone, the officer said he was unfamiliar with hunting laws, checked the hunters’ licenses, and did not examine the deer to see if it had been shot with an arrow, which would have been legal, or with a firearm, which would not have been legal. “The deputy told my husband he didn’t even know if it was a doe or a buck,” Mentone said.

“I have six kids,” she said. “I am concerned for the safety of my family. I wanted to press charges for misdemeanor endangerment, but the sheriff’s department said that wasn’t going to happen.”

In a small meeting held Wednesday, January 17, wildlife manager Brittany Oleson told residents that the hunters had not broken any laws.

At the second meeting held three days later at the fairgrounds, Fulk told the audience, “Just because someone makes a bad ethical decision doesn’t mean he’s broken the law,” referring to the incident in Sonoita Hills. “We’re building homes where deer have been
for decades,” he said. “The culture of the state has changed, the landscape is changing, people’s opinions have changed. We’re a little behind the curve.”

When asked by an audience member why the county officers are not better informed about hunting regulations, Oleson replied “That’s not necessarily a reasonable expectation,”
citing the extra, specialized training that is required of the 125 Game and
Fish officers in Arizona.

Oleson discussed several of the relevant statutes, including the quarter mile rule, which only applies to the minimum distance a firearm can be discharged, outside of a municipality, during the taking of wildlife. It does not apply to archery or to target shooting, she told the audience of approximately 50 people.

She also discussed the laws against feeding wildlife, which can draw animals into residential areas. “Santa Cruz County does not have a feeding ordinance, but you could be cited for creating a criminal nuisance,’ she said. “Wildlife needs to stay wild.”

“There are absolutely zero benefits to feeding wildlife,” Fulk added. “It’s always going
to be a harm to them.”

Oleson then discussed the laws pertaining to hunting from a vehicle and trespassing. Hunters are permitted to enter private property unless it has been posted by the owners.

“If there are things you don’t like,” Oleson told the audience,” by all means, write letters to your local legislators, write letters to Game and Fish.”