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Antenori: OK night hunting of 'varmints'

Antenori: OK night hunting of 'varmints'

2nd bill would make it easier to stalk prey in outlying urban zones

PHOENIX - Arizona Sen. Frank Antenori wants you to be able to hunt varmints at night.

And he wants you to be able to stalk that prey, and more, in cities.

The Tucson Republican said he is not talking about some new form of urban hunting. Instead, his proposals, in two separate measures, are designed to deal with what he said are shortcomings in Arizona hunting laws.

First is the issue of night hunting.

Existing law limits hunting to daylight hours. HB 1335, titled "hunting at night, varmints," would create an exception for jackrabbits, raccoons and other "predatory animals."

"They're mostly nocturnal," he said. "So the likelihood of success in hunting them increases if you hunt them at night."

Antenori is particularly interested in providing new opportunities to hunt coyotes, which he said are taking their toll on deer and antelope, particularly the young ones in May, June and July.

"You do need to hunt them and keep that population sort of suppressed for that short period of time," he said.

Antenori said he doesn't want people just wandering around at night, firing into the dark.

He wants some safeguards, such as a requirement to scope out the area before it gets dark to ensure there are no occupied structures nearby. Antenori said he also believes hunters need to have some lights to be able to see their targets.

Antenori also said he does not want to allow night hunting during "big game season."

"The Game and Fish guys don't want anybody out there shooting an elk and then claiming they shot them during the daytime but using the cover if they get caught at night of saying that they were out there hunting coyotes," he said.

He acknowledged that his legislation contains nothing to preclude that from happening. Antenori said that may require amending the measure, either to put that into law or, at least, giving the state Game and Fish Commission the power to enact some regulations.

His other hunting measure, HB 1334, would take away the right of cities to ban hunting within their limits.

Antenori said he's not proposing to let hunters go shooting in urbanized areas. Instead, he said the legislation is aimed at the issue of cities incorporating vast tracts of undeveloped state-owned property into their limits.

"Land that had usually been accessible and available for hunting has been annexed by cities," he said.

For example, Antenori said, Tucson has added large tracts of land to the east out to Vail. And Peoria has annexed property on its northern edge past Lake Pleasant.

"There have not been any structural changes," Antenori said, with the property still remaining unoccupied.

But he said current law and regulations allow the police chief to determine if an incorporated area is safe to hunt and, unilaterally, ban the practice.

Antenori said nothing in either bill would overrule existing regulations and laws, which preclude hunting within one-quarter mile of an occupied structure.

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