Sept. 27, 2023
PHOENIX — This is the time of year that Arizona’s small game and waterfowl hunters have been waiting for.
In addition to the start of tree squirrel and band-tailed pigeon seasons Friday, Sept. 29, hunters can pursue dusky grouse through Nov. 5 and chukar until Feb. 11, 2024. The season for cottontail rabbit runs through June 30, 2024, and the start of the season for Gambel’s and scaled quail is just around the corner (Oct. 13).
For more information, hunters should check out the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AZGFD) small game forecast at www.azgfd.com/hunting/hunt-draw-and-licenses/species-hunt-information/small-game-forecast/. Also visit www.azgfd.com/species-category/game/.
In the meantime, waterfowl hunters will be pleased to know that AZGFD recently completed a simplification of the “2023-2024 Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations.”
In response to hunter requests, the department not only combined the previous “Mountain” and “Desert” zones into one statewide zone, but shifted the entire state to a later start date for the 107-day season that runs from Oct. 23 through Jan. 31, 2024.
“Hunters up north in the previous Mountain zone could hunt a few weeks earlier, but they would see their season end in mid-January — just when waterfowl were arriving and staying later, and the good hunting would really get going,” said Dr. Larisa Harding, AZGFD’s small game program manager.
“According to federal regulations, we have to maintain general waterfowl season dates that are consistent with California’s Colorado River season in our southern areas (formerly the Desert zone), and that dictates the dates in the current state regulations. It made more sense to shift the whole state to a later start date statewide, so hunters could pursue birds across the state when they were here.
“The federal regulations allow us to have a 107-day season for general waterfowl, but it can’t extend beyond Jan. 31, so we count back every year to a start date in October. The end date will remain Jan. 31, but the start date will change year to year. That’s why the season opens on a Thursday this year and not on a Friday like a lot of hunts do. We get a lot of calls asking if there’s a misprint in the regulations. It’s not a misprint.”
Harding added: “ For scaup, the federal regulations allow for an 86-day season because those birds are managed more conservatively, so that’s why their season starts later (Nov. 7) and still ends Jan. 31, 2024.”
All waterfowl hunters 18 and older must possess a valid Arizona hunting license and state migratory bird stamp, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp. All waterfowl hunters 16 and older must also possess a federal migratory bird stamp.
Need a license? Visit www.azgfd.gov/license/. Keep in mind that a combination hunt and fish license is only $20 more (for state residents) than the price of an individual hunting or fishing license. As a reminder, a youth combination hunt and fish license (ages 10 to 17) is only $5 and includes the privileges associated with the state migratory bird stamp.
The “2023-2024 Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations” are posted at www.azgfd.gov/Hunting/Regulations/.
NOTE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expanded hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges. These opportunities are authorized and provided on USFWS-managed lands in accordance with federal, state and tribal (where applicable) regulations and seasons. For questions on hunting opportunities, consult current refuge hunt regulations.