Hunting in Arivaca is a tradition for the Ybarra family. Bill Ybarra grew up in the Rio Rico area and was out hunting with his son and brother-in-law last weekend.
“I remember coming on horseback in the day,” Bill said. “It’s a tradition.”
Living Southern Arizona their entire lives, they’ve been coming to these parts for decades. The familiarity keeps them coming back. “We’re local. Been hunting it for 20 years.”
Gregg Rath and his friend, Mike Shirey are from Phoenix and like the terrain Arivaca has to offer.
“We keep coming back because we love it,” Rath said. “We stop in Arivaca to eat or stop at the Longhorn or other place. It’s a nice break.”
But they’re in the minority. Fewer and fewer hunters are coming to border areas because of illegal immigrants and smugglers. Arizona’s game and fish has seen the drop off.
“Our hunting license and game tag sales in the borderland areas have been down for the last 15 years,” Mark Hart, the public information officer of the Game and Fish Department in Tucson, said.
The biggest change in the last 15 years is the security along the border. Hart attributes it to the Clinton administration’s focus on San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas forced immigrants and smugglers to funnel their way through Arizona..
“For many years now we have had left over game tags specifically for deer and javelin — specifically in the borderland areas,” Hart added. “Probably the place that has had the most left over is from Arivaca South to Sasabe.”
With all the illegal activity on the border, hunters are chasing game elsewhere. Making it tough for establishments down South who are starving for business.
Lyndel Caswell has been the manager of Cow Palace restaurant and bar for the last five years. She’s noticed a drop off in business. “Yes we’ve seen a decline even from last year,” she said. “There’s been a decline in hunters. They used to come in for lunch and dinner or go to the bar but not so much.”
Scott Skober manages the bar at Cow Palace for the last three years. “Business has been down,” he agreed. “But I don’t know if it’s because of the illegal activity or not.”
Last summer, The Longhorn Grill went out of business. It’s likely the result of the recession but fewer hunters didn’t help either.
The BK Outlaw Barbecue is across the street and has several signs outside inviting hunters inside. Co-owner Vickie Wandfluh gives hunters a free sandwich if they get a deer. “We cater to them,” she said. “We offer camp fire meals they can take with them… but, business has definitely been down.”
“Some hunters are concerned about the activity on the border. But the one that have been hunting here for years are not concerned.”
You are sure to see border patrol agents stop by BK Outlaw Barbecue, but their increased presence can sometimes scare away even the locals.
Wandfluh recalls a time the Border Patrol loaded up body bags in her parking lot. “When a Black Hawk helicopter lands at your restaurant and doesn’t let anyone out of the building or off the freeway exit, it scares people. New visitors don’t want to come back. It’s bad for business.”
The hunters that are still coming admit they have to make allowances for the beefed up border presence. “We know they’re just doing their jobs and we notice the migrant traffic is down because of it,” Gregg Rath said.
Mike Cotton lives in the Three Points area and doesn’t even try to hunt the area anymore. Instead, he gets his shooting in on the range. “It’s not as safe as people say,” Cotton said. “It’s pretty bad out there.”
Game and Fish is aware of hunters’ reluctance to frequent the borderlands, but say those areas can still offer a positive experience.
“We believe you can still recreate safely there you just have to be safe about it,” Hart said. He suggests taking the following precautions:
– Let others know where you’re going and when you’re returning.
-Carry a GPS unit and know how to use it.
-Avoid suspicious areas where there’s lots of garbage.
-Avoid abandoned cars and back into spots.
-Be reluctant to render aid to someone who appears injured.
-Contact Border Patrol if you see suspicious activity at 1-800-BE-ALERT.
Bill Ybarra knows things have changed. But, that doesn’t mean he has to. “This is my hunting ground, no one’s going to push me out.”
by Scott Kilbury at tucsonnewsnow.com