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State agency touts programs letting hunters transfer big game permits to charities, kin

When a hunter gets a big game permit, it’s a bit like winning the lottery. In fact, it is a lottery: This year’s draw granted about 119,000 permits out of 258,000 applications.

And after people go to so much trouble, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to help make sure that permits for elk, deer, antelope, bear, javelina and other big game don’t go to waste.

As hunting season approaches, Game and Fish is promoting a law enacted in 2007 that allows hunters to transfer permits to organizations working with terminally ill children.

“With a kid with a life-threatening medical disease, they’re looking for something that’s going to connect them back with nature, give them a positive experience,” said Brian Wakeling, game branch chief for Game and Fish. “So what this does is if someone’s willing to donate their tag, they can put together a pretty positive experience for someone.”

It’s one of two laws that allow hunters to transfer big game permits. The other allows hunters to transfer permits to minor children and grandchildren.

Wakeling said that each year about 20 hunters donate permits to terminally ill kids. For the 2009 season, hunters transferred a total of 176 permits.

Eddy Corona, founder and president of Outdoor Experience 4 All, said a child’s physical circumstances shouldn’t stop him or her from enjoying the outdoors.

“If a kid wants to go fishing or hunting, why shouldn’t they have that opportunity?” he said. “We try to make it the best experience possible for the kids.”

Corona said the organization has helped about 140 children so far this year, some of whom were terminally ill and were only able to hunt because they received a donated permit.

Steve Clark, president of the Arizona Elk Society, said the laws’ provisions are a great way for hunters to get children involved in hunting and other outdoor activities.

“If you have a child that’s interested in a sport but that sport is limited, anything you can do to help the child with that opportunity is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing,” he said.

For several years now, the Elk Society and other hunting groups have been running outreach programs to develop a passion for wilderness and wildlife among children.

“It really all boils down to opportunity,” Clark said. “One of the biggest pushes now is offering youth the opportunity to hunt.”

Wakeling said Arizona youth have benefited from both provisions.

“I think this program’s definitely been a great success and has been a great experience for the kids who have had the opportunity to participate,” he said.

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