Originally published Monday, November 5, 2018 at 06:15p.m.

We all know that Arizona is blessed to have some of the best big game hunting in the West, but we also know that it can be difficult to draw big game tags here. The fact is there are far more demands for tags than there are animals to hunt.

So the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in an attempt to encourage more hunters to learn about the small game opportunities in the state, has initiated a new program that will recognize hunters that pursue and harvest specified small game animals and birds.

It is called the Challenge Program and the department has teamed up with the Valley of the Sun Quail Forever Chapter to offer this program to sportsmen of all ages.

The first thing a hunter must do is to register for the program. You can do this by going to www.eventbrite.com/e/arizona-small-game-challenge-tickets-4850912818

There is a $25 registration fee, but that fee will be matched by the Valley of the Sun Quail Forever Chapter. All funds raised through this program will be used to support small game habitats in Arizona.

Hunters will have the opportunity to participate in one of three programs that are being offered.

The Native Quail Challenge offers recognition for those hunters who have harvested the three quail species that are native to Arizona. The three species in Arizona are the Gambel, Scaled and Mearns quail. Gambel quail are found all over Arizona, while the Scaled and Mearns species are found in locations in southern Arizona.

The Mountain and Desert Small Game Challenge was developed to highlight small game hunting opportunities statewide. Hunters must harvest five of the seven species that are listed. They include the Dusky or Blue Grouse, cottontail rabbit, band-tailed pigeon, Chukar and the Abert’s, Kaibab and Red squirrel.

For those who want the ultimate challenge, the department offers the Ultimate Upland Bird Challenge. In addition to taking the three species of quail in Arizona, hunters must bag a Dusky or Blue Grouse and a Chukar.

The Dusky or Blue Grouse are found on the north Kaibab, and San Francisco Peaks and in a few areas of the White Mountains. Chukars are found on the Arizona Strip on Black Rock Mountain, west side of the north Kaibab and in areas of Unit 10 near Cataract Canyon.

Once hunters decide what challenge they want to participate in, they need to go hunting. Photograph each of the species that are listed in the challenge and note the date they were taken.

Send the photos with the name and challenge completed to WZarlingo@azgfd.gov You can mail them to Wade Zarlingo at Arizona Game and Fish Department, Small Game Program Manager, 5000 West carefree Highway, Phoenix AZ 85086.

The rules require that all species must have been harvested during the general season, and only “wild birds” are eligible for these challenges.

A hunter who completes his or her challenge will receive a plaque that includes an engraving plate to mark the achievement.

Registrations can be made from Aug. 1 through July 31.