Originally published Monday, October 14, 2019 at 02:22p.m.


The tagging instructions located on the back of an Arizona big game tag are shown above. (Photo by Don Martin/For the Miner)

With the fall big game seasons in full swing, and more to open later this month, I think it is appropriate to cover the proper tagging locations for Arizona’s big game animals.

In the past few weeks on the internet I have seen no less than three photos of big bears that have been taken in Arizona that were obviously improperly tagged.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this occur on social media, where sportsmen proudly post photos of their lawfully taken big game animals.

What these folks don’t apparently know, is that the Arizona Game and Fish Department does monitor some of the hunting sites and when they see an obvious tagging violation, it could result in a visit from a friendly AZGFD law enforcement officer.

I think it’s obvious that most sportsmen who are posting these photos aren’t aware of the correct locations on where to put the tags.

This even though it shows on the backs of the tags where some – but not all – of Arizona’s big game animals are supposed to be tagged.

So let’s go through and identify the proper locations to tag your animals.

1) Bears are to be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg.

2) Mountain lions can only be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg.

3) Bighorn sheep rams are also to be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg. You cannot tag them on the horn. This is for both species of desert bighorn and Rocky Mountain bighorn.

4) Javelinas, both male and female, can only be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg.

5) Bison/buffalo must be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg.

6) Deer (antlered) can be tagged on the antlers or through the gambrel of the hind leg. Antlerless deer must be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg.

7) Elk (bulls) can be tagged on the antlers or through the gambrel of the hind leg. Antlerless elk must be tagged through the gambrel of a hind leg.

8) Turkeys can be tagged on the legs or on the wing by the body.

9) Antelope bucks can be tagged under the prong on the horn or through the gambrel of the hind leg.

I have some suggestions to prevent common tagging violations.

I think the department should list on the back of the tags the proper location for every species that requires a tag.

Right now, on the back of every big game tag that is issued, it shows only the locations of three of Arizona’s Big 10 big game animals. It only shows a turkey, a deer and an elk. What about sheep, bison, antelope, javelina, bear and mountain lions? I challenge you to find in the booklet where the proper tagging locations are for those animals.

In the current regulations booklet, under improper tagging of big game, it states: “All big game taken shall be immediately tagged in accordance with the instructions on the back of the tag and pursuant to Commission Rule. R12-4-302.”

Here is a suggestion to my friends at AZGFD. Why not put an illustration of all of the tagging locations for each species on the back of the tags?

Another suggestion. I think the department should put in the hunt regulations booklet, where every big game species is shown, an illustration and written information for the proper tagging location of each species. Seems that would be a huge help for the department’s law enforcement officers who deal with tagging violations each year.

Tagging violations I’ve seen over the years

Let me share with you some of the places I have personally seen hunters put tags on big game animals in the past 50 years that I have been hunting and/or guiding.

Improperly tagged bears that have been tagged around the front legs, hind legs and even one had a tag wrapped around the upper jaw of the bruin behind its canine teeth.

I have seen several mountain lions that were tagged around the front legs or hind legs.

One hunter put a tag around the ears of a cow elk.

I even saw an antelope tagged well above the prong, and the tag just slipped off when they tried to load it into a truck. Same with a spike bull elk. It was tagged near the end of the antler and when the hunter and friends tried to lift it into his truck, the tag slipped off.

Remember I said that bighorn sheep are supposed to be tagged through the gambrel of the hind leg? I have taken photos of at least three rams that are tagged on the horns.

Without a doubt the animal I’ve seen that has been improperly tagged the most are javelinas. I’ve seen them tagged around the front leg, back leg, around the upper jaw behind the canine teeth and in one case I had a hunter show me a javelina that he had tagged around the ear. Now understand a javelina’s ear is very small. This hunter, who was a non-resident and was on his first successful javelina hunt, had crumpled the tag around the ear! He was genuinely surprised when I told him that it was not properly tagged.

Remember that the state of Arizona owns all the wildlife here, and the tag is a legal way to transfer that ownership to you, the hunter. If not properly tagged, the sportsman can lose the animal and face fines.

The last thing you want to happen is to lose your animal.

One last caveat on tagging. Make sure that the tag you put on your animal is the right one. In one case I’m aware of a hunter who put his over-the-counter archery tag that he had not filled on a buck he took on a rifle hunt on the Kaibab. In another case a guy put his over-the-counter mountain lion tag on his deer.

In both cases it made for some interesting conversation with the AZGFD people at the check station at Jacob Lake.