Hunting licenses and game tag sales in the border areas of Arizona, especially between Arivaca to Sasabe, have been declining for the past 15 years, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (GFD). Tags specifically for deer and javelina have periodically gone unpurchased.
Local businesses are hardest hit by the decrease in clientele.
The BK Outlaw Barbecue in Amado has several signs outside inviting hunters to come in. “We cater to them. We offer camp fire meals they can take with them… but, business has definitely been down,” co-owner Vickie Wandfluh said of her restaurant which offers free sandwiches to successful hunters. “Some hunters are concerned about the activity on the border. But the ones that have been hunting here for years are not concerned.”
Illegal activity is the reason why many hunters have abandoned hunting along the border according to Wandfluh, other local businesses, and the GFD. Hunters are likely deterred from hunting the area because of illegal immigrants and smuggling activity that happens along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Wandfluh recalled a time when border patrol agents were loading 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.”
In the same town, Scott Skober, manager of the Cow Palace, said he has noticed a decline in business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean illegal activity is to blame. Last summer, a neighborhood restaurant, The Longhorn Grill, went out of business, but it was attributed to the recession.
GFD Public Information Officer Mark Hart believes Arizona has seen a rise in illegal activity since the Clinton administration began a tough campaign against illegal activity in San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas which forced illegal activity to find a new route through Arizona.