Want to fish and hunt in Arizona? Try both on a “cast ‘n’ blast”

Wondering how to fish and hunt in Arizona -- during the same trip? Therer are many ways, and onw last Wednesday involved Nick Walter, AZGFD public information officer, paddling for a few casts and banking his kayak before heading into the desert for small game.
Wondering how to fish and hunt in Arizona — during the same trip? There are many ways, and one on Wednesday, Nov. 11, involved Nick Walter, AZGFD public information officer, paddling for a few casts and then banking a Tetra Angler 10 kayak before heading into the desert for a small game hunt.

 

Cast ‘n’ blast. It rhymes, so it must be fun, right? On the phone last week with my step brother, who plans on coming into town this weekend, I said that we could always go on a trip to fish and hunt.

“You can do both?” he said with a jolt of energy.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. So then I did.

In one trip, you do a little fishing, a little hunting, and in the case of a solo mission to Bartlett Lake in the Tonto National Forest on Wednesday, Nov. 11, some paddling and hiking and wild game eating.

It’s a Great Outdoors dream. Yet somehow, it’s all real — you’re actually awake while getting to do all this — and such an eclectic trip is available to Arizonans year round.

I’m just finding this out.

A week removed from this fish/hunt, the echo of adventure tingles. For sure one of the best things to do in Arizona.

So for those looking to get into this sport of “cast ‘n blast” or (fin ‘n’ feathers or fur ‘n’ fin — whatever you want to call it), here’s some fishing and hunting cast ‘n’ blast tips from a fellow beginner.

There were a few primary goals:

  • Get some wild harvest, preferably quail
  • Don’t get lost
  • Don’t drop shotgun in the water
  • Don’t drop keys in water
  • Don’t drop anything in the water

Had to head out with my Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler around noon (I own a big dog and can’t leave him home alone too long.)

Fishing for bass was spotty the day after a cold front. The Yellow Cliffs boat ramp is closed, so putting in at the main, Jojoba ramp, I paddled a mile or so northward, crossed the lake, and took a couple dozen fish-less casts with a tube on a 1/8-ounce jighead  (I accidentally left my baby brush hogs and Roboworms at home. The packing list for a cast ‘n’ blast in a kayak is lengthy yet economical).

While casting, though, I thought mostly of blasting, of rocking through the desert with a shotgun and some brand new snake shields. Coupled with a time restraint — I didn’t want to return through the desert in the dark looking for a beached kayak — the focus quickly switched from casting to blasting.

The kayak scraped up the sand. Fully “beached.”

Pulling from a dry storage compartment a bag with hiking boots, a hunting vest, extra socks, and the snake shields (for cacti as much as anything), I  geared up for quail.

Time to dive into desert.

 

Desert darts
Desert darts

 

First, after crossing the first major hill into the desert, I turned and with an iPhone took a picture of the landscape that would be my heading (specifically the higher, double peaks) as I returned. Here’s the picture:

reference

But no quail.

Not even their distinctive, three-syllable “ha-HA-ha” singing in the distance. As the sun began a home-stretch dive  to the horizon, and the primary goal being to stay safe during this initial voyage that was as much of a scouting trip as a hunting adventure, I headed back.

Looking, while negotiating the prickly terrain, for the slightest twitch on the immediate landscape. Ready for rabbit.

Mostly, I was quiet. And focused on food. At this point,  I’d come too far to not return with something fresh, healthy and wild to eat.

A piece of brush went, “wiiish.” Out sprung a cottontail rabbit. In one motion, the Savage 12-gauge pump shotgun dropped from shoulder to chest and the rabbit flashed just below the gun sight and an eruption and spray of 7.5-shot ammunition awoke a desert afternoon.

Clean hit. I picked up the spent shell. And  then the rabbit, which that night became country fried with a side of sweet potato puffs and some regular ol’ tater tots:

 

Bartlett4
A wild harvest sure beats relying on grocery stores

 

A major tool was  “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small SMallGameBookGame” (right) written by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb. The book has helped introduce me to all things about hunting Arizona’s small game, specifically the appropriate types of shotguns and ammo for various species, and hunting tips for dove and quail and rabbit. (All Arizona’s small game species are covered.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form. Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.

This night, I followed instructions from the book’s diagrams to skin and prepare the rabbit.  As someone who’s new to hunting in Arizona, and has only hunted a dozen times in my 37 years of living, this has been my primary mentor.

You’ll also need to purchase a Combo Hunt & Fish license online, which funds our efforts in conserving wildlife for future generations (a Youth Combo is just $5).

Bartlett Lake
Bartlett Lake

So some takeaways from one of my most exciting outdoors excursions:

  • Consider picking up some “arm floaties” for your shotgun if you’ll be kayaking. Although traditionally cast ‘n’ blasters take a motorized boat. (I managed to keep mine dry.)
  • Make a checklist: there is such a wide variety of tackle and gear needed for a cast ‘n blast: dry containers for hunting gear and ammunition and your wallet or purse, the minimal amount of bait needed if kayaking, ice chest, life jacket, etc.
  • Bring a carabiner for your keys, or hide them somewhere outside your car. Read how I learned my lesson on this one.
  • Consider bringing orange marking tape, and a fully-charged cell phone for pictures, to use as return markers. (Tell a friend before you leave where you’re headed and when you’re expected to return. Going with a partner is preferred.)
  • Invest in snake shields and an anti-venom kit (and First Aid Kit)
  • Bring lots of food, plenty of water (Camelbak hydration packs are handy in the field) and for your fish and game, an ice chest.
  • Check out more information on how to “Cast ‘n blast” from a Sept./Oct. 2007 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine.
  • Oh, the thin strip of “backstrap” rabbit is tasty …  the legs, on the other hand, are probably better stewed.

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