Do you want to enjoy some quality time in the outdoors with family and friends?

Arizonans and visitors of all ages can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and get reconnected with nature through the many outdoor-related programs offered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Who better to get you in touch with nature than the state’s wildlife agency, the experts who work day in and day out managing, restoring and conserving Arizona’s diverse wildlife?

A Wild Time Online

Game and Fish has made it easy to look for opportunities to enjoy wildlife, nature and the environment by creating a web portal to outdoor recreation at www.azgfd.gov/outside.

“Our new ‘Get Outside Arizona’ portal web page includes dozens of programs that offer families many outlets to enjoy the outdoors and traditional American pastimes,” says Craig McMullen, chief of wildlife recreation for Game and Fish. “What’s exciting is, after being introduced to the great Arizona outdoors, many people continue with these types of activities as part of a healthy way of life.”

Educational Programs

Arizona is a state rich in wildlife resources. More than 900 different species of fish and animals can be found here. Game and Fish encourages folks to pause and discover not just the visual beauty of Arizona’s settings, but also to learn to find, view and appreciate the different creatures that live in our state’s diverse landscapes.

“During a time when many families are looking to get back to the basics, a great place to start is by experiencing the state’s diverse landscapes and wildlife through wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing, shooting sports, wildlife education and more,” says McMullen.

Many of the programs offered by Game and Fish, like wildlife viewing or Focus Wild – an environmental education program for teachers and homeschoolers – are non-consumptive, self-paced and can be done in nearly any outdoor environment. Kids can learn about the habitats where wildlife live, how animals adapt to the elements and what’s important to a particular animal’s survival.

Through many of these programs, families will be able to learn about wildlife conservation, develop an understanding and knowledge of the environment and reconnect with each other away from the television and other electronic distractions.

Wildlife Viewing

003769_hi.pngWildlife viewing is the activity of watching and enjoying wildlife species in their natural environment.

This recreational activity is growing in popularity as it offers a relaxing, low-cost adventure that can be done close to home and is fun for the whole family.

It can be as simple as observing birds on a backyard feeder or as adventurous as a moonlit hike through a canyon to watch nocturnal animals scurry about under the cover of dark. Watching wildlife can be done by anyone, anytime, anyplace and at virtually any age.

Game and Fish hosts a variety of wildlife viewing events for the public to enjoy throughout the year. These events are supported by the Heritage Fund, a voter initiative passed in 1990 to further wildlife conservation efforts in the state through Arizona Lottery ticket sales.

Go Fish!

Interested in fishing? Game and Fish offers sport-fishing clinics that teach the basics of fishing and also offers free loaner gear.

If you haven’t fished before, this is an inexpensive opportunity to try it out. If you’re an experienced angler, it’s a great way to introduce someone new to this fun and relaxing activity.

If you’re ready to go fishing now, check out the Weekly Fishing Report for the latest news about where the fish are biting around the state, then use the interactive fishing location map to plan your destination. You can find them all and more at www.azgfd.gov/fishing. Don’t forget to purchase a license.

Because kids under age 14 fish free all year, this is an inexpensive activity for the whole family.

Shooting Sports

Did you know that more than half of all households own firearms and that 40 million Americans enjoy the shooting sports annually?

But for a newcomer to the sport, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to get started. Game and Fish can help. Special programs are available that teach students archery and how to shoot firearms. There are even classes hosted by women just for women.

Interested in hunting? Game and Fish offers hands-on workshops that teach the skills necessary to successfully pursue the variety of small game found in Arizona. Both adults and youth are invited to participate.

Game and Fish also offers programs that teach hunter education and safety. An 8- to12-hour introductory course is available in the classroom or online, as well as a 20-hour extended course that includes an archery component. All courses require completion of a field exercise day.

Outdoor Expo

Another great idea to help you get started in outdoor recreation is attending the Game and Fish 2011 Outdoor Expo.

The expo offers the public an opportunity to learn about wildlife-related and outdoor-recreation activities, including wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, archery, shooting sports, camping and off-highway vehicle and boating recreation.

Last year’s event drew more than 30,000 people who were able to visit with more than 150 exhibitors, including sportsmen’s and conservation organizations, government agencies and commercial vendors of outdoor products and services.

The 2011 Outdoor Expo will be March 26–27, 2011, at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility. Get more information at www.azgfd.gov/expo.

Don’t forget: To learn more about any of these activities and more, check out “Get Outside Arizona” at www.azgfd.gov/outside.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department receives no general tax revenue. Instead, Game and Fish operates more like a business, with a “user pay-user benefit” model. The more success Game and Fish has in providing products and services customers want and are willing to pay for, the more money is raised to pay for wildlife management and conservation that benefits all the citizens in Arizona.

(Brought to you by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.)