Hundreds of hunters head to the Tumacacori Mountains in Southern Arizona every winter, but this year local law enforcement officials worry about a possible armed confrontation between the hunters and drug smugglers.
"There's always that concern obviously because these individuals may find that as a threat," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.
Estrada's office is investigating a triple murder that took place in the Tumacacori Mountains in November. He said the victims were likely drug smugglers who were attacked by bandits.
"We can only assume that they were either scouts or part of a group that were bringing drugs over, or that they were part of a group, or that this was a message that was being sent, 'This is our territory. Stay out of here,'" said Estrada.
But the threat is not keeping hunters away. Hidden cameras set up in the Tumacacori Mountains by CBS 5 Investigates captured images of hunters, deer and javelina during the day. The same camera caught images of illegal immigrants using the same trails by night.
"We see mountain lions, rattlesnakes, it's awesome! I don't know what else to tell you. It's definitely Arizona," said Ed Pongratz, a hunter from the Valley who travels to the Tumacacori Mountains every year with his brother and cousin.
Two years ago, they came face to face with an armed human smuggler, known as a coyote.
"There was 12 of them. First one, the coyote, and then 11 guys. And right when they were confronted, they scattered," said Pongratz.
Estrada believes the smugglers try to avoid hunters and ranchers just like they try to avoid authorities. He says attention is bad for their business, but he also warns hunters to stay alert.
"It could create a really difficult and dangerous situation for people out there," said Estrada.
Copyright 2012 KPHO(Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Wednesday, May 22 2013 8:58 PM EDT2013-05-23 00:58:52 GMT
Fallen officer's daughter graduates from kindergarten
Hundreds of Phoenix police officers showed their support for a fallen colleague by attending his daughter's kindergarten graduation in Anthem on Wednesday. Officer Daryl Raetz was killed in the lineMore >
Tatum Raetz, 5, graduated from kindergarten in Anthem Wednesday and hundreds of uniformed Phoenix police officers were there to show their support for the family.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 5:06 PM EDT2013-05-22 21:06:54 GMT
A Williams man is in custody in connection with the fatal shooting of an Ashfork teenager, northern Arizona authorities said. John A. Willis, 53, was taken into custody Tuesday, said Coconino County sheriff'sMore >
John A. Willis, 53, was taken into custody Tuesday, said Coconino County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Tim Cornelius.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 7:56 PM EDT2013-05-22 23:56:01 GMT
(RNN) – Of the 24 killed in the EF-5 tornado that decimated Moore, OK, 10 are children - two of which are infants according to a release by the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's Office. All the childrenMore >
The last of the missing from Monday's massive tornado that tore through the town of Moore, OK, have been accounted for. More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 12:18 AM EDT2013-05-23 04:18:16 GMT
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family"My heart goes out to them, because I understand," says Dan Marco, who's son Zachary was murdered in 2010.ZacharyMore >
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:00 AM EDT2013-05-23 12:00:17 GMT
A former flight instructor who taught foreign flight students at one of the Valley's pilot schools told CBS 5 Investigates the students often could barely speak English. "I'd say at least 50 percent ofMore >
A former flight instructor who taught foreign flight students at one of the Valley's pilot schools told CBS 5 Investigates the students often could barely speak English.More >