Bear hunters and at least three Mexican nationals overseeing a marijuana garden exchanged gunfire after the hunters accidentally stumbled upon the illegal pot fields.
Undercover Gila County Narcotics Task Force agents, who asked not to be identified, said the incident began about noon Friday, Sept. 2 with a 911 call from the hunters.
In interviews with the Queen Creek hunters, agents learned the four were scouting for bear southwest of Payson on the Cross F Ranch.
"One of (the hunters) was in Deer Creek canyon and came across some clothes, and plants that appeared to be marijuana," the GCNTF agent said. "Minutes later, he found himself face-to-face with one of the suspected growers he has identified as a Mexican national."
Not wanting a confrontation, the hunter backtracked, but not before several shots rang out.
"We think there were three to five shots, one hit in front of him and sprayed dirt on him," the GCNTF agent said.
The hunter told agents he quickly scurried out of the canyon to search for his friends.
Once reunited, the four hunters decided on a show of force and fired 20 to 25 shots in the direction the suspect had been seen, the agent said.