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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Arizona Deer, Sheep and Bison

 

Large mule deer buck near does
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Arizona's deer, sheep and bison application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Coues Deer Breakdown Desert Bighorn Sheep Breakdown Rocky Bighorn Sheep Breakdown Bison Breakdown

Arizona is home to both mule deer and Coues whitetail deer as well as bison and Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep. In the Grand Canyon state, trophy bucks and rams are taken every year by resident hunters, guided hunters, and by nonresident DIY hunters willing to do their homework and put in the required effort during the hunt. The trick is to get a tag, but to do that, first, you have to apply. The following is a primer into the Arizona draw process as well as a guide to getting the tag you want.

Applying in Arizona can be completed by simply selecting the premium hunts you’ve heard about for years. Yet, with a little thought, new and exciting opportunities can be found. If your goal is to challenge yourself as a hunter, using the tools found on INSIDER will propel you to be as successful as possible.

Note: The application deadline for Arizona deer, bighorn sheep and bison is June 14 at 11:59 p.m. MST. You can apply online here.



Why Arizona for deer?

The Kaibab Plateau (Units 12AE, 12AW) and Arizona Strip (Units 13A, 13B) in the northwest region of the state is famous for its giant mule deer. This area, north of the Grand Canyon has produced tremendous mule deer bucks for over 100 years. In 2015, several bucks over 200” were harvested there. That said, Arizona has a lot to offer in other regions, too. Several units just south of the Grand Canyon and along the Mogollon Rim also offer trophy caliber mule deer hunting. Additionally, there are several units that are great contenders for trophy desert mule deer, too.

Coues whitetail are also found in Arizona. These unique deer inhabit only two states: Arizona and New Mexico. Fortunately, Arizona has far more Coues habitat, which means a larger Coues population. In 2015, two giant Coues bucks were taken that scored over 150” — a far cry from the 110” Boone and Crockett (B&C) minimum. Coues whitetail habitat extends from the deserts of southern Arizona to the pine forests of northern Arizona. The deer density is far greater in the desert regions and most trophy bucks are taken there; however, the northern regions produce trophy caliber bucks as well.

Arizona’s draw system is based on bonus points, not preference points, which means everyone has a chance. Even if you have never applied before, you could get a tag. If not, there are still a couple of options. First, if you are looking for a rifle hunt, there are always a few leftover tags available. Second, Arizona does offer a non-permit, over-the-counter (OTC) archery tag that is open nearly statewide, with seasons in January, August/September, and December. The OTC archery mule deer tag is good for 68 units and the OTC archery Coues deer tag is good for 28 units. Both OTC tags can be filtered out using Filtering 2.0.

Why Arizona for sheep?

Arizona has both Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep inhabit steep, rugged terrain throughout the state. For the dedicated hunter, there are several wilderness areas to put your skills to the test. For others, there are opportunities to glass from areas closer to roads and highways prior to setting out on a stalk. On an annual basis, several hunters take B&C rams. Arizona is a hot spot for hunters looking to harvest a trophy caliber desert bighorn sheep. Most desert units are good locations for taking a 160” ram and a few produce rams that go over 175”. A few of the most popular units are Unit 22, Unit 24B, Unit 31, Unit 32, Unit 44B North, and Unit 15C/D. While these units are nearly impossible to draw, especially for nonresidents, with the bonus point system and a random draw, there is still a chance to acquire a tag in the draw.



New for 2016

Arizona’s new PointGuard program

New for 2016 is the PointGuard program. This program provides hunters with peace of mind in knowing that they can surrender their tag for any reason without losing their coveted bonus points. Unforeseen events happen in life and this program saves your points if you have a situation happen that makes you unable to hunt.

PointGuard ensures that if a successful applicant is unable to participate in a hunt for any reason, the accumulated bonus points that were expended to draw that hunt permit will be reinstated.

Requirements:

  • PointGuard is available to applicants who apply online for a hunt permit.
  • All applicants must sign up for a free AZGFD Portal account to purchase PointGuard (visit www.azgfd.gov, click on the “Sign in to Account” button in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, then select the “Create an Account” option).
  • PointGuard is $5 per species, per applicant, purchased at the time of completing the online application, or prior to the application period deadline. The fee is non-refundable.
  • Only one hunt permit may be surrendered per species. If an applicant is drawn in the future for that particular species, that hunt permit must be used, expending all accumulated bonus points. Only then may an applicant participate again in PointGuard.

For more information on PointGuard, check out our Arizona State Profile for more details.

Arizona’s 2016 draw change

For 2016, Arizona drastically changed how the draw process works for residents and nonresidents. In the past, most high-demand deer tags issued to nonresidents occurred in the Bonus Pass. This year, nonresidents will still receive a maximum of 10% of deer tags issued, but only 5% of those will be issued during the Bonus Pass. Now, nonresidents with maximum bonus points will have less chance of success in the Bonus Pass, but will have a better chance in the Random Pass. For more information on this change, you can check out this recent INSIDER article.



State information

To view important information and an overview of Arizona’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the DeerBighorn Sheep, and Bison Species Profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Arizona is the sixth largest state in the US and is well over 100,000 thousand square miles in size. It has six national forests and plenty of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and state land, which provides millions of huntable acres. Arizona ranges from 70’ to 12,630’ above sea level. Over that range lies an array of different habitats, including quality habitat for mule deer, Coues whitetail, and both desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The application period for these species is now.

To qualify for the draw, an individual must apply using the written Hunt Permit Tag Application Form or apply online by June 14, 2016. If applying online, individuals must pay with a valid credit or debit card (Visa or MasterCard); credit card info can be updated until 11:50 PM on July 7, 2016. The hunt permit tag will be mailed out by Aug. 5 and refunds will be mailed by Aug. 15, 2016. Applicants must have a license valid through the deadline day of the draw or apply for a license during the draw application. If you purchase a hunting or fishing license online, you must print your own license; one will not be mailed to you. To apply online, simply go here.

Arizona State Profile Mule Deer Profile Coues Deer Profile Desert Bighorn Profile Rocky Bighorn Profile Bison Profile

Important dates and information

  • Deadline to apply is June 14 at 11:59 p.m. MST. You can apply online here.
  • Drones: Drones are considered aircraft and shall not be used to harass wildlife or assist in the taking of wildlife. For more specific information, please review Commission Rules R12-4-301, R12-4-319 and R12-4-320. Also, see Fair Chase information on page 56 of the Arizona 2016/2017 Hunting Regulations.
  • International border suspicious activity: Homeland Security issues along the international border may affect the quality of a person’s hunt (see page 71). Call 800-BE-ALERT to report suspicious activity.
  • Boquillas-Diamond A Ranch (Unit 10): A new Landowner Compact Agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) and the Boquillas-Diamond A Ranch has been agreed to in principle. The Boquillas-Diamond A Ranch encompasses the entire western half of Unit 10, which is about 720,000 acres. Applicants should visit the ranch’s website or details and to secure access.
  • Hunter education: No one under the age of 14 may hunt big game without having completed a hunter education class. Hunter education classes fill up quickly. If you need your hunter education card before your hunt, get ahead of the game and register now. To register for a hunter education class, visit www.azgfd.gov/huntered or call 623-236-7239.
  • Bighorn sheep in Units 15BW, 15CS, 15CN, 15D: Hunters are advised that a disease outbreak has been detected in Unit 15BW, Unit 15CS, Unit 15CN, and Unit 15D. Hunters who are drawn for these units should be prepared for a decrease in availability of older age class rams.
  • Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep 6A/22 and 27: These units have been changed from one hunt with four tags to two hunts, each with two tags. The first hunt is Nov. 18 to Dec. 8, 2016 and the second hunt is Dec. 9 to 31, 2016.
  • Unit 11M: This unit has changed to a draw-only hunt for deer with 80 permits available.

Drought/ rainfall/ snowpack

Currently, 66.75% of the state is affected by moderate drought conditions. To date, most of Arizona has received slightly less than normal precipitation. A few areas, however, have received late spring rain and snow showers, pushing them toward the normal range. Mule deer and Coues deer are well-adapted to deal with these types of conditions. Antler growth should be normal, but may depend on monsoon showers from July to September, during the antler growing season.
 



The draw system

Understanding the draw

It is important to understand the draw system before you begin.

There are three phases to the big game drawing: the bonus point pass, the first-second choice pass, and the third-fourth-fifth choice pass. Before each of the three passes in the drawing, each application is processed through a random number generator program. One random number for the application plus an additional random number for each group bonus point (which includes the hunter education and loyalty bonus points) is generated for that application. The lowest random number generated for an application is used in the drawing process. An application receives a new random number for each pass of the big game draw.

Group bonus points occur in the Big Game Draw when two to four applicants apply on one hunt application. Group bonus points are calculated by adding the bonus points, loyalty bonus point, and hunter education bonus point for each applicant on an application and dividing that total by the number of applicants. The average number of bonus points accumulated by the individuals in the group, rounded to the nearest whole number, is the group’s bonus point total. If the average has decimal digits equal to or greater than .5, the total will be rounded to the next higher number; otherwise, it is rounded down.

When an application is read and the hunt choices are checked for available permits, there must be enough permits available in a hunt choice for all applicants on the application, including non­residents; if not, the application is passed and the next one is read.

More information can be found on the Arizona State Profile about the deer pass and the sheep pass.

Arizona application do’s and don’ts

  • If you already know that you cannot go on a hunt in Arizona, but want to accumulate bonus points, purchase a bonus point.
  • If you can go on a hunt, always apply for a hunt number and do not purchase a point regardless of your already accumulated points. Although bonus points factor in, Arizona’s draw system is random and you only have a chance if you apply for a hunt.
  • Make sure to enter all of your personal application information correctly on your application, whether paper or online.
  • Verify you are applying for the hunt you intended to apply for. This is especially important when applying online using the drop-down feature.
  • Create an account on the AZGFD website (www.azgfd.gov).
     


Arizona's mule deer breakdown
 

John with a giant Arizona mule deer taken with High Point Outfitters
John with a giant Arizona mule deer taken with High Point OutfittersA goHUNT Business Member

Current mule deer herd condition

Because deer habitat is quite diverse — ranging from 70’ to over 12,600’ in elevation with several life zones in between — it is difficult to monitor and discuss detailed herd conditions.

Luckily, deer in Arizona are not affected by winter conditions like other deer herds in the West. In most locations, although temperatures might drop during the winter months, deer can avoid the treachery of deep snow conditions throughout their range. Historically, Arizona is an arid state, but precipitation is key to quality deer habitat.

The goHUNT hit list units for Arizona mule deer

Top units to consider for 180” or better mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Buck:doe
ratio
OTC or
draw
Unit 12B 190"+ 48:100 Draw
Unit 13A 190"+ 60:100 Draw
Unit 13B 190"+ 42:100 Draw
Unit 12AE 180"+ 37:100 Draw
Unit 12AW 180"+ 37:100 Draw
Unit 3A 180"+ 21:100 Draw
Unit 3C 180"+ 21:100 Draw
Unit 45C 180"+ 27:100 Both
 
 


How to uncover hidden gem deer units

You can use Filtering 2.0 as an aid to find the right hunting opportunity to fit your style. If you are looking for a specific type of buck, say a 170”, simply use the Trophy Potential slider. Move the slider to select the size of trophy you are looking for, and then peruse the units shown that are known for the caliber of buck that you are looking for. If you are more concerned with success, there is a Harvest Success slider as well, use the tool in the same manner as described above. Additionally, you can look for season types (archery, muzzleloader, and rifle), as well as date ranges that work best for you. Filtering 2.0 will help you find the right hunt in a unit that fits all of your criteria.

To get started with Filtering 2.0

  • Select state.
  • Select species.
  • Adjust the Trophy Slider to your desired size (e.g. 170”+).
  • Click whether you are a resident or nonresident and indicate how many points you currently possess.
  • Select your minimum percentage of odds for drawing the tag. This can be very good for weeding out units with unlimited (100%) tags.
  • Select which season(s) you are wishing to hunt. Have other hunts going on throughout the fall? You can also set your date parameters and Filtering 2.0 will automatically find what's in season that time of the year.
  • Choose what harvest percentages you would like to see in the units.
  • Lastly, click on any of the remaining units to read in-depth profiles containing valuable information.

Trending buck:doe ratio units
 

Lonnie with an Arizona mule deer buck taken with High Point Outfitters
Lonnie with an Arizona mule deer buck taken with High Point Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

You have probably noticed that we provide data on buck to doe ratios for each unit, in Arizona. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher buck to doe ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bucks compared to a unit with a lower buck to doe ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bucks will be the highest scoring bucks, but more bucks equates to more bucks to find and harvest. When selecting a unit, or comparing several areas, take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth.

Top units for buck:doe ratios

Unit Buck:doe
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
OTC season
available
Unit 13A 60:100 190"+ No
Unit 34A 58:100 160"+ Yes (early & late)
Unit 42 51:100 160"+ Yes (late)
Unit 12B 48:100 190"+ No
Unit 13B 42:100 190"+ No
Unit 25M 41:100 150"+ Yes (late)
Unit 15A 38:100 160"+ Yes (early & late)
Unit 12AE 37:100 180"+ No
Unit 12AW 37:100 180"+ No

 

Glenn with a giant velvet Arizona archery mule deer taken with Arizona Strip Guides
Glenn with a giant velvet Arizona archery mule deer taken with Arizona Strip Guides — A goHUNT Business Member

Five year B&C entry trends for Arizona mule deer

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Mohave 8 13A, 13B
Coconino 3 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5BN, 5BS, 6A, 6B,
7E, 7W, 8, 9, 10, 11M, 12AE, 12AW, 12B

 

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Mohave 5 13A, 13B
Coconino 1 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5BN, 5BS, 6A, 6B,
7E, 7W, 8, 9, 10, 11M, 12AE, 12AW, 12B
Pima 1 32, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B,
36C, 37A, 38M, 40A, 40B

 



The points system

Arizona deer bonus point totals going into the 2016 draw

Managing points and expectations
 

 Troy with his Arizona archery mule deer with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters
Troy with his Arizona archery mule deer with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

I have 0 to 3 mule deer bonus points. What can I expect?

In this point range there is little chance to draw one of Arizona’s most coveted tags, especially for nonresidents. If your dream is to draw a tag-of-a-lifetime and you're willing to wait, simply put in for the hunt that you want. But know that if you are just starting out, statistically you may never draw one of these premium tags. With Arizona’s new draw change you now have a chance, but so does everyone else. Apply only for hunts with similar draw odds. For example, if you are looking at the late Arizona Strip hunt, list hunt number 1021 (Unit 13A) and hunt number 1022 (Unit 13B) as your first and second choice. Do not apply for a third, fourth or fifth choice. If you are willing to accept a lesser tag, apply for hunts that have tags available in the general pass, such as the October hunts in Unit 12A East and Unit 12A West or in Unit 12B.

Additionally, think about units south of the Grand Canyon like Unit 8, Unit 9, Unit 10, and Unit 27. These may be easier to draw, but are more difficult hunts.

What can I do with 4 to 10 mule deer bonus points?

Residents and nonresidents in this category are close to drawing a good tag, especially those at the higher end. Again, if you are dead set on the premium Arizona Strip or Kaibab hunts, apply for those as your first and second choices and leave choices three through five blank. If you are itching to hunt mule deer, a few good choices are Unit 12A East and Unit 12A West, Unit 12B, Unit 3A, Unit 3C, and Unit 27. If you are interested in desert mule deer, several units in the Yuma region are close to a guarantee for nonresidents at this point level. Trophy caliber units include Unit 39, Unit 40A, Unit 40B, Unit 42Unit 45A, Unit 45B, and Unit 45C. These hunts can be difficult, especially to the novice, but can produce quality bucks. In fact, this region produced a buck that scored close to 300” in 2014.

What can I expect with 11 or more mule deer bonus points?

It still takes a minimum of 18 points for a nonresident to have a good chance of drawing the coveted Arizona Strip hunts and close to that for the late Kaibab hunts. If you are still dead set on the premium hunts, follow the steps above. If you are willing to take your chances on an earlier Kaibab hunt, the draw odds are high for nonresidents in this category. Residents have slightly higher odds at the bottom of this pool, but the more the better. Either stay the course or take your chances on a slightly less premium hunt.

Arizona permit only deer harvest

Leftover and OTC deer tags
 

Arizona archery over the counter mule deer taken with Big Chino Outfitters
Arizona archery over the counter mule deer taken with Big Chino Guide Service — A goHUNT Business Member

For bowhunters, Arizona has three archery hunts during the calendar year that can be hunted with an OTC permit. Since you have to purchase a license to apply for the draw, you should take full advantage of the OTC tag. In most cases, you can hunt the same unit you applied for in the draw. This is a great way to scout your desired unit, if nothing else.

Arizona over-the-counter archery deer harvest

Alternatively, use Filtering 2.0 to find the perfect OTC unit to hunt during the time that best fits your hunting schedule.



Arizona's Coues deer breakdown
 

Coues deer taken with Arizona Trophy Outfitters
Coues deer taken with Arizona Trophy Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

The Coues whitetail is not a well-known sub-species of the whitetail family. However, in the Southwest, the miniature whitetail has a cult-like following. The B&C minimum for a typical Coues buck is just 110-inches; however, hunting Coues deer can become an obsession or even a hunters’ only passion. Proceed with caution, you may become addicted. For detailed hunting strategies for Coues deer in Arizona, you can check out this recent article.

Current Coues deer herd condition

The Coues whitetail thrives in harsh conditions throughout its range. Therefore, the hearty deer is less affected by drought conditions than other big game species that inhabit the West. The Coues whitetail has a knack for finding water, whether it’s in a void in a rock or in a tasty cactus. Because of its heartiness, in most units across Arizona, the Coues whitetail is at least stable, and expanding in some. 

Top units to consider for 100” or better Coues deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Buck:doe
ratio
OTC season
available
Unit 22 110"+ 39:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 23 110"+ 27:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 33 110"+ 23:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 32 105"+ 26:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 36C 105"+ 32:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 21 100"+ 31:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 24A 100"+ 25:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 24B 100"+ 32:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 29 100"+ 24:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 30B 100"+ 27:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 31 100"+ 22:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 34A 100"+ 25:100 Yes (early)
Unit 34B 100"+ 25:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 35A 100"+ 21:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 35B 100"+ 28:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 36A 100"+ 18:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 36B 100"+ 23:100 Yes (early & late)
Unit 6A 100"+ 33:100 Yes (early)

 



How to uncover hidden gem units

If you are willing to hunt south of the I-10 corridor, where border traffic is high, there are leftover Coues tags available every year in good units. Additionally, using the features of Filtering 2.0 will unveil several units to take a trophy Coues buck with an OTC tag.

Five year B&C entry trends for Arizona Coues deer

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical Coues deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Gila 9 22, 23, 24A, 24B
Cochise 7 28, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34B, 35A
Pima 5 32, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B, 36C
Santa Cruz 2 34A, 35A, 35B, 36B
Coconino 2 4A4B5A, 5BN5BS6A6B8

 
Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical Coues deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Gila 9 22, 23, 24A, 24B
Pima 2 32, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B, 36C
Santa Cruz 2 34A, 35A, 35B, 36B
Cochise 1 28, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34B, 35A
Greenlee 1 27, 28

 



The point system

The bonus points race

Coues deer and mule deer use the same bonus points pool.

2016 maximum bonus points for Coues deer: 19

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 Coues deer bonus points. What can I expect?

If you are looking to hunt Arizona right now and you want to hunt Coues whitetail you are in luck. There are several choices for hunts that are over 75% draw rate. Most of these hunts are early hunts, which occur in late October. While rut hunts are more coveted, October hunts can be just as good for those willing to scout prior to and/or during the hunt. Good units to take a respectable Coues buck include Unit 29, Unit 31, Unit 32, Unit 33, and Unit 36A/B/C. The following Coues whitetail hunts have draw odds above 65% with hunter success above 30%.

What can I do with 4 to 10 Coues deer bonus points?

If you are interested in Coues whitetail, there are new options. Residents looking for a rut hunt have decent odds in the high country units including Unit 6A, Unit 6B, Unit 8, and Unit 27. Nonresident chances are high for units south of Interstate 10 including Unit 29, Unit 30A, Unit 36A/B/C.

What can I expect with 11 or more Coues deer bonus points?

Residents and nonresidents alike have high odds for coveted December Coues whitetail tags. In that case, the Mogollon Rim Units 22 and Unit 23 are hard to beat along with Units 32 and Unit 33 in the south.

Leftover and OTC deer tags

Arizona has leftover deer tags every year. Most of these tags are for Coues whitetail in areas south of Tucson. These tags are leftover because they occur in remote regions of the state with a higher frequency of border issues from illegal crossing; however, these hunts can produce quality bucks. Leftover tags are acquired by a first come, first served process — first by mail beginning on July 25, 2016, and then available at any department office on Aug. 1, 2016. Proceed with caution, but enjoy the hunt.

The following warning is from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Unit 36B is a corridor for the trafficking of undocumented aliens (UDAs) and drugs. Hunters will see the trails and trash left by these people. Hunters are urged to use caution when hunting and camping in Unit 36B or any of the other border units. It is advisable to use some sort of visible anti-theft device on your vehicle, for vehicle thefts have increased the past two years. Having a group of UDAs walk through a hunting area may negatively affect your hunt. The key to hunting in the border units is the ability to flex and adapt. To report UDAs, call the Border Patrol at 1-877-872-7435, or in the case of an emergency, dial 911.”

There are also lots of OTC Coues deer hunting opportunities in Arizona. You can utilize Filtering 2.0 to unlock some hidden gem OTC hunts and you can also read this INSIDER article for a great OTC breakdown.



Arizona's desert bighorn sheep breakdown
 

Tony Loop 2015 Arizona archery state record desert bighorn sheep taken with Dieringer Outfitters
Tony Loop's Arizona archery state record desert bighorn sheep taken with Dieringer Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Arizona is home to both desert bighorn and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. It is a major contender when it comes to locating and taking a trophy desert bighorn sheep. It’s astonishing to look at the number of record book entries compared to overall tag numbers. From 2010 to 2014, 56 of the 434 total desert sheep tag holders during that period took a ram big enough to make the B&C record book. That is over 13% of the tag holders harvesting a record book ram! 2014 the average ram harvested had a B&C green score of 168" and an average age of eight years old. For 2016 there are a total of 105 sheep tags, 89 of those are desert bighorn tags and 16 are Rocky Mountain bighorn tags. In 2015 Tony Loop took the potential new Arizona archery state record. For more information on that hunt, you can check out the article here.

Current desert bighorn sheep herd condition

Like deer, Arizona’s bighorn sheep are well-adapted for the harsh environment they inhabit. Unfortunately, bighorn sheep are more susceptible to both predation and disease. Historically, bighorn sheep populations have struggled with predation, with the mountain lion as the leading cause of mortality for many. Yet, the largest threat to bighorns is disease because of how quickly it can spread within the herd. Unfortunately, Arizona has had a disease problem in Unit 15 (BW, C, D) in the western portion of the state that will affect older ram sightings and harvests in 2016.

The goHUNT hit list units for Arizona desert bighorn sheep
 

 Craig Dunlap with his desert bighorn ram taken with Colburn and Scott Outfitters
Craig Dunlap with his desert bighorn ram taken with Colburn and Scott Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member
 

Top units to consider for 175” or better desert bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Ram:ewe
ratio
Harvest
success
Unit 22 180"+ 75:100 100%
Unit 15D 175"+ 59:100 100%
Unit 24B 175"+ 64:100 100%
Unit 31 175"+ 63:100 100%
Unit 32 175"+ 63:100 100%
Unit 28 170"+ 64:100 100%
Unit 37A 170"+ 34:100 100%
 
 

Top units for ram:ewe ratios

Unit Ram:ewe
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
Harvest
Unit 46B  86:100 160"+ NA*
Unit 44A 83:100 170"+ 100%
Unit 39 82:100 170"+ 100%
Unit 46A 80:100 160"+ NA*
Unit 45B 76:100 155"+ 100%
Unit 22 75:100 180"+ 100%
Unit 43A 71:100 165"+ 100%
Unit 40B 69:100 160"+ 100%
Unit 28 64:100 170"+ 100%
Unit 42 64:100 165"+ 100

 

Five year B&C entry trends for Arizona desert bighorn sheep

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep

County No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Maricopa 10 22, 24B, 31, 32
Pinal 10 24B, 31, 32, 37A, 37B, 39
Mohave 9 13A, 13B, 15B West, 15C, 15D, 16A, 16B, 18B
La Paz 8 43A, 44B, 45A, 45B
Pima 8 32, 37A, 40A, 40B, 46A
 


Arizona's Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

With only six units to chose from, draw odds for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is slim at best. The last few years, Arizona has provided hunters with several rams that have surpassed the 175” mark. With only a few unit options available and nearly all of the tags drawn by resident applicants, nonresidents hoping to pull an Arizona tag will have a long wait.

Current Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd condition

Overall the Rocky bighorn sheep herd conditions are stable and big rams are pulled out of Arizona the past several years.

The goHUNT hit list units for Arizona Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Top units to consider for 180” or better Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Ram:ewe
ratio
Unit 27 180"+ 34:100
Unit 6A 180"+ 44:100
Unit 22 175"+ NA*
Unit 1 170"+ 14:100
Unit 24A 170"+ NA*
Unit 23 165"+ 33:100

 


 

Five year B&C entry trends for Arizona Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep units

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

County

No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Yavapai 3 6A
Apache 2 1, 2A, 2C, 3A, 3B, 27
Coconino 1 6A
Graham 1 27

 



The bighorn sheep point system

The bonus points race

Arizona desert bighorns and Rocky Mountain bighorns use the same bonus points pool.

2016 maximum bonus points for desert bighorn sheep: 27

Arizona bighorn sheep bonus point totals going into the 2016 draw

The above graph is very alarming when you take into account everyone with one bonus point. Just goes to show how popular Arizona is for sheep.

Arizona bighorn sheep bonus point totals going into the 2016 draw without one bonus point level

Managing bighorn sheep points and expectations

Arizona desert bighorn sheep taken with Arizona Desert Outfitters

Arizona desert bighorn sheep taken with Arizona Desert Outfitters — A goHUNT Business member

I have less than 25 bonus points. What can I expect?

In Arizona’s system, nonresidents always have a chance at drawing a sheep tag if they follow a couple of rules. First, always apply for hunts with multiple tags. Second, avoid the premium hunts; those tags will be taken by residents in the bonus pass. For desert bighorns, these units include Unit 22, Unit 24B, Unit 31, and Unit 32. All other units offer a valid chance. All of the 15 sub-units have suffered a disease outbreak, making older rams less plentiful; it may be wise to avoid these units in 2016. Residents should follow the same path. You should avoid purchasing a bonus point and apply for the hunt you want. You only have as many chances as years you apply, so apply and hope for the best.

It is also more difficult for a nonresident to draw a Rocky Mountain bighorn tag. 

I have 25 or more sheep bonus points. What can I expect?

You’ve waited this long, now it’s time to reap the rewards for having done so. The leading desert bighorn units are still Unit 22, Unit 24B, Unit 31, Unit 32, and Unit 44B North. Apply for the hunt of your choice. Sometimes it’s not all about what unit has been producing the biggest rams; it also comes down to where you want to hunt.

If you are interested in Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, think about Unit 6A and Unit 22 in 2016. It’s difficult to know what will happen in the draw with the splitting of the one hunt into two hunts; take a side and hope it was the right one.



Arizona's bison breakdown

Arizona bison taken with Chads Guide Service

Arizona bison taken with Chad's Guide Service.

Arizona’s fall bison hunts are minimal, but do provide a unique opportunity to harvest a trophy bull. The general bison hunts occur in Unit 5A and Unit 5B on the Raymond Ranch and these hunts are for cow or yearling only. These hunts require the hunter be accompanied by an AZGFD employee that designates the animal to be taken. Bison hunts on the Kaibab and Arizona Strip are more challenging and also more rewarding. All of these hunts occur in the same three units (12AE, 12B, and 13A) and are limited opportunity hunts. There are separate seasons for rifle, muzzleloader, and archery that occur August through the end of December. Though bull (any bison) tags are limited and the hunt is challenging, it is an excellent opportunity for hunters lucky enough to harvest a trophy bull.

Current bison herd condition

Because bison do not succumb to predation like other big game species in Arizona and because they are quite nomadic — always moving to optimal range — bison are thriving on the Kaibab and Arizona Strip.

Top units to consider for Arizona bison
(not in order of quality)

Unit Bull:cow
ratio
Unit 12AW 55:100
Unit 12AE 55:100
Unit 13A NA*

* Information not available from the state.

 

Five year B&C entry trends for Arizona bison units

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Arizona's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for bison

County

No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Coconino 5 5A, 5B North, 5B South, 12A East, 12A West, 12B, 13A

 



The point system

2016 maximum bonus points for bison: 42

Arizona bison bonus point totals going into the 2016 draw

The above graph is very alarming when you take into account everyone with one bonus point. Just goes to show how popular Arizona is for bison.

Arizona bison bonus point totals going into the 2016 draw with the first bonus point removed

Managing points and expectations

You can’t draw if you don’t apply. That being said, the majority of tags go to those with the most bonus points. Generally speaking, it takes 24 or more points to draw a tag. Typically, these tags are drawn by resident applicants since so many more residents have accumulated a higher level of bonus points than nonresidents. All bison hunts occur in the same unit group: 12A (AE, AW), 12B, and 13A, which means that there are really only two decisions to make: when can you hunt and what type of hunt are you looking for? Select a hunt that fits both your calendar and your preferred hunting method.

Top 10 B&C Bison Entry Locations All-Time

Although Arizona doesn't rank high in total number of B&C record book entries... hunting a bison in Arizona is truly a dream hunt.

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