APPLICATION STRATEGY 2021: Arizona Antelope
Arizona's 2021 antelope application overview
It is highly unlikely that you are only applying for antelope in the Grand Canyon state and, for many, it’s more of an afterthought application as you probably have a hunt or species you are much more focused on in Arizona. Regardless, it makes sense to get the most value out of your hunting license each year — even if these hunts are exceptionally hard to draw despite the last 20+ years; the caliber of bucks found here are often a step above what you will find in many of the other states in the country.
This is a unique year for antelope in Arizona and, although conditions are dire due to the drought that you will learn more about as you read, it is not quite so simple when it comes to antelope. You see, there is a theory that in the years when the drought conditions are bad, those are the years that grow the biggest antelope. Now, I wish I was more versed in why this theory exists. Maybe it has something to do with the diet that the antelope are forced to forage on in these off years compared to a preferred flora when there are normal moisture conditions. Alas, the theory exists and, after living in the southwest for over the last decade and being witness to multiple state and world records being broken, there may be something more to this theory than meets the eye. Regardless, if there ever was a year to double check your application prior to submitting and ensuring that you purchased your Point Guard, this is most certainly the year. If you happen to find luck in this very difficult tag to draw, it is likely to be the only one you ever see in your life. It is also very likely you will never draw again even if you choose to use your Point Guard; however, plan on giving this hunt the same consideration you would any other hunt in the country that typically takes the same number of years to draw. There just might be the biggest antelope you have ever seen roaming around the deserts of Arizona. Only time will tell and the only sure fire way to know is to spend as much time as possible scouting prior to the hunt. If you decide it simply isn’t worth it, then turn your tag back in and hope that lighting strikes again for you in the future.
Note: The online application deadline for Arizona antelope is Feb. 9, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. MST. You can apply online here.
New for 2021
Update portal account early
The following is a press release from Arizona Game and Fish Department. Log in to your portal account early and make sure your account can log in:
PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) recently updated its online systems to provide enhanced features for its customers.
What must you do to access the updated features? AZGFD sent out emails Dec. 8–10 to portal account customers (to the current email address the department has on file) with instructions about how to update portal accounts. The email was sent from firstname.lastname@example.org via amazonses.com, and the subject line reads: “Your Arizona Game and Fish account has new features! Log in today.” If you still have access to that email, make sure to click the link in the body copy to confirm your account and update your login information. It is imperative you complete this step.
AZGFD strongly recommends you do this before purchasing a hunting or fishing license or applying for the upcoming elk and pronghorn draw.
If you cannot find the email that AZGFD sent Dec. 8–10, click here and you will be able to request a password reset on your existing portal account. You must know the user name or email associated with your portal account to activate the password reset.
Hunter harvest questionnaire
You will receive your hunter harvest questionnaire in the mail and/or by email. Please take a moment to respond. A unique QR scan code, as well as a web link, will be located on the back of hunt permit tags. Scan the code to access your hunter harvest questionnaire webpage, then select your species (you may need to download a QR reader app to scan the code). Completing your hunter questionnaire, honestly and accurately, is very important to the management of wildlife in Arizona.
Drones are considered aircraft and cannot 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 located on pages 102 and 107 of the 2020–21 Arizona Hunting Regulations.
Nonresident off-highway vehicles (OHV) operators
As of Sept. 1, 2019, nonresidents must have a decal to operate off-highway vehicles (OHV) in Arizona. The decal must be purchased online from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) portal account. The decal is not available for purchase from department offices.
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. Point Guard coverage costs $5 per species. See more details here.
Keep credit card information updated online
Applicants are encouraged to keep their credit card payment information current. If your payment is declined at the time of the draw, your application will not be drawn. AZGFD will no longer call customers to obtain payment on drawn applications where credit cards have failed. The deadline for updating your credit or debit card information online is 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Note: If your credit/debit card has been used for multiple applications, please notify your banking institution that multiple charges from AZGFD could be processed simultaneously.
Potential Arizona trail camera ban
Back on December 7 goHUNT released information on a potential Arizona trail camera rule change. Then on December 21, an update was released here. There is an opportunity for public comment and information on the comment period can be found in those articles.
Below you can find important information and an overview of Arizona’s rules/regulations, the draw system, bonus points, tag and license fees, and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Arizona Antelope Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Important dates and information
- The deadline to apply online is Feb. 9, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. MST.
- The deadline to update credit card information is Feb. 25, 2021.
- Payment must be made by Visa or Mastercard for online applications.
- Up to 10% of the available tags for any hunt code can be awarded to nonresidents.
- Only 5% of the potential nonresident permits are awarded in the maximum point pool. The remaining 5% or more will be awarded in the random pass.
- If you are unsuccessful in the draw, then you will be awarded a bonus point for that species.
- The Arizona Big Game Super Raffle drawing will be held in July. More information can be found here.
The current drought status in Arizona
As you can see from the photo, the drought conditions in Arizona are dire to say the least. In fact, it couldn’t be worse. We are a little early in the year so there is still some hope; however, it is looking rather bleak at the moment and, without a major change to weather patterns moving into the spring, we should expect to see antelope in full-on survival mode as the amount of viable vegetation to eat will be at record lows.
The Arizona draw system
Understanding the draw
Arizona allows its applicants to apply for up to five choices; however, only the first two selections are considered during the first pass. Historically, all antelope permits have been awarded during this first pass, which makes selections three, four and five mostly irrelevant.
Arizona has a modified bonus system in place. Essentially, this means this is a bucket of raffle tickets. Each year you are unsuccessful, you will receive an extra raffle ticket for the following year. The modified part of this system is that 20% of the permits are set aside for applicants with the most number of points. Only up to 50% of the potential nonresident permits are allowed to be issued in the maximum point pass.
There are four ways to increase your bonus points:
- Earn a bonus point each time you are unsuccessful in the draw (one point per year).
- Apply for “bonus points only” to gain a bonus point in the event that you do not want to risk drawing a tag until you have a higher number of points.
- You can also travel to Arizona and take a hunter education course and earn a permanent bonus point for every species.
- Earn a loyalty point. An applicant is awarded this point by applying for a species for five consecutive years. This is also a species-specific point and this point will not be taken away when you draw a tag, but will be purged if you miss a year of applying. You will have to start the initial five-year process all over again.
If you are successful in the draw, then your bonus points will revert back to zero. If you have earned a loyalty and/or hunter education point, then you will keep those two potential points. If you fail to apply for five consecutive years, then all points will be lost.
Unlike many states where if you don’t have the points you have no chance of getting a tag, Arizona gives hunters with even zero points a chance. Even if you don’t draw anything this year, you can get a bonus point to increase your chances next year. You can apply for bonus points only in Arizona, but you must buy the $160 nonrefundable hunting license and pay a $15 application fee per species. You may also add an additional $5 to each application per year if you choose to add Point Guard on years you are applying to hunt, which adds a level of protection for unseen events that would prevent you from hunting if drawn.
2021 top hit list hunt units to consider for 80" or better bucks
|Public land %||Harvest|
|Unit 5BN||80"+||87%||Archery: 43%|
|Unit 5A||80"+||83.2%||Archery: 100%|
|Unit 9||80"+||76.6%||Archery: 0%|
|Unit 17A||80"+||72.5%||Rifle: 100%|
|Unit 19A||80"+||70.1%||First archery: 27%|
Second archery: 57%
|Unit 18B||80"+||59.2%||Archery: 100%|
|Unit 2B||80"+||56.8%||Muzzleloader: 79%|
|Unit 18A||80"+||52.1%||Archery: 80%|
|Unit 2A||80"+||42.1%||Rifle: 65%|
|Unit 10||80"+||39.2%||Archery: 39%|
|Unit 19B||80"+||38.9%||First archery: 100%|
Second archery: 100%
How to uncover hidden gem antelope units
A hidden gem by definition would imply that there is an opportunity that is flying under the radar that for one reason or the other lines up with your goals and takes fewer years to draw than the majority of the more popular hunts. Unfortunately, there simply is not a hunt like this when it comes to Arizona antelope hunting. Even the “easier” to draw hunts take a large number of points for residents to be in the maximum point pool and are hard to justify the wait compared to the caliber of speed goats you will find. For nonresidents, it will take an excessive amount of luck to draw any hunt in the state except for a select few hunters who have 20+ points and, even then, it will likely take some sheer amount of luck.
Hidden gem units: 2021 Archery antelope hunts with the best draw odds and chance at 80"+ bucks (resident)
with 10 points
|Unit 19A||80”+||46:100||Early 7.2%|
|Unit 19B||80”+||35:100||Early 2.7%|
Hidden gem units: 2021 Archery antelope hunts with the best draw odds and chance at 80"+ bucks (nonresident)
with 10 points
|Unit 19A||80”+||46:100||Early 2.1% |
For more information on locating hidden gem antelope units, jump over to Arizona on Filtering 2.0. Click the button below to using this feature.
The points system for antelope
- 2021 maximum resident bonus points for antelope: 31
- 2021 maximum nonresident bonus points for antelope: 31
Managing points and expectations
It is difficult to justify spending the money on the required hunting license in Arizona only to apply for antelope. It doesn’t make sense, considering that there are many other more realistic states to apply for with hunts that can be drawn as early as the first year you apply and other top-shelf destinations that can be drawn within less than ten years. So why apply for Arizona antelope? The first reason is that you have already decided to apply in Arizona for some other species: deer, elk or bighorn sheep, which makes an antelope application a value-add for the money you are already spending on the hunting license. The second is that you are interested in hunting some of the best antelope areas in the country. Why? Because drawing an antelope permit in Arizona is exceptionally difficult and there are no short term goals with this application, especially for nonresidents. Your odds will be less than 1% chance of drawing as you begin and likely not to get much higher than that even after 10+ years of applying.
I have 0 points. What can I expect?
Residents and nonresidents
Drawing an antelope permit in Arizona with zero points is equally as difficult as many of the bighorn sheep permits in the country. This goes for residents and nonresidents. However, you could go about this one of two ways: you could apply for the best hunts in the state, which is what I would strongly consider doing since you will have less than a 1% chance of drawing any of the tags or you could chase the odds starting in year one. The difference between the easiest hunt to draw and the hardest in these early years is likely going to be a one-hundredth of a percent difference. All this considered, if you are going to get lucky it may as well be on what you believe to be the best hunt in the state based upon your goals.
What can I do with 9 or 10 antelope bonus points?
There are few things that have changed even now that you have spent the last 10 years applying. The one anomaly to be found at this point is the archery permit in Unit 6B. Although the maximum number of points was 11 last year and likely going to be 12 this coming year, if you are done waiting, you are getting quite close to this hunt. Be aware that success rates on this hunt are historically low, including some years where no hunters find success. Use Filtering 2.0 and reference the unit write-up for this unit. You can see whether it will be a hunt you are willing to try or not. If it is not the hunt you are looking for, have no fear; you are not alone as there are a serious number of hunters in your same shoes, waiting for a more appealing hunt to eventually turn up.
There are a number of other states where you could have hunted even multiple times in the last 10 years; however, it would be unlikely that you will have hunted a hunt that has the potential of what you will find in many of the units in the Grand Canyon State. If your goal is to simply check the box on this species, hopefully you have also invested in some of these other opportunities. Out of most of the available hunts, you still only have (or are close to having) a 1% chance of drawing. The one exception at this point is Unit 6B archery, which had a 16% chance of drawing with 10 points; however, is, historically, a very difficult hunt with low success rates and bucks that do not typically live up to the hype on the other units found in Arizona.
What can I expect with 15 or 20 antelope bonus points?
In 2020, there were 26 total hunts available to draw in the maximum point pool. Out of these hunts, 25 are archery and the other is a muzzleloader hunt in Unit 3B North. There are six archery hunts still out of reach — some with only a point or two more — and others like Unit 17B and 19B as well as Unit 19A that took 24 and 25 points last year to draw for archery hunters. As for rifle hunts and the remaining muzzleloader hunts, these range from one or two more points up to the maximum number of points that a hunter could have.
There are now two different hunts that you could choose to hunt if you prefer after all these years. The archery hunts in Unit 10 as well as Unit 1 drew 100% with 20 points last year and are likely to draw this way again this coming year. This is, in fact, the good news. The bad news is that you are still a long way from having much of a chance at drawing a rifle or muzzleloader permit. The reality is that most of the available hunts do not have enough permits in order to have any maximum point pool draws, which means that even with the maximum number of points you will still need an extreme amount of luck in order to draw.
What can I expect with over 20 antelope bonus points?
Having 20+ points for an antelope hunt is a hard pill to swallow. You have waited an excessive amount of time and, hopefully, have had many successful hunts with other species across the state. As stated before, these are truly some of the hardest hunts in the West to draw and, if you play the game through to the finish line, you really do have a chance to do something exceptional with this unique species of North America. Given the current drought conditions in the state, be sure to purchase your Point Guard and give as much effort prior to the hunt to scouting as you can. You will want to make sure that the buck you have been waiting for exists in these dire conditions.