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How to make the most out of your Arizona sheep application in 2020

Michael Hershkowitz's bighorn sheep

Michael Hershkowitz with his 2019 ram taken with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters.

Jump to: How the draw works 2019 BIGHORN RECAP NEW FOR 2020 2019 HARVEST PHOTOS

Finally, it’s time to talk about Arizona bighorn sheep. In case you didn’t already know, I am hooked on bighorn sheep hunting and I enjoy diving into the application numbers each year, hoping to find a way to help others understand the draw, which will allow them to make better choices on their applications. Arizona continues to be an incredible state for bighorn sheep with climbing numbers and quality rams. As an Arizona native, I have been applying for bighorn sheep my entire life and greatly understand the way our draw system works. I hope to shed some light on the system so everyone can make the most out of this limited opportunity.

In this article I will discuss application strategies for four groups of applicants: 

  1. Applicants with maximum points
  2. Nonresident applicants
  3. Resident applicants without maximum points
  4. Resident applicants with less than 28 points

Before diving into each strategy, it is important you understand how the draw works, what changes were made for 2020, and, of course, a recap of the 2019 season. 


How the draw works:

Both bighorn sheep species are combined; therefore, you can only submit one bighorn sheep application. Only the first two choices on your application matter. You can list desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep on the same application. However, Arizona is known for some exceptional desert bighorn sheep and only average Rockies. 

Arizona offers up to 10% of the total bighorn sheep tags to nonresident hunters. Last year, there were a total of 116 sheep tags (100 desert/16 Rocky Mountain). Out of that 10%, half of them may be issued to the nonresident applicants with maximum points. Nonresidents were issued nine total bighorn sheep tags in 2019. Out of those nine tags, one tag was issued to an applicant with maximum points and the other eight were issued in the random draw. This is good news because nearly all of the nonresident tags are issued in the random draw, meaning everyone who applies has an opportunity to draw most of the tags. 

There are two phases in the Arizona draw system: The Bonus Pass and the 1-2 Pass. The Bonus Pass is the draw for those applicants with maximum points. This phase is conducted first. Going into the 2020 draw, the maximum number of bighorn sheep points is 31 and there are currently 26 residents and one nonresident with 31 points. They will issue 20% of the tags to those individuals residents/nonresidents with maximum points. Once those tags have been issued, they will conduct the 1-2 pass draw, which is the random draw. The random draw is where most of the nonresident tags are issued.

For a more in-depth look at the draw, you can check out goHUNT's Arizona State Profile here.

Researching your hunt on goHUNT's INSIDER

You can also check out goHUNT's 2020 application strategy article here.

Desert Bighorn Units Rocky Bighorn Units Draw Odds


2019 RECAP

The 2019 bighorn sheep season was another exceptional year. There was a total of 116 bighorn sheep tags issued in the draw: 100 desert and 16 Rocky Mountain. Out of the 100 desert bighorn sheep tags issued, there were 97 rams harvested. Out of the 97 rams harvested, there were three rams that scored over 180” with the largest ram scoring 189 6/8” and a total of 35 rams that scored over the Boone and Crockett (B&C) minimum of 168”. That’s an increase of two B&C rams from the 2018 season.

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunters also had an exceptional year with all 16 hunters being successful. Out of the 16 rams harvested, three scored over 180” with the largest ram scoring an incredible 195” and a total of 11 rams scoring over 170”. That’s an increase in three rams over 170” from the 2018 season.

2019 Arizona Desert bighorn harvest data

Unit # of tags Green score Age rings # of applicants w/ max points who applied Max tags drawn
9/10 1 150 6 NA NA
9/10 1 95.2 2 NA NA
12AW/12B/13A 1 0 (did not hunt) 0 NA NA
12BE 3 155.5/164.2/166.5 9, 7, 8 NA NA
12BE (2nd hunt) 3 156.5/142.5/163.6 5, 6, 9 NA NA
13AN 1 164.1 7 NA NA
13BN 3 154.7/159.3/155.5 8, 7, 7 NA NA
13BS 1 164.4 6 NA NA
15A, 15BE, 15BW 1 0 (hunted 15 days) 0 NA NA
15B West 1 163.1 7 NA NA
15CN 1 134.5 7 NA NA
15CS 1 0 (hunted 9 days) 0 NA NA
15DN 4 166/166.5/176/161.5 9, 9, 10, 10 1 1
15DS 2 161.3/165.3 8, 7 NA NA
16A 2 169.4/163.3 9, 9 NA NA
16AS/18B 2 164.1/166.3 7, 9 NA NA
16B 1 161.4 9 NA NA
22S 2 179.3/175.1 9, 9 7 2
24BW 2 166.6, 178.5 7, 8 8 2
24BN 1 183.6 8 16 1
24BS 2 177.2/167.2 8, 9 6 2
28S 2 175.6/169.5 10, 8 2 2
31, 32 3 149.6/169.4/168.6 6, 10, 7 8 2
37A 3 173.4/170.7/170 8, 10, 10 3 3
37B 2 189.6/161.7 9, 8 5 1
39E 2 171.2/163 9, 9 NA NA
39W 2 172/167.3 9, 9 1 1
40A 2 160.4/160.1 9, 7 NA NA
40BWG 4 171.3/164.1/157/160.6 7, 10, 7, 9 NA NA
40BWCM 2 166.6/167.5 8, 10 NA NA
40BT 2 170, 168 9, 9 NA NA
41E 2 160.6/143.4 8, 7 NA NA
41W 2 170.5/179 8, 9 NA NA
42/44AS 1 168 8 NA NA
43A 1 172.5 9 NA NA
43B 5 159.7/157.5/126/165.2/158.4 7, 8, 4, 9, 8 NA NA
44AE 2 160.7/163.7 7, 9 NA NA
44AW 1 159.6 6 NA NA
44BN 3 155.5/169.3/164.1 6, 10, 8 3 3
44BS 2 181.3/176.1 8, 10 NA NA
45A 4 174.5/168.4/164.6/166.3 8, 8, 7, 8 NA NA
45B 2 171.7/166.5 9, 8 NA NA
45C 3 158.2/156/150.4 7, 9, 10 NA NA
46AE 2 175/157.4 10, 8 NA NA
46AW 1 166.2 9 NA NA
46BE 1 163.7 9 NA NA
46BW 5 169/170.5/130.4/167.3/161.2 8, 8, 4, 10, 7 NA NA
Total Desert tags 100   Total max tags drawn 21

 

2019 Arizona Rocky Mountain bighorn harvest data

Unit # of
tags
Green
score
Age
rings
# of Applicants
w/max points who applied
Max tags
drawn
1, 27BR 2 178.1/177.4 7, 6 8 1
6A, 22 3 182/169/184.4 11, 6, 10 3 1
6A, 22 2 195/173.6 9, 8 NA NA
23/24A 1 173.6 8 NA NA
27UB 3 161.6/165.3/168.2 8, 8, 10 NA NA
27S, 28N 3 175.4/163.1/174.7 9, 8, 11 NA NA
27S, 28N 2 176.7/177.5 8, 8 NA NA
Total Rocky 16   Total max tags drawn 2

 

Nonresident tags drawn

Unit Tags drawn
39W (maximum points) 1
15DN 2
16AS 1
37A (first hunt) 1
40BG 1
41W 1
46BW 2

2020 Changes

In 2019, there were a total of 23 tags drawn by individuals with maximum points. Once again, all the tags in Unit 22 / 24B Wilderness / 24B North / 24B South / 28 South / 37A first hunt / 44B North were drawn in the Bonus Pass (maximum pool); therefore, these tags were never available to anyone other than those with maximum points.

2019 tags drawn to max point holders

Unit (desert bighorn sheep) Tags drawn Maximum applicants Total tags issued
6013/15D North 1 1 4
6018/22 South*** 2 7 2
6019/24BW*** 2 6 2
6020/24BN*** 1 5 1
6021/24BS*** 2 20 2
6022/28S*** 2 5 2
6023 31/32 2 3 3
6024/37A (first hunt)*** 3 6 3
6025/37A (second hunt) 1 4 3
6026/37B 1 5 2
6028/39W 1 1 2
6040/44BN*** 3 3 3
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
6051/1 & 27 1 5 2
6052/6A & 22N (first hunt) 1 2 3
Total 23  

***Signifies all tags drawn in maximum draw.***

New for 2020

Once again, we are going to see an increase in available bighorn sheep tags in Arizona. There will be an increase of six desert bighorn sheep tags available for 2020, bringing the total available tags up to 106. The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tags will hold steady at 16. With an overall increase of six tags, nonresidents will have the opportunity to draw up to 12 tags, which is up from 11 tags in 2019.

For 2020, there were 11 hunts (listed below) that saw changes in the number of tags issued. These changes are most notable for nonresidents applying for bighorn sheep. The bad news is that nonresidents will no longer have an opportunity to draw a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tag in Unit 1/27 Black River due to the tag reduction. The good news for nonresidents is that they will now be able to draw a tag in 42/44A south due to there now being two tags offered. The other notable changes for nonresidents is with the addition of a third hunt in 37A and a second hunt in 43B. Nonresidents will now have the potential to draw three tags in 37A as opposed to two in 2019 and four tags in 43B as opposed to two in 2019. With a two tag increase in 45B and a one tag increase in 45C, nonresidents will now have an opportunity to draw two tags in each of those units as opposed to the previous solo tag.

Units with changes for 2020

Unit 2020 tags 2019 tags Changes
9 and 10 0 1 No longer offered
37A (first hunt) 2 3 Reduced 1 tag
37A (second hunt) 2 0 New for 2020
37A (third hunt) 2 3 Reduced 1 tag
42 / 44A South 2 1 Added 1 tag
43B (first hunt) 4 0 New for 2020
43B (second hunt) 4 5 Reduced 1 tag
45A 3 4 Reduced 1 tag
45B 4 2 Added 2 tags
45C 4 3 Added 1 tag
1/27 Black River 1 2 Reduced 1 tag

Applicants with maximum points

Congratulations! You are in a very small group of 27 people going into the 2020 draw. On average, Arizona issues 21 to 23 tags in the maximum draw, so each of you will likely draw in the next two to three years, depending on how aggressive you are with your choices. What you need to understand is your choices still matter. You have a chance to draw any unit in the state, but that does not mean every unit is right for you. If you are totally focused on size, then you need to stick with 24BW / 24BN / 24BS / 28S / 22 / 37B. Although these units have routinely been producing some of the best rams within the state, it does not mean there may not be a giant lurking somewhere else. During the 2019 season, the largest ram in the state scored 189 6/8” and was killed in 37B. Most hunters did not expect that. The No. 2 ram scored 183 6/8” and was killed in 24BN. The No. 3 ram scored 181 3/8” and was killed in 44BS. Again, these were not expected. 

An important note: Both the No. 2 and No. 3 ram were guided by very knowledgeable Arizona guides. 

You must also understand that Arizona has one desert bighorn sheep auction tag each year and those hunts start Aug. 15 and run for an entire year. The hunter can hunt any unit in the state and, to date, the auction tag holder has not yet killed a ram. You should expect the auction tag holder for this year to harvest a ram before Aug. 14, 2020. The new hunter begins on Aug. 15, 2020 and could potentially kill a ram before the general bighorn sheep hunts even start. This matters because typically the auction rams are killed in 24BW / 24BN / 24BS / 28S / 22. Potentially, two great rams could be killed before the general hunters even begin. 

If you are looking to kill a solid ram (168” to 172”) and have a great experience with the potential at a 175” type bighorn sheep, you should be looking at 37A / 44BN / 44BS / 41W / 37B / 31/32 /15DN / 39W / 40BT.

If you are physically limited, but want to have a chance at the best ram possible, you should consider 22 / 24BN / 44BN / 37A.

Remember: You have waited a long time for this opportunity. Make sure you purchase PointGuard in case something happens and you need to turn your tag back in. You should start preparing now for your upcoming hunt if you are reasonable with your choices. Consider an outfitter if you don’t have the knowledge of desert bighorn sheep and want to make the most out of the opportunity. 

Nonresident applicants

What I am going to discuss in this section applies to all nonresidents except for the one person who has maximum points (31). Even if you have 30 points, this section applies to you because while you are going to be considered in the maximum pool very shortly, typically only one tag is drawn by a nonresident who has maximum points and there are currently 33 nonresidents at the 30-point level. The statistics show it will take approximately 34 years to get through all those applicants.

In 2020, nonresidents are eligible to draw 12 permits, which is an increase from last year, but the odds are still not in your favor. The reality is that most nonresidents will never draw in Arizona, so you must be smart with your choices to give yourself a chance. 

Keys to success:

  1. APPLY, APPLY, APPLY! Last year, 3,222 nonresidents simply purchased a bonus point for bighorn sheep. There is absolutely no reason to purchase a bighorn sheep bonus point — always apply! You can purchase PointGuard and, if for some reason, something comes up, you can turn the tag in and get all your points back.
  2. As a nonresident you are not eligible to apply for one-tag units. Last year, there were 823 nonresident applicants who applied for one tag desert bighorn sheep units that they never even had a chance to draw. 
  3. Do not apply for the units where the tags are always drawn in the maximum pool (22 / 24BW / 24BN / 24BS / 28S / 37A first hunt / 44BN). In 2019, there were 2,003 applicants who applied for these units and there were only two nonresidents who had maximum points.

Now that we have covered the three fatal mistakes, let’s talk about where you should apply. Getting a tag is the key to killing a bighorn sheep so don’t over focus on the units with the biggest rams; focus on units that give you what appears to be the best opportunity to draw a tag. Then, you can worry about the size of the bighorn sheep you hope to find. Odds are that most nonresidents will never get drawn, so why are you worrying about size? Would you rather draw a tag and kill a 150” to 160” ram or never draw because you were always chasing the units that produced the biggest sheep? Nearly every unit in Arizona can give you the opportunity at a 160” class ram, which is a great desert bighorn sheep, especially for a nonresident. 

Refer to my 2019 draw statistics table below and look at the total number of nonresident applicants applying in each unit. Look at the units where the nonresidents are typically drawing tags. Just because a unit offers four tags does not mean it provides the best opportunity to draw a tag. Some of the two-tag units have much better odds even though they are only offering one tag to nonresidents. The goal is when your number is picked that whatever unit you applied for still has a tag available for you. Once you have located a few units that you like, then look at the 2019 bighorn sheep harvest data table provided to see what kind of rams it produces and what kind of hunt you can expect.

Resident Applicants with 29 to 30 Points

If you happen to be a resident with one or two points below max (29-30) you can expect approximately 21 to 23 tags to be issued to max point holders each year which will give you a ballpark idea when you may have a chance to draw in the max. The kicker to this situation is normally those individuals who have max points continually focus on the same units. In 2019 there were seven units where all 15 tags were drawn by individuals with max points. A total of 52 first and second choice applicants with max points applied for those 15 permits. If you remove unit 24BS where 20 applicants with max points applied for two tags, then you have 32 applicants with max points applying for 13 tags which is much better than 15 of 52.

There are currently 172 residents sitting at 30 points which is one under max and 138 residents sitting at 29 points which is two under max. Age is a factor, the youngest a person could be with 30 points is 37-38 years old but most of those individuals who fall within this point group are likely to be much older. If you are older you really need to pay attention to your choices because if you continually swing for the best units there is a chance you may never get drawn. If you are fortunate and your parents began applying, you at an early age and you have close to max points then continue to hold strong for those better units.

Keys to Success:

  1. Consider your age when making your hunt choices.
  2. Avoid applying for 24BS to increase your odds.
  3. Swing for the fence with your first choice and be reasonable with your second choice.

My recommendation for individuals who fall within this point group would be to avoid the top units that only go to the max point holders until you are in the max point group. There are great units that can provide an opportunity at 170+ rams that are not the focus of the guys with max points. Look at units like 37A, 39W41W44BS15DN15DS. If you absolutely want to apply for the top units then apply for one of them with your first choice and then one of the units I mentioned above for your second choice. Be reasonable with your expectations because if you’re not you may never get drawn. As a reminder, if you are one of the youngsters who fall within this point group then you can be more aggressive with your choices.

Resident applicants with less than 28 points

In 2020, there will be 122 sheep tags with 24 of those being awarded to individuals with maximum points. So, you are applying for 98 sheep tags in 2020. If you happen to be a resident with one or two points below maximum (29 to 30) you can expect approximately 21 to 23 tags to be issued to maximum point holders each year, which will give you a ballpark idea when you may have a chance to draw in the maximum drawing.

Keys to success:

  1. APPLY, APPLY, APPLY! Last year, 6,005 residents simply purchased a bonus point for bighorn sheep. There is absolutely no reason to purchase a bighorn sheep bonus point, always APPLY! You can purchase PointGuard and, if for some reason something comes up, you can turn the tag in and get all your points back. 
  2. Do not apply for the units where the tags are always drawn in the maximum pool (22 / 24BW / 24BN / 24BS / 28S / 37A first hunt / 44BN). In 2019, there were 4,275 applicants who applied for these units and there were only 45 residents who had maximum points.

Now that I have told you where not to apply, let’s talk about where you should focus your efforts. Review my 2019 bighorn sheep draw statistics table below and look at the total number of applicants versus the number of nonresident applicants. Nonresidents, on average, get nine to 10 tags each year, so if you want a better idea of draw odds, subtract them out of the number of total applicants. This is not an exact science, but it can give you a better idea of what the odds will look like. Even though you are a resident, you must realize that there is no guarantee you will ever draw a bighorn sheep tag in your home state. However, unless you have lots of money to purchase a bighorn sheep tag, your best opportunity is drawing in your home state, so focus on getting the tag and then worry about the quality of ram you want to harvest. You can review the provided 2019 bighorn sheep harvest data table to see the quality of rams killed in 2019.

Arizona 2019 sheep draw statistics - desert bighorns

Arizona 2019 sheep draw statistics - rocky bighorns


Arizona bighorn sheep that were taken in 2019

Dennis Falls 2019 bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Dennis Falls 42/44AS Desert bighorn
sheep
168” NA Arizona Desert Outfitters

Steve McCreary's 2019 bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Steve McCreary 44BS Desert bighorn
sheep
181 3/8” 10 Arizona Desert Outfitters

Charles Sibert's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Charles Sibert

41W

Desert bighorn
sheep
179” NA Arizona Desert Outfitters

Michael Hershkowitz's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Michael Hershkowitz 16A Desert bighorn sheep 169 6/8" net 9 Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters

Kent McCleary's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Kent McCleary 24BS Desert
bighorn sheep
166 6/8” NA Jay Scott

Alex Sharif's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Alex Sharif 15D North Desert bighorn
sheep
168 2/8” Net 10 Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters

Raffle ram

Joe's Raffle ram 2019

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Joe Schoendorf III 15DN Desert bighorn sheep 175 2/8” Net 9 Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters

Case Smith's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Case Smith 13BN Desert bighorn
sheep
155 5/8” NA NA

Patrick Womack's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Patrick Womack 13BS Desert bighorn
Sheep
164 4/8” NA Clay Bundy Outfitters

Daryl Bingham's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Daryl Bingham 13BN Desert bighorn
sheep 
154 7/8 NA Clay Bundy Outfitters

Brittany Parrish's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Brittany Parrish 43B Desert bighorn
sheep 
158 4/8” NA Sundowner guide service

Dale Parrish's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Dale Parrish 43B Desert bighorn
sheep 
159 7/8” NA Sundowner guide service

Gabrielle Parrish's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Gabrielle Parrish 43B Desert bighorn
sheep 
165 2/8” NA Sundowner guide service

Dominick Argenziano's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Dominick Argenziano 40B Gila Desert bighorn
sheep 
164” NA NA

Brandon Leister's 2019 bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Brandon Leister 39W Desert bighorn
sheep 
167 3/8” NA Matt Liljenquist

Parker Colburn's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Parker Colburn 44AE Desert bighorn
sheep 
160 7/8" NA NA

David Griego's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
David Griego 45B Desert bighorn
sheep 
167” NA Matt Liljenquist

Dick Tone's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Dick Tone 44BN Desert bighorn
sheep 
164 1/8” NA NA

Bill Drake's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Bill Drake 24BN Desert bighorn
sheep 
183 6/8” NA Jay Scott

Ron Miller's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Assisted by:
Ron Miller 44BN Desert bighorn
sheep 
164” NA Greg Koons

Jeff Brown's bighorn sheep

Hunter Unit Species Score Ram age Guided by:
Jeff Brown 6A (1st hunt) Rocky mountain bighorn
sheep 
182" NA NA

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