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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Arizona Elk

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2018 Arizona elk application strategy article
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Arizona's 2018 elk application overview

Jump to: New for 2018 State Information Draw System Elk Breakdown Elk points

Arizona remains a favorite state and one you should consider apply for. The mild winters, incredible genetics and some of the best game management in the West make for excellent elk hunts. Arizona is among the best states for offering trophy hunt choices in the West that were previously almost completely out of reach to nonresident hunters. Of course, the complex system with multiple passes and bonus points can be frustrating to understand, so here is all you need to know to apply for elk hunts in 2018.

Note: The online application deadline for Arizona elk is February. 13, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MST and you can apply online here. If you want to submit a paper application, it must be submitted no later than January. 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MST.



Why Arizona for elk in 2018

Better opportunities during the rut

Early archery and rifle seasons offer hunters a variety of opportunities to find a mature, rutting bull.

Very mild 2017/2018 winter

This year has had an abnormally mild winter. Elk herds should be nearly unaffected by the snow as the state has received very little winter precipitation. Add this to the already low predation and you have a recipe for greater herd numbers in 2018.

Excellent public land access

Arizona has the highest percentage of public land in the Western states with the largest national forest in the state (Coconino National Forest) being located in the heart of prime elk habitat.

Higher chances for nonresidents

Since the change in the draw process in 2016, nonresidents have never had a better chance to draw some of the nation’s most coveted tags in Arizona.

Big bulls

Every unit in the state that offers an elk season is capable of producing bulls that score over 320”.

Opportunity

Late archery elk seasons give nonresident hunters an excellent chance at drawing a tag.



New for 2018

Continuing to provide the most accurate Arizona draw odds

You have access to the most accurate draw odds by utilizing Arizona Draw Odds on INSIDER. Since the change in the draw system in 2016, many nonresidents have the opportunity to draw tags that were previously unattainable for anyone who did not have a high number of points.

Arizona's 2016 bonus and random pass draw change
* There is no guarantee that nonresidents will draw all of their allotted tags in the Random Draw, so it is possible that the nonresident 10% cap may not be met in some hunt choices.

Using the draw odds detailed pages for Arizona, you’ll quickly be able to see how the draw system change affected hunters with minimal points and for those max point holders.

Portal account required to access Arizona draw results

In order to access the draw results, you must set up a portal account. You can do so here.

New paper application deadline

The paper application deadline is two weeks earlier than the online application deadline.

New Hunter Harvest Questionnaire Design

Arizona has redesigned its big game hunt permit-tags and the Hunter Harvest Questionnaire will now be included with your hunt permit-tag. 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 our Hunter Harvest Questionnaire webpage then select your species.

PointGuard

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. PointGuard coverage costs $5 per species. See more details here.

Failed credit card payments

If you're applying online, be sure to keep your credit card payment information current and up-to-date. If your payment is declined at the time of the draw, your application will not be drawn. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (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. MST on March 15, 2018.

Multiple units have new early rifle hunts

Multiple units have early rifle seasons, which gives hunters a great opportunity to extend their effective range on rutting bulls and hunt with a rifle instead of a bow.

New female/antlerless draw odds on INSIDER

Arizona antlerless female draw odds on INSIDER

New in 2018, we are now offering antlerless elk draw odds for Arizona and many other states. You can read more about this new enhancement here. If your main focus is to simply draw a tag to fill the freezer, utilizing draw odds to determine the best antlerless elk hunts might be the perfect option for you. You can check out the new draw odds feature here, then select Arizona and your residency or click here for residents and here for nonresidents. Note: 2018 season dates are being added for antlerless elk in Arizona the next week.



State information
 

2017 bull elk taken with Arizona Strip Guides
A great bull taken guided by Arizona Strip Guides — A goHUNT Business Member

Below you can find  important information and an overview of the 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 Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.

Arizona State Profile Elk Profile Draw Odds Elk Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Deadline to apply online is February 13, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MST.
  • Deadline to apply by paper is January 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MST.
  • You can apply online or with a paper application.
  • Permits and refunds will be mailed out by April 20, 2018.
  • Payment must be by Visa or Mastercard for online applications.
  • Paper applications can pay with a personal check, cashier’s check, money order, or certified check (no cash).
  • Up to 10% of the available tags for any hunt code can be awarded to nonresidents.
  • If you are unsuccessful in the draw, then you will be awarded a bonus point for that species.
  • Arizona Big Game Super Raffle drawing will be held July 26, 2018. More information can be found here.

Current drought in Arizona
 

Arizona drought monitor January 2018
2018 Arizona drought update. Source: United States Drought Monitor

While the winter was very mild in Arizona, the precipitation levels have been relatively low. The state as a whole is in a moderate drought with 2017 seeing significantly less than average rainfall. If 2018 follows the same pattern, elk herds could be in jeopardy and antler growth will be less than preferable. However, in Arizona, the timing of moisture matters more than the amount of moisture. If rain comes at the right times, everything will be just fine for the elk herds in the state even if the state remains in a drought. Keep an eye on precipitation levels in various units by using the Unit Profiles here. Below you can see the comparison to January 10, 2017, where nearly 60% of Arizona was under drought conditions.

Arizona drought monitor January 2017

2017 Arizona drought status for a comparison. Source: United States Drought Monitor


The Arizona draw system

2017 Arizona bull elk taken by Arizona Pro Elk Hunts

2017 Arizona bull elk taken by Arizona Pro Elk Hunts — A goHUNT Business Member

Understanding the draw

It is vital to understand that with elk only your first two choices matter. There are normally not any bull elk tags left after all applications have cleared the Pass 1-2. Although the application has five hunt choices available, it is the first two that matter the most.

Increasing Points

Arizona has a bonus point system in place. There are four ways to increase your bonus points:

  1. Earn a bonus point each time you are unsuccessful in the draw (one point per year).
  2. Or 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.
  3. You can also travel to Arizona and take a hunter education course and earn a permanent bonus point.
  4. Earn a permanent 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 permanent point will not be taken away when you draw a tag.

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 indefinitely. 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 only a few 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 a $160 nonrefundable hunting license and pay a $15 application fee per species.



Arizona's 2018 elk breakdown
 

2017 Arizona bull elk guided by High Point Outfitters
A great bull taken guided by High Point Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Current elk herd condition

With minimul wolf population and mild winters, elk herds throughout Arizona are routinely in good shape. A reduction in elk tags over the past few years has also allowed herds to be healthier. Additionally, this winter has also been very mild throughout the Southwest. All of this adds up to a healthy elk herd in Arizona. Plus, 14 out of the 40 elk units have the potential to produce over 350" bulls on an annual basis!

Wolves in Arizona

There is a small population of wolves in Arizona. In 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican wolves were released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) in eastern Arizona. Additional releases have occurred since the initial release. We have covered numerous news articles about the status of wolves in Arizona. At the beginning of 2015, surveys identified at least 109 Mexican wolves in the BRWRA. The number reflects only those animals that were visually seen. Biologists admit that more wolves exist in Arizona than were not counted.

2018 top hit list hunt units to consider for 350" or better bulls

Unit Trophy
potential
Bull:cow
ratio
Public
land %
Harvest %
Unit 23 380"+ 36:100 98.1% Early archery N: 87%
Early archery S: 40%
Early rifle N: 80%
Early rifle S: 100%
Late archery: 17%
Late rifle: 73%
Unit 9 380"+ 50:100 76.6% Early archery: 58%
Early rifle: 92%
Late archery: 17%
Late rifle: 46%
Unit 1 370"+ 40:100 91.1% Early archery: 42%
Muzzleloader: 75%
Late archery: 31%
Late rifle: 77%
Unit 10 360"+ 23:100 39.2% Early archery: 31%
Early rifle: 87%
Muzzleloader: 30%
Late archery: 15%
Late rifle: 39%
Unit 18A 360"+ NA 52.1% Early archery: 39%
Early rifle: 88%
Late rifle: 23%
Unit 18B 360"+ 11:100 59.2% Early archery: 42%
Early rifle: 57%
Late rifle: 44%
Unit 27 360"+ 35:100 94.6% Early archery: 28%
Early rifle: 95%
Late archery: 27%
Late rifle: 68%
Unit 3A 360"+ 31:100 29.5% Early archery: 46%
Early rifle: 100%
Late rifle: 47%
Unit 3C 360"+ 31:100 82.8% Early archery: 46%
Early rifle: 100%
Late rifle: 47%
Unit 15A 350"+ NA 80.2% Early archery: 39%
Early rifle: 88%
Late rifle: 23%
Unit 17A 350"+ NA 72.5% Early archery: 42%
Early rifle: 57%
Late rifle: 44%
Unit 2C 350"+ NA 59.3% Early archery: 42%
Muzzleloader: 75%
Late archery: 31%
Late rifle: 77%
Unit 7W 350"+ 54:100 87.7% Muzzleloader: NA
Early archery: 43%
Late archery: 24%
Late rifle: 52%
Unit 8 350"+ 34:100 94.9% Early archery: 33%
Late archery: 0%
Late rifle: 42%

Use the Detailed Draw Odds view to look at draw trends and see where you can expect to draw in the max points pool and random draw.
 


How to uncover hidden gem elk units
 

2017 limited opportunity Arizona bull elk taken by Big Chino Outfitters
2017 limited opportunity bull elk taken by Michael Vicente of Big Chino Guide Service — A goHUNT Business Member

Beyond the top shelf units in Arizona are dozens of other units that are more easily drawn and still allow a chance at taking a mature bull scoring greater than 320”. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tools and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the units that have a legitimate chance at bulls that score 320” or better. Customize your search and click on a specific unit to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn a unit. Our Arizona Elk Species Profile is another great way to determine other units of the state to consider. Within the Species Profile, you will find a table showing the top Boone and Crockett (B&C) producing units over the years for both typical and nontypical bulls.

You can use Filtering 2.0 as an aid to finding the right hunting opportunity to fit your style. This revolutionary tool will allow you to select your exact criteria for your preferred hunt and will help you find the right season to hunt or apply for 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. 310”+).
  • 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 easier to draw 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.
  • Choose the Public Land percentages you would like to see.
  • Lastly, click on any of the remaining units to read in-depth profiles containing valuable information.
 

Hidden gem units: Elk units that have >50% draw odds at 5 points (resident)

Unit Season Trophy
potential
Bull:cow
ratio
Harvest
success
Odds at 
5 points*
Units 28, 31, 32 Early archery 300"+ NA 25% 100%
Unit 4B Late archery 320"+ 39:100 34% 100%
Unit 5A Late archery 340"+ 26:100 26% 54%
Unit 5BN Late archery 340"+ 37:100 48% 50%
Unit 5BS Late archery 340"+ 37:100 77% 62%
Unit 6B Late archery 320"+ 10:100 12% 100%
Unit 7E Late archery 330"+ 153:100 25% 100%
Unit 7W Late archery 350"+ 54:100 24% 69%
Unit 8 Late archery 350"+ 34:100 0% 53%
Unit 9 Late archery 380"+ 50:100 17% 100%
Unit 10 Late archery 360"+ 23:100 15% 100%
Unit 22 North Late archery 310"+ 39:100 14% 100%
Unit 22 South Late archery 310"+ 39:100 23% 100%
Unit 23 Late archery 380"+ 36:100 17% 100%
Unit 3B Muzzleloader 330"+ 40:100 64% 100%
Units 2A, 2B Early rifle 300-330"+ 33:100 60% 68%
Units 28, 31, 32 Early rifle 300"+ NA 20% 100%
Unit 7E Late rifle 330"+ 153:100 NA 100%
Units 15A, 15BE, 15BW, 18A Late rifle 280-360"+ NA 23% 100%
Units 17A, 17B, 18B, 19B, 20A, 20C Late rifle 300-360"+ NA 41-44% 86%
Unit 22 Late rifle 310"+ 39:100 39% 100%

* Some hunts can be drawn with fewer points. Check out the Draw Odds details page for more information.
 

Hidden gem units: Elk units that have >50% draw odds at 5 points (nonresident)

Unit Season Trophy
potential
Bull:cow
ratio
Harvest
success
Odds at 
5 points
Unit 4B Late archery 320"+ 39:100 34% 67% at 3 pts
Unit 5BS Late archery 340"+ 37:100 77% 61%
Unit 7E Late archery 330"+ 153:100 25% 62% at 2 pts
Unit 22 North Late archery 310"+ 39:100 23% 100%
Unit 22 South Late archery 310"+ 39:100 23% 59% at 2 pts
Unit 23 Late archery 380"+ 36:100 17% 100%
Unit 3B Late Muzzleloader 330"+ 40:100 38% 100%
Unit 7E Late rifle 330"+ 153:100 NA 100%
Units 15A, 15BE, 15BW, 18A Late rifle 280-360"+ NA 23% 100%
Units 17A, 17B, 18B, 19B, 20A, 20C Late rifle 300-360"+ NA 41-44% 86%
Unit 22 Late rifle 310"+ 39:100 34% 100%

* Some hunts can be drawn with fewer points. Check out the Draw Odds details page for more information.

 

2017 Arizona Mountain Outfitters bull elk

This giant archery bull elk was taken with Arizona Mountain Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member


B&C entry trends for Arizona elk

Typical elk entries

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Arizona's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for typical elk

County No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Gila 8 22, 23, 24A
Coconino 8 9, 107W, 7E, 11M, 6A, 6B,
8, 5BN, 5BS, 5A, 4A
Apache 5 2A, 3A, 3B, 2C, 1, 27
Yavapai 4 6A, 6B, 8, 17A, 17B, 18A,
18B, 19A, 20A, 20C
Mohave 3 15A, 15BW, 15BE, 16A, 18A, 18B


Nontypical elk entries

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Arizona's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical elk

County No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Coconino 5 9, 107W, 7E, 11M, 6A, 6B,
8, 5BN, 5BS, 5A, 4A
Gila 3 22, 23, 24A
Apache 2 2A, 3A, 3B, 2C, 1, 27
Graham 2 27, 28, 31, 32
Navajo 2 2A, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A
Greenlee 1 27, 28
Mohave 1 15A, 15BW, 15BE, 16A, 18A, 18B


Discovering the best bull:cow ratio units
 

2017 Arizona bull elk taken with Arizona Trophy Outfitters
A great 2017 bull elk that was taken with Arizona Trophy Outfitters — a goHUNT Business Member

You have probably noticed that we provide data on bull to cow 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 bull to cow ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bulls compared to a unit with a lower bull to cow ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bulls will be the highest scoring bulls, but more bulls equate to more bulls to find and harvest. When selecting a unit, or comparing several units, 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. The best way to find the units with the best bull:cow ratios is to use Filtering 2.0 under Arizona elk. And then sort the results by male:female ratio. You can jump to those results here.



The points system for elk

2018 maximum resident bonus points for elk: 25

2018 maximum nonresident bonus points for elk: 28

For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, you can check out the table below. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Managing points and expectations

When considering expectations based on bonus points, it is important to be clear about your end goal. Do you just want to draw a tag, regardless of location, trophy potential, or harvest success? Or are you holding out for that once in a lifetime tag by which you will have a chance at harvesting a truly incredible animal? Determining your end goal will directly influence how you should approach your hunt choices for your application.

Find your draw odds

I have 0 points. What can I expect?

Both residents and nonresidents will have a hard time drawing an elk tag with zero points for any of the weapon choices. Be sure to list what you feel would be a dream hunt for your first choice and what you would consider a great tag for your second choice. In the past, the most sought after tags were gone after the first pass, which covers first and second choices. Now you have a slight chance to pull a tag due to the random part of the draw. It is very difficult to draw a tag in the random draw for elk.

However, also remember that valuable experience is gained by drawing even a less than desirable tag so if you don’t mind drawing one of these, you may not only gain great experience but also have a chance at some quality bulls if you scout properly. Also, don't forget the value in antlerless tags. Just because there are no antlers to measure does not mean there is not great value in the experience gained.

Residents

Resident draw odds for an early archery elk tag are between 0.2% to 6% for all available units and they only get worse for muzzleloader and rifle. Late archery hunts do offer a much better chance at drawing, though they will be very challenging.

Find your resident options here

Nonresidents

Nonresident odds are even worse for all of the seasons and range from 0.01% to 20%. It will be a long waiting game. If you ever want to hunt elk in Arizona, you should start to build points now.

Find your nonresident options here

What can I do with 3 or 4 points?

Remember to list premium season dates that coincide with the rut as your first and second choice, followed by the season and weapon choice you would be happy with as your third through fourth choices.

Residents:

Once again, drawing a bull elk tag in Arizona is not easy even if you have four years worth of bonus points built up.

If you are holding out for the hunt of a lifetime, you should use caution at this point range so you don’t apply for a unit with poor season dates or a hunt that you might not be satisfied with. If you want to draw a tag with a decent chance of finding a good bull, but might be more challenging than one of the more desirable units, you have a few options. With four points, you have a reasonable chance to draw early archery hunts in Units 7E, 16A, 17A, 17B, 18B, 19B, 20A, and 20C as well as late archery hunts (November hunting dates) in most units. Muzzleloader and late rifle seasons give you the next best odds at a tag with a decent chance at drawing tags in Units 3B, 6A and 10.

Find your resident options here

Nonresidents:

Normally, it will take closer to 10 or more bonus points to draw a bull tag in the Grand Canyon State, but there is always that random chance of pulling an exceptional tag. Apply for your most desired tags in your hunt choices if you are holding out for only the best of the best. If an opportunity is all you seek, apply for the very best rut seasons in first and second choice and also look at late season archery tags.

Find your nonresident options here

What can I expect with 9 or 10 points?

Residents:

10 bonus points really give you great odds for a lot of archery options. Almost all of the archery unit groups are in reach with the exception of Units 1, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3C, 9, 10, 22, and 23. If you want to use your points now, go to the Draw Odds Details Page, select Arizona, your residency, click on elk, enter 10 points and adjust the minimum draw odds percent to around 50%. Then take a closer look at the unit to see if it meets your criteria. If not, continue to pick your dream hunts and hope you are lucky this year.

A lot of muzzleloader options are also available if you have 10 bonus points. Top units like 1, 2B, 2C, and 3B will still be tough to draw.

Early rifle tags are still going to be hard to come; however, some less desirable units do offer great odds. You may want to continue trying to draw your dream hunt because you have already waited so long to draw and drawing a less desirable hunt at this stage in the game would be detrimental to your chances of ever going on your dream hunt.

Overall, late rifle tags are going to be a little easier to draw. Some giants bulls have been shot on the late hunt during the past few years. By utilizing draw odds, you can see that many of the late rifle seasons are well within reach.

Find your resident options here

Nonresidents:

The limited tag quota for nonresidents among the premium units and seasons creates a lot of competition for tags. However, with Arizona’s draw system, hunters with 10 or more points certainly have a chance (and there is always the random part of the draw). Archery hunters have a greater chance on average of drawing than someone wanting to hunt during the rut with a firearm or muzzleloader. The best chance bowhunters have at drawing a tag is Units 4A, 4B, 5A, 6A7E and 11M with 10 points. The majority of muzzleloader and early rifle seasons have draw odds hovering around less than 1% to 10%, with the exception being 3B and 6A which offers a great chance for nonresident hunters. There are 14 unit group options that you can easily draw with 10 points. Check out this link here to see all the late rifle options you could draw with 100% draw odds. The accumulation of more bonus points will be greatly beneficial. 

Find your nonresident options here

What can I expect with 15 or 20 plus elk bonus points?

Once you have this many points, it could be a very short wait until you draw the tag you've been waiting for, or you could be in for a long wait if you're looking for the top trophy units. Carefully study Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds to figure out your best option. Of the 88 options for a resident, all but six hunts can be drawn with 100% odds at 20 points. A nonresident with 20 points could draw 70 of the 88 options.

To put things in perspective:

  • There are only 1,009 residents and 1,615 nonresidents with 15 or more bonus points.
  • There are only 158 residents and 303 nonresidents with 20 or more bonus points.

This INSIDER APPLICATION STRATEGY article has been made available for sample use.
Learn more about what INSIDER has to offer here.

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