Analyzing Arizona’s Desert Bighorn Sheep Units is not an exact science, with that stated we use our history & knowledge of hunting bighorn sheep in Arizona, along with survey, harvest data & local intel to give our opinions on this subject. Keep in mind, even though a unit may not be in our top choices it doesn’t mean a unit isn’t worth applying for, it simply means you need to do some more homework to verify it is worth it for you.
Arizona Nelsoni Desert Sheep Units:
For the 2023 desert bighorn sheep season these are our top Nelsoni units:
Unit 12BE has quickly become the capital of the Nelsoni desert bighorn sheep units. 2022 hunter data slipped from the 164″ mean score in 2021, to 158″ but the number of sheep combined with the Arizona Game & Fish Survey data still show this unit yielding quality rams in 2023. Unit 12BE has 6 tags split between a first & second season in 2023.
Unit 13BN has been added to our top choice list for Nelsoni desert bighorn rams. Last season the raffle hunter took a solid ram out of this unit & the draw hunter numbers were 157″ mean score at 6.7 years old. Survey data from the 2021 reported 9 Class 3 rams & 5 Class 4 rams. There are 3 tags available for the 2023 season.
Unit 15D has dropped off dramatically from the glory years, but just like any champion it’s still producing good rams. Last season the mean score of harvested rams was 163″ & age was an amazing 9.5 years old. This unit is PRIME desert bighorn sheep habitat & although it’s had challenges with diseases recently, it’s a pretty epic hunt in 2023. Unit 15D has 4 available tags for the 2023 season.
Unit 16AS/18B sheep numbers have fallen recently due to Mountain Lion Predation. The unit has a great mix of genetics from the Navajo Nation & Unit 15D as well as the occasional Mexicana. Last season Unit 16AS/18B had an average mean score of 169 at 9.5 years old. This unit has 2 tags for the 2023 season.
Honorable Mention: Unit 15CS
Arizona Mexicana Desert Sheep Units:
Our top choices for Mexicana is a much deeper list which is simply because there are more units to choose from:
Unit 24BN has great genetics but seems to have slipped from it’s prime. It’s still a TOP tier unit with huge potential & a great hunt. Last season the average mean score was 172″ with only 6.5 years old as the mean age. There are 2 tags available but this is typically one of those units that gets MAX point holders to chase.
Unit 24BS also has great genetics & again seems to have slipped a bit. Last season the average age was 7 years old & mean score was 167″. Whenever you see ages below 7 & average scores near or above 168 you know the unit has great genetics. The 2023 season yields 2 tags for Unit 24BS & typically they draw MAX point holders but it will be interesting to see if that happens this season.
Unit 22 (desert hunt) is probably the most well known for producing giant desert rams but it’s a very popular choice for all the right reasons. Reports are that the age class was down last season (average mean score was 168″ in 2022) but the genetics are unreal in this unit. Typically, it is saturated with MAX bonus point applicants so it will be interesting to see where the 2 tags available for the 2023 season go in the draw.
Units 31/32 produced 3 rams last season with a whopping mean score of 175″ at 8.7 years old. The survey from the 2021 season reported 26 total rams with 12 of these being in the Class 3-Class 4 range. With the precipitation received this winter & spring the 7-8 year old rams should put on good growth & this could be a great hunt.
Unit 40B Gila Mountains is one our favorite hunts with lots of sheep. Last season the mean score for all was just 154 but the prior 3 years the means were 164, 165 & 160.3. It has the potential to produce book+ rams & you will see a number of rams in this unit. There 6 tags split across 2 seasons for the 2023 Arizona Desert Bighorn Season.
Unit 41E has 3 tags available for the 2023 season. Last year the AZGFD survey numbers were good for the unit & the average hunter mean score was 168 at 9 years.
Unit 41W has 6 tags available split across 2 seasons for 2023. The mean age for rams taken last season was 8 years old & the mean score was 166″. The 2022 AZGFD survey showed a surplus of Class 3 rams but fewer Class 4 rams than 41E. With the moisture Arizona has received this year the Class 3 rams can really blossom, if they are around 7 years old.
Unit 45A had two hunts in 2022. The first hunt produce a mean score on rams of 166″ at 8 years old, while the second hunt produce a mean score of 158″ at 7.5 years old. 45A has 8 tags split across two hunts for the 2023 season.
Unit 45C has a whopping 9 total tags for the 2023 season, spread across 2 hunts. In 2022, the first hunt produced a mean score of 166″ at 7.8 years old while the second produced a mean score of 162″ at 7.7 years old.
Honorable Mentions: 24B Wilderness, Unit 28, Unit 37A, Unit 40B TA, Unit 42/44A, Unit 43B