James Schulz came to Arizona to hunt trophy mule deer & his father, Kurt, eagerly joined his son on this trip. Being prepared is everything when it comes to the ultimate bowhunting challenge & James proved he was up for this test!
On the second day of we glassed up a group of deer & finally picked out an old trophy mule deer. James & the crew made their move after the big buck & does shaded up for an afternoon nap. As they approached the last known location of the bedded deer they found themselves at less than 15 yards from some of the does. The old buck slipped through an opening, but James was already drawn back. James made a great decision to step to his right & made a solid archery shot at just over 30 yards!
After several days of hard bowhunting in Arizona, Troy Seward was able to wrap his over-the-counter archery mule deer tag around an old desert buck we called Shovel Beams. This was Troy’s biggest archery mule deer to date & 2nd archery mule deer in 2 years of archery mule deer hunting with us.
The 2016 Arizona Archery Mule Deer rut was very dull & sporadic as compared to years past. We were able to find multiple bucks throughout the archery hunt, but most of the bigger mature mule deer were very inconsistent in courting does. One day you would find a big mature mule deer buck rutting, while the next day he was disappear & go off by himself. This made for tougher than normal archery mule deer rut hunting conditions, but was still a very enjoyable hunt for all of our 2016 bowhunters.
Lee & Troy found Shovel Beams late on the afternoon of the 4th day, but they were hunting a bigger mule deer buck. In fact, Troy had the bigger buck within bow range for several minutes but the wind swirled before the bedded buck presented a shot. The big desert mule deer blew out just before dark, thus a plan was formed to try & relocated the buck the next morning.
The next morning Troy & Lee glassed for their big buck, while Craig & Logan Knopp glassed for Shovel Beams. Shovel Beams showed up while in the middle of a mule deer rutting frenzy. Meanwhile, the big buck the other crew was searching for slipped off in some mule deer black hole. A plan was launched for both Troy & Logan to pursue Shovel Beams as he was intensely searching for more does.
Shovel Beams was zigging & zagging for almost an hour, before Troy was able to release a single deadly arrow at 60 yards. The big old Arizona desert mule deer buck literally fell to his death just 30 yards from Logan while he was waiting with a knocked arrow!
Check-out some live & dead video of the Shovel Beams:
What are the best Arizona Mule Deer Units/Hunts for 2016?
As many of you know, Arizona is a draw state for the best rifle trophy mule deer hunts. If you are a resident you have a shot at any of the best mule deer units, because 80% of the tags will be awarded in the 2nd pass or random draw.
Now ALL non-residents also have a shot at the best rifle trophy mule deer hunts, after a recent change in how the non-resident tags are allocated. Non-residents still only can receive up to 10% of the best mule deer tags, but unlike in years past, when the entire 10% of non-resident quote was being filled in the max point pass or draw (the max bonus point pass is where 20% of the top mule deer tags are awarded). With the NEW rule change, only 5% of the non-resident tags can be awarded in the max point drawing, which means 5% more tags are available to ANY non-residents or residents in the 2nd pass or random draw.
With that said, here is our list without thought to bonus points or the draw process:
Best Arizona Rifle Mule Deer Hunts:
Unit 13B (Strip) November Mule Deer– Best genetics and age class in the state. The majority of 13B has received great precipitation this spring, which will equal great nutrition for antler growth. This hunt has been moved to be SMACK in the middle of the rut!
Unit 13A (Strip) November Mule Deer– Great genetics and age class, but less deer habitat than 13B. The majority of 13A has received good-great precipitation this spring, which will equal great nutrition for antler growth. This hunt has been moved up a week, so we anticipate less rutting activity on this hunt.
12AW (Kaibab) Late November Mule Deer– Solid Genetics with lots of deer. Age class isn’t as good as the strip. This hunt is a full blown rut hunt and with the good spring rain, the bucks should reach their potential this year.
12AE (Kaibab) Late November Mule Deer-Basically the same as 12AW, just not quite as many deer or as much country to hunt. Bad weather makes this hunt better.
honorable mentions: 12B Late, 12BW Late, Unit 9 December Rut Hunt, Unit 17B December Rut Hunt,Unit 21 December Rut Hunt
*Mule Deer South of the Grand Canyon rut in December & January, while Mule Deer North of the Canyon rut in mid-late November.
Unit 13B Archery Mule Deer-Best genetics and age class in the state. The majority of 13B has received great precipitation this spring, which will equal great nutrition for antler growth. If it’s dry during the hunt, hunters and guides camp on water and tend to take bigger bucks.
Unit 13A Archery Mule Deer-Great genetics and age class, but less deer habitat. They dropped the tags by 5, which was needed. 13A has good-great precipitation this spring, which will equal great nutrition for antler growth. Some of the big bucks that rut on the Grand Canyon National Park and in 13B often summer in 13A.
Late Rut Over-the-Counter Arizona Mule Deer Units– The mule deer rut for deer south of the Grand Canyon typically goes from mid-December to late-January. Mule Deer living in the higher country, which is located North of the Mogollon Rim tend to rut a little sooner. Desert Mule Deer located South and West of the Mogollon Rim tend to rut harder after Christmas through late January.
Early Over-the-Counter Central Arizona Mule Deer Units– Mule Deer densities are similar to the strip, but the age class and genetics are not as good. Some of the bigger bucks will expose themselves while chasing grass feed from the monsoon season.