The Best Arizona Bighorn Sheep Hunting Units 2016

Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank's Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep.
Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank’s Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep (Nelsoni).

As we evaluated the 2016 Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunting Units, we broke it down into the 2 desert sub-species & Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, so we would be comparing apples-to-apples.

Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep are classified into Mexicana and Nelsoni sub-species, which they are typically defined by geography.  Mexicana usually rams don’t flare out wide, but tend to hold their mass throughout their horns and on average, score better.  Nelsoni rams tend to be all over the map with regards to horn structure, but they are most known for being wide, long and flared out look.

The biggest talked about issue in the Nelsoni or Region 3 Desert Bighorn Sheep Units this year is the pneumonia outbreak which has taken place over the past year.  This outbreak was discovered in December & is being closely monitored by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.  In a link below you can listen to the latest information regarding this outbreak, so you can at least be informed.

Bob O'Conner's big nelsoni desert bighorn take with Darr Colburn & Jay Scott.

Bob O’Conner with his big nelsoni desert bighorn taken with Darr Colburn & Jay Scott (Colburn & Scott Outfitters).

As we broke down the Southern & Central Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Units, we discussed it with our good friends Jay Scott & Darr Colburn.  These guys know many of these units extremely well and after talking with them and analyzing the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s desert bighorn sheep reports, here is our Top 3 Arizona (Mexicana) Desert Bighorn Sheep Units for 2016:

  1. Unit 22S
  2. Unit 24BS
  3. Unit 24BN

honorable mention: 43B 

Listen to Episode #145 of the Jay Scott Outdoors Podcast as we discuss the Best Units for Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunting in 2016.

Jay Scott Outdoors Podcast iTunes

Without taking Arizona bonus points into consideration, here are our Top 3 Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep (Nelsoni) Units for 2016:

  1. Unit 15D
  2. Unit 13BN
  3. Unit 16A

honorable mention: ? 

Without taking Arizona bonus points into consideration, here are our Top 3 Arizona Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Units for 2016:

  1. 6A & 22N (Nov)
  2. Unit 27 (Upper Blue River Nov)
  3. 6A & 22N (Dec)

honorable mention: 27S & 28 (Nov)

The BEST 2016 Arizona Trophy Mule Deer Units

Lee-Murphy-Top-Arizona-Mule-Deer-Units

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Over-the-Counter Archery Mule Deer hunts hold some huge value & potential.
Over-the-Counter Archery Mule Deer hunts hold some huge value & potential.

 

Best Arizona Archery Mule Deer Hunts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Troy holding his biggest archery mule deer.
Troy holding his biggest archery mule deer taken on a late rut over-the-counter bowhunt.

Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Unit 15D Desert Bighorn Ram Video

We recently were out scouting for Desert Bighorn Sheep in Unit 15D, which is one of Arizona’s Top producing trophy sheep units.   Recent reports have suggested a possible pneumonia issue within this herd, we will continue to monitor these sheep via our personal scouting efforts & thru the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

In one morning of glassing, we saw 15 healthy desert bighorn rams.  Out of these 15 rams we saw 2 class 4 rams, both of these rams were off by themselves & appeared to be in super healthy conditions.

Here is a video clip of one of the Class 4 Rams from May 19, 2016: