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I got lucky and drew the early season tag in unit 15. I have ordered a map, and am curious as to other people's experiences in this unit? From where to camp, to where to hunt and everything in between. Do most people sit water early on in the season? How is the activity that early on a normal year?
Any help would be appreciated and I would be happy to assist others who have the later archery seasons.
My brother and I hunted this season last year and were unsuccessful due to our inexperience. The area we hunted was between Luna and Apache creek mainly a few miles northeast of Dillon mountain but these areas were all littered with good bulls. Bugling was good for first and last hour or two each day getting better as hunt went on. I called one with a cow call as I cannot bugle but I would definitely sit water most evenings, we didn't and I feel this is where we messed up.
I was there muzzleloader season - so my info is outdated. I think for bow sitting water would be GREAT. I found lots of great water holes - but they were dry and it looked like they would have been awesome during bow season. Big unit, low tag numbers so it should not be to hard to find and sit good water.
If it were me that would be my plan without a doubt, find water via maps, topos, past hunters etc and spend the entire first 2-3 days checking them all out, building blinds, setting cameras (that might get stolen). Then sit water a lot.
Great unit but it was a tougher hunt then I expected. I did call in elk but glassing was hard and elk were not in typical areas I expected. The elk would bed in hot flat areas when there was cool north dark timber 1/2 mile away! It was weird, took me days to finally accept the fact they were used to the heat (I guess).
Cover a lot of ground ad enjoy you have a really good tag. There is a reason guys pay $4,000 or more just for a tag to hunt there.
PS I saw some monster bulls in the back of pickup trucks during my hunt.
I've hunted unit 15 five different times during the archery seasons, ranging from the early season to late and they can all be good. Unit 15 is one of my very favorite places to hunt elk in any state, and I say that having hunted elk in 9 different western states.
cmbulldog, I will PM you with my email address and will be glad to help you out. As you can imagine, with 15 being so hard to draw, I haven't hunted there in a while, but the good places then are still good places today. I will be glad to help you.
I think the first season is an excellent time to kill a big bull in that unit. Most of them are alone and starting to look for cows, and chances are, you'll be the very first hunter they encounter. There isn't much bugling, if any, during the first five or so days of September, but nice bulls will come in silently to cow calling. I would not bugle myself until I hear real elk doing so. We have seen bulls that were alone the first few days of September have a dozen cows with them just a few days later.
Get the most detailed maps you can find, 7.5 minute quadrangles are what I prefer. Perhaps most important, don't wait for the season to get down there. Some of the best waterholes will be claimed days in advance, while a few really good waterholes are places that other people drive past, because they are 'too close' to roads. We've killed 3 different 6 pt. bulls, up to a 356 7x7, off a unit 15 waterhole that I've never seen anyone else hunt because it is near a main road in the unit and a secondary road runs right along the edge of the tank. Elk come to that spot routinely but people go past it all the time. Get down there before the season and find water, find elk and when September 1 gets here be ready to go with a good plan based on your scouting.
By the way, if bear season is open during your hunt, consider buying a bear tag. I've seen some very nice bears in that unit, including one big bear that drank at a tank I was sitting on September 1, at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had a 30 yard shot for over 5 minutes, but didn't have a bear tag. The bears will be in the acorns then, eating them right out of the trees. We actually jumped a nice bear out of an oak tree on the west side of Freeman Mtn. once, and then called him back in for fun since nobody had a bear tag. Used my diaphragm to call him to within 25 yards and wish I'd had a tag for him. He was up in the tree eating acorns.
Do not let the heat bother you. Those elk live in hot country and are used to days with highs in the mid-90s. I've heard other hunters down there complain that the heat ruined the elk hunting and I just smile. The elk in that unit don't know anything except heat in late summer, it is their normal. They are still active in the heat.
Fox Mountain, Slaughter Mesa...hunted 15 for 8 years, and killed my biggest bull to date in 15. The thing bout 15 is to continue to hunt different areas, looking for bulls and listening for bulls. We killed one bull not two miles from Quamado, in the hills wet of town. We had bulls all around our trailer bugling all night several years in a roll, and loved calling to them. The quality of bulls has gone down hill the last several years, but there are still a high number of elk with lots of bulls. My biggest complaint was putting up with Mick Chappels guides and hunters always trying to get between you and the bull you were working. And you gotta watch out for guides blocking roads with trucks cause they have clients sitting on waterholes and dont want other people in the area. Plus, dont leave pop up blinds set up, cause other guys will use them...
Buglmin. My hunting mentor is in his 70's he worked for the forest service and guided in the Gila for over 20 years. A few years ago on my first trip there we came upon a USO truck blocking the road, my friend then demonstrated how a valve core tool is an essential part of hunting gear. I still feel bad for those boys getting back to the truck in the dark to find four flat tires, however I bet they thought twice next time they blocked the road.
I've heard of a lot of nasty things about USO in that area.
ask BigDan, he loves that unit......
Water is a great tactic in that unit until it rains and it can rain and rain and rain sometimes. I would say that first season is most prone to the rain bug so dont put all your eggs in the sitting water basket. If it is dry go with it and feel blessed as it is an awesome tactic in that unit but if it is raining you are going to have to pound country and root them out.
Ditto on bear never seen so many bears and so much sign in lower 48. If you sit water definetly get a bear tag!
I pretty much never suggest two tag bowhunts but inthis case it is a no brainer.
I'm heading there early archery, unit 15. Do I need a atv or can I get by with a truck and lots of hiking ?
The best bulls in 15 usually come from guys on Atvs during early season.