Contributors to this thread:
Caution Az. Elk Applicants
Well I think its time that some one posted a caution sign on Arizona Elk hunting and what hunters can expect. As most of you know eastern Arizona has suffered through some of the worst fires in history, drastically changing its Elk Habitat . The basic change is the removal of heavy stands of timber that gave bulls cover and an escape during the rifle and muzzleloader seasons, now vast areas are second growth timber ,aspen and Oak brush. However the Az Game and Fish dept does not cut back on rifle or muzzle loader tags that have more or less removed all of the bulls that are in the 300 point class or better. Long range rifles and muzzle loaders can now take bulls that were never approachable in the heavy timber ( pre Fire) Problem number two, almost no calf survival in many eastern Arizona units due to the Mexican Gray Wolf. Again state wildlife depts. due not cut back on rifle or Muzzle loader bull or cow tags. Well now the chickens are coming home to roost , as far as quality elk hunting is concerned . This year I spent the entire month of Sept. in eastern Arizona with friends who had archery bull tags, were I was shocked at the number of wolf tracks, the almost complete loss of the calf crop, and the nearly nonexistence of bulls scoring over 300 points. In the last 40 years of bow hunting Elk, I have never seen this poor of a job done by a state game Dept. Our group of hunters did take a small 6x6 bull the only one seen the entire season, our little group saw 108 cow elk with 8 calves,42 small 4x4 and 5x5 bulls , Spike Bulls 0 , 88 Mule Deer does with 5 fawns, 6 coues deer does with 0 fawns, we also saw five other hunters who took small 4x4s 5x5s . Now what does this mean as far as game management, no mature bulls 6x6 ( over hunting) No Spikes or calves ( no survival of calves for the last 2 years) no Mule Deer fawn survival, This is not a pretty picture if you are considering cashing in your hard earned Elk preference points in Eastern Az. Next Post what is happening to elk hunting in western Az.
I can believe it, myself and hunting buddy spent the first week of archery season scouting in AZ this past year. We have 11 going on 12 points and thought we should scout before we went for the actual tag instead of another preference point. Most zones in the central and east areas are at least 15 points for out of stater's. Some of the fires in the areas we scouted were still smoldering. We saw a few elk, nothing big, and we saw a bunch of hunters in just about all remote locations we scouted. Hopefully AZ will put more effort into game and forestry management. Not too many tags available for out of stater's.
I live in the units (White Mountains) and while the Wallow Fire and more recently the Rattlesnake Fire opened up the forest in some places, I have not experienced what you describe. In fact, the Governor's Tag bull was killed in 27 this year......a giant 6x6 over 400". I also photographed and saw several bulls over 365" this past summer.....on a severe drought year. With record moisture occurring (October), and snow accumulating in the high country, antler growth should be exceptional this year if we even get a little Spring moisture. I'd say you need to find a new area within the unit, as the fires have changed where they're currently at...... but rest assured, they're there. But, I also understand your frustration.......you have to feel confident in the area you're hunting.......I won't hesitate to put in for the archery hunts here from what I've personally seen. Those not wanting to hunt here simply increase my draw odds. :)
Roy sssshhh I agree az Is horrible state. No one should ever hunt there for any animal. Go to Colorado or New Mexico :-)
I have heard that Unit 9 sucks and has gone way downhill. I recommend nobody else...I mean nobody put in for it.
Stealing from Star Wars lines...These are not the elk you looking for.
I would love a unit 27 or unit 1 archery elk tag from AZ. I am sure you can still find a good bull.
Good luck in the draws.
I will keep beating this dead horse but AZG&F issues way too many rifle, muzzy & Jr cow tags. The dept. drastically reduced archery cow hunt permits but they just turned around and issued them to gun hunters. Elk population numbers started going down in about 2008 but have been drastically reduced since 2012. The cow hunts are literally the "cash cow" for the dept. I hunted a unit last year that is advertised as having 20% of the states elk population. Spent 8 1/2 days hunting them and saw a total of 44 cows. Years past, I normally saw that many or more every morning.
Sorry, I can't say much about the eastern units because I don't hunt them but if it is anything like where I hunt, it wouldn't surprise me.
I hear Colorado has gone down the tubes too...wolves, fires, bears, lions, beetle kill, hardly any elk left, it's probably worse than Arizona at this point
Kentucky is the new elk destination.... The west no longer has good elk hunting.
Elk hunting everywhere sucks. Especially Wyoming. If you all stop applying in Wyoming, I'll draw in a couple of years and I'll scout it out for you. I'm certain it will suck but I'll take one for the team. I can't apply in Utah right now. I think everyone should apply there.
You guys are right. Hunting sucks all around. You have all inspired me to lay down the bow and take up painting. I’ll just create the animals on canvas which I dream of that no longer exist or roam these once great public lands. Dam wolves!
If you can “paint” me a valid unit 9 early archery tag, I would buy a copy every year!
After reading the comments on this thread I am of the opinion that most folks have a perception of Elk hunting in Arizona that is based on the past and not the present. The upper tier Elk units here in Arizona are in a constant state of change as the years roll bye and unfortunately I do not think it is for the better. I think Master Guide gets it. The rest of you, not so much. Oh, and did I mention, I HATE WOLFS. One Governor's tag does not a hunt make.
I hunted AZ late rifle this year and I can tell you, that personally, I'll take a tag in AZ any season any year. I've hunted Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and NM for elk over the years this was my first trip to AZ and maybe it isn't what it once was, but nothing is, nature always ebbs and flows. Fires, predators, rain, drought, they've all been here for millions of years fellas and they ain't going anywhere, call it quits or embrace it and go hunt. Years I don't draw a "premium" tag, I hunt Idaho otc units and I have a great time! Odds are I won't see any "trophy" bulls, hell odds are I won't fill my tag period, but I still get up in the dark and go and I'll continue to do so as long as I am able.
I agree JoeHunter is correct. You all should apply to another state and wait till it gets better here in this horrible elk state. My opinion.. WDP
IMO, a guy with (assumably) a lot of experience and on-the-ground knowledge comes on Bowsite with an observation, should garner a conversation, not mockery.
All 5 of the guys on jay scott's podcasts have said the same thing.
The consumer is asking for more opportunity across the west and the game dept's are giving it to them. And the same comments pop up, "it isn't what it used to be".
He's not the only one saying things like this. Look at the annual number of tags issued in some of these units... it's crazy. They get hunted hard, real hard. Ed F
The OPs post mirrors what I have heard as well from a two different reliable outfitters that guide also. They both said they are telling customers to temper expectations a bit because of a noticable decline. I have enough points to draw one of the best late season archery hunts and the outfitter said he woudlnt book me as it's not worth the time, points or money for the hunt.
Sure things are worse than they used to be. I know basins in NM that In the 90’s you could count 12 bulls over 320”, now you can only count two or three. ;) I guess no one should apply there either. I get it nothing is as good as it used to be and it’s not getting better in many places. It’s still Arizona we’re talking about not an otc unit in CO. If this thread had come out after a bad hunt in September I might be less skeptical.
Its funny. It's always the guides and outfitters sounding the alarm. It's not that the elk numbers have changed, but rather the "trophy" numbers.
I guess if you're in the Trophy stage of your development and money matters, then sounding the alarm may garner some sympathy. If however you're in the Sportsmans stage, then hunting in eastern Arizona is still satisfying and enjoyable.
I have no doubt that the situation has changed and I believe the information given is being put out to help. I am not trying to mock anybody or change any bodies mind. I am simply trying to bring a little humor into the thread.
I hunted OTC archery elk in Utah for more than 20 years. Even with the decline, I would still rather have a AZ elk tag vs an OTC tag.
The individual units have changed a lot. When I started applying, I wanted a unit 1 tag. I had family in Springerville and Nutrioso. Then AZ G&F added a ton of tags. I simply adapted and went for a unit 9/10 tag. Then 10 went down a lot and I switched to 9 or 23. In the end, I drew a 9 archery tag. It was a great hunt. I would simply love another chance at an AZ elk tag.
Best of luck to everybody in the draw and thanks for the “boots on the ground” info.
Glad I got my big elk in 2017 then. Seeing there are no more big ones I can still put in for the draw as the Mrs. says there is no more wall space for big elk.
It boggles the mind what type of elk hunting the West would have if the compound had never been invented and if rifle hunting was limited in some fashion... imagine !
So I can understand 1 getting shot up because of there being no cover, as a lot of it burned, but from what I understood, most of 27 didn't burn and a large portion of it is wilderness, which you'd think would keep a lot of the gun hoards from really hammering it...
AZ manages several units for trophy elk, very limited early rifle bull and early bow bull. Unit 23N is one of these. Found that out in 2017 when I got a bull. They requested bottom 2 front teeth sent in so they could age. Also requested antler measurements. Which units are managed I don't know, but you can probably get that info from the F&G.
I live in the middle of a once great elk unit in N.M. and from seeing things here every day I feel the same way as master guide does in AZ. I’ve seen fire destroy a lot of cover and that along with all the high dollar hunts that guides work real hard to get their clients on big bulls , all the internet talk , all the big ads outfitters put out, a lot of locals knowing where big bulls live has really taken a toll on the BIG bulls ! It used to be you would see big bulls (325 - 380) a lot through the year now I bet the biggest bull I saw last year was 320’s .. IMO the big bulls can’t keep up with all the big bull killing over the last 10 years . There are still some big bulls but few and far between , still a lot of small bulls but this unit is nothing close to what it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s . I saw 4 guys from California all go home with 260 - 300 inch bulls last season and all of them were happy to have bulls that size. It is what it is but I sure liked it better a few years ago .
Arizona has also begun to put early rifle and/or muzzy hunts in front of the archery hunts in a unit or two per year on a rotating basis. So, don't always assume that your rut archery hunt will be the first hunt of the year on these bulls. Look to see if there is a firearms hunt prior to your desired archery hunt in any particular year.