Contributors to this thread:
Gila Elk Hunting 2022
I am blessed to hold a 2022 16a tag, Sept 1-14. since I live in Indiana driving out there with $6.00 Gas I think I can spend my money better elsewhere on the trip. So boots on the ground isn’t an option. I have marked every water hole visible in the whole unit. My strategy in colorado and Idaho has never been water holes I will do whatever it takes to get it done though. I have a Couple questions for anybody that is willing to share info. 1.What strategies have worked the best for you in this unit or in New Mexico? 2. How is the drought in this unit? 3. If you had this tag would you shoot a 280-300” bull?
Any little nuggets of information is very appreciated! Thanks!
To your last question, unless you have arrowed lots of elk, I’d arrow any 280-300” bull that came in range.
Will just make an attempt to answer your drought question. The southwest is in the mist of a long term drought, perhaps the worst in 1200 years. That's the bad news. The good news is the monsoon rains started about 5 days ago, and look to be strong for the next week at least. The Black Fire (320,000 acres and not out) on the Gila, a bit east of your hunt, received around 4" of rain the past 3 days. So, the fire danger looks to have gone from extreme to moderate. Typically the monsoons last until early Sept. Good luck on your hunt.
Thanks Dale06. I plan to shoot anything that’s mature. I was just curious what other people’s opinions were. I have been keeping an eye on the weather and fires. I seen the monsoons started but didn’t know how long it will last or how much it had rained. Thanks Muddyboots
Sitting water is a solid strategy if it's dry. Early September it could be dry or quite wet depending on the day. I've never hunted 16A, but have hunted several of the surrounding units. I would shoot a 280-300 class bull on day one. Of course I have an empty freezer and haven't drawn elk since 2018. You can certainly do better in that unit, but it comes with an increased risk of eating tag soup.
“ I plan to shoot anything that’s mature”
You have a premium tag I would not be shooting the first elk that come in range.
Do you have some one going with you. Can they call or can they learn.
Float calling is effective or sneaking in for shot when they get hung up or don’t come in.
Intercept bulls coming back to bedding areas.
Get elk nuts handbook
I have hunted 16A once and was blessed to harvest a decent bull. My moto is don't pass up on the first day what you would shoot on the second day. Shots are hard to come by. Although I have only hunted 16A once I have hunted around the Gila a lot. I find the later part of the first hunt is better, the elk start talking a little more. Unit 16A has some steep country and I heard elk bugling in the bottoms. If you shoot one down there be prepared to hang it and take a day to pack it out. Also, be prepared for as it can be hot during the first part of September, if you are able to find some water no else has laid claim to, I would sit on it in the evening. Just make sure its off the road a ways and sit it until after shooting light.
Do you guys just sit on water in the evenings? Or is it a good strategy to sit mornings as well?
Me personally only sit on water in the evenings, when I have to. I believe most people sit water in the evening. Although I do have a friend who shot one off water in the morning.
I prefer to hunt to still hunt and when the bulls are really fired up they will respond to calling pretty early in the evening.
Most of my luck has been evenings, but I have caught elk moving to them late morning/ mid day. Depends on several factors IMO.. pressure, moon, weather. Sept can be down right hot as balls, or you could get frost. If you’re spinning your wheels sit water and chase a bugle. Last 2yrs bugle action dropped off fast where I was, then they were skittish. The exact opposite of what I expected in 16. This year the second archery season “should” be fire! First season is gonna have bright nights with the full moon right at the usual turning point, the 10th. I’d rake and seldom cow call… bugle to locate but very low frequency and sound small. Beyond that let the action dictate your strategy.
Pack gators in case, and maybe some repellant. After last yrs monsoons, antler growth could be above avg.
Yes, I have two friends that are planning on going along, one has a fair (5+ years) amount of experience when it comes to calling. GnM How is the pressure in this unit is it difficult to have a day where you don't run into 3+ hunters? Maybe focus more on the steep and deep areas? Thanks
Gaiters are a solid suggestion.
I tend to sit water midday to last light when it's dry. My best bull was shot at 1:30 in the afternoon. If you're gonna lay around midday it might as well be where you might see elk.
Again I haven't hunted A, but my experience in B, D, and E is that you won't run into anyone most days if you get away from the road.
The last time I hunted this unit I had the second hunt, less tags than the first hunt. I ran into very few hunters but was a ways off from the main road. As Oryx35 mentioned get off the main road, and most hunters do not like getting into rough country. My one bit of advice above anything else is to always always know what the wind is doing and play the wind. The second piece of advise is don't be afraid to be aggressive. An example would be, if you have a bull who will respond but doesn't want to come in, you go to him. Some may disagree but it works for me.
Just came back from 5 days in the unit. It is raining good up there and should turn real green soon and help the bulls finish strong with antler growth. Was surprised to see how many tanks were holding water as dry as it has been. Personally, I think you are cheating yourself if you drop the string on anything less than 300 in this unit. Even if you eat your tag you will have maybe the best hunt of your life. JMO
This is personal choice, might not be what works best- I have had good results sitting on water in the evening. But can't do it if full of energy. So mornings are still hunting, exploring, burning energy, finding likely areas that I might want to come back to. Great time to check out some potential water sources. Sure makes a sit in the evening go better. If I find a well used active wallow I will usually put it on top of my list.
I would get there a couple days early, lace up your boots and cover some ground.
If I found a tank they were using I would hunt it in the evening….
I’ve hunted 16a for many years. There are elk in many areas and the hunters are spread out through most of it. Unlike others, I wouldn’t recommend sitting water - every tank will be covered in cameras. The best advice for that unit is to hunt high peaks. I’ve literally chased bulls between campers where others have gone deep. Most high peaks will hold bulls, if water is nearby. The big bulls also typically hit water before first light and after dark. I’ve seen many huge bulls coming from water tanks in the dark as hunters are preparing to go sit. I won’t shoot less than a 6 point the first two days. Still hunting between peaks and the grassy meadows works really well. They typically work down ridge tops in the evening and up at first light. Heat doesn’t stop them - it actually fires them up in the first season. The last piece of advice - go slow! Most hunters cover lots of ground quickly and spook bulls. Aim for the high ground, and work about a half mile from the tops. I usually spend 3 hours covering about 1 mile. Elk are often quiet, but do respond to cow calls. Locator bugles work, aggressive challenges don’t. Good luck!
just got back... wet, wet, wet... water everywhere.
Catron County has closed Bursom road from the Y Ranch to Collins Park as the road is impassable due to flooding. they stated they would not be able to get to repairs for sometime. be sure to check before you head out. many hunters use this access to the 16 units.
I was up in 16A last weekend. Wet is an understatement! There was a river running in every canyon and South Fork Negrito was bigger than the Rio Grande in Albuquerque!!! Good luck on your hunt, we are heading out next Friday.
Good luck Gila Hunters. I will be In AZ this year but my brother and a few friends will be in 16D. Stay Dry and safe everyone.
Was down over the weekend, wet is an understatement. Water was running down the mountain everywhere, springs, canyons. The flat, open meadows are like marshes. Take bug spray… The bulls were bugling, all contact bugles. I did hear a group of cows answering one bull. They’re talking! Good luck everyone.
Good luck all you lucky ones, can't wait to hear all about it!!
After the moisture last year plus this year… toad potential! Hopefully they stay hot for you guys! Good luck.
just checked the radar...its still raining in the gila...friend sent me a picture of the roads....you cant even take a quad down some of them
Finished my hunt, had an absolute blast. Bulls were talking almost every day - whistles, bugles, screaming, grunting. Saw more bulls than ever. Held out for a bruiser and then got bull fever on several opportunities. Bulls were checking cows and challenging each other. They were using wallows up high until the mountain dried up a bit. It’s not very wet anywhere - and they were back to using the water holes by this past weekend. The full moon messed things up a bit - they would bed down some days right at sun up and not get up until 30 minutes before dark. The swirling winds messed some hunts up at those times, but they were moving around a bunch.
I'm glad we're finally hearing reports out of the first season.
I hunted 16B my buddy killed a nice bull, I passed on a nice one, and had several encounters with others, including one that was the largest antlered animal I have ever seen. I am hopeful that I will draw this tag again in my lifetime, as it was the best hunt I have ever been on... by a long shot.