Arizona mule deer should be divided into two separate categories – mule deer north of the Grand Canyon and mule deer south of the Grand Canyon. The deer units to the north are limited in tag quantity and managed for quality. The exact opposite could be said for deer units to the south. Trophy quality exists on both sides of the Grand Canyon, but because AZGFD is more liberal with tag quotas in the south, those trophy type bucks are few and far between in the southern portion of the state. We do not cover a lot of the rifle hunts south of the Grand Canyon due to this fact, but we do like the archery hunts in the south as they provide better potential for a mature buck as they are conducted either early when bucks are in velvet and patternable or late when bucks will be more engaged in rutting activity. These are the two best times to find mature bucks, and with there being fewer mature bucks available, we focus more on these OTC hunts in the opportunity section in the July issue. The last couple years, the popularity of these archery hunts has increased and so have harvest rates. All units without an archery draw hunt will have an over-thecounter threshold/quota where the season will close when the unit’s harvest threshold has been met.
The units north of the Grand Canyon are where most of the trophy class bucks are harvested. Tag cuts have been common on most hunts up north the last couple of years, and it is really going to help increase the age class. The trophy quality across the Kaibab has been on an upward trend and so have the points required to draw all hunts, and tag reductions will only escalate this. It is possible that point creep in this area could surpass some applicants who have been holding off, waiting for the right time to jump in. Both units 13A and 13B also have tag cuts for 2022. While both areas could be arguable as to which one is better for trophy potential during the rifle season, the clear-cut favorite remains 13B for the archery season. All around, it just has a bigger population and huntable country with a bow.
The big news for the Strip units 13A and 13B is now that trail cameras have been banned, the Strip is going to have its secrets once again and not all bucks will be named. The old school outfitters that spend a ton of time scouting and glassing are going to rise to the top, and the outfitters that made a living running trail cameras will most likely quit guiding on the Strip. The trail camera ban will also spread out the hunting pressure as not everyone will know about every buck that hits water. It is going to be nice to walk up on a tank in the Arizona Strip and not see 15+ trail cameras.
One thing to consider for all deer hunts this year, especially if you want a trophy class buck, is the moisture the state has been getting. Right now, most of the state is still in a drought, but there have been a handful of perfectly timed storms that have hit the units north of the Grand Canyon. At this time, the bitterbrush and cliff rose are looking really good, and as long as we get a few more spring and summer storms, the northern Arizona units should have better antler growth than 2020 and 2021. If you are in the fortunate position of having max points, this may be a good year to hunt the Strip. If you do draw the Strip, make sure you get one of the outfitters that does not rely on a trail camera to find you a giant. Give us a call if you need an outfitter as we work with the best in Arizona.
Coues deer are found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. Arizona is home to the largest population in the United States. The Coues deer is a subspecies of the Eastern whitetail, and other than the terrain they call home, they act very similar to their Eastern cousin. Coues deer are plentiful throughout the central and southeastern portions of Arizona, from the low rolling hill country all the way up to the highest peaks of Mount Graham and Chiricahua Peaks. Coues deer feel right at home within the densest brush and tree canopies they can find, and oftentimes, they never leave the thick cover during daylight hours. This is where they are like the Eastern whitetail, but the steep, rugged mountains that most Coues deer call home is where they differ.
AZGFD is aggressive with tag allocation for Coues deer and offer multiple rifle and archery seasons for most Coues units. Although most units are managed for opportunity more than trophy quality, trophy class bucks can come from every unit. Even in units that are managed for higher numbers of mature bucks, a mature Coues deer buck can be very difficult to put your tag on. There are still some trophy bucks available, but hunters are going to have to put in the effort to take one of them home. There have been many big fires that have burned across Coues deer country in the last handful of years. This has opened some thick country and made areas much more glassable. Arizona is a great option for hunting one of these little whitetail deer and offers a great opportunity for harvesting a mature buck.
There are typically four rifle seasons in most Coues units, especially in southern Arizona. The further north you get in the state, the fewer seasons they have, but they will still have at least an early and late December season. Most knowledgeable Coues deer hunters will agree that the early October season and the late December season are the two best times to pattern and harvest a mature Coues buck. The middle November hunts in between these seasons are often the hardest times to find an old buck. This will show itself in the draw odds when you look through the tables. Often, these hunts have over 40% and sometimes 100% draw odds and only require a couple points to be in the running for a Bonus Pass tag. Keep in mind that even in the late December hunts, Coues deer will start to engage in pre-rut activity, but this is typically slower to start the further south you go.
If you want to hunt Arizona more often, Coues deer is your best opportunity. All units offer a legitimate chance at harvesting a mature animal. This is the easiest animal to upgrade a hunt for if you choose to hire an outfitter. We work with the finest outfitters Arizona has to offer, and their hunters are harvesting trophy bucks every year. Arizona is an underrated state when it comes to Coues deer.
Arizona is good with the youth hunters and typically gives them first crack at the deer in some units and allows them to take a mule deer or Coues deer. Some great Coues and mule deer dates are available for junior hunters with little to no points. All youth-only deer tags are $25 for nonresidents and residents alike. The youth cost of a 365-day hunting license is just $5. All juniors are eligible to participate up to their 18th birthday, provided that youths between the ages of 10 and 13 have completed an approved hunter education course. A youth hunter whose 18th birthday occurs during a youth-only deer hunt may continue to participate for the duration of the hunt dates.
While most of these hunts are not conducted in trophy mule deer units, they often are the first hunts of the season and offer the youth first crack at bucks that are just coming out of velvet. Units that have October 1st start dates will most likely capitalize on bucks in their summer patterns. The beauty of these permits is that in most cases they are either species, meaning you can harvest either a mule deer or Coues deer buck. Most of the best Coues deer units have a youth hunt available. All of these units have good potential for a mature buck.
If you are interested in hiring an outfitter for a youth hunt, give us a call and we can help you figure out which areas to apply for and put you in touch with the right outfitter. The outfitters we work with love taking kids on these hunts and run very high success.
Another great option for these hunts is the Youth Deer Hunting Camps put on by various chapters of the Arizona Mule Deer Organization, Mule Deer Foundation, Arizona Chapter of Safari Club International, and Arizona Deer Association. These camps are put on in a variety of units, run three to four days, and are geared toward giving kids of all ages a terrific camping/hunting atmosphere. Most events have clinics on biology and habitat, glassing techniques, stalking techniques, game care, and so much more to teach kids a host of different skills that will make them better and more confident hunters. Most of these camps also have campfire activities in the evening where dinner will be provided and raffles are held for prizes. There is a complete list of all youth camps in the 2022/2023 Fall Hunting Regulations booklet that will also have contact information for each of the camps. All of these events are free of charge, but some have limited space available.
Over the last 20+ years, we've collected hunting research and data, join Huntin' Fool today and access the best research tools for hunting Coues and mule deer in Arizona, including 3D Maps, Draw Odds, Consultations, and much more. Go on more hunts with better information!
The Arizona Big Game online application deadline for sheep, fall bison, and deer is 11:59 p.m. Arizona Time on June 14, 2022.
Our magazine, which is available in print and online, has everything in one location - application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning, and much more. If you would like access to all of our research, join today!
|365-Day Hunting & Fishing License (adult)||$160|
|365-Day Hunting & Fishing License (youth ages 10-17)||$5|
|Application Fee or Bonus Point Only (per species)||$15|
|PointGuard Plus (365-day membership, all species)||$25|
|PointGuard Option (per species)||$10|
|Post Draw License Fees (if successful)|
|Mule Deer/Coues Deer Permit||$300|
|Youth-Only Deer Permit||$25|
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