Unit 12B – Arizona
Elk and Buffalo
*There are open limited opportunity draw buffalo hunts offered in 12A/12B/13A as well as general non-permit tag (non-draw) elk hunts offered in 12B. Season dates can be found in the regulations.
Overview: Antelope in Hunt Units 12A/12B are found primarily in House Rock Valley on the east side of the Kaibab Plateau in the grassland/desert scrub. Pronghorn are also found along the edge of the plateau in the pinyon-juniper transition zone. Although this herd is only estimated to have around 90 animals, the herd appears to be fairly stable. There is also a small herd that lives just south of Fredonia in the grassland/ low shrub density areas. This herd generally varies from 15 to 30 animals, depending on movement between 13A and Utah. Although 12A/12B is not known for its “record breaking” antelope bucks, hunt success has typically been around 40% for archery and 100% for rifle.
This area is very remote with only a few conveniences provided at the communities of Vermilion Cliffs, Cliff Dwellers, Marble Canyon, Fredonia/Kanab, and Jacob Lake. Roads in the unit can become extremely muddy when wet and heavy rains frequently wash out the main roads, thus it is important to be prepared with suitable shelter, plenty of food, water and extra fuel. Having extra spare tires would also be a good idea.
Areas: Pronghorn in House Rock Valley generally tend to be located within 6 to 7 miles of the base of the Kaibab Plateau. Drier habitat conditions further to the east limit use of this area. As mentioned above, the main concentration of antelope is in House Rock Valley. There are several small herds that reside on the north side of Highway 89A in the grassland. North of Kane Ranch, there are a few groups of antelope scattered throughout the rolling hills. You will find the majority of antelope south and east of the ranch and all the way out to the rim of Marble Canyon. There are generally one or two herds on South Canyon Point; however this area is more difficult to access as there are few roads in the area.
Good optics are a must for both scouting and glassing during your hunt. Most of House Rock Valley is fairly flat with low rolling hills, so it is important to be able to locate the antelope from a distance and plan your stalk according to the surrounding terrain and conditions. There are many stock tanks located throughout House Rock Valley and the antelope herds tend to center their activities on these water sources depending on the frequency of summer monsoons. Glassing from the slopes of the Kaibab plateau can give you a higher vantage point.
Remember that hunting with the aid of a vehicle is prohibited. This includes chasing, pursuing, or herding antelope with any type of vehicle. Shooting from a vehicle and from the roadway is also prohibited. Traveling off established roads is prohibited throughout House Rock Valley on BLM and Wilderness land.
Overview: Desert bighorn sheep were eliminated from Unit 12B in the early 1900’s probably due to diseases they received from interacting with domestic sheep. Large numbers of domestic sheep grazed on the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, and Paria Canyon until the 1960’s when the Bureau of Land Management converted all grazing permits to cattle only. A total of 52 desert bighorn sheep were transplanted in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs area in 1984 and 1985 from unit 15B near Lake Mead. The population grew to about 160 bighorns within the first 8 years but began to slowly decline in the mid-90s. The current population estimate is around 100 bighorn sheep. The average Boone and Crockett score for the last 5 years has been in the mid-150s.
Areas: Most of the desert bighorn sheep in unit 12BE are found within the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. The Paria Plateau, which is surrounded by the Paria canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area, has few roads and can only be accessed from BLM road 1065 on the west side of the plateau. This area is very isolated and will require 4-wheel drive for the soft sandy roads. There are no services on top of the Paria Plateau. The north rim of the Paria Canyon is accessed from Big Water, Utah and also requires 4-wheel drive due to soft sand. There are only a few conveniences provided along Hwy 89A in the small communities of Vermilion Cliffs, Cliff Dwellers, Marble Canyon and Jacob Lake. Thus it is important to be prepared with suitable shelter, plenty of food, water and lots of extra fuel. Having extra spare tires would also be a good idea.
The highest densities of bighorn sheep are going to be in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area from above the community of Vermillion Cliffs to Bush head. Bighorn have typically been harvested along the rim of the Paria Plateau near Bush Head, Powell’s Monument, and Fisher Point. Some bighorns have also been taken from the north rim of the Paria Canyon and near spring sources along the Vermilion Cliffs. During December, sheep are generally found at lower elevations on the talus slopes below the steep cliff faces. Spring sources along the Vermilion Cliffs are best accessed by horseback or hiking from Highway 89A 2 or 3 miles to the base of the cliffs. It is common to observe bighorns in locations where it is not possible to recover them. Make sure that you can access the area before taking the shot.
Notice: Archery deer hunters – Unit 12B and 12B West are not an open area for over-the-counter tag holders since 2008. To hunt Unit 12B or 12B you must now obtain a permit-tag through the big game draw process.
Important Note: (See unit description under Unit Boundaries) 12BW includes the Buckskins to the north of the Kaibab and the west side winter range including Pigeon Canyon and Gunsight Point. It excludes the Paria Plateau and any areas east of BLM road 1065. Hunters with a 12B permit (vs. 12BW permit) may hunt the Paria Plateau as well as the rest of the Unit. Permit numbers for the 12B hunt are very limited. The separation of 12BW from 12B was designed to limit the number of hunters and the deer harvest on the Paria Plateau, but not restrict a hunter with a 12B permit to only hunting the Paria Plateau. Hunters who have no desire to hunt the Paria Plateau and want to hunt the Buckskins or the west side winter range should apply for a 12BW permit. Likewise, hunters who want to hunt the Paria Plateau must apply for a 12B permit.
Overview: This unit is primarily winter range for migratory deer from both the North Kaibab Plateau in Arizona and from the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Elevation ranges from 4000 to 7000 feet with vegetation consisting primarily of pinion-juniper and sagebrush flats. Studies have shown that the Paunsaugunt deer arrive in Unit 12B in mid-October through early November, extending southward about 8 miles into Arizona. Deer from the North Kaibab start migrating northward to merge with the Utah deer in early-November. Very few deer reside in 12BW year round, making it difficult to hunt during the archery season in September.
The central part of the unit, the Buckskin Mountains, contains the highest deer densities and is best to hunt after mid-October. The Paria Plateau to the east has the lowest number of deer. This is a small resident herd and is not part of the deer that migrate from Paunsaugunt or the Kaibab.
The Alternative Deer Management Plan provides the guidelines for which decisions on hunt recommendations are made. The early hunt is managed for hunter opportunity and usually occurs during the early part of the deer migration, thus few older-age class bucks are found during the early hunt. Majority of the deer harvested on the early hunt are younger bucks around 2 years of age. Many hunters go home disappointed that they did not see big bucks on the early hunt, but every hunter should do their homework and know what they should expect on a hunt before setting high expectations. Unlike the early hunt, the late hunt is managed for harvesting older aged deer, having high hunter success, and low density of hunters.
The majority of the unit is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip District, 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, Utah 84770, phone (435) 688-3200.
Areas: The Buckskin Mountains in the central portion of the unit contains the highest densities of deer and is best to hunt after mid-October. As the weather continues to cool down and the snow fall increases, Kaibab deer from the western portion of the plateau move down towards Pigeon Canyon, Toothpick Ridge and Gunsight Point, making this area best after early November.
If you have a 12B tag and are trying to decide whether to hunt 12BW or the Paria Plateau, there are a few additional things that you should consider. The Paria Plateau in eastern 12B has the lowest density of deer and is not part of the migratory herds from the Kaibab Plateau or the Paunsaugunt. Access to the Paria Plateau can be difficult and deer difficult to find so scouting before the hunt is extremely important.
During the early 12B hunts, deer are typically concentrated in the pinyon-juniper and along meadow edges at higher elevations in the Buckskins, southwest toward Snake Gulch. Scouting is recommended only a week or two prior to the start of the hunt, due to the nature of the migration pattern.
Deer begin to move down from the top Buckskin Mountains to the pinyon-juniper and sagebrush flats as the snow pushes them off the plateau during the late hunt. Depending on the amount of snow fall, Pigeon Canyon and Gunsight Point to the west are generally best after early November. Deer are can be found in the open sagebrush flats, but not until snow pushes them out of the trees.
No motor vehicles are allowed in the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. These areas are open to foot and horseback travel only. Motor vehicle travel is restricted to existing roads on all BLM land in the Unit. No off-road travel by motor vehicles is allowed. Be prepared for snow, mud, and adverse weather conditions, and bring plenty of supplies. Very few services are available for gas and food.
Note: The state line is only marked at dirt road crossings. The AZ/UT state line on a GPS unit is N37° 00.0′ latitude. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know where they are and the state line is patrolled heavily by both Utah and Arizona law enforcement.
Overview: Chukar Partridge is an overlooked game bird in this unit. This exotic game bird, native to the Middle East, was introduced into various areas in Arizona. This bird was first documented in 12B in Paria Canyon, but has since been regularly observed along the Kanab Creek/ Snake Gulch drainage. Chukar also been occasionally observed in drainages to the Colorado River and along the Vermillion Cliffs in the wilderness area in 12BE.
Areas: Chukar are found throughout the Kanab Creek drainage and associated side canyons and in Paria Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. This game bird tends to concentrate around water sources, especially along steep cliffs.
Chukars are generally found within the lower 8 or 9 miles of Paria Canyon, along the rim of the Paria Plateau, and at spring sources along the Vermilion Cliffs. The majority of Chukar observed along the rim of the Paria Plateau are in the vicinity of Bush Head, Powell’s Monument, and Fisher Point. Hunting in the bottom of the Paria Canyon requires hiking with wet feet in sandy terrain along the Paria River. Birds can sometimes be found along the Paria River, but they generally occupy the upper benches along the cliffs, high above the river. Other areas to consider are Badger Springs and Soap Spring along the Vermillion Cliffs within the wilderness area. There are no easy ways to hunt them, but the breath-taking scenery makes it a great place to try.
Chukar are not numerous anywhere in Kanab Creek or its associated drainages. Birds are usually found in isolated coveys, and can (usually do) descend thousands of feet into inaccessible canyons after being flushed. Occasionally, depending on rainfall and the availability of forage, coveys can be found in some of the shallow drainages along Kanab Creek.
The Paria Plateau has no services and is accessed from Coyote Valley Road (BLM Road 1065). It is very sandy and requires 4-wheel drive.
Travel Management Planning Update: The BLM is the primary federal land management agency across unit12B. Travel Management Plans have been completed for the entire Paria Plateau/Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and are in the process for the western half of 12B including the buckskin mountains. In general, unrestricted vehicle travel is allowed on all open BLM roads. All off-highway vehicles must display a current OHV decal and a street legal registration if operated on a county road. Cross country travel is not allowed on BLM lands. If outside of wilderness you may drive cross country to retrieve your animal. No motorized vehicles are allowed in BLM wilderness. Dispersed camping is allowed along BLM routes.