Unit 15D – Arizona
Overview: Desert bighorn sheep are the featured big game species in Unit 15D. Desert bighorns can be found throughout the entire range of the rugged Black Mountains. If you’re fortunate enough to draw the highly coveted sheep tag, you certainly have your work cut out for you. Many sheep hunters consult the services of a professional guide or outfitter to ensure their experience lives up to the billing of a once in a lifetime hunt. There are a few trophy rams in Unit 15D, but a hunter must be patient and willing to work extra hard for that special ram. Much of the Black Mountains is designated wilderness area, so vehicle access is limited. Hunters should anticipate a lot of hiking.
Areas: Rugged canyons associated with the Mount Nutt and Warm Springs Wilderness Areas are excellent places to locate sheep. Access can be gained from the west side of the Black Mountains off the Silver Creek and Oatman roads. Areas include: Grapevine Canyon, Battleship Mountain and Cottonwood Canyon (USGS-Oatman Quad), ridges and canyons approximately 1.5 miles due west of Warm Springs (USGS-Warm Springs Quad).
Ram and Trough springs, Twin Springs, Thumb Butte and Secret Pass can be accessed from the east side of the Blacks from Highway 68 west of Kingman (Golden Valley). Take Egar Road south 2.7 miles to Bolsa Road (big water tank); turn right on Bolsa Road and head west (USGS-Secret Pass Quad) to Ganado Road. Head south on Ganado Road and take the fork to the right over the cattle guard to access Secret Pass. Take Ganado Road all the way south through the wilderness entry gate to access the Ram Spring area.
Sitgreaves Pass is located on Highway 66/Oatman Highway as you peak the ridge line. You can find sheep north and south of the highway near the pass and this can serve as an excellent place to glass sheep from. There is some private property on both sides of the highway so be diligent of this when pursuing sheep. As you continue west through the town of Oatman and turn south on Boundary Cone Road (Mohave County Rd 53) a large peak on your left can be a key location to find herds of sheep.
Tips: A good pair of optics (binoculars/spotting scope) is highly recommended for locating and classifying bighorn sheep. When glassing for sheep concentrate your efforts around rim rock overlooking canyons, ridge tops, and benches among craggy rocks and areas of shade under cliffs where sheep may be bedded down after the morning feeding. Have a comfortable pair of hiking boots and extra water, as you will probably spend a fair amount of time hiking in this rugged country once you have spotted your ram.
Notes: Bighorn sheep often silhouette themselves on ridge tops, so remember, it’s not a safe shot unless you know your backstop.
Overview: Unit 15D has a low-density mule deer population with relatively low use by hunters. Hunters (archers/muzzleloader) should concentrate their efforts around permanent water sources. Archery hunters have an excellent opportunity to harvest a buck in late August when the temperatures are still very warm and deer are concentrated around water sources (springs, stock tanks).
Areas: Locations can be found on United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle maps. Grapevine Canyon Spring, Cottonwood Spring, and Battleship Mountain (Oatman Quad), Black Mesa (Warm Springs Quad), Ram and Trough springs (Secret Pass Quad).
Tips: Deer can be difficult to locate in this desert unit. Pre-season scouting and glassing is critical. Concentrate around waters and north facing slopes that have stands of junipers and oaks.
Overview: Unit 15D has both mourning and white-winged dove. Mourning doves make up the majority of the harvest throughout the unit. Hunting opportunities can be found in the desert regions near stock tanks, washes, and springs. The largest concentration of doves in Unit 15D is found in Mohave Valley near the agricultural fields. With a change in crops over the past few years from grain to alfalfa and cotton, the dove numbers have slightly decreased, but if you do your pre-season scouting, Mohave Valley can still provide some of the best dove hunting in the northern region.
Areas: Stock tanks and springs throughout the desert regions of the unit (see USGS Topo maps). Mohave Valley, located along Highway 95 south of Bullhead City. Mohave Valley dove hunters should acquire a copy of a current land status map of Mohave Valley. Many of the lands are on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation and fall under tribal authority. For a map of tribal land and information on purchasing Fort Mojave Tribal hunting permits, contact the Fort Mojave Tribe Animal Control Division.
Tips: Pre-season scouting is very important in having a successful season opener. While scouting, look for areas where doves feed, water, and roost. Keep in mind the safety issues with occupied buildings, livestock, and roads. Obtain a copy of the Migratory Bird Regulations and become familiar with legal shooting hours, bag/possession limits, firearm restrictions, one-feathered wing, etc.
It is a violation of Arizona State Law to leave any litter in the field. Spent shotgun shells are litter. Please make sure your party leaves with all empty shotgun shells. It is important in keeping public lands open to hunting.
Overview: Gambel’s quail can be found throughout the desert scrublands and thickets in Unit 15D. Concentrate your efforts near permanent water sources (springs, stock tanks and washes). Quail reproduction is closely tied with the amount of rainfall from December-April to produce succulent new green plants and seeds for quail to feed on and provide cover from predators.
Areas: Stock tanks and washes throughout the Sacramento Valley area; just be careful of new houses and developments in the area.
Washes on the west side of the Black Mountains (Silver Creek, Mossback, Grapevine, Spring, and Cottonwood Canyons). You can access the areas on the west side of the Blacks by taking the Bullhead Parkway off Highway 95 to Silver Creek Road and head east (USGS Topographic map-Oatman Quadrangle). Areas will be clearly marked on the topo map.
Be aware of wilderness area boundaries and posted private lands.
Tips: Spend time before the season scouting for birds and have a backup plan if somebody is in your secret spot on opening day.
Best time to locate birds is in the early morning and late afternoon when quail are most vocal and moving about feeding. Try a quail call; occasionally you will prompt a response. Once you have located a covey and flushed them, work the area very thoroughly. With persistence you may pick up singles. When you have exhausted your efforts, relax a few minutes and try your call again. Quail are very gregarious birds and will vocalize to get the covey back together. A well-trained bird dog will also aid in your locating and retrieving efforts, but be aware that rattle snakes can be out even in winter at the lower elevations. Always practice good firearms safety. Please note it is a violation of Arizona State Law to leave any litter in the field. Spent shotgun shells are litter. Please make sure your party leaves with all empty shells.
Overview: Waterfowl hunting opportunities in Unit 15D are limited. A majority of all duck and goose hunting is done at Topock Marsh on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (HNWR) located along the Colorado River. Waterfowl hunting in this desert unit does not pick up until late November/December as migrants move south in response to heavy storms and frozen waters further north. Many of the birds make their way from the Great Basin Area (Montana, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming). The number of birds available for the desert duck hunter will be dependent on the weather patterns from our neighbors to the north.
Areas: Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (Topock Marsh) located just north of Interstate 40 (I-40) along the Colorado River.
Tips: Before opening day or during the split in the season go afield and find out where the birds are resting when they are not subjected to hunting pressure. Birds prefer specific areas. If they are there before the season you can bet they will be using the same area on opening day if food shortages or disturbances have not forced them to move on.
Decoys can be effective, but in areas where they are used a lot, they can be a downfall. Many of the birds have come a long way and have been shot at over decoys for two months before seeing your spread. They become a bit wary and wise to decoys. Just once, leave the calls and decoys at home and find a quiet backwater, use good concealment, and be patient. You may be surprised at the results.
Notes: There are numerous trees, snags, and trunks both submerged and protruding throughout the marsh. Extreme care should be taken when navigating a boat to avoid propeller/motor damage or human injury resulting from a collision with a submerged object.
Special regulations apply to hunting on the National Wildlife Refuge. Contact the HNWR for special hunt regulations and area maps: Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, 317 Mesquite, P.O. Box 3009, Needles, CA 92363 or call (760) 326-3853.