Unit 3B – Arizona
Overview: Pronghorn antelope are the most widely spread big game animal in Unit 3B. Overall population numbers are decreasing throughout the unit, which is of moderate habitat quality. They can be located anywhere in the unit, with the highest buck-to-doe ratios and highest overall numbers occurring in the northwest and southwest portions of the unit.
Pre-season scouting and developing local landowner contacts, where necessary, for access permission into these northern areas may yield quality hunts and greatly increase chances for taking larger-sized antelope. Hunting opportunities also exist on U.S. Forest Service lands immediately north and also south of Hwy 60, where home ranges are more contained and movement patterns more predictable. Current hunt structures offer archery and muzzleloader hunting opportunities both north and south of Hwy 60. There are increased opportunities north of Hwy 60 due to the higher population and higher buck-to-doe ratio.
Areas: Woolhouse Habitat Area, south of Hwy 60, is a popular hunting area for antelope by archery hunters drawn for 3B South hunts. Antelope can be glassed with ease from the numerous knolls and mountains here. Many hunters in this area fill their tags on opening morning. Hunting pressure has reduced the size, number, and quality of bucks in this area, and has been the justification for lower permit numbers. The USFS Woolhouse Habitat Area is closed to all motor vehicles. Hunters should contact the USFS Lakeside Ranger Station at (928) 368-2100 for additional information regarding this closure.
USFS lands north of Hwy 60 support antelope herds near Allen Severson Wildlife Area, Long Lake and Ortega Mountain. Long Lake and immediate surrounding areas are central to these popular hunting locations, found just outside of Show Low. The terrain in these recommended areas is predominately flat, with large irregular open areas surrounded mostly by juniper trees. Pre-scouting will prove these herds to be quite predictable prior to opening day.
In the northeastern part of Unit 3B, hunters should scout areas near Windsor Valley, Critchlow Flat and from Mesa Redonda east to Mormon Hill, just outside the town of Concho. The terrain here consists of gently rolling hills or flat, dry grasslands with occasional mesas. Although private land development is increasing and permission may be necessary in some of these areas, a trophy or quality buck can also be harvested as a reward for these efforts.
In northwestern 3B, hunters should scout areas from east of the Snowflake-Taylor community to Black Mesa, and south towards Flint Knoll and Love Lake. Buck-to-doe ratios are higher than elsewhere in the unit, possibly due to the expansion of housing and fragmentation of habitat making hunting opportunities more difficult. Again, with a little pre-scouting and landowner contacts, hunters may be rewarded with an above average harvest.
Overview: The Unit 3B deer population is predominately mule deer, with an occasional sighting of a white-tailed deer being reported. Although improving, recent extended drought conditions have severely affected annual recruitment of fawns into the adult population of the mule deer herd. As a result, overall deer numbers are down throughout the unit, while buck-to-doe ratios remain stable. Current hunt structure is limited to archery and muzzleloader-only hunts.
Land Status: Widely dispersed private lands create a checkerboard of land ownership north of Hwy 60 where favorable deer hunting opportunities exist. This checkerboard land status creates some local access issues that require a combination of pre-season scouting and obtaining landowner permission. Land status maps are strongly recommended for hunting north of Hwy 60. Hunting opportunities south of Hwy 60 exist almost entirely on Forest Service lands, where access is not an issue. Hunters considering applying for Unit 3B deer hunts should not consider this a trophy hunt unit, although a few trophy caliber deer are harvested each year with an overall hunter success rate average of 25 percent.
Areas: Most predictable deer hunting opportunities north of Hwy 60 exist around Mesa Redondo and along Black Mesa. These areas give hunters some glassing opportunities below upper ridges on slopes where ample browse plants exist. Most stalking will be uphill, but in brush cover favorable to the hunter. Some early morning deer will be located in lower and open flats, however, stalking opportunities are complicated for archery and muzzleloader hunters due to lack of available cover. In good, consecutive rainfall years, these areas produce moderate numbers of mule deer. They also produce the best trophy opportunities for the unit, where occasional bucks approaching 30-inch main beam spreads can be found. Establishing local contacts and pre-season scouting for fresh deer sign will greatly improve the quality and success rates for this difficult hunt.
For hunters who prefer to hunt on public lands without the complications found in northern portions of the unit, hunting south of Hwy 60 is best. Most success in this area is limited to numerous individual knolls and mountains where browse is available on the upper third of the slope. Hunters also have success in recently harvested timber sale areas, where above-average forb growth exists, or along riparian travel corridors, where a diversity of perennial plants provides adequate cover and forage. Stalking cover for archers and muzzleloaders is more than adequate in these predominately-timbered areas, but overall deer numbers are lower and locating deer will prove difficult. On the average, the larger mule deer in Unit 3B are north of Hwy 60, but some of the more elusive timber bucks are very worthy quarry for most hunters.
Deer observations in the southern portion of Unit 3B have been increasing over the past two years, potentially due to higher fawn survival rates on Forest Service lands.
Special Regulations: Successful archery deer hunters must contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department in person, or by telephone (1-866-903-DEER ), within ten (10) days of taking a deer, unless the deer has been checked through a mandatory hunter checking station (Pursuant to R12-4-308).
Overview: The current fall hunt structure for Unit 3B black bears includes two general firearms hunts and one archery hunt. Each hunt season has non-permit tags that can be purchased over the counter. The archery fall bear season is currently not offered in unit 3B.
Special Regulations: Legal animals include any bear, except a sow with cubs. This restriction requires hunters to study located animals prior to harvesting them, and establish that cubs are not nearby and simply out of sight. Studying bears prior to the kill in the early season will also limit hunters from harvesting bears with rubs on their coats during warm weather. It will also allow hunters to select for mature animals.
Female harvest limits are in place in Unit 3B, and may vary annually. There is an annual limit for the unit as a whole, and female harvest limits for individual hunts. The female harvest limit is also affected by female bears destroyed by the Department by policy because of human-wildlife conflicts. Hunters are responsible for calling 1-800-970-BEAR to determine if Unit 3B, or any other desired hunt unit, is still open. Bear hunt seasons in Unit 3B will close on the Wednesday immediately following a completed female harvest limit.
All hunters must contact an Arizona Game and Fish Department office in person or by telephone at 1-800-970-BEAR (2327) within 48 hours of taking a bear. The report shall include the hunter’s name, hunting license number, tag number, sex of the bear taken, management unit where the bear was taken, and telephone number at which the hunter can be reached to obtain additional information. Within 10 days of taking a bear, the hunter shall present the bear’s skull, hide, and attached proof of sex for inspection. If a hunter freezes the skull or hide before presenting it for inspection, the hunter shall prop the jaw open to allow access to the teeth and ensure that the attached proof of sex is identifiable and accessible. A premolar tooth will be removed during the inspection. Successful hunters are encouraged to contact the nearest Department office by telephone to coordinate inspections.
Areas: Lake Mountain and surrounding knolls in the southeastern portion of the unit contain areas where bears are harvested annually. Hunting techniques in these areas vary annually due to weather fluctuations, and hunters should adjust accordingly. For example, acorn crops may prove to be successful hunting areas one year, while water may be limited and thereby increase success in the following year. Hounds are the most effect method to harvest a bear. Hunters should always be aware of fresh sign around water holes and drainages.
Wolf Mountain is also a popular hunting area during the early hunts due to the high numbers of bears and the close proximity to rocky slopes and thick oak stands. Other locations with high success rates in the unit are areas surrounding Blue Ridge, Little Brushy, and Ecks Mountains.
Springer Mountain and huntable areas along Billy Creek outside the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside are attractive areas for archery bear hunters. Bears in these areas are often nocturnal nuisance animals within the city limits, and Billy Creek provides them a travel corridor and daily water needs. These bears establish predictable travel routes that can be detected by scouting Billy Creek and Springer Mountain.
Timber Knoll in the Vernon area and USFS areas surrounding the Pinetop-Lakeside Country Club also provide similar hunting opportunities for nuisance bears. Bear hunters, specifically archers, are encouraged to hunt these areas to assist local nuisance black bear management needs.
Hunters interested in obtaining current nuisance bear hunting information, if available, should contact the Game and Fish Department’s Pinetop office at (928) 367-4281.
Overview: Elk management in Unit 3B focuses primarily on migratory animals utilizing historical breeding and wintering grounds in the southern portions of the unit. Hunt structures are designed to harvest bull elk through both early and late seasons, and antlerless elk primarily during winter migration.
Special Considerations: The Woolhouse Habitat Area, located south of Hwy 60, is closed to all motor vehicles. Contact the USFS Lakeside Ranger District office for more information. Access to the Woolhouse Habitat Area is limited to foot and horseback only, including the retrieval of game. Large herds may be located here during late hunts. To avoid exceeding the bag limit by mistake, hunters should not shoot into a herd. Severe weather can occur during late hunts, and hunters should be prepared for heavy snow and freezing temperatures. It is recommended that hunters wear hunter orange, especially while retrieving and packing game. Hunters are required to know their location and should seek permission prior to hunting on or across private property. Hunters are reminded that it is unlawful to shoot within a 1/4 mile of an occupied building or residence without permission.
Areas: Pre-season scouting is strongly suggested prior to all hunts. Early season hunters will be able to locate elk by listening for bugling bulls. Elk during this time will primarily be at higher elevations, south of Hwy 60. November season hunters may also locate elk in small groups on Forest Service lands north and south of Hwy 60. December season hunters will find elk at various elevations, depending on weather.
Depending on snow pack, antlerless elk can range throughout the southern two-thirds of Unit 3B during late hunts. Deep snow at higher elevations prompts wintering elk to migrate northward. Large herds of elk can be located from the Timber Mesa area to Vernon, including the Woolhouse Habitat Area.
By doing ample pre-season scouting, early bull hunts can be very successful. Rutting bulls are generally located above 6,500 feet in the timbered southern portion of the unit, where open parks and meadows, in close proximity to escape cover, serve as breeding grounds. However, bulls are also commonly taken in the Woolhouse Habitat Area, the Timber Mesa area, and, to a lesser degree, north of Hwy 60.
Elk numbers have been slightly increasing over the past few years in areas north of Hwy 60, specifically near Silver Creek and the community of White Mountain Lake. Care should be taken to ensure hunters are outside ¼ mile of structures and should secure permission prior to hunting on private property.
The late season bull hunt averages 50% hunt success, with nearly one-third of those being spikes. Branch-antlered bulls are common, but unpredictable, and are generally associated with dense vegetation on north slopes. Smaller bulls will be located near antlerless herds. Inclement weather will cause bulls to migrate northward to lower elevations.
Overview: Lion hunting in Unit 3B is open September 1 through May 31. A hunting license and permit-tag are required, and both can be purchased over the counter at any Game and Fish Department office or license dealer.
Lion observations have been reported throughout the unit, but with no consistency. Lion tracks are as rare as lion sightings. Most lions have been taken while hunters were involved in some other type of hunting. Hunters specifically interested in locating lions will have best success with the aid of quality hunting dogs.
Special Regulations: Lion hunters should be familiar with the following laws and regulations prior to going lion hunting. All hunters must contact an Arizona Game and Fish Department office in person or by telephone at 1-877-438-0447 within 48 hours of taking a lion. The report shall include the hunter’s name, hunting license number, tag number, sex of the lion taken, management unit where the lion was taken, and telephone number at which the hunter can be reached to obtain additional information. Within 10 days of taking a lion, the hunter shall present the lion’s skull, hide, and attached proof of sex for inspection. If a hunter freezes the skull or hide before presenting it for inspection, the hunter shall prop the jaw open to allow access to the teeth and ensure that the attached proof of sex is identifiable and accessible. A premolar tooth will be removed during the inspection. Successful hunters are encouraged to contact the nearest Department office by telephone to coordinate inspections. Legal lion is any lion except spotted kittens or females accompanied by spotted kittens.
Areas: Harvest data and observation reports show no trends for hunt area recommendations. Lions have been taken andor reported on Timber Mesa, Ortega Mtn., Sponseller Mtn., Wolf Mtn., Morgan Mtn., Blue Ridge Mtn. and in the far north portion of Unit 3B on Mesa Redonda.
Overview: The current turkey hunt structure for Unit 3B includes an archery-only fall season and two limited weapon-shotgun shooting shot spring seasons. For the fall hunt, non-permit tags may be purchased over-the-counter, but during the spring, hunters must be drawn for hunt-permit tags through the spring draw process. Archery-only seasons are limited to bow and arrow-hunting equipment, while spring limited weapon shotgun seasons are limited to shotguns shooting shot, crossbow, and/or bow and arrow equipment. Rifled firearms are not a legal weapon for taking turkeys. Fall hunters can take any turkey, while spring hunters are limited to bearded turkeys only. A bag limit of one (1) turkey per calendar year is enforced.
Areas: In the fall, turkey hunters should hunt predominately-timbered areas in the southern portion of the district. These areas offer cooler temperatures and some prime fall turkey transition areas, which include an oak tree component, available water, and small clearings or open meadows. However, warm to hot weather conditions during August and September will cause few flocks to be located in Unit 3B, since birds will still be holding at even higher and cooler elevations in adjacent Unit 1. Try hunting south of Forest Service road (FR) 45, as few turkeys will be located north of timbered areas and cooler locations. Fall hunters should remember that fall non-permit tags are valid in multiple units, and hunters should check regulations for open areas to increase their hunting location opportunities and chances for success.
Spring turkey hunters will find birds on almost all mountains south and east of FR 45. Lake Mountain has the highest number of birds, but also the highest number of hunters. Locating over-mature ponderosa pine roost sites by calling in the evening will greatly increase hunter success the following morning. Turkeys are more vulnerable during spring and are known to respond to ‘shock’ gobbles from a wide variety of marketed locator-type calls, including owl hoots and gobbles. Hunters should locate, call, and hunt open areas within 100-150 yards of a roost in the very early morning hours of dawn. Hunting or attempting to stalk to the roost itself generally proves unsuccessful, and is considered unethical by many spring turkey hunters. Morning hunts generally prove most successful, but are usually over by 6:00 a.m. if birds have not been located. A variety of turkey calls are available, but practice is more important than the call itself.
The Unit 3B spring turkey hunt will be a challenge, even for the most avid spring turkey hunter. Several days of scouting will be necessary to properly locate birds and develop hunting strategies. Peak gobbling activity is weather dependent, and can vary annually by as much as three weeks. This means that scouting and hunting may be necessary throughout the entire hunt. This annual variation in peak gobbling, combined with early morning alarm clocks for hunters, will prove to be nothing less than a challenge. However, it is this challenge that makes hunting this very noble and elusive wild animal a worthwhile adventure, and it is what drives avid spring turkey hunters, not the actual harvest.
Overview: Tree squirrel populations, specifically Abert’s, have good population numbers in Unit 3B, south of Forest Service road (FR) 45. Abert’s squirrels may be located in ponderosa pine stands with interlocking crowns, and favor those areas that also support an understory of Gambel oak. This type of habitat provides the squirrels with escape cover, nesting areas, and foraging opportunities, and will give hunters a good place to locate Abert’s.
Squirrels are active throughout the day, although the best hunting seems to be from first light to mid-morning. Stormy and/or windy weather provides less favorable hunting since squirrels are less active. Still-hunting is a preferred hunting method, where the hunter walks slowly, stopping and sitting often while the forest “quiets down.” Scanning trees and the forest floor while still-hunting will provide quality time for both hunting and enjoying the day with a hunting partner, whether young or experienced.
An annual small game camp for youth is held at the Los Burros Campground on the Vernon-McNary Road, the boundary between Units 1 and 3B. This event is typically held during the first weekend of the squirrel season in October and includes tips for hunting small game, demonstrations and various outdoor activities. Check the Department Web site for more information regarding this annual event.
Forest Service maps for the area may be obtained at any Apache-Sitgreaves Ranger District office. For more information, contact their office at (928) 368-2100.
Areas: From Vernon to Lakeside, all timbered areas as described south of FR 45.
Overview: Waterfowl hunting in Unit 3B is limited, but quality hunting opportunities do exist. Sportsmen will find that hunt quality and the quantity of birds are weather-related, and affected by both local weather conditions and weather fronts throughout the northern states of the flyway. A good rule-of-thumb is calm and clear days early in the season are less productive than breezy and overcast days late in the season.
The best technique for obtaining a bag limit is to hunt over decoys with a good dog, but some good areas, such as Silver Creek, do exist for jump-shooting opportunities. Hunters should practice their duck calling skills prior to the season since decoy spreads are greatly enhanced by skilled duck-callers. Nothing is worse than hunting next to a bad duck caller – and there should be no such thing with a little practice. Educational tapes are available and are very helpful to “tune your ear.” Chest-waders are recommended at all locations throughout the unit, and will allow hunters to reach the prime islands and hunting spots. Camouflage, including face netting, is strongly recommended.
Duck species commonly taken include mallard, gadwall, widgeon, teal, northern shoveler, canvasback, pintail, redhead, ringneck, and bufflehead. Plenty of opportunity also exists for harvesting coots.
Goose hunting opportunities are not predictable. An occasional goose is harvested, but generally by a lucky duck hunter.
Most recommended locations have perimeter areas where chest-waders are not necessary to hunt, but hunters without retrieving dogs must consider their ability, or inability, to retrieve game birds after they are downed. It is unlawful to waste game birds by failing to retrieve them.
The most common violations by hunters include exceeding a species’ specific bag limit, using lead shot, unplugged shotguns, and littering while hunting by failing to pick up used shot shells. These violations can be avoided by such things as studying waterfowl identification booklets, available through Department offices, and positively identifying ducks prior to pulling the trigger. Purchase steel shot prior to the season and remove all lead shot from your gear. Check yourself to make sure your shotgun is capable of holding no more than three (3) shot shells, and pick up all litter while hunting, including shot shells. Remember that your hunting license can be revoked for littering while hunting.
Most areas in the unit improve later in the season as higher elevation lakes freeze and inclement weather patterns in northern states cause migrant birds to arrive.
Areas: Jacques Marsh, Allen Severson Memorial Wildlife Area, Silver Creek, Sponseller Lake and Little Mormon Lake.
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.