Unit 43B – Arizona
Overview: The desert bighorn sheep population in unit 43B is one of the most stable populations in the state. Most of unit 43B has been exposed to very little disturbance, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been successful in enhancing the habitat through numerous sheep water developments over the years. As of 2015, hunters continue to experience near100% hunt success.
Most of the sheep habitat in unit 43B is on the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. Sheep hunters are required to contact the proving ground to receive a safety briefing and to obtain their YPG permit prior to the hunt. Sheep hunters are reminded that a permit is necessary to gain access to restricted areas on YPG, not only during the hunt, but also when scouting. All persons wanting to go onto YPG to assist with the sheep hunt will also need a YPG hunting permit, even if they are not the tag holder. Additionally, hunters in possession of game cameras, digital cameras or other optical equipment may be required to obtain a photo pass from YPG and be subject to additional regulations.
Areas: Hunters are encouraged to contact YPG early and often to receive the safety briefing and to find out which areas and roads they can and cannot hunt (contact phone number and address is in the hunting regs). Of course, all sheep hunters will want to purchase a complete set of topographic maps, and should use them as a reference for the areas mentioned here. Hunters should keep in mind that very little of the unit’s sheep habitat can be directly accessed by vehicle, rather, the available roads will only get one close. ATV’s may be useful, but check with YPG about where they can be used. Maps of open hunting areas can be found on YPG’s website or obtained through YPG’s hunting office.
Highway 95 and the Cibola Lake Road form the unit’s eastern and northern boundary respectively. From Highway 95 one can access the east side of the Chocolate Mountains which run generally south to north parallel to the highway. The areas South of Cibola Lake Road, such as the north end of the Trigo range and Mohave Peak, can be accessed through a multitude of military roads and wash bottoms on YPG. Again, YPG should be consulted along with the topo maps to figure out which routes can be used.
The Red Cloud Mine Road offers access to the South end of the Trigo Mountains and areas on the interior of the range. Follow the signs for the Imperial Refuge and then continue past the refuge headquarters. The road continues for several miles through the mountains, and drops into Clip Wash. The northwest end of the Trigo Mountains can be accessed heading South from the town of Cibola. The area around the Red Cloud Mine Road includes land managed by the Imperial Refuge, YPG, and the BLM as a wilderness. These agencies should be consulted prior to hunting to ensure that hunters are aware of any special regulations that may be in effect.
Hunter’s wishing to access the far west side of the unit may consider taking a boat up the Colorado River. There are launch areas at Hidden Shores, Martinez Lake, and Meer’s Point on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. Hunter’s can park their boats in the back waters and access land on foot. The first 0.5-2 linear miles of land is Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, followed by approximately 5 linear miles of BLM land before entering YPG.
Other areas to consider for sheep hunting include the Imperial Hills. This strip of low rising hills starts on the southern end near Hidden Shores near the Imperial Dam and ends at the north end near Fisher’s Landing near Martinez Lake. There is a very stable population of sheep that exist in this mountain range that can be accessed from land or by boat along the Colorado River.
The Laguna Mountains is another range that has a healthy population of sheep. The range occurs near Mittry Lake located northeast of the town of Yuma, Arizona. There is a mixture of Bureau of Land Management and Yuma Proving Grounds lands that exist within this range.
Overview: Hunters generally concentrate in and around desert washes where most of the deer are found. This is a good strategy, but hunters who are interested in a challenging hunt and larger, older bucks should try the broad, desert flats near to the larger washes. Hunting the flats is a challenge because vantage points from which to glass are few, but persistent hunters often find the largest bucks here. Whichever strategy one uses, it should involve scouting for areas that show signs of deer usage, and then concentrating the effort on those areas during the season. Even in November, temperatures in Unit 43B can often be fairly warm, so deer will be most active in the early morning and late evening hours. Because several areas within unit 43B are subject to special regulations, including areas closed to hunting, it is extremely important for hunters to know where they are, and what regulations apply to that area. This might require a little research prior to the season, and most definitely a good set of maps.
Areas: Much of unit 43B lies within the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), and most of YPG is restricted area or completely closed to hunting. YPG has implemented a program to allow hunting in some parts of their range, and require that an additional permit be purchased from them.
The area bordered by Highway 95 on the West, the Kofa Wildlife Refuge to the East, and the YPG restricted area to the South has produced some quality bucks over the years. The area is crossed by numerous large washes running west from the Kofa Mountains and contains some of the best forage available in the unit. The area is accessed from Highway 95 via numerous unmarked dirt roads and jeep trails, or from a powerline road off of the King Valley Road to the North. Four-wheel drive is recommended, and hunters need to be aware of unit boundaries and observe signs in the area. Some parts of this area require an YPG permit. Permits and advance must be obtained whether the hunter is crossing YPG land or hunting on YPG land.
The area (at the northwest corner of the unit) bordered by Cibola Lake Road to the West and North, YPG to the East, and the Trigo Wilderness area to the South is a small area which has become a hot spot for mule deer hunting in the last few years. This area also contains large desert washes. Successful hunters glass into the washes in the early morning and evenings from the high ridges between the washes. Access into the area via marked BLM trails stemming from Cibola Lake Road. Cibola Lake Road can be accessed from Highway 95 approximately 18 miles South of Quartzsite, from Ehrenberg, or from the Cibola Refuge. Four-wheel drive is recommended. Yuma Proving Grounds has expanded the open hunting areas on their lands in this area including portions of Gould’s and Crazy Woman washes which hold good populations of deer.
The area around the Red Cloud Mine Road on the Imperial Wildlife Refuge can provide a variety of different types of mule deer hunting. Yuma Wash, Black Rock Wash, Red Cloud Wash, and Clip Wash all contain good deer habitat. Each wash contains a variety of terrains from broad, flat sections, to more narrow, canyon type terrain. All washes in this area meander down to the Colorado River and to the dense stands of vegetation and marshes associated with the river. To hunt this area one should locate deer sign in a specific area, and then spend time glassing into the washes and rolling hills. A YPG permit is required to hunt some parts of this area. Four wheel drive is recommended, and, as always, observe any regulatory signs. Hunters should be aware that this area has had incidents of illegal alien activity and should be observant of their surroundings.
The Department is continually monitoring for the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Arizona. To date, CWD has not been detected in Arizona deer herds. The Department actively attempts to sample as many deer as possible each hunting season. Hunters wishing to have their deer tested for CWD can bring their deer head to any Department office. This sample can also be collected fairly quickly by a wildlife manager in the field. Some meat processors or taxidermists are also collecting these samples. Hunter’s who have their deer tested will be notified by the Department of the outcome of the test.
OHV USE: ATV, UTV, and rails designed by the manufacturer primarily for travel over unimproved roads and having an unladen weight of 1800 lbs or less requires an OHV decal to operate on public and state trust lands. OHV decals are available online at www.servicearizona.com and at MVD offices statewide.
Note: Unit 43B includes land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army. Each agency has different regulations that are in effect; there are some wilderness areas (Trigo Mountains, Imperial Refuge), and some areas closed to hunting (Imperial Refuge, Yuma Proving Ground). Hunters should contact the land management agency in charge of the area they wish to hunt.
Overview: Unit 43B does not support a large population of mountain lions; however, over the last few years mountain lions have occasionally been documented in 43B. During the last 5 year survey period, there have been no reports of mountain lion kills in 43B. Hunters wanting to harvest lions may have the best luck the the area east of Highway 95 and west of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge looking for lions that occasionally move between the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the Chocolate Mountains on YPG. This area is comprised of lands managed by BLM and YPG. Please note that both the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the Chocolate Mountains are currently closed to the take of mountain lions. Hunters wanting to hunt on or cross YPG lands will need to coordinate their activities with YPG to obtain the proper permits and clearances ahead of time. Any successful hunter must report their kill to a Department Office by telephone or in person within 48 hours of a kill (1-877-438-0447). Additionally, successful hunters must present the lion’s skull, hide, and attached proof of sex within 10 days of the kill. Failure to complete these required checks may result in a citation.
Overview: The best dove hunting in U43B can be found in the Gila Valley. Those areas North and East of Yuma along Highway 95, contain a fair amount of agricultural fields and dove. Hunters will want to scout early to ensure they find a spot where they are not hunting within a quarter mile of any buildings. Also while scouting, hunters might want to think about obtaining permission from the farmers who own the fields, especially fields that are posted. Getting permission before a hunt not only does great things for the image of hunters, but it is much better to find out which areas are off limits before the season rather than as the birds start flying on opening morning. Scouting can also prove beneficial in locating grain fields, which usually provide the best dove hunting. Hunters should also be aware of fields that are posted as Organic Farms. Any residue of human traffic, hunting activity (shotgun shells, feathers, lost birds), or use of dogs can cause a farmer to lose an entire crop due to new food safety regulations. Please do not hunt or enter in or near fields that are posted as Organic Farms. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has worked with the local farmers in the area to create access and habitat improvement agreements to help hunting in the area.
Primary areas to locate dove in the Gila Valley include the areas around the Gila River, Fortuna Wash, Fortuna Pond and the Gila Gravity Canal. Look for birds moving between roosting areas along the Gila River and Fortuna wash to fields for food.
More information on places to go in the Gila Valley and around Yuma can be found at http://www.yumadovehunting.com/home.
Hunters interested in a completely different dove hunt might try locating water sources out in the desert areas to the North. Shooting in these areas will be less frantic, and there will be fewer people. Water sources near to roosting sights will prove to be the most fruitful.
Overview: Unit 43B’s quail populations, like the rest of the state, fluctuate greatly with the levels of precipitation received. 2017 spring rains were good for the unit and helped forage for quail. 2017 quail populations appear average to slightly above average.
Areas: Unit 43B includes land managed as BLM wilderness, the Yuma Proving Ground, and the Imperial Wildlife Refuge. Land managed by each of these agencies has different land use regulations, including areas closed to hunting. There are several areas in unit 43B that require an U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground hunting permit.
The area between Highway 95 and the Kofa refuge often supports good populations of quail. The area contains a multitude of large desert washes heading west from the Castle Dome Mountains. During good conditions one will easily find quail in these washes.
Quail populations are probably the densest on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. However, not all areas on the refuge are open to hunting and some areas are designated nontoxic shot only. Check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service before hunting here. Additionally, being so close to the Colorado River, quail in the area are often found in very dense stands of salt cedar and mesquite. Look for the birds further inland.
The Gila Valley in Yuma contains private agricultural lands. Areas of agriculture next to desert habitat and/or water sources (canals/Gila and Colorado Rivers), can prove to be the key to good pockets of quail. Hunters need to be cognizant of private agricultural fields and postings.
Overview: The unit contains good habitat for migrating waterfowl. There are two rivers which include the Gila and Colorado rivers, as well as several lakes and canals such as Mittry Lake and Martinez Lake on the Colorado River . Most hunting occurs on Martinez Lake. Imperial National Wildlife Refuge implements closures prohibiting all entry during waterfowl season to allow resting areas for migrating waterfowl. Consult Refuge regulations prior to waterfowl hunting. Some hunts have success “jump shooting” ducks along the Gila Gravity Canal in the Gila Valley. Species of waterfowl that can be found include widgeon, mallards, teal, scaup, ring neck, common coot, pintail as well as the occasional Canada and snow geese.