Unit 44A – Arizona
Overview: Unit 44A is divided into three units – east, west and south (which is combined with Unit 42) for the Bighorn Sheep hunt. Last year, 44AE was split and the south of SR 60 half was combined with the Unit 42 hunt with an increase in permits. The new 44A South will be covered under the 42 bighorn sheep page.
In 44A East, the bighorn sheep population is estimated at about 45 animals, and is spread over an area encompassing 3 mountain ranges Granite Wash, Harcuvar, and Black Mountains. Rams harvested in recent years range from about 150 – 165 BC points.
In 44A West, the bighorn population is estimated at about 45 animals within the Buckskin Mountains. Rams harvested in recent years range from 150 – 175 BC points.
These two hunt areas offer mountain ranges with every type of bighorn sheep habitat from low rolling hills to high craggy cliffs. Access is better in some mountain ranges than others. The Granite Wash has the most access with the Harcuvar having the least. There are 9 developed sheep waters in these hunt units although bighorn sheep rarely are actively watering during our December hunts.
There are 4 major BLM Wilderness Areas in the 44A, the Harquahala (now in 42 BHS hunt), Gibraltor (44A West), Tres Alamos (44A East), and Harcuvar (44A East).
Overview: Over the life of this hunt, approximately 35-40 elk have been taken. In the last two years, no elk have been reported taken. In the past, most of the elk taken were cows or small bulls. This area is not conducive to aerial surveys because of the low population and the dense vegetation that the elk inhabit. When the hunt was started, a number of years ago, the population estimate was 40-60.
Most hunters find these elk hunts to be very difficult and challenging. Hunters should be aware that access is limited do to road closures and thick habitat. An ATV is recommended and/or hunters should plan on packing animals through thick vegetation.
Small groups of elk are located throughout the year in the river bottoms of the Big Sandy and Santa Maria Rivers upstream of Alamo Lake, and those portions of the Bill Williams River directly above Alamo Lake. These river bottoms are wide and dominated with dense thickets of cottonwood, willow, mesquite and salt cedar trees. There may be multiple stream channels that may contain flowing water or moist soil conditions.
Primary access to the Unit 44A portion is the paved Alamo Dam Lake Road beginning in Wenden, to the Wayside Inn Road to the Wayside Inn. Direct access to the Santa Maria from there is on the Three Rivers Road and the road crossing Date Creek (about 1/2. mile east of the Wayside Inn. Some hunters have had success-locating elk from the bluffs along the south side of the river. Elk can be located along the Santa Maria as far up as the Palmerita Ranch. Motorized vehicle travel is allowed in the Santa Maria upstream from Date Creek.
Primary access to the upper Bill Williams and lower Big Sandy portion of Unit 16A, from the south, is the Brown’s Crossing Road (that ends at the gauging station at the confluence of the Santa Maria and the Big Sandy). Travel up the Big Sandy is limited to about a mile to the wilderness boundary. Some elk to tend to center their activity in the vicinity of the gauging station. Primary access from the north is the Alamo Road, from Signal Road or Chicken Springs Road. Some elk can be found as far up the Big Sandy River as Wikieup. Access along the Bill Williams, above the Alamo Lake, west to Planet Ranch Road is essentially foot access.
Over-the-counter non-permit tag holders for the Alamo Lake Hunt Area:
Note: Alamo Lake Hunt Area supplement – tips on how to approach hunting elk in this unique area.
Download the Alamo Lake Elk Hunt Area PDF
Overview: This year (2015) is looking a better because of plentiful rain but populations are still effected by the long-term drought cycle. The deer population has leveled off from a decreasing trend. The deer that primarily use the low desert have not been as affected as much as those that stay in the mountains. Rainfall in the winter of 14/15 has been above normal and range conditions are good throughout most of the unit.
The higher deer densities are still associated with the Harcuvar Mountains. There are some deer in the Harquahala Mtns. but the overall density is low.
There are a number of Arizona Game & Fish Department deer catchments surrounding these mountain ranges. Several have historically had 60 to 100 deer per day watering at them during the summer. The Black Mountains in the northeast corner of the unit also support a fair deer population. Pre-season scouting will determine if these deer are on the waters. Be sure that you camp more than a quarter mile from a waterhole. Deer use in portions of the mountains (usually dependent on summer green-ups) varies from one year to the next. A few, larger bucks can be found in the flats in the bigger washes running through the district. These bucks tend to be difficult to hunt. During dry fall seasons deer can be found using the agricultural fields or in the surrounding desert area. Remember large portions of the agricultural fields are privately owned and some are closed to hunting. Also, hunting from a vehicle and shooting within a quarter mile of an occupied structure is unlawful.
Areas: The north side of the Harquahala Mtns. and the south side of the Harcuvar Mtns. are accessed off of State Route 60 between Wenden and Aguila. The eastern end of both ranges is accessed off of the Eagle Eye Road running through Aguila. The south side of the Harquahala Mtns. is reached off of the Salome-Buckeye road off of Interstate 10 and State Route 60.
The Harquahala Mountains have several major canyons and approximately half of it is Wilderness Area. The B.L.M. restricts motorized travel in Wilderness Area, but this does not limit travel in most of the mountain. Sunset Canyon (milepost 72) and Dushey (milepost 78) are accessed south from State Route 60. Both require hiking and glassing. At Sunset you have approximately one and a half-mile walk from the wilderness boundary to a deer catchment and then approximately two more miles to Sunset Pass. At the head of Dushey Canyon is the Linde Mine. From there several trails lead to the east toward springs in the mountain. These are all day hikes or backpacking overnight is preferred.
The White Marble Mine area (approximately milepost 67) is also reached from south of SR. 60. There are numerous smaller drainages in this area.
Brown’s Canyon and Blue Tank Canyon and Harquahala Peak are accessed east from the Eagle Eye Road south of Aguila. Brown’s Canyon (milepost 17) can be driven to the base and then requires hiking.
Blue Tank Canyon and Harquahala Peak are accessed from the Harquahala Peak Road, a well-marked road, but 4-wheel drive is necessary to get to the top. This is a good road to scout for sign before the hunt. Hiking and glassing will be required since this road is well used during the season. Lower Blue Tank Canyon has numerous mining roads leading up to the base of the mountain.
The Harcuvar Mtns. also have limited access. A popular road is the Smith Peak road that goes from the southeast side of the mountain to the towers on Smith Peak. To get to the Smith Peak road take the Eagle Eye road 4 miles north from Aguila (two miles paved and two miles dirt). Turn left just after passing the Leaving Maricopa County sign. Go west about 3.25 miles (do not take the road that goes north at three miles – this road joins with the dirt Alamo road that begins at Highway 93). Turn northwest and follow to the mountain. Stay on road through several small black volcanic hills (do not take the first several roads that fork to the right). This road will eventually go past the remains of a rock house (common campsite) on your left-hand side and into the mountain and to Smith Peak. At the rock house is a road network that goes west along the base of the mountain for five or six miles.
There are roads that access the north side of the mountain from the dirt Alamo road off of Highway 93. Most of the roads (not that many) that go toward the Harcuvar Mtns. from the Alamo Road will eventually get you to the mountain.
Highway 93 forming the eastern boundary of Unit 44A is the route to get to the Black Mountains. The east side is reached from milepost 71.2, 68, and 63 most of which is in the Joshua Tree Forest. The road to Aso Pass will take hunters through the middle of the mountain and connect with another road flanking the west side. The Arizona Game & Fish Department maintains two wildlife waters on the west side.
During the winter (rut) the deer in these mountains may be on one of several patterns. Certain years the deer are up in the mountain and in other years (usually colder – freezing temperatures in the morning) the deer will be on the south, more arid desert sides of the mountain. Over all in the Harcuvar Mtns. the best deer numbers are from the east end of the mountain to approximately five miles west of Smith Peak. Generally, the deer in the Harquahala Mtns. will not be on top of the mountain and that usually holds, though not as predictable, for the Harcuvar Mtns.
Hunters may be surprised at the lack of deer in good-looking habitat. If that is the case try working areas that are rockier and more sparsely vegetated. Again this can be true if it has been bitter cold. South sides and low elevation areas are warmer and any available feed is less likely to be frozen. If the rut is on hunters, will be treated to a most enjoyable hunt because of the quality bucks in the Harcuvar Mtns. and Harquahala Mtns.
Overview: Above average rainfall in 2014 have created good range conditions which should produce a good crop of morning doves. White wings are typically found more in the southern portion of the district around the melon fields then in the rest of the unit. White wings are more susceptible to the cool evenings caused by the pre-season monsoons and fly further south. Depending on late summer rainfall, the late season should be fairly good. Usually with some pre-opening day scouting one can find concentrations of doves.
Hunters usually concentrate around the agricultural areas between Aguila and Salome. Some of these areas are private land so hunters should obey signs and fencing. These areas are especially good during drier years. During the late season there usually are plenty of dove on the desert stock tanks. When hunting stock ponds do not expect much activity until mid to late morning. Dove usually feed first thing in the morning before going to water. Hunters can use this strategy by hunting around agriculture for the first few hours then driving to a stock pond later in the morning.
The late season can be exceptional and with fewer hunters. Dove will exhibit the same pattern of going to water mid morning. This hunt overlaps the quail hunt and offers an underutilized opportunity to hunt two bird species during cooler conditions in the desert.
Hunters are reminded to camp more than a quarter mile from water and not to shoot within a quarter mile of an occupied structure. Be sure to pick up a copy of the current Migratory Bird Regulations to check bag and possession limits, season dates, and legal shooting hours before going in the field.
Areas: The agricultural fields are found just north of Interstate 10 at the Vicksburg Road, north of SR 72 off the Vicksburg Road in Butler Valley, between Salome and Aguila off SR 60 and SR 71, and south of Salome on the Salome/Buckeye Road. Remember large portions of these agricultural fields are privately owned and some are closed to hunting. The desert surrounding these agricultural fields is usually not private land and consistently has a good number of birds.
The areas northwest of Wickenburg to Alamo Lake are dotted with stock ponds. Just about every dirt road between the dirt Alamo road and State Route 71 between Highway 93 and Aguila will eventually end at a stock pond. There are several stock ponds west of Highway 93 north of the dirt Alamo Road and east of the Black Mountains.
Overview: The outlook for quail should be average or above for 2015. A good hatch is expected this spring, which means the overall population should be up from last year. Hunters can expect to see fairly large coveys around the agricultural fields and around the base of the mountains. Hunters are reminded not to camp within a quarter mile of a stock tank or catchment and not shoot within a quarter mile of an occupied structure.
The Centennial Wash between Salome and Aguila should be a good spot for quail. Both the Harquahala Mtns. and Harcuvar Mtns. are currently supporting fair numbers of quail around the base of the mountains. The Black Mountains and the upper end of Alamo Lake also have a good number of birds.
Areas: Quail can be found throughout all elevations in Unit 44A from 500 to 5,000 feet. Quality bird hunting is usually found along the foothill areas within this unit. The large lower elevation washes also have concentrations of quail. Such washes have a variety of ironwood, mesquite and Palo verde trees that quail favor. The desert surrounding the agricultural fields consistently holds good numbers of birds and is usually unaffected by lack of summer rains. Remember large portions of the agricultural fields are privately owned and some are closed to hunting. Quail are not totally dependent on open water but are often found near a water source.
For the western portion of the unit the favorite spot is along the Bill Williams River. This river is in most places a perennial stream that flows from Alamo Lake into Lake Havasu. The Bill Williams River is the boundary for Units 44A and 16A. There are several ranches along the river including the Lincoln Ranch and Planet Ranch. Both of these ranches are posted no trespassing so do not enter them without the landowners’ permission. The western part of the river is within the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge allows hunting only on the south side of the river. Any hunting done on the Refuge must meet their rules and regulations. Please note that you may only be in possession of NON-TOXIC SHOT while hunting the refuge. For additional refuge information call (928) 667-4144.
The upper end of Alamo Lake, Santa Maria River, Big Sandy, and Date Creek Rivers are all good places to find quail. This area can be very thick with mesquite and salt cedar but with a good dog, a limit is fairly common. You get to this area off the State Route 93-Alamo Road (dirt Alamo Road). This road is 38 miles of two-wheel-drive dirt road that ends at Alamo Lake. You need to turn northeast on the Palmerita Ranch Road approximately two miles southeast of the Wayside Inn.
The area northwest of Wickenburg to Alamo Lake is dotted with stock ponds. Just about every dirt road between the dirt Alamo road and State Route 71 between Highway 93 and Aguila will eventually end at a stock pond. There are several stock ponds west of Highway 93 north of the dirt Alamo Road and east of the Black Mountains. The Joshua Forest along Highway 93 south of the Santa Maria River can also be good.
The north side of the Harquahala Mtns. and the south side of the Harcuvar Mtns. are reached off State Route 60 between Wenden and Aguila. The eastern end of both mountains is reached off the Eagle Eye Road running through Aguila. The south side of the Harquahala Mtns. is reached off the Salome-Buckeye Road between Interstate 10 and State Route 60.