Unit 5A – Arizona
Overview: Pronghorn occur in the open grassland and sparse pinion-juniper country in the northern part of unit. Hunting for pronghorn occurs during the annual rutting period. During this period, bucks are active, cover lots of ground, and are easily seen. Pronghorn country is sparsely watered making animals dependent on and vulnerable at reliable water sources. Hunters should first locate areas of green up, and then they will find pronghorn.
The 5A pronghorn herd is estimated to be around 200 animals. In the last few years, tags have been increased to address the high Buck: Doe ratio from the early 2000’s. The Buck: Doe ratio is now within guidelines and permits have been decreased to support a buck harvest around 10 annually. GMU 5A has good genetics and larger bucks can be found in the more remote areas of pronghorn habitat within the unit.
Areas: Highest concentrations of pronghorn occur west of Highway 87, south of I-40, and north of West Sunset Mountain. Easiest access to this area is off Meteor Crater Road. Lands in this area are state and private checkerboard. Private lands belong to Clear Creek Ranch and Bar T Bar Ranch. Another area to check is on top of west and East Sunset Mountain and Moonlight Bay north of East Sunset Mountain. A few large herds of pronghorn stay in the less open country south of the forest boundary. Access is permitted on the Clear Creek Ranch by written permission only and obtained by contacting the Hopi Tribe (see below). Camping is allowed on Clear Creek Ranch in the designated camping area with permission. Access to Bar T Bar lands is open, however, no off road travel is permitted. A road management plan is in place to direct travel. Remember; leave gates as you find them unless a sign is posted at the gate by the ranch.
Overview: The Unit 5A bear hunt is combined with Unit 4A, with a female harvest objective of four sows. The bear season closes at sundown the Wednesday immediately following the harvest of the fourth sow. This harvest objective is designed to maintain and improve bear hunting opportunity by insuring continued balanced boar: sow ratios and recruitment to the population. Harvest of males is unlimited while the season is open. Sows with cubs may not be taken.
Areas: In the fall, bears are concentrated on important food sources such as acorns. When good mast crops occur, bears are easily located in close proximity to stands of oaks. Bears often come from surrounding units during a good acorn crop, making it seem like there are bears around every corner. Before acorns mature look for signs of bears feeding on ants, grubs, termites and berries. Look for bear sign along any large drainage north of the Mogollon Rim. Opportunities to glass for bears are few in Unit 5A due to the thick mixed conifer forest.
Access: Most bear country in Unit 5A is located on Forest Service lands. These lands are open to hunting by licensed hunters. Forest Service maps are available at any Forest Service office in the state.
Other Concerns: Please review special regulations outlined in the hunt regulation booklet. Call 1-800-BEAR (2327) to ensure that the season is still open after opening weekend. Sows with cubs may not be taken so hunters should always look for cubs near a potential bear.
Overview: The Unit 5 deer hunt includes game management units 5A and 5B. Highest densities of mule deer during hunting season occur in transition areas between high elevation summer range and lower elevation pinion-juniper woodland in Unit 5B. Old juniper pushes, chaining, and other openings also attract deer. These areas typically are attractive to mule deer because of an abundance of cool season forage such as acorns, mountain mahogany, and cliffrose. These transition areas and openings occur along the rim of Anderson Mesa and its associated drainages that run north toward I-40. Deer tend to concentrate along larger drainages in area. These drainages include Walnut Canyon, Mormon Canyon, Padre Canyon, Grapevine Canyon, and Canyon Diablo. Deer are vulnerable along drainages and in openings, early or late in the day as they feed. Deer typically bed in thick juniper in close proximity to canyon rims or other rugged escape cover.
In 5A, deer hunters will want to concentrate around the burns just on top of the Mogollon Rim and then throughout the Pinon Juniper country north of Highway 87 milepost 312 to the Sunset Mountains. Mule deer can be found in small numbers along Jacks Canyon and some of the pushes on the east side of Highway 87. While herds may occur in small numbers, mule deer numbers are increasing, and there is a good chance of finding a mature buck.
Whitetail deer occur in small numbers in large drainages across the unit. Whitetails prefer rugged terrain with steep slopes and thick brush. Few whitetails are taken due to low numbers and difficult terrain. However, a hunter willing to put in the effort could harvest an older age class animal.
Access: The Forest Service and Arizona State Land Department manage most of Unit 5. A valid Arizona hunting license is required to access state lands, and no off-road vehicle travel is permitted on State lands. Much of the state land area of Unit 5 is “checker boarded” with alternating state and private land sections. Access is permitted on the Clear Creek Ranch by written permission only and obtained by contacting the Hopi Tribe (see below). There are also a few areas of private lands posted against trespass. Respect livestock operators by leaving gates as you find them.
Other Concerns: Do not litter or drive off road while hunting, and report those who do. Respect wildlife and livestock by not camping with in ¼ mile of water source. Maps of the Coconino National Forest will provide coverage for most of Unit 5A, and may be obtained at most Forest Service offices in the state.
Elk occur throughout Unit 5A from high elevation mixed conifer near the Mogollon Rim, north to the Sunset Mountains just south of Winslow. The Mogollon Rim country is very rugged with long ridges and deep canyons. The winter range is rolling pinion-juniper country with some deep canyons.
In the last decade, this herd has seen some dramatic changes from highs in the early 2000’s to recent lows around 2010. Permit numbers have been decreased significantly and the herd has been allowed to stabilize and grow recently. Antlerless hunt success has rebounded, however antlered success has achieved the previous lower hunt success guidelines. It will take a couple years to rebound to the new higher hunt success guidelines. If a hunter is insistent on hunting antlered elk in GMU 5A, the early archery bull hunt has the best success, due to bulls from surrounding units rutting the cows in GMU 5A.
The 5A elk herd is mostly a migratory herd. Typically elk concentrate in the high elevation summer range, however some elk do spend the entire year on low elevation winter range near Red Hill and the Sunset Mountains. At the first snow, the southern part of the herd typically migrates off the Mogollon Rim, and the central part of the herd typically migrates to lower GMU 6A. The northern part of the herd typically resides year round in the juniper grassland habitats of the northern part of the GMU. When heavy snow occurs, hunting can be very good in the transition zones between the summer range and winter range as the elk migrate to the low elevation winter range.
Elk hunts are strictly permitted hunts. Hunts start in September and run into December depending upon which weapon type you are drawn for. Successful strategies also depend upon your weapon type, terrain, time of year, and habitat conditions. 5A has fairly good water sources, compared to most other Arizona hunt units, so hunting over water is not as productive. In years with good mast crops, hunting oak patches can be a very productive method.
Access: The Coconino National Forest manages most of 5A. Forest Service maps can be obtained at any Forest Service office and are very helpful. The northern part of 5A is checkerboard state and private lands with access being limited on the Clear Creek Ranch by written permission only (see below).
East Sunset/West Sunset/Meteor Crater Hunt Area: This is a hunt area in northern 5A, which encompasses the state and private land. This hunt is a limited opportunity hunt to address resident elk herds on winter range. Hunt success may be very low. Reference limited opportunity hunt descriptions in the Arizona Game and Fish Hunting regulations to further understand the unique conditions of these hunts and the exact sub-unit boundaries.
Habitat types range from pinon-juniper to grassland. This country is rolling hills with two large mountains and two large canyons. Spot and stalk hunting will be the most productive method in this country. Access is permitted on the Clear Creek Ranch by written permission only and obtained by contacting the Hopi Tribe (see below). Please respect landowner wishes as access could be denied at any time.
Overview: Mountain Lions occur primarily in the southern and central parts of Unit 5A. Densities of lions are lower than most other predators near the top of the food chain. Lions have very large home ranges (up to 150 square miles), and except when rearing young, are constantly on the move. Lions establish territories and defend them against intrusion by other lions. Lions feed primarily on deer and other ungulates. Lions will move seasonally as their prey moves to and from winter range. Lions breed year round, and females care for their young alone.
Areas: As mentioned above, lions occupy primarily the southern and central parts of Unit 5A. Most lion hunting takes place in the cooler winter months on deer and elk winter range. Lions prefer the rougher more broken country near the deeper canyons in the unit. Calling with predator calls on canyon rims may be effective. Most lions are taken in Unit 5A by houndsmen.
Access: The Forest Service manages most of the lion habitat in Unit 5A. Access to these lands may be closed due to heavy snows. Maps of the Coconino National Forest are available at most Forest Service offices in the state.
Notice: The fall hunting season is now a limited weapon-shotgun shooting shot season only. There is still a fall archery-only over-the-counter permit hunt available in fall.
Overview: Before heavy snow cover, turkeys occupy ponderosa pine/ mixed conifer forest. During winter, birds move to lower elevation areas between ponderosa pine and pinion-juniper habitat types. Key forage for turkeys are forbs, insects, mast, and pinion pine seeds. Birds tend to select roost sites in large ponderosa pine trees on steep slopes.
The GMU 5A turkey population was significantly impacted by the winters of 2009 and 2010. Permit numbers were drastically cut in an effort to allow the population to rebound. Two consecutive years of decent poult crops have helped this population drastically. With this spring being mild, it is predicted GMU 5A will once again be an “A” turkey unit soon.
Areas: In the spring, birds are often still located in transition areas between ponderosa pine and pinion-juniper. Turkeys will follow the snow line back up to higher elevations. Turkeys can be found in drainages just north of the Mogollon Rim. Also, try East Clear Creek drainage. Take advantage of spring road closures by walking in to get away from other hunters and locate undisturbed birds. Calling using hen calls is the most effective hunting technique for springtime hunting. For safety, never make noises that may identify you as a gobbler, and never wear turkey colored clothing. In the fall, look for turkey sign around water tanks and likely roost sights. Building ground blinds out of natural materials and sitting all day can be effective.
Access: Most turkey habitat in Unit 5A is managed by the Forest Service, and is open to hunting by licensed hunters.
Forest Service maps for the Coconino National Forest can be obtained at any Forest Service office, and are very useful.
Note: This year should be an average year for turkeys, but access may be a problem for the spring season. Many roads are usually closed due to snow levels. Contact the Coconino National Forest for more information.
Overview: Band-tail pigeon exist in low numbers in Unit 5A in the ponderosa pine habitat type. Band-tails produce only one young per year. In the fall, these birds feed heavily on acorns, and therefore concentrate in areas with high densities of oak trees.
Areas: As mentioned above, look for band-tails in areas with lots of oak trees. Band-tails are also drawn to stock tanks near a good food source. Sitting at these tanks early and late in the day can be effective.
Overview: Tree squirrels exist in the higher elevation ponderosa pine/mixed conifer forest habitat. The squirrel population is doing very well this year, and hunters should have no problems finding plenty of opportunity.
Areas: Abert’s tassel-eared squirrels leave distinctive pine clippings below trees in which they feed. Look for areas of clippings and then walk slowly and quietly through the woods looking for nearby squirrels. Red Squirrels can also be found in the area. They can be located by their distinct chattering. Squirrels will often run long distances on the ground when being pursued, so don’t expect them to tree immediately. A dog can be useful in getting a squirrel up a near-by tree quickly. Be extra careful when shooting at squirrels up in trees and always have some kind of a backstop. High angle rifle shots can carry great distances.
Access: The Forest Service manages squirrel habitat in Unit 5A. Maps of the Coconino National Forest are available at any Forest Service office in the state.
Overview: Cottontail rabbit hunting is most productive in the northern half of the Unit. This is open grassland and Pinon Juniper habitat types. Start your hunt early and glass the edges of openings. Rabbit hunting can be a good warm up for later big game hunts.
In the northern portion of Unit 5A, access is permitted on the Clear Creek ranch by written permission only by contacting the Hopi Tribe Wildlife and Ecosystems Management Program via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 928-734-3606 or X 3605.