Unit 9 – Arizona
Overview: Antelope are scattered throughout the central and southern portions of Unit 9. Most of the antelope habitat in Unit 9 is on state and private land. Please be respectful and obey all signs. The hunter success has been high and I’d expect it to continue. Every hunter should familiarize himself with the boundaries of the unit they are hunting. The southwest portion of Unit 9 has some access problems. The private landowner has many areas marked “No Trespassing”, so please respect these signs or you will be cited. There are also some areas east of Valle and north of Highway 180 where access is blocked, so again please respect the private landowner rights. These closed areas encompass a small portion of Unit 9 and the open areas offer plenty of opportunity to harvest a buck. Access is not a problem in Unit 9, but it is every hunter’s responsibility to know where they are and respect private property. Sportsman should obey all signs and leave gates as they find them. Please respect private property and always pickup litter, even if it’s not yours. These acts of kindness go a long way to ensure access onto private property. Please be sure and identify your target and watch your background. Male antelope have a black cheek patch and a legal buck must have horns longer than his ear. Antelope groups often are composed of does and one dominate buck. They will often bunch up before they run, so make sure there are no additional antelope are standing behind the buck before you shoot. Some common problems or violations associated with antelope hunts include: camping within a quarter mile of waterholes, driving cross country and the wounding of other antelope resulting from hunters not being aware of their backgrounds.
Areas: For a couple of reasons, I will break up areas into only two groups. First, antelope cover many square miles and move often. Secondly, much of the antelope habitat looks similar and breaking it down into blocks would only concentrate hunters.
The first area is west of Highway 64 to Cataract Canyon (boundary between Units 9 & 10). The Wilahawa Road goes west from HWY 64 at about milepost 221.8. This is the main access road to the west part of Unit 9. The other access road to the west part of Unit 9 is Forest Road 347 (Anita Road) and goes west from HWY 64 at milepost 228. This side is very open grassland country and ideal for glassing lots of wide open areas. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Valle map will cover this area. But for better detail, I’d recommend topographic maps. Topographic maps for the pronghorn habitat on the west side of Unit 9 include: Box K Ranch, Metzger Tank, Howard Hill, Little Harpo Canyon, Red Butte Southwest, Valle Tank, Miller Tank, and Markham Dam.
The second area is east of Highway 64 and borders Unit 7 to the south. This area consists mainly of pinyon and juniper woodlands with many openings between them. It can be a little more difficult to hunt than the west side, but may offer some better quality bucks due to having more hiding cover. The main access off highway 64 is Forest Road 320 at approximately Milepost 224. From Highway 180, there are several ways to access Unit 9, mostly through State and private lands that are not numbered. I’d recommend entering Unit 9 from the power-line/gas line road, which travels along the southern boundary of Unit 9. The Kaibab National Forest’s Tusayan/Williams map covers the east side of the unit well. The Kaibab National Forest map can be obtained by calling the Williams Visitor Center at 928-635-1418. Topographic maps for the east side include Red Butte, Harbison Tank, Peterson Flat, Willows Camp, Lockwood Canyon, Dog Knobs, Molly Ann Draw, Valle Tank, and Ebert Mountain. The further north you travel, approaching the Kaibab Forest, the denser the juniper woodlands will get. From the Dog Knobs east to the Navajo Reservation is where the best antelope habitat will be.
Overview: Unit 9 is a large unit encompassing about 1,600 square miles. The land status in Unit 9 is mostly Kaibab National Forest on the north end, and state private lands to the south and west. Maps can be obtained by calling the Williams Visitor Center at 928-635-1418. The Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) is on the north end of Unit 9 and hunting is not allowed on the park. The boundary is well fenced and signed. Some forest roads parallel and/or enter into the GCNP and hunters need to be aware of where they are. Loaded weapons are not allowed inside the park and this is strictly enforced. The elk are scattered throughout the unit, but the highest densities occur in the ponderosa pine/Gambel oak areas on the Kaibab National Forest. But presence of elk can be found just about anywhere water is found. Unit 9 is managed for a high bull to cow ratio, and has good numbers of older bulls in the population. This unit can be dry and elk may come to water during shooting hours during archery hunts, but rarely during the late general hunts. This unit can be difficult to hunt as it has lots of areas with good cover (thick vegetation) and is relatively flat, making glassing difficult. Access is not a big problem, however access onto state owned lands is often times through private lands. This access can be lost at anytime. It is every hunter’s responsibility to respect private lands and obey all signs. Please leave gates as you find them, and pickup litter, even if it’s not yours. These random acts of kindness go a long way onto ensure access onto private property.
Areas (for antlered hunts): The Skinner Ridge area, which encompasses a mixture of ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, pinyon and juniper, and scattered pockets of sagebrush, is a good area to start. This area can be very thick, which is why lots of bulls prefer to use it. Successful hunters slowly walk the edges of the ridgetops glassing often.
The Red Butte area, which encompasses pinyon and juniper woodlands with sagebrush openings, can be very good, especially during the late general hunts. The Red Butte area is closed to any off-highway vehicle (OHV) and a successful hunter who harvests an elk inside the closure may not drive off-road to retrieve game.
The Moqui Stage Station to Lockwood Canyon area (FR 301), which encompasses mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands, has been good in the past. This area has lots of openings and is good for glassing at first and last light.
The Upper Basin, which encompasses pinyon and juniper woodlands with scattered openings of sagebrush, can hold lots of elk. However, water availability is the critical factor. If water is available, elk will be present early in the fall. If not, this area is best for the late general hunt as some elk will begin movement onto this winter range.
West of Tusayan along Forest Road 328, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands with lots of sagebrush openings,can be very good for bull hunts. However, there is lots of country out here and if it’s wet, the elk can be scattered everywhere and difficult to find. If it’s dry, check the water holes for sign but rarely will the elk come into water during shooting hours on the late general hunts.
The Grandview to Cabin Tank area along FR 310, mostly ponderosa pine and Gambel oak forest, can be excellent for both early and late hunts. If it snows during or before the late general hunt, most of the elk will head for lower country as this is the highest elevation area (about 7,600 feet).
Areas (for antlerless elk): The Upper Basin area, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands with scattered openings of sagebrush, is one of the best areas for late antlerless elk hunts. This is one of three main wintering areas for elk in Unit 9. There are scattered openings throughout this area and successful hunters need to glass these areas at first and last light. Many of these elk will feed in the openings just north of the Coconino Rim and retreat to the rim for cover and bedding. The main forest roads in this area include 307, 682, 683, 2807, 2815, and this area can be easily accessed from State Highway 64.
The Harbison Ranch to Lockwood Tank area, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands, is an excellent area for late season antlerless elk hunts. This is a main wintering area for elk and will usually have high densities. You should expect to see lots of hunters throughout this area so keep hunter safety in mind. This area has lots of openings as well as good cover areas, so don’t give up if you are not seeing many elk. This is the last hunt of the year in Unit 9 and these elk have become wise and find cover quickly. The successful hunters will walk the edges of these openings at first light, and slowly walk the thicker areas as the day progresses. Some of this area encompasses private land, so please be respectful and pick up litter, even if it is not yours.
The Red Butte area, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands with scattered openings of sagebrush and saltbush, can be a good area for late season antlerless elk hunts. These elk move often depending on weather, water availability, and hunting pressure, but will usually be scattered in small groups all through this area. Starting east of highway 64 you may try the following areas: New Automobile tank, Corbett Dam, Huff Reservoir, Curley Wallace tank, Government tank, Bly tank, and Sage tank. Going west of Highway 64 you may try the following areas: Red Horse tank, Sixty Two tank, Jackson tank, and XB tank. This area is bordered by the railroad tracks on the west, Forest Road 347 (Anita Road) on the north, Highway 64 to the east, and the Wilahawa Road to the south (approximately milepost 221.8 along HWY 64). Main Forest Roads to watch for in this area include 320, 305, 776, 318, 319, 308, 347, 2623, and 2625. Some of this area is private land so please be respectful and always pick up litter even if it is not yours.
The west part of Unit 9, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands with lots of big openings of sagebrush, will have good numbers of antlerless elk herds, but can be difficult to hunt due to good hiding and escape cover. Most of these elk will be on the Kaibab Forest, however we’ve had increasing numbers using the adjacent private and state lands. Areas to consider hunting include: O’Connell tank, Griffin tank, Sam Moore tank, Little Sam Moore, Sheep, Homestead, Midway 1 and 2, Thurston, New, and Cecil Dodd. Areas adjacent to the Kaibab Forest include: Brown tank, Geddes tank, Bailey tank, Upper Wagner tank, Little Rain tank, and Little Tom Moore tank. Again, these herds can be small and often scattered over many square miles, so be patient and hunt on foot.
The area from Tusayan to Grandview, mostly ponderosa pine habitats, can be good depending on the weather. This is summer elk habitat, however if the fall weather has been mild, there will still be elk using this country. The main forest roads in this area include 302, 303, 688, 2719, 301, 304, 310, and 2732. This area can be very conducive to walking slow and glassing due to the scattered openings throughout the pine forest.
The Peterson Flat to Willows Camp area, mostly pinyon and juniper woodlands, can hold lots of wintering elk. There are scattered openings throughout this area. As you go east from Peterson Flat, the openings get larger with small pockets of trees. You can find small groups of elk on these fringe areas so don’t give up due to lack of trees in the area. The Forest Roads in this area include 320, 313, 316, 312, 337, and 2743. This area will border the Navajo Reservation so know where you are and look for the boundary fence that is well marked.
Unit 9 encompasses about 1,600 square miles. Mule deer can be found throughout most of the unit, but the highest densities occur in the ponderosa pine and pinyon juniper woodlands. Much of the unit is on the Kaibab National Forest and maps can be obtained by calling the Williams Visitor Center at 928-635-1418. Adjacent lands are under state and private ownership. The Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) is on the north end of Unit 9 and hunting is NOT allowed on the park. The GCNP boundary is fenced and signed well. Sportsman traveling forest roads need to be aware that some roads parallel and some enter into the park. It is unlawful to enter the GCNP with a loaded weapon. Access is not a problem in Unit 9, but it is every hunter’s responsibility to know where they are and respect private property. Sportsman should obey all signs and leave gates as they find them. Please respect private property and always pickup litter, even if it’s not yours. These acts of kindness go a long way to ensure access onto private property.
Scouting around water holes can be beneficial, however, during deer season, most of the bucks will not drink water until after daylight hours. So, rather than sitting at water holes, most hunters have better success hunting on foot within a mile or two of watering areas. Unit 9 can be very difficult to hunt as lack of topographic relief makes using binoculars difficult. Successful hunter’s still hunt areas or trails between watering and feeding or bedding areas, or hunt extremely slow, glassing often.
Some common violations include: camping within a quarter mile of a water hole, shooting within a quarter mile of a residence or occupied building, shooting from a vehicle, and shooting from or across a road.
Areas: The Skinner Ridge area can be good and encompasses a variety of habitats, including: ponderosa pine, pinyon-juniper, and scattered sagebrush areas. The deer density is high along Skinner Ridge especially if the Gambel oaks produce acorns. If there are little or no acorns present, look for areas with lots of cliffrose as this becomes an important deer food as the fall season progresses.
The Red Butte area (pinyon-juniper and sagebrush habitat) can be good as there are no roads other than around the perimeter, which limits hunters who may not want to walk as much. If the weather is warm look for deer to be bedded in the shade under large juniper trees. The Red Butte area is closed to any off-highway vehicle (OHV) and a successful hunter who harvests a deer inside the closure may not drive off-road to retrieve game.
The Anita area, which is mostly pinyon-juniper and sagebrush, (near forest roads 347 and 306 going north to the Grand Canyon National Park boundary) can hold some good concentrations of deer. This is especially true if the weather turns cold and/or snowy and the deer start looking for areas with high concentrations of browse to feed on. This area will also attract high concentrations of hunters, which can be beneficial to move deer around, but also dangerous so please be aware of your targets and backgrounds.
The Harbison Ranch to Peterson Flats area, some ponderosa pine, but mostly pinyon -juniper woodlands, can be good, but somewhat difficult to hunt. This area is very dense, but has some scattered small openings which deer will use at first and last light of the day. Successful hunters in this area will still hunt game trails that cross these openings.
The Coconino Rim area, mostly ponderosa pines with scattered oaks and junipers, can hold lots of deer. This area is closed to OHV’s and successful hunters cannot use vehicles to retrieve downed game. This area is full of big and small canyons and only those in good physical condition should try hunting this area. If acorns are present, hunt the oak thickets along the rim. Usually the ground is scattered with pine needles and oak leaves which gives the advantage to the mule deer due to their large ears, so hunting slow and glassing often is the only way to see mule deer bucks in this area.
The Bucklar Ranch to Cabin Tank area, mostly ponderosa pines with some dense pockets of pinyon trees, offers some opportunities to hunters who aren’t afraid to walk. This area, especially after opening weekend, will not get a lot of hunting pressure and is worth a try. I’d suggest slowly walking the ridgetops, which are usually the areas furthest from roads.
The west side, mainly pinyon and juniper woodlands with big openings of sagebrush, some years, has high densities of mule deer. The main forest roads on the west side are 306, 328 and 335. This part of the unit can get lots of hunting pressure on opening weekend, but tapers off towards the end of the hunt. Some years this area can be very dry, so checking the waterholes for deer sign might be wise. Some of the west side is conducive to using binoculars as you may catch deer crossing the sagebrush openings. Most of the successful hunters will walk and glass areas that have a good mix of cliffrose and sagebrush. The older wiser bucks will bed down in the middle of sagebrush openings, which is usually areas most hunters avoid.
This unit has lots of square miles and it’s always worth trying some of the open areas with small pockets of trees, which usually get very little hunting pressure. Sometimes the wisest old bucks will find refuge in these out of the way spots.
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: Merriam’s Turkey can be found in the ponderosa pine/Gambel oak habitats of Unit 9. All of the turkey habitat in Unit 9 is located on the Kaibab National Forest, which has maps available for this area. You can obtain one of these maps by calling the Williams Visitor Center at 928-635-1418. The Grand Canyon National Park borders Unit 9 to the north and does NOT allow hunting. The boundary is fenced and well marked. In the late fall and throughout the winter, turkeys will use pinyon-juniper woodlands that are usually associated with some ponderosa pine stringers (drainages consisting of ponderosa pine trees). The Unit 9 turkey numbers have been declining since 1994. Little or no summer rains have resulted in poor recruitment (survival of poults). Unit 9 can be very dry and water is a critical factor. The best way to scout is to check for tracks at the waterholes. Hunters should also look for areas producing Gambel oak acorns, as this is where the turkeys will be feeding during the fall hunts. During the spring hunts, hunters should look for the greenest areas amongst the ponderosa pine habitats, as turkeys will slowly move to the high country, somewhat following the green-up.
Areas: The spring turkey season is for bearded turkeys only, and lawful methods include crossbows or bow and arrow as prescribed in Commission Rule R12-4-304, or shotguns shooting shot. The successful spring hunters will scout roost areas and listen for toms gobbling from or near their roosts. Calling is the most effective method as toms are actively seeking out females to breed. Areas and Forest Roads (FR) to consider include: Skinner Ridge (FR’s 688, 305A, 2732, 304, and 343, Grandview and Hull Tank (FR’s 301, 310, 307, and 2719), Camp 36 (FR’s 301, 301A, 317, 902, and 684, Red Horse Tank to Skousen Tank (FR’s 339, 310, 311, 320, and 2752), Ten X (FR’s 302, 303, 688, and 2709.
Overview: Most of Unit 9 squirrel habitat is located east of Highway 64 on the Kaibab National Forest, which has maps available (Williams/Tusayan map). The Grand Canyon National Park borders Unit 9 to the north and hunting is not allowed. The boundary is well marked, so please be aware of where you are. It is a federal violation to have loaded weapons inside the park boundary.
Squirrel populations will cycle with weather patterns. In Unit 9, there is an archery squirrel season in late August and September and general squirrel hunt in October and November. The bag limit is five squirrels per day and the possession limit is ten. Lawful taking methods for the general squirrel hunt are described in Commission Rule R12-4-304B.1 and include: firearms not prohibited in R12-4-303, bow and arrow, crossbow, pneumatic weapons, slingshots, and falconry. The highest densities of squirrels will be found in the ponderosa pine habitats. They can be found in pinyon-juniper woodlands close to the ponderosa pine habitats, but in low densities. Squirrels will be active throughout the day, but sometimes more so in the mornings.
Areas: Most of Unit 9’s squirrel habitats are located east of Highway 64 on the Kaibab National Forest. The area from Tusayan going east towards Michigan Tank is where the highest densities will be found. This includes Forest Roads 301, 301A, 302, 303, 304, 305A, 308, 310, 311, 316, 317, 320, 339, 343, 684, 688, 902, 2719, 2741, and 2752.
Overview: Unit 9 has an increasing population of javelina. The animals are scattered throughout the unit, and can be found just about anywhere. There is currently an archery javelina hunt in Unit 9 which is part of a multi-unit hunt, but very few people choose to hunt the area. At times they may be tough to find.
Kaibab National Forest Service New Regulations
The Travel Management Rule will be implemented on the Tusayan Ranger District in the Fall of 2011. This was a federal rule that required all national forests and grasslands to designate a system of roads, trails and areas for motorized use, and to prohibit all motor vehicle use off the designated systems.
Forest planners undertook a lengthy process to determine what roads were most important to the various user groups, what areas were most in need of protection and what members of the public had to say. Each district of the Kaibab National Forest will issue free Motor Vehicle Use Maps that indicate what roads are open to motor vehicle travel and what roads are closed. Maps are available at Kaibab National Forest offices and on National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/kaibab/tmr.
Basic Information Regarding Travel Management Rule
Driving off of designated roads is no longer allowed except in very specific circumstances. Unless otherwise specified, motorists can drive up to 30 feet from the side of the road.
Hunters can drive off the road to retrieve a legally killed elk using the most direct and least ground disturbing route in and out (one trip in, one trip out).
In many areas, short routes have been added to the road system to access recreation opportunities including motorized dispersed camping. Use the free Motor Vehicle Use Map to locate these routes.
Rules for gathering fuelwood are handled through fuelwood permits. Check the map that accompanies the permit.
It is your responsibility to ensure you are driving on an open road. Use the free Motor Vehicle Use Map to determine whether your route is on the authorized road system.
Driving off road or off the designated road system is a violation that could result in a ticket.
Arizona State law applies to all maintained roads on the forest. For additional information, visit: https://www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/off_highway.shtml.
Remember: Nature Rules! Stay on designated roads and trails.