Unit 42 – Arizona
Overview: Javelina populations occur in a fairly low density throughout Unit 42. Localized populations of javelina in certain areas may give the appearance of high-density populations but these herds are very limited in number and geographical area. Often herds of javelina spend generation after generation in a very small area. These localized populations have found a niche that suits them well and they usually won’t leave these areas. Locating these niche herds prior to hunting season can yield an outstanding hunting opportunity. Look for plant communities that are conducive to javelina in and around the many desert washes. When you find tracks, scat or other sign, it is just a matter of spending time glassing and the javelina will eventually show up.
Areas: Some of the best areas to find javelina are around a permanent water source. Unfortunately the more watered areas occur in the suburban and farming communities of the unit. If you plan to hunt an area that is on or adjacent to private lands you should consider asking permission from the landowner prior to the hunt. Talking with the landowners and farmers during scouting trips is a great way to learn about the local javelina and avoid conflicts with closed areas.
Other areas in Unit 42 to consider include any desert wash near any of the mountain ranges throughout the unit. Again with fairly low density populations, lots of scouting is required to find a good area. Areas with recent sign include Sols Wash (west of Wickenburg), G&F water catchment #969 (www.azaccessmap.com) and the washes leading into the Hassayampa River. The majority of the Hassayampa River bottom is private land so be aware of trespass issues and four-wheel-drive is recommended due to large amounts of sand. Once you locate a good area, the reward can last for years, as javelina home ranges are fairly small and fairly easy to define as your familiarity with the area grows.
Overview: Mule deer are found throughout Unit 42 but are often concentrated in areas depending on weather conditions. During dry years, look for deer concentrations in areas where spotty rain has fallen and has greened up the surrounding desert. These “green up” areas require ample pre-scouting to locate and to access them, so plan ahead and take changing weather conditions into account. During wetter years, deer can be located just about anywhere in the unit. In the low, flatter areas; look for deer in the many desert washes. In the mountainous portions of the unit deer can be found in just about any canyon or on any ridge, again rainfall patterns and resulting vegetative condition will usually dictate where the deer want to be and are likely to be found. Paying attention to plant communities that are important to deer diet, finding a good elevated area and using binoculars to glass, coupled with lots of pre-season scouting will produce the highest probability of finding deer. Some of the largest bucks in the unit are found in the desert flats often overlooked by hunters. These bucks are hard to locate and difficult to hunt. If it is hot and dry, concentrate on G&F waters or livestock tanks. Early morning you can locate deer leaving water and going to bedding sites. During wet years bucks are often found away from the water sites where the feed and cover is better.
Areas: The White Tank Mountains deer herd has declined in recent years. Most of this mountain range is closed to rifle hunting due to the presence of the Maricopa County Park system, and the city of Buckeye. Archery hunting is allowed but you must declare your intention to hunt upon entering any Park and you must pay a use fee fee if applicable (White Tank Mountain Regional park entrance located on Olive Avenue. There are a couple of areas in the White Tanks that are not within the confines of the Park that are privately held. These areas require written permission to enter and hunt from the owner of the property. There are very limited areas in the White Tanks that are public lands that are open to rifle hunting, but the bulk of the deer population is concentrated in the less severe habitat contained within the Park system. Hunting the public lands portion of the White Tanks could prove to be a very difficult and disappointing experience due to the low density of deer in these very limited areas. It’s important to remember that it is the hunter’s responsibility to make sure that he/she is in a legal area while hunting. A good topographic map of the area including land status is recommended.
City of Buckeye’s Skyline Regional Park was opened in 2016 and will allow limited hunting within the “Back County Section” of the park, typically following Commission approved hunt orders, rules and regulations as the adjacent White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Please refer to the City of Buckeye website for additional information and to declare your intention of hunting. User data is important to the Counties, Cities and the Department and is used in annual hunt recommendations.
Map for Skyline Regional Park
Other areas that deer occur in Unit 42 include the Vulture Mountains just south of Wickenburg. Access to the Vultures from Wickenburg is west on Highway 60 to the Vulture Mine road. Turn south and follow this paved road about 3 miles until you reach a dirt road intersection at Vulture Peak road. Vulture Peak road has several side roads that intersect it in its route through the Vulture Mountains and any of these side roads will lead you into a good area to begin your scouting. The mountainous portions of Unit 42 in and around the Big Horn and Belmont Mountain ranges are other good areas to hunt. Access to these ranges is from Interstate 10. Take Interstate 10 west to 339th Avenue and go north to Indian School Road. Turn and proceed west for about 2 miles to the intersection of Indian School and 355th Avenue. Turn north and drive about 10 miles and you will be in the heart of the Belmont Mountain range. Again find a good side road that leads into the mountains and spend lots of time scouting the area. Access to the Bighorn Mountains is again from Interstate 10 west to Burnt Mountain. You can drive north until reaching the Hummingbird Springs Wilderness area. At that point all motorized travel is prohibited, and hunting must be done on horseback or on foot only. As in most areas, deer are most active during the earliest and latest periods of the day, so be prepared to get up before daylight and return to camp at dark.
Archery only – mountain lion
Quail, small & upland game, predatory & fur-bearing, reptiles & amphibians, and other birds and mammals.
Overview: Bighorn sheep in GMU 42 have benefitted from several transplants over the years (2005, 2007 and 2010). The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society has been a big partner in developing bighorn water sites and funding management projects in the unit. The transplanted sheep have allowed the unit 42 sheep population to grow to a level that now supports a hunt. In 2013 the bighorn sheep hunt in unit 42 was reestablished. Hunters have harvested several rams in the 170 point range.
Areas: The Big Horn Mountains contain the majority of the bighorn sheep in this unit. These mountains have received the past sheep transplants and have areas where sheep can water (natural and man-made). There are two Wilderness Areas (Hummingbird Springs and Big Horn Mountains) within the bighorn sheep habitat. Access is limited within the wilderness boundaries.The Belmont Mountains and Sugarloaf Mountain also have bighorn sheep. These ranges have less available waterholes and therefore fewer bighorn sheep.
Overview: Dove hunting opportunities in Unit 42 are wide spread. Dove can be found throughout the unit in varying numbers and hunting pressure varies accordingly. Agricultural areas with barley stubble or similar food sources offer excellent dove hunting but usually have very high hunting pressure. Check with the local landowner before hunting on or around a farm to be sure that the owner doesn’t mind having you hunt there. The presence of other hunters does not automatically grant you permission to hunt. Hunters need to be aware of the houses and roads if hunting farmland. It is unlawful to shoot within ¼ mile of a house or across a road.
Desert stock tanks offer good hunting opportunity with less hunting pressure, and hunting the open desert will provide a hunter with a unique experience of little or no hunting competition but fewer available dove. The late hunt starting in mid-November (check regulations for specific dates) offers a good dove hunting opportunity that is often overlooked. Typically there are fewer doves in the late season, but proper scouting can result in a hunt that is similar to the heavy dove flights found in the early hunt without the crowds.
Areas: The Buckeye, Arlington, Tonopah and Palo Verde areas have plenty of agricultural areas that each year produce fantastic dove flights. Again checking with the local farmer prior to hunting these areas will keep you out of trouble.
Unit 42 has several stock tanks located throughout the unit. Dove flights at these tanks fluctuate and require some pre-scouting to locate desirable areas. A day or two prior to the start of the season should suffice. Locate these many stock tanks by using topographical maps and simply drive out to them prior to the season and watch for doves. Look for doves watering in mid-morning for the early hunt and late afternoon for the late hunt.
Hunting the open desert is a much tougher hunt, and a hunter may need more time to fill his bag. The advantage is that finding an area (usually associated with a wash) that has some dove flights yields a hunt that will offer the hunters the area to themselves. This is a great way to introduce new, young hunters to the sport of hunting and the safety level is highly increased.
Important Notes: Traditionally many hunters have thought nothing of shooting doves and leaving all their empty shotgun shells on the ground. This creates an unsightly situation and is littering. Please pick up and take home all your shotgun shells when you leave your hunting area.
Each year the Arizona Game and Fish Department responds to endless compliant calls about dove hunters shooting to close to homes, businesses etc. The law states that you must be at least 1/4 mile away from these areas while hunting.
An easy way to turn a non-hunter into an anti-hunter is to litter while hunting or to shoot near someone’s home or property without their permission. A little common sense and common courtesy will keep our hunting privilege alive and well.
Overview: Quail hunting opportunities in Unit 42 are ample during years when good winter rains produce good quail numbers. Concentrate hunting efforts in desert washes where quail have the forage and shelter. Another good bet is to look for mesquite trees that are adjacent to a perennial water source and you should find good quail hunting nearby. A good bird dog can be helpful in finding and retrieving downed birds. Those without a dog need to move quickly or the covey will outrun you in the open desert.
Areas: The highest density quail populations in Unit 42 tend to occur in the Vulture Mountains that are located just south of Wickenburg. To access the Vultures from Wickenburg, take Highway 60 west to the Vulture Mine road. Turn south and follow this road approximately 2-3 miles to the intersection of the Vulture Peak Road. The Vulture Peak Road has many side roads that all offer access into good quail habitat. Jackrabbit Wash runs through the central portion of Unit 42 and offers good quail hunting along its entire length.
Quail hunting in the lower desert portions of the unit is more challenging. Again finding a water source with nearby mesquite trees and washes will improve your chances of finding quail. A well-trained pointing dog can be priceless when hunting quail. Listen for quail calls and be prepared to be surprised by breaking coveys while walking toward the calls.
Hunters should consider looking in the small washes as they drive through the hunting area for quail tracks. Quail leave numerous tracks across washes and scratch marks in the sand. If you find fresh tracks the quail are nearby.
Overview: Waterfowl hunting opportunity in Unit 42 is limited almost exclusively to jump- shooting stock tanks. There are few areas that are conducive to hunting with decoys; however some of the larger and more remote tanks can sometimes work well with decoys.
Areas: Many of the tanks in the unit that offer good waterfowl hunting are in the northern portion of the unit in the Divide Mountains north and west of Wickenburg. Many stock tanks off of the Aguila Road also offer good hunting. These tanks are more remote and usually get less traffic. Acquiring topographic maps of these areas and identifying tanks that are close to each other should produce several good jump-shooting waterfowl routes. Hunters also have the added benefit of finding quail while driving between tanks. Just make sure you leave the lead shot in the truck when you jump shoot for waterfowl. Most of these tanks are on public land but prior to hunting, ensure that if any tank you intend to hunt lies on private land, you contact the landowner and obtain permission before your hunt. Plan hunting trips after winter storms have moved through states to the north of Arizona. These storms often bring new birds to our state and sometimes some nice geese to Unit 42.
Overview: Unit 42 has a healthy population of mountain lions. Lion hunters typically hunt lions with hound dogs. This desert unit is hot and covered with cactus which deters many houndsman. Calling with a predator call sometimes results in a lion or bobcat sighting.
Unit 42 has a multiple bag limit area for the Big Horn and Belmont Mountains. This is due to the high numbers of bighorn sheep that have been killed by lions in the Big Horn Mountains. This sheep herd is very low in numbers and the recipient of two recent transplants (2005 and 2007). Lion hunters are allowed to take two lions out of this area without it counting toward the bag limit of one lion per year. Even with this incentive there are few lion hunters willing to hunt these hot rugged areas. Lion hunting in this area is encouraged to help the sheep herd increase enough in size that lion predation is no longer a significant factor.