Unit 6A – Arizona
Overview: Pronghorn mostly occur in the open grassland and sparse pinion-juniper country in the southern 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.
Areas: The highest concentrations of pronghorn in 6A can be found in the open areas south of Stoneman Lake road, on Apache Maid and Cedar Flat. Forest Roads 230 and 229 are the main roads covering the Apache Maid area. Forest Road 214 will take you out to Cedar Flat. This road can become very muddy and slick in wet weather. Please be respectful and do not create large ruts in the road.
There is a small number of pronghorn in the northern section, west of Lake Mary. The northern pronghorn tend to spend their time in the trees and are more difficult to find.
Overview: Unit 6A supports a healthy black bear population. Most hunters find them by glassing the canyons in the southern portion of the unit. In the fall, bears move around a lot trying to find food and put on extra weight in preparation for winter. Bears like just about anything edible, including prickly pear fruits, acorns, and bugs. Bears eat prickly pear fruit when it is ripe. Remember that baiting of any kind is illegal in Arizona.
Areas: Although hunting with hounds is most effective, hunters also have success by spending many hours glassing for them. Canyons in the lower end of the unit with prickly pears usually contain bears. Any high point that affords a good view of the surrounding area is a good place to start. Some areas in the northern portion of the unit include Mormon Mountain and Apache Maid Mountain. Try sitting a tree stand over a tank. As with most types of hunting, quality optics are a must.
Hunters also have success using varmint calls. If you choose to varmint call, bring a friend and sit back to back. You will want to call at a loud volume for ten minutes at a time, spent at least 45 minutes per stand. Bears coming to a call can be aggressive.
Other Concerns: All hunters must contact the Arizona Game & Fish Department within 48 hours of taking a bear. A premolar tooth (the small one right behind the canine tooth) must be collected and turned into the Department within 20 days. See the regulations for more details. The meat must be salvaged; it is unlawful to allow game meat to go to waste. This can be quite challenging during bear season, as it is usually warm out and most bears are taken in very remote areas.
When the harvest objective for female bears (sows) has been reached, the unit will be closed to bear hunting at sundown on the following Wednesday. It is the hunter’s responsibility to be sure the Unit is still open before going afield, you can do so by calling 1-800-970-BEAR (2327).
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Overview: Approximately 20% of Arizona’s elk hunting opportunity is found in Unit 6A. Older age “mature” bulls are taken on a regular basis. The secret to harvesting an elk is spending time scouting just prior to the hunts opening. Scouting months in advance does little good, as elk move around quite a bit. Elk are found throughout the Unit, with the exception of the southernmost areas. Elk are even observed in the Camp Verde area. Although there are many access roads in the Unit, the key is getting out on foot or horseback away from those roads. Keep in mind it is unlawful to operate motor vehicles cross country, with the exception of doing so to recover an elk that is down and tagged. ATV’s have become very popular with hunters over the past few years, but recognize that animals key into the noise of motor vehicles and avoid areas where they hear them. It is estimated that an elk can hear a quad from up to a half mile away.
Look for areas that afford a decent view of the surrounding country and glass for them at sunrise. This means you need to be at that location prior to the sun coming up! Even the cheapest pair of binoculars allows you to see much better than the naked eye. Quality optics will greatly enhance your chances of harvesting an elk.
Bear in mind that nobody “owns” the stock tanks, or the hunting rights to those tanks. Remember that we are all part of a group that enjoys the outdoors, and we must stick together to enjoy these activities in the future. In the past, hunters have been charged with crimes as serious as aggravated assault as a result of conflicts over “who’s hunting where”. Erecting permanent tree stands and damaging trees by putting spikes in them is illegal.
Archery Seasons: During the early archery season, the Ponderosa Pines are where you will find the majority of the elk, especially if the weather is still warm. Many hunters sit tree stands and trails, and success depends on scouting. But don’t get the wrong impression, big bulls are also in the pinon-juniper all year long.
Muzzleloader Seasons: These hunts are getting quite popular, as hunters explore what it was like in the old days. Keep in mind that although these modern muzzleloaders are capable of shooting a good group at amazing distances, they simply do not have the energy to effectively kill an animal consistently at distances over 75 to 100 yards. Muzzleloaders also do not offer a quick follow-up shot, this can lead to animals getting away and later dying. During the muzzleloader season the elk should still be at the higher elevations. I recommend glassing to locate animals with quality optics, determine your wind patterns, and make the stalk on them. It is not difficult to get quite close to elk, especially bedded ones. Bear in mind that you may have to repeat this procedure many times before getting close enough to harvest an elk, but doing so increases your hunting abilities and makes for an enjoyable hunt.
General Seasons: There are more antlerless elk in the woods than there are antlered elk, by a ratio of about 3 to 1. Elk are found throughout the Unit during the general season hunts. For the late bull hunt, weather can be a factor. In this part of the state, elk don’t normally migrate due to snowfall; However, when temperatures get below freezing at night for extended periods, the grasses go dormant and elk work their way down to lower elevations in search of more palatable foods. So, for the late hunts, focus on the Apache Maid and Cedar Flat areas.
For the general antlerless hunt, the elk should be in the higher elevations. The Pine Grove Quiet Area is a good place to look during this hunt. Early in the season the elk spend their days on Mormon Lake. The archery hunters usually break the elk up and they disperse into the areas surrounding the lake. Be advised that motorized travel in the Pine Grove Quiet Area is prohibited for any reason. If you harvest an elk in the quiet areas, you must be prepared to pack it out.
The Rattlesnake Quiet Area usually holds bulls all year; However, you must pack your elk out. It is wise to find areas where few roads exist and you can hike to the high points and glass in the mornings. While scouting prior to your hunt, record these locations on you GPS. That way when hunting season starts a week or two later, you can walk right to them in the dark and be ready to start glassing when the sun comes up. During the later hunts, the elk have already had a lot of pressure and will be more difficult to stalk.
Elk like to feed up on the flats at nighttime, and work their way to the drainages when the sun comes up. Then they tend to bed down during the day. Look for the larger canyons, and then concentrate on the smaller drainages that feed into the big canyons.
Youth-Only General Antlerless Hunt: The Junior hunt has been expanded to include 6A and 5B south. The Junior hunt is a great opportunity to get youngsters interested in hunting. The best locations to hunt will be at higher elevations. The Pine Grove Quiet Area and other areas surrounding Mormon Lake, as well as the Happy Jack/Clint’s Well areas are a great place to start.
Parents and adult helpers, please note: Due to lack of experience, young hunters are more apt to make mistakes. This hunt has a high number of wounding-loss animals from young hunters shooting into herds of elk. Once a shot is fired, instruct your hunter to wait to determine if an animal was hit. Before taking a follow-up shot, know what animal your hunter is shooting at. We also have a high number of spike elk shot on this hunt. Once again, inexperienced hunters need to know what they are shooting at and adult helpers also need to be sure of what the hunter is shooting at. We recommend standing directly behind your hunter as he or she is lining up for a shot. Be aware of which elk the gun barrel is pointed toward and do not let your hunter shoot if you do not have a clear view of the elk’s head.
A Junior elk camp is normally held in the Happy Jack area. The camp starts the evening before the hunt and has presentations from AZGFD Wildlife Managers, meat processers and hunter education instructors. For more information, contact the Flagstaff Officer at 928-774-5045. Hunters should receive a flyer in the mail prior to the hunt.
If your hunter makes a mistake and shoots the wrong animal, please report it to the Game and Fish Department. The goal of these hunts is to teach good hunter ethics and accountability. We would prefer that you report accidents rather than get caught later.
Verde Valley Over The Counter Non-Permit Tag: Elk densities are low in this area and hunt success may be very low. Elk are concentrated throughout the year in the riparian areas of the Verde River, Beaver Creek, and Clear Creek. Much of this area is privately owned, so hunters should be aware of property boundaries and respect land-owners’ rights. Much of this area is also within the town limits of Camp Verde (see attached map), where the discharge of a firearm is prohibited. Hunting within town boundaries is limited to archery-only. At night, some elk use agricultural fields adjacent to the Verde River during the growing season, and then retreat to the shady riparian areas during the day. Outside of town limits, hunters may use firearms on the public lands north and northeast of Camp Verde on the Coconino National Forest in the vicinities of White Hills and Wickiup Mesa. A Coconino National Forest (US Forest Service) map is helpful in locating area boundaries, access, and roadways. Elk may be found in these locations year-round in low numbers. Throughout much of the year, elk use here is tied closely to available water on these mesas. In the summer months, stock tanks and water troughs may dry up, so these elk will live in the canyons and ravines adjacent to the mesas, above the Verde River, Beaver Creek, and Clear Creek.
Hunting is not allowed on the Yavapai-Apache Reservation or within Montezuma Castle & Montezuma Well National Monuments; hunters should be aware of these boundaries.
Temperatures in the summer months will exceed 100 degrees. Especially if hunting from April through September, hunters should have a plan to remove elk from the field quickly and get the meat to cold storage without delay, to avoid meat spoilage.
Please note that this hunt area does not follow Game Management Unit boundaries. More information about Verde Valley Hunt Area boundaries, season dates, and legal weapon types can be found by following the hyperlink below. http://azgfdportal.az.govhttps://www.azgfd.com/PortalImages/files/hunting/overTheCounter/2015ElkOTCInfoHandout12-9-2014.pdf
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Overview: Mule deer can be found throughout the Unit, but the best areas are the pinon-juniper woodlands and ponderosa pine forests. To successfully locate deer, pre-season scouting is a must. Like most big game animals, deer are most active at sunrise and sunset. Deer numbers are down statewide, and unit 6A is no exception.
Areas: The highest densities of Mule Deer occur in the “transition zones”; these are areas where the habitat is changing from ponderosa pine to pinon-juniper. Look for areas that have oak trees, when acorns are present on the ground, you will find deer feeding on them. Other cool season type forage materials that deer like are cliffrose, mountain mahogany, and juniper berries. Water is always important, and stock tanks are abundant in the Unit. The Rattlesnake Quiet Area is a good area to start looking. The Pine Grove Quiet Area and surrounding areas are also good places to look. Deer really do occur throughout the unit so it is hard to pinpoint specific locations. Look for transition zones and oaks.
Look for areas where you can see a lot of country, such as hills, mountains, and canyon rims. These are good areas to glass, and concentrate on the large open flats to find deer feeding at sunrise. This is most helpful in the southern part of the unit. The northern areas do not afford good glassing locations.
Other Concerns: The general season deer hunt is open for mule deer only. There is a healthy population of whitetail deer in Unit 6A also. Be sure of your target before shooting. Whitetails are much smaller and look grayer in color. When whitetail deer are frightened, they “flag” by raising their bushy white tails when the run off. Mule deer tails look more “rope-like” and have a black tip. Whitetails are most often encountered in the chaparral areas. If you find yourself taking the wrong species by accident, I can assure you the Court respects those who call and report it, rather than being caught later. Mistakes can and do happen. Please call in to report any accidents
There are two keys to harvesting a mule deer, a lot of scouting and getting away from the vehicle and out into the woods. Unit 6A falls within the Coconino National Forest. Maps of the Coconino National Forest can be obtained at map stores or by calling (928)527-3600.
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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 the fall.
Overview: Turkey populations are improving in Unit 6A. This is a result of reduced permits and better rainfall patterns. Despite more favorable conditions, their population is still below optimum. Turkeys spend a lot of time foraging for food. During the hunting seasons, they are in the ponderosa pine forested areas of the Unit. In the spring, they follow the snow line working their way up to the higher elevations. In the fall, they rely heavily on acorns from oak trees. Turkeys favor canyons containing large ponderosa pines to roost in. They are usually off the roost by sunrise and return to it an hour or so before dark.
Fall Season: A good strategy for the fall hunt is to scout by checking for tracks and droppings around the stock tanks in the area. Also look for areas with high densities of oak trees, as turkeys will be in there searching for acorns. Some years acorns are almost nonexistent, but most years, that is where you will find turkeys in the fall.
Spring Season: In the spring, follow the snow line up the mountains and hills. Listen for birds at sunrise and hope for no wind. Park at closed roads and walk up them at first light. Males like to strut in small openings, but generally, turkeys prefer heavy cover. Males are looking for females to breed with in the spring. By imitating the sounds of a hen, the Toms are drawn to you. Good, full camouflage is an absolute must. Sit still and do not make sudden movements, turkeys have excellent vision. If you are a beginner, try a box type call with a plunger and invest in a turkey calling tape to learn to proper sounds. Remember that shotguns shooting shot are the only legal weapons during the spring hunt.
Some good locations to get started include areas south of Apache Maid, near the junction of FR 229 and FR 230; Weimer Springs; Schnebley Hill; FR 229 off of FH 3; And Turkey Draw off of FR 81.
Other Concerns: Never wear black, red, or blue when hunting turkeys. Never stalk up to noises you believe are turkeys, you will most likely never get close enough for a shot, and it could be coming from another hunter.
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Overview: Whitetail deer in Unit 6A are somewhat restricted to the lower half of the unit. If you plan to hunt Unit 6A, it is recommended you hunt the lower elevation canyons that generally fall below the Stoneman Lake Road. The whitetail population in the unit is stable, with many above average bucks being taken every year.
Areas: Whitetail deer prefer dense chaparral cover and can be very difficult to locate. All the major drainages in the lower half of the unit contain whitetail. One must be careful to properly identify the species before shooting, as both types of deer occupy the area. Plan on spending many hours glassing. Quality optics are a must. Good spotting scopes and binoculars can save you many miles of walking. If you climb to a high point to glass, you need to spend several hours at that location looking for movement. This hunt requires a lot of pre-season scouting.
Other Concerns: A Coconino National Forest map is helpful; you can obtain one at any Forest Service office or at the Forest Service website.
Plan for cold windy conditions; dress in warm, windproof camouflage type clothing. Fire starting materials are essential.
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Overview: Unit 6A supports a healthy population of javelina, but they are restricted to the lower half of the Unit. Javelina hunting is a lot of fun. It is a nice time of year to be out in the woods, in an area that is otherwise quite warm. Javelina can be difficult to find, but once located they are fairly easy to get close to. They like to be out feeding in good weather, and usually are not out feeding in rain, high winds, or snow. They bed under trees, like most animals, but also seek out caves and rocky outcrops as shelter. Normally, if you see one javelina, there are many more around. Javelina respond fairly well to varmint calls, as the entire herd will protect the young of the herd, even when they are not the parents. Normally, the call will spook them. Try calling after the herd has scattered. Javelina are not as vicious as they are rumored to be, but if cornered they can inflict serious bites on you or a pet.
Areas: Javelina are restricted to the southern half of the Unit. They may be found up higher, but it is unusual. They are very active in the mornings, but you don’t necessarily have to be out at sunrise. They like sunshine, so look for them feeding on sunny hillsides in the mornings. Cedar Flats boasts a healthy population of Javelina.
Overview: 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: Mountain lion can be found throughout Unit 6A; however, they will concentrate mostly in and along the rougher canyons, rims and mountains of the unit. Some examples are West Clear Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, Apache Maid Mountain, and Mormon Mountain. Most lion hunting takes place in the cooler winter months on deer and elk winter range. Calling with predator calls on canyon rims may be effective. Most lions are taken in Unit 6A by houndsmen.
Access: The Forest Service manages most of the lion habitat in Unit 6A. 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.
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Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Overview: From 2005-2007 approximately 80 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep were transplanted into Unit 6A in the area of West Clear Creek. Since that time, the population has been doing very well. Lamb recruitment and mature rams have been observed during survey flights. As the population grew, the first bighorn hunt in 6A was offered in 2010. As bighorns are usually highly visible and not as elusive as other big game, the most difficult aspect of hunting bighorn is locating the rams and then negotiating the rugged terrain they inhabit. Essential equipment for a successful bighorn hunt would include: good, quality hiking boots; spotting scope and binoculars; a flat-shooting rifle with telescopic sight; and plenty of help to pack out your trophy. Pack-out weights for bighorn rams (boned out meat, plus head and cape) commonly exceed 200 pounds.
Areas: The 6A bighorn sheep are located primarily in West Clear Creek, Fossil Creek, and the East Verde River. Some animals have been observed along highway 260 and near Camp Verde. Starting with the 2013 hunt season the boundaries for the 6A bighorn sheep hunt have been expanded to include GMU 22 North. Boundaries for GMU 22N are: That portion of Unit 22 located north of the following: Beginning at the confluence of the Verde River and the East Verde River; easterly along the East Verde River to FR 406; easterly on FR 406 to AZ Hwy 260 in Payson; easterly on AZ Hwy 260 to Tonto Creek (the Unit Boundary). For the 2016 hunting season, there will be two stratified hunts during the month of December.
Special Regulations: All successful bighorn hunters must personally submit the intact horns and skull of their bighorn for inspection at a Department office within three days of the close of the season. Even if unsuccessful, hunters are still required to check out through a Department office within three days of the close of the season.
Overview: Hunting for tree squirrels is great fun and an excellent opportunity to introduce a youngster to the art of hunting. Unit 6A has an abundance of squirrels and success only requires a bit of patience.
Areas: Look for tree squirrels wherever you find ponderosa pine trees. My favorite place is to find a road that is closed to motor vehicles, park, and walk on down the road. Generally speaking, good hunting opportunities exist from The Pine Grove Quiet Area, south to Stoneman Lake. Also try down around Clint’s Well.
Other Concerns: As with any type of hunting, be sure of your backstop and cognizant of other hunters around you. Remember that using a vehicle to hunt with is both dangerous and illegal.
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Overview: There is a lot of quality waterfowl hunting in Unit 6A, be it puddle jumping or setting decoys. This can be a cold and miserable time of year, so dress warm.
Areas: Many tanks are scattered throughout the unit. Scouting is a must to find those hidden ones. Hunters also find waterfowl on Upper Lake Mary, Stoneman, and Mormon Lake. When hunting at Stoneman Lake, be aware that you cannot discharge a firearm within 1/4 mile of an occupied structure. This limits hunting to the western half of the lake. Unfortunately, many hunters find themselves receiving citations when they get carried away and shoot too close to homes. Also, gas motors are prohibited on Stoneman Lake.
Arizona Game and Fish has obtained a “permit” from the Coconino National Forest to allow waterfowl hunters access to the “Berry Road” on the east side of Mormon Lake through the fall waterfowl season .
To obtain access to the Berry Road call the Flagstaff Regional office during normal business hours (MF 8-5) at 928-774-5045 or after hours call Arizona Game and Fish Dispatch at 623-236-7201.
Other Concerns: During waterfowl season, possession or use of lead shot is prohibited. Also, don’t forget you need a state and federal waterfowl stamp affixed to your license.