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DIY Over-The-Counter Arizona Mule Deer

Season Dates: 

Varies throughout the state. Generally in January, August, and December. (that is three opportunties for success with one over-the-counter tag)




DIY Arizona Over-The-Counter Archery Mule Deer
The beauty of this over-the-counter hunt is that you can do it every year. You don’t have to build up points for years and hope to get drawn. Also, with this one tag you can hunt three different times of the year. So if you don’t fill your tag during the first season, you will still have two more opportunities. Also, though some may not agree with this, spike bucks are legal. So if you are a new bow hunter or just a meat hunter you can have even more opportunity with deer that are not yet educated.
Also, some of the units in the state hold the elusive Coues Whitetail. You can shoot these deer with the same over-the-counter tag. Check the Arizona Game and Fish regulations to see a map where these deer are present. Units where I have seen them are: 6A, 6B, 8, 36A, 36B, and 36C.
January 1, 2011 – January 31, 2011 (see current regulations)
Open Units: 8, 9, 10, 15A, 15B, 15C, 15D 16A (except Mohave County Park lands), 17A, 17B, 18A, 18B 19A, 19B, 20A, 20B, 20C, 21 (except Cave Creek Recreation Area), 22, 23, 24A, 24B, 25M, 27, 28, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34A, 34B, 35A (except Fort Huachuca), 35B, 36A, 36B, 36C, 37A, 37B, 38M (including Tucson Mountain Wildlife Area), 39, 40A, 40B, 41, 42, 43A, 43B, 44A, 44B, 45A, 45B, 45C, and 47M.
Units 29, 34A, 34B, 35A, 35B, 36A, 36B, and 36C are great units to hunt this time of year. The desert terrain with rolling hills and buttes in these units make it easier to glass up deer and put stalks on them. Also, the day time temperatures can sometimes get into the 70’s, which makes it nice for a winter hunt. But keep in mind that it is winter, and cold fronts can and will come in. Also keep in mind that you CAN hunt and camp in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Units 36A, 36B, and 36C.  Also in 36C, is the Santa Margarita Ranch and the Kings Anvil Ranch. These are both private ranches that will let you camp and hunt for free. All that you have to do is sign in at the gate. All three of these areas have great water holes and hold a lot of deer.
This is my favorite time to hunt in Arizona because of the Rut. The Rut normally starts during that last week or two in December and carries on into the second week in January, depending on which area of the state you are in.  
During this time of the year I spend the mornings glassing. If I find a buck that I want to pursue, I will bed him down and try to put a stalk together. If you find some does in an area, that don’t have bucks with them, you will need to keep checking up on them. Eventually bucks will join the group as the does come into estrus. In the afternoons I like to hunt water. Success on water will depend on the last time it has rained in the area. You can also brush out the fresh tracks around the water hole to see how frequent the deer are coming in. Or, you can set up a trail camera. Try to get into your blind or tree stand at least 4 hours before dark.
Google Earth is a great toolto finder water holes in the area you are planning to hunt. You can also get a book from AZ Game and Fish that shows maps to most of the game and fish maintained water sources.
IMPORTANT, there is a lot of illegal immigration activity in these Units. Although I have never had any problems, I have heard stories of hunters and Game Wardens having issues with drug runners. You just need to be aware of your surroundings. It is LEGAL to carry a side arm in the Southern part of the state while archery hunting.
IMPORTANT , if you are planning on hunting during December (Third Season) and January (First season)make sure you have a 2011 tag for December and a 2012 tag for January.
August 19, 2011 - Sep 8, 2011 (see current regulations)
Open Units: 1, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B (except Camp Navajo), 7,8, 9, 10, 11M, 15A, 15B, 15C, 15D, 16A (except Mohave County Park Lands),17A, 17B, 18A, 18B, 19A, 19B, 20A, 20B, 20C, 21 (except Cave Creek Recreation Area), 22, 23, 24A, 24B, 27, 28, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34A,34B, 35A (except Fort Huachuca), 35B, 36A, 36B, and 36C.
This is the time of year when you can find a velvet buck. I like to hunt Units 6A, 6B, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17B, 20A, and 20C. I hunt these Northern units because the summer temperatures don’t get too high. I sit a lot of water during this season because of the heat, but spot and stalk opportunities are abundant. I normally start hunting in the most northern of these units, checking water holes for fresh sign. If it has rained recently I will move to the Southerly units where they don’t get as much rain. Again, use Google Earth or the Game and Fish book to find these water sources.
If there has been a lot of rain or you just don’t want to sit water, there terrain in most of these units is suitable for spot and stalk. I strongly recommend putting your binoculars on a tripod while glassing. I can guarantee that you will see more deer doing this. If you are new to the spot and stalk method, the goal is to glass up a buck and then put a stalk on him. The most common thing to do is to wait for the buck to bed down for the day and then plan your stalk. Keep in mind that the wind will normally blow uphill in the mornings as it warms up. This means you should get above your bedded buck and make a stalk downhill toward him. This is not always the case, so always be aware of the wind direction.
There is a lot of private land in Arizona. However, most land owners don’t post their property and don’t care if you access it. Arizona Trespassing Law: “Hunters are permitted to enter onto land unless lawfully posted. Signs must be at least eight inches by eleven inches with plainly legible wording in capital and bold-faced lettering at least one inch high. The sign must have the words "no hunting", "no trapping" or "no fishing" either as a single phrase or in any combination. The signs must be conspicuously placed on a structure or post at least four feet above ground level at all points of vehicular access, at all property or fence corners and at intervals of not more than one-quarter mile along the property boundary. A sign with one hundred square inches or more of orange paint may serve as the interval notices between property or fence corners and points of vehicular access. The orange paint shall be clearly visible and shall cover the entire above ground surface of the post facing outward and on both lateral sides from the closed area.”
December 9, 2011 - December 31, 2011 (see current regulations)
Open Units: 10, 15A, 15B, 15C, 15D, 17B, 18A, 18B, 19B, 20B, 20C, 21 (except Cave Creek Recreation Area), 24A, 24B, 25M, 26M, 28, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34A, 34B, 35A (except Fort Huachuca), 35B, 36A, 36B, 36C, 37B, 38M (including Tucson Mountain Wildlife Area), 39, 40A, 40B, 41, 43A, 43B,
44A, 44B, and 47M
The beginning of this season will be pre-rut. The last week or two will be when the rut will really start to kick off.
I hunt the same units and use the same tactics as the FIRST SEASON (see above).
In whole, the State of Arizona holds a lot of deer. You can go almost anywhere and find them. The key to success is finding water holes that deer are hitting. From there you can hunt the water and/or do some glassing for some spot and stalk action.
To break it down again…. You can hunt the whole month of January and if you don’t fill your tag you can hunt from August 19th through September 8th. If you still have not filled your tag you can come back and hunt from December 9th through December 31. After that, you can start again on January 1st with a new tag.
Hunting Water
Hunting water is a great technique for putting your tag on an Arizona Mule Deer. The key to finding a good water hole to hunt is to find a lot of them and check them for tracks. I use Google Earth to look for water holes and I also use the Arizona Game and Fish “Water-catchment Map Book” to look for water in the unit I want to hunt. You should find deer sign at most water holes, but that doesn’t mean they are good to hunt.
The perfect water hole will be small, so that none of your shots will be over 40 yards. It will also be socked in with brush so that you can make a good blind to conceal yourself, and the deer will have plenty of cover leading them to the water. With more cover, the deer will feel more comfortable coming to water during day light hours. I also try to find water that is not easily accessible to other hunters.
You will find that most non-natural water sources in Arizona will have roads leading to them. I like to find water holes off of roads that are terrible to drive on. Remember, people are lazy, and won’t want to travel on a nasty, bumpy road. The road I traveled last year to my water hole took me 45 minutes to cover the 1 mile stretch. I never saw another hunter and had deer coming every afternoon. Try to park your vehicle at least 300 yards from the water hole and make sure that it is concealed in the brush or trees, so that the deer won’t be able to see it as they are coming in. The farther you park away, the better.
Once you find a water hole that you want to hunt. You will need to set-up or build a blind. I like to set-up my blind in the brush, and cut some limbs off neighboring trees to cover my blind. This will help break up the “box” shape of your blind. Once set-up, get inside and make sure that your shooting lanes are clear. Now you are ready to hunt.
Deer will hit water at all times of the day, but mostly in the mornings and afternoons. Be sure to get into your blind at least an hour before shooting light in the mornings, and four to five hours before dark in the afternoons.

Glassing and Spot and Stalk
Glassing is a must-have tool for your bow hunting arsenal. The key to success in the field with your binoculars is simple. The first and most important thing is to put them on a tripod. Having your binoculars on a tripod will improve your glassing tenfold. The reason being, your eyes are designed to pick up movement. If you are just using your hands to stabilize your bino’s, you will not be able to see that ear twitch, or a bedded bucks antlers moving in the brush because your arms are moving. By putting your bino’s on a tripod, you will be able to find more animals at farther distances, giving you more opportunity to plan a stalk. You will also be able to spend more time glassing and cover more ground because the tripod is holding the weight for you. You can find a tripod adapter for less than $20 online.
Once I spot the buck I want to pursue, I will watch him until he beds down. Once he is bedded, I plan my stalk. When planning your stalk, make sure you take note of the wind direction. Also, try to determine the wind direction where your buck is bedded, by looking for moving grass, brush, or trees. Make sure that you find some natural land marks (large boulder, group of trees etc.) near your bedded buck so that you know when you are getting close. Nothing ever looks the same as it did through your binoculars.
When I get within 300 yards of the bedded buck, I will slow down to a snail’s pace. This is the hardest and most important part of the stalk. It will usually take me two hours or more to cover this distance, depending on the available cover. Try to keep a natural object between you and the bedded buck, so that it can block some of your movement. I always keep a close eye on the buck to make sure he is not looking in my direction. When he is sleeping or looking in the other direction, use this to your advantage and cover some ground. The last 100 yards will be the hardest part. Remember all of these tips and remember to SLOW DOWN and have patience.

Non-Resident Hunting License - $151.25
Non-Resident Deer Tag (over-the-counter) - $225.25
All the information that the Do-It-Yourself bow hunter needs.
Arizona Game and Fish
Main Office - Phoenix
Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway
Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000
Phone (602) 942-3000
Free USGS Maps
Click on the “Map Locator” button to download free USGS Quad/Topography Maps.
Once you decide what map you need, add it to your ”shopping cart”. Then, from inside the “shopping cart” click on the map. You will then be able to download the map for free.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
Phone (520) 823-4251, ext. 116
U.S. Forest Service


This is where I live and

This is where I live and hunt.  Lots of deer, but LOTS of hunters too.  You have to work pretty hard to find the really good bucks, coues and muleys, but it's not impossible.

Mule Deer passion

 Mule Deer is my favorite thing to hunt, even though I have been more successful with the elk in Colorado. If time allows this year I and a hunting buddy might shoot down and Take a shot at a over the counter tag in Arizona. Is there a lot of back country away from roads down there? Ya know to back pack in a few miles to hunt away from the crowds? 



 is the hunt on a draw or are the tags over the counter 

Back country

There are some areas where you can get way back...but we normally have a base camp and hunt out of it everyday.

The tags are Over-the-counter

The tags are Over-the-counter