Last season I crunched the numbers and produced a list that indicated units 5B, 19A, and 10 would be the top three units in the state. Did those units live up to the hype? Did the entire list accurately represent what actually happened during the season? I'd say it did a reasonable job. Below I'll review the Top 10 preseason list and what actually happened (that I have information about).
5B: We scouted it and didn't turn up much in June or July. We didn't scout it much in August or September. We kept hearing rumors of at least three giant bucks, but couldn't produce any of them. My guess is that the buck pictured in the middle above is one of those three rumored bucks.
19A: Overall, I would say 19A was OK. It was good in a general sense, but not good for what 19A has been capable of in the past. The buck Corky took above was in 19A, and one of the Special Commissioners Tag hunters killed his buck in 19A (Art Pearce). There were a few other good bucks around, but not as many as we would have liked to have seen for this to be ranked at #2.
10: The numbers in 10 look to be doing well, and the bucks in the 75-79 inch class are in full force. However, the upper tier bucks seemed to be lacking. There were actually a good amount of them, but when you consider the size of the unit and the number of tags issued, the percentage of good bucks per hunter weren't up to Unit 10's pedigree as a perennially ranked top unit. Also, I don't recall hearing of or seeing a buck I thought was over 88 inches in the unit which is unusual. One of the raffle tag bucks was killed here and I heard that it scored in the 87 inch range.
5A: Unfortunately, we didn't get the time we needed to scout 5A. We heard of a rumored 90 inch buck but we didn't see him and neither did anyone we know.
19B: A friend of ours killed a buck on one of the private ranches that scored 90 SCI and 88 2/8 B&C. There are others in this unit but most of the best private land is inaccessible. The private land that you can access either charges a trespass fee or requires a separate application to draw.
8: We found one buck in the 85 inch range in this unit. Like 5A though, we didn't get to scout it very much and don't have a lot of information to report.
18B: We didn't scout this unit at all, but we did hear of a giant buck rumored in the unit from a reliable source.
4A: We found a couple 82 inch bucks during our scouting in the unit, but also have confirmed photos of a mid-80's buck in the unit that we never saw. Overall, the number of boomer bucks wasn't very good.
17B: We know of one giant 87 inch antelope killed in the unit. Most of the unit is private so we didn't scout it much.
18A: This is the unit where we guided Len Guldman to his Special Commissioners Tag Buck that score 91 6/8 B&C. There were only a couple other bucks that we located that we thought were over 82 and two of them were on private land.
Of the entire rest of the list this is what we know: There were a few good bucks taken in Unit 9 - one by our hunter Tim Gomez that scored 86 B&C - and there were a few good bucks in Unit 7 taken by hunters who hunted with Timberland Outfitters. And that's about all the information I have for all the other units in the state this year. Either not much good happened in the rest of the units or all of the hunters are keeping very quiet about it. My guess is that not much happened.
Here is this years list:
There's only one new unit to the Top 10 and that's Unit 9. The unit that got pushed out of the Top 10 is 17B. Other then that the rest of the Top 10 just got shuffled around a little bit based mostly on the fawn crop in the pertinent years.
Compared to Eastman's MRS: Eastman's lists 13 different units in there "Top Arizona Rifle Units". Of them 13A and 13B should probably not be listed.
Compared to Huntin' Fool: The Huntin' Fool also lists 13A which shouldn't be on the list. The rest of their top units are similar to mine and Eastman's.
I hope this list helps someone out there and good luck to everyone in the draw!
Arizona's GMU 2C
I haven't written one of these posts in a few years. I also realize that it's probably too late for nearly anyone to utilize any of the information in this post since the deadline to apply in Arizona is tomorrow. I thought I'd see what's changed since I started writing these posts and share my thoughts anyway.
In 2007 I listed Units 10, 19A, 19B, 18A, and 17B as the Top 5 Arizona Antelope Units.
In 2008 the list changed a little bit as I listed Units 10, 19A, 18A, 5A and 4A/B.
The removal of 19B from the list was due mainly to access issues. The trophy potential in the unit remains to this day, but the best areas in the unit are behind locked gates.
The removal of 17B was for the exact same reason as 19B.
The inclusion of 5A and 4A/B was because they both have a lot of accessible land and also had big buck potential. Neither unit was producing giants, but after scouting them both during the 2007 season we saw many record book bucks.
In 2009 the units remained the same, but we removed 19A from the list. I've copied and pasted an excerpt from that post from 2009:
We guided 3 hunters in 19A last year and had good success, but it wasn't without headaches. The private ranches are sometimes difficult to work with, but there are a couple main factors in our decision to remove 19A from our list for 2009:
We didn't replace 19A with any particular unit that year for a recommendation.
In 2010 I listed Units 10, 5A, and 18B. I only listed 3 units that year and that was about when I stopped posting these Arizona Unit Recommendations.
For 2013 the units are going to probably change more than they have in past years. For starters, the old standby, Unit 10, will not be making our list.
This is one of the reasons: Boquillas Ranch Access Agreement
There are two other main reasons for removing Unit 10 as one of the top units:
1. The number of trophy bucks has declined the last several years. The decline started in 2009. There were very few good bucks that year and the unit hasn't recovered yet. My guess is that we'll see a rebound either this season or in 2014, but to be safe I'd wait until next year.
2. The ratio of guides per hunters is greater than any other unit in the state. What this means for a DIY hunter is that most of the biggest bucks are going to be hunted by guides and their hunters. Simply put, guides have more time to scout than DIY hunters and they typically have far more resources. If you like to relax on your hunts you'll find yourself in the wrong place during this hunt.
I expect the removal of Unit 10 to be a one year deal. After we know more about the final access agreement on the Boquillas and after the trophy bucks reemerge more fully I think Unit 10 will once again find it's way back to the top of the list.
The top units for 2013, in no particular order, are:
These are the 3 best units in the state right now. 5B and 9 both have great access, great bucks, and very few hunters. Unit 19A is the same as it was in in 2008. Access is still an issue but with a little money ($750-$1500) you can gain access to nearly every ranch in the unit (first come, first serve).
My sleeper units for 2013 are, in no particular order:
I realize none of these units are really that much easier to draw than any other unit and that, in a traditional sense, none of them are really "sleeper" units, but these are the units I feel have potential this season to produce larger trophy bucks or more trophy bucks than they usually do. That's my reason for including them in the sleeper category. I wouldn't recommend these as top choices, but if you're looking for something different this year, live close to one of these units, or are attempting to "beat" the system by applying for a unit a little more off the wall, then one of these units may fit the bill.
But be careful and don't think that you're going to apply for Unit 21 and kill a monster antelope. Typically 21 produces mid to upper 70's type bucks. With my little algorithms telling me that it will produce better than usual that really only means that I think there will either be more of the top caliber bucks in the unit this year (a lot of 78" bucks instead of just a few) or that the top end of the gene pool will be better overall (you'll find an 82" - 83" buck instead of a 78" - 79" buck).
Those are my thoughts for this coming year and I hope everyone has a season to remember.
Here's a new unit I've decided to add to the list. It's a unit that I haven't been truly fond of in the past, but for the past couple years has been producing some great bucks.
I don't have a ton to say about the unit except that it's broken into roughly three separate hunt areas and that traveling between the three might be quite cumbersome as they're all located a good distance from each other (driving miles anyway).
Also, a large chunk of the unit, the Baca Land Grant and ORO ranch, is restricted to access. The grant lies almost directly in the middle of the three publicly accessible hunt areas.
Another reason 18B makes this list is that it's an easier draw than most other units - not much, but slightly.
We had heard rumors of big bucks in the unit for years, but only recently have any of those rumors started to materialize.
This is another unit we listed the last couple of years as one of the 5 best in the state. It makes the list again this year and with a BANG! In fact, I believe 5A was at it's very best in 2009 for trophy size and looked to be doing very well in regards to the number of bucks we saw versus the number of tags G&F issued.
The Hopi own a large chunk of the antelope habitat in the unit, but they allow access. All you have to do is sign in with them at their office in Winslow and you'll get your month (or so) pass and combination code for the locked gates. Once you're on the Hopi 3 Ranch the first thing you'll notice is that there aren't any antelope! Ha! The antelope are far and few between and sometimes very difficult to locate (and relocate).
The Bar T Bar Ranch covers nearly the rest of the unit and is also very good for antelope, though you'll run into more trees and even fewer antelope. It isn't because there aren't as many antelope here, it's just that the trees make them harder to see sometimes.
So far in the last few years of scouting 5A we haven't run into any access issues.
In 2006 the AZG&F transplanted antelope from Unit 19A into Unit 5A. Several of those tagged animals are still alive, bucks and does alike. I'm not sure if this transplant is yet having any effect on the trophy size - it would seem that it would be too early for the new genetics to kick in. Hopefully the two gene pools were meant for each other and we'll see the fruits of this merger in the next few years. If this happens 5A may be on this list for quite some time!
Overall the proposed guidelines for the 2010 antelope season look rather bleak from an antelope population perspective as Arizona is going to decrease the overall tag numbers from 1007 in 2009 to just 886 thus dropping 121 permits across the board. That's a reduction of over 8%.
There are a few new hunts for 2010, though not everyone gets to participate in all of them.
You can find the proposed recommendations for the 2010 season for antelope and elk HERE.
In 2008 we had listed the 5 best units in Arizona as:
For 2010 we'll start this series with the first unit that comes to mind when Arizona residents think of trophy antelope.
If you'd like to figure out your draw odds without much hassle click on this link to Hunter Trailhead. I've seen basically the same thing on a few different sites now, but this is the one I have saved in my favorites so I'm posting it. If anyone knows of a different or better version of this draw odds "calculator" please post it in the comments section below.