Updated: Jan 30
Unit 22 news! - A big fire closed a large portion of the southern half of unit 22 for the summer and fall of 2020. It is supposed to reopen in March of 2021. While the fire was a devastating and torched a lot of land, it is a great opportunity to create some fantastic deer and bear habitat for the unit in the next 2-10 years. With enough moisture, unit 22 will one of the TOP units for coues deer in the near future.
Arizona has a thriving population of Coues Whitetailed Deer. These tiny deer inhabit most of central and southern Arizona between elevations of 3,500 and 6,000 ft.
Rarely exceeding 120 lbs, with most bucks around 95-105 lbs, the Coues has become sort of a cult like creature among die hard southwestern deer hunters who specialize in finding these elusive animals with high end optics mounted on sturdy tripods and packed into remote drainages.
The deer live in the cactus, mesquite and palo verde at lower elevations; oaks, ocotillo and junipers in the mid ranges and pines at the upper elevations.
Unit 22, in central Arizona has good numbers of Coues deer in the central and northern sections of the unit.
The unit is rugged with some very remote and steep country. In the central parts of the unit, there is the Four Peaks Wilderness, the Mazatzal Wilderness the portions of the Hells Gate Wilderness areas.
Not officially designated as Wilderness areas, but just as rugged and remote are the Mt Peeley, Mt Ord, Two Bar, Eagle Peak and Fossil Creek areas in the central part of the unit.
Going farther north, around Pine and Strawberry, Arizona you can find Coues Deer in most of the drainages off of East Clear Creek, the Mogollon Rim, and the deep canyons that border unit 6A in the northwest section of Unit 22.
22 boundary – Beginning at the junction of the Salt and Verde Rivers; north along the Verde River to Childs; easterly on the Childs-Strawberry Rd. to Fossil Creek; north on Fossil Creek to Fossil Springs; southeasterly on FS trail 18 (Fossil Spring Trail) to the top of the rim; northeasterly along the Rim to Nash Point along the Tonto-Coconino National Forest boundary along the Mogollon Rim; easterly along this boundary to Tonto Creek; southerly along the east fork of Tonto Creek to the spring box, north of the Tonto Creek Hatchery, and continuing southerly along Tonto Creek to the Salt River; westerly along the Salt River to the Verde River; except those portions that are sovereign tribal lands of the Tonto Apache Tribe and the Fort McDowell Mohave-Apache Community.
Coues Deer Habitat
Typical Coues deer habitat in unit 22 is scrub oaks, manzanita and juniper. There are several burns, old and new that also hold a lot of deer. Tonto National Forest does a lot of controlled burns in the unit also, which are always areas worth looking at.
When you first look at the game and fish regulations and see how many tags the department issues, you might be put off thinking that it will be a zoo and too much hunting pressure.
for 2020, there will be (3) rifle Coues hunts in unit 22. 400 tags in the first hunt, 375 tags for the second hunt and 50 tags for the last hunt in December. Tag numbers are the same as 2019.
While there are a lot of tags, much of the unit goes unhunted due to people not wanting to put the effort in to get into more remote areas. The majority of the hunters are going to be near easier access points. If you are in at least "decent" shape and have a pack and good boots, you can out walk most of the hunters and get back into the areas where you won't be bothered.
Link to 2020 Arizona Deer regulations - Deer Regulations
Archery Coues Deer hunts
Archery Coues deer hunts are very popular, even with low success rates. It is one of the greatest challenges in bowhunting. The deer are very nervous by nature and are rarely in vulnerable position.
The early seasons can be very hot and depending on the state of the monsoon season, very wet or very dry. Powerful storms are not uncommon during the August and September and temperatures in the triple digits are also the norm in lower elevations.
Sitting water, either in a ground blind or using a tree stand can be very effective if you have the patience to sit and wait.
Spot and stalk techniques will often offer more buck sightings, but long, slow stalks in the heat will be needed to get a shot off in most circumstances.
The December and January archery seasons are very popular because the bucks are up on their feet a lot looking for does and the temperatures are much cooler (even brutally cold in the higher elevations).
You can start to see some pre-rut activity the early part of December with the "rut" usually starting to kick off around Christmas. The most rutting activity is usually observed in January.
Most units have over the counter archery deer tags, but check the regulations because it changes year to year.