Updated: Jan 31
Unit 33 news! - A big fire burned a large portion of the of unit 33 in 2020. 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. Unit 33 was already a great unit for coues whitetail deer, but with enough moisture, it could be THE TOP unit for coues deer in the near future. Bear, Gould's Turkey and even mule in some lower elevation sections of the burn will also benefit.
A big fire in unit 3C turned that unit from an average mule deer hunt into a very good for several years. This could have the same effect on whitetail here in unit 33.
Southern and central Arizona is home to the majority of Coues Whitetailed Deer in the united States. These tiny deer inhabit most of Arizona between, Flagstaff and the Mexican border at 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.
The three major mountain ranges within unit 33 are the Catalina's, The Rincons and the Little Rincons. All harbor a sizable whitetailed deer population. Unit 33 has long been recognized as a unit that holds trophy class Coues bucks and a large number of these small bodied deer.
The north end of the unit includes Mount Lemmon. This large mountain has hundreds of finger ridges, especially on the east side, that are covered in oaks and junipers at mid elevations and giving way to mesquite and cactus as you go lower.
Coues can be found in all of these habitats. I believe there are larger numbers of deer in the oaks and yellow grass slopes at the middle of the mountain but there might be larger bucks, that don't get hunted as hard in the lower portions and even down into the mesquite flats. The downfall of hunting them there is the limited and more difficult glassing opportunities.
Coues can be found all the way at the top also, in the pines. It is a good area for the archery hunt if you like to tree stand hunt.
The south end of the unit includes the Rincon and Little Rincon Mountains. These areas offer a variety of habitat too; oaks, mesquite and these areas offer a great chance to hike away from pressure and get into some areas that might have older deer. These mountains area a little farther way from Tuscon and seem to get a little less pressure, but they still get hunted hard near the roads and trail heads.
Unit 33 Boundaries
Beginning at Tangerine road and AZ Hwy 77; north and northeast on AZ Hwy 77 to the San Pedro River; southeast along the San Pedro River to I-10 at Benson; west on I-10 to Marsh Station road (Exit 289); northwest on the Marsh Station road to the Agua Verde road; north on the Agua Verde road to its terminus then north 1/2 mile to the Coronado National Forest boundary; north and west along the National Forest boundary; then west, north, and east along the Saguaro National Park boundary; continuing north and west along the Coronado National Forest boundary to the southern boundary of Catalina State Park; west along the southern boundary of Catalina State Park to AZ Hwy 77; north on AZ Hwy 77 to Tangerine road.
Coues Deer Habitat
Typical Coues deer habitat in unit 33 is scrub oaks, manzanita and juniper. There are several burns, old and new that also hold a lot of deer. The Coronado National Forest and the AZ State Land Trust are largest managers of public land in unit 33.
The middle elevations around Mt Lemmon hold a lot of deer. There are many ridges covered in oak and juniper that Coues deer love, coming off the top of the mountain and down to about 4,000 ft elevation.
To the east of the control road, on the back side (east) of Mt Lemmon, there are a lot of cactus and mesquite lined washes that also hold a lot of Coues deer and also mule deer.
These lower elevation areas are more easily accessible but harder to glass and probably a few less whitetail than at slightly higher elevations. There are a lot of cattle tanks (water) in these lower areas however, which is always a feature to look for when scouting and hunting in the desert.
In the Rincons and Little Rincons access is not as easy, but this can keep hunting pressure lower than in the northern half of the unit.
The main access will be on Forest service RD 35, which you can get to from the Mescal exit off I-10 a few miles west of Benson.
This road is fairly well maintained, but there are several places where it crosses creeks and washes. If it has been raining, you should be cautious when crossing the deeper ones.
To get the best areas it will be about a 15-18 mile drive on this road. Take what you need with you because it is a long drive back to get fuel, food, water, etc.
The base of the Rincons are mostly oaks and mesquite covered washes. There are very few roads but there are some trail heads, Miller Creek and Turkey Creek, which will get you away from the main road and into some really good Coues Deer areas to glass.
If you are willing to hike and possibly backpack into some more remote areas, the the bo