Arizona Unit 8 Elk Hunting
Updated: Mar 31
2023 Update - We had a fabulous winter in Arizona with a lot of moisture and snow pack. Antler growth should be very good. Food and water is abundant over the entire state, especially in the elk units. Assuming we get a decent monsoon that brings summer rain, the rut and bugling should be as excellent as it was last year when we had similar winter and summer moisture.
Unit 8 lies in the northern half of Arizona, to the west of Flagstaff and extends southwest down to approximately Paulden, AZ.
Unit 8 has a variety of habit types and terrain. In the north, it is mainly Ponderous Pine and relatively flat expect for Bill Williams Mountain.
The western half of the unit is lower in elevation. There is a lot of juniper and pine here. The terrain ranges from flat to some fairly deep canyons that make good glassing for late season elk.
The south section of Unit 8 consist of Sycamore Canyon and the Sycamore Wilderness Area. Deep canyons and draws and also a of secondary ridges and flat mesas. There are elk throughout all of unit 8, but the wilderness area and the canyons feeding into the main section of Sycamore Canyon is where the majority of elk will found.
This hunt can be as physical as you want it to be. The canyon country if fantastic for glassing but once an elk is spotted it could be a strenuous hike to get to it and to get it back out.
For 2022, Unit 8 has a late September rifle hunt that should be fantastic if you were lucky enough to draw the tag. Bugling elk are usually at their peak unit 8 around September 20-23 and if conditions are right (good rainfall during the summer, water tanks full, abundant feed and mild temperatures, bugling can be head starting around the first of September and extending into mid-October.
This “trophy hunt” rotates through several different units each year, so you won't be able to apply for Unit 8 early rifle elk hunts every year.
When conditions are poor, unit 8 can be a rough hunt for hunters that like to chase bugles. Drought, heat and poor feed can turn the bulls silent real quick.
It is to be noted that there are a lot of recreational types using the forest in this unit throughout the summer and fall months. Camping, ATV/UTV riding, fishing, hiking, etc is very popular here.
The early archery bull and archery cow hunts in unit 8 run simultaneously, meaning that the bull hunt and the cow hunts have the same dates. Most of the early archery hunts in Arizona are designed this way. So, just keep in mind, if you draw a unit 8 early archery bull hunt there will be cow hunters in the same unit with you.
Unit 8 early archery hunts run September 8th-23rd in 2022 and there are a total of 300 tags. 250 bull elk tags and 50 cow elk tags. Hunting over water is a great tactic if you have the patience. There are a a lot of cattle (dirt) tanks and some game and fish “trick” tanks I unit 8. NOTE: trail cameras are not allowed here anymore for hunting. This could take some pressure off of the water tanks and make sitting water less frustrating. If you can find a tank with a lot of fresh tracks and even better, some wallows, tree stand or blinds could be very effective.
Elk prefer to water in the evening most of the time but if it is warm and dry and some of the tanks are not holding water, they could come in at any time of the day. Tanks near bedding areas (north facing mountain sides or north facing canyons with shade) are especially likely places to set up a blind or tree stand.
Most early archery hunters want to chase bugles and call and that is also effective when conditions are right and you have the skill to call. Calling badly is worse than not calling at all. If you are skilled at calling, it is best to use them sparingly and concentrate on stalking into the bugling bull or trying to cut him off at a pinch point.
In October, there are rifle cow elk hunts in unit 8. These are great hunts as the weather is usually fantastic and elk are out and about trying to get fat for winter.
Cow elk can be found everywhere in unit 8 but around the base of Bill Williams Mountain in the north, in and around Miller's Pocket in the South/west and the mesas between the deep canyons in the south are good places to start. Its still warm during the day in October so water is still key to finding elk, even in the fall.
There is also a late rifle cow hunt right after the last bull hunt, in December. This hunt can be very good if you can handle the cold. You can expect temperatures to be in the single digits at night and right at daybreak.
Unit 8 has a late rifle bull hunt each November. For 2022, this bull elk hunt starts on November 25th and concludes on December 2nd. The canyons in the south are where bulls head after the rut. They like to find places where people don't go which is usually a deep and nasty canyon if there are roads nearby or in the wilderness area they could be found on any north facing slope. If is cold and snowy, you can find them on south facing slopes in the morning feeding and trying to get some warmed up when the sun rises.
Unit 8 Scouting Packages and Downloads
We offer one and two day scouting packages in unit 8 (and all other units too) for Mule Deer and Elk.
Go here for more info on these affordable options for DIY hunters.
you can find more information on our scouting trip here - More Info
Each scouting package will include the following:
1 or 2 days of scouting (appx 10-12 days before opening day)
Link to the same video on Youtube (set to private so only you can see it)
Maps marked with each location
Google earth KML File with markers for each location
GPX file for uploading the GPS coordinates to your GPS or GPS APP
Written description with pictures of each location
Learn more about our scouting packages
Unit Data - downloadable
We also have data that can be instantly downloaded. It an accumulation of data we have complied over the years on unit 7 West.
It includes GPS waypoints, Photos, Google Earth Links and a written description of each location.
Learn more about our Downloadable Unit data