Updated: Jul 8, 2022
Unit 6A is known for a large number of Elk. It is rare that a early morning or late evening drive through the back roads of this unit doesn't produce at least one Elk sighting.
Unit 6A is one of the larger units in Arizona and includes several different habitat types from cactus filled deserts to Ponderosa pine. In between the desert and the pines is chaparral type country with deep canyons, thick juniper flats, rolling hills and lots of oak brush on the canyon slopes.
The lower elevation are on the south end of the unit and it gradually gets higher as you go north. The deep canyons are also generally in the south and central sections and the more mountainous terrain and pine forest are in the north.
You can find elk in just about every part of Unit 6, even inside the city limits of Flagstaff. Most people will look at the desert areas in the south and think that few if any elk would live there. Its true that the elk density is lower but there are still a lot of elk in the lower elevations and they are more visible to the skilled glasser.
There are ample roads that can get you into these hidden pockets of Elk habitat. The main access points are going to be from Lake Mary Road, Munds Park, as well as Stoneman Lake Road.
During early fall there are a lot of elk to the south and west of Lake Mary there are a lot of elk. Temperatures are cooler up here, compared to farther south, there is ample water most years in the form of dirt tanks for cattle. This area gets a lot of pressure though, especially during the early archery hunts. 6A has both archery bull and cow hunts running at the same time, and they issue a lot tags most years.
In the summer and early fall, you can see large numbers of elk at the Mormon Lake lookout south of Lake Mary. Hundreds of elk spend the summer right in the dry lake bed because there are usually pockets of water and the grass is thick and lush providing good feed.
These elk usually disperse into the trees as September approaches and the bulls shed their velvet and start rounding up cows for the rut.
The area to the west of Mormon Lake has a lot of elk in the fall and winter. If there is a lot of winter snow, they will head south to lower elevations.
In the middle of Unit 6A, from Stoneman Lake road north to a little south of Munds park is Rattle Snake Quiet Area. They call it a quiet area because they close all the roads in the fall. You need to hike in. Its not strenuous hiking though and it is a rather large area. There are elk here all year, but more move in as hunting pressure starts in September. Don't be fooled though. Even though it is road-less and “quiet”, it gets its fair share of hunting pressure too. The glassing isn't great here but there are spots where you can glass fairly well. When the elk are bugling in the fall, it can be great.
The pink line on the this map is the boundary of the quiet area. You can get a full description here .
To the South is the “desert” sections of Unit 6A. This will be mostly juniper, prickly pear cactus, oak brush on the slopes. The canyons in this part of the unit as well as the thick juniper flats and north side of the larger mountains are where elk, especially bulls, like to winter. Shortly after the rut, say around Oct 15th, the bulls will start to pull away from the cows and move into more remote and harder to access areas. West Clear Creek, Beaver Creek, Long Canyon, jacks Canyon and even to the south of highway 260 into Fossil Creek are all prime winter elk hunting habitats. Take a quick view of Google Earth in the south part of the unit and it will be obvious where the deeper and nastier canyons are. Be in shape and willing to work if you plan on hunting these late hunt canyons.
Road access throughout the unit is excellent. Probably too excellent. Like mentioned before, there are areas where they close roads during hunting season and this helps a little. The one good thing about the road situation is that it can help spread out the hunters. The one exception is the Stoneman Lake, Apache Maid areas. These places get HAMMERED by hunters, campers, off roaders, sightseers ect, even into the late hunts in the winter. You can access the south canyons from Apache Main and Stone Lake roads though.
Early Hunts – You can find elk all over the unit, but in the summer and early fall they congregate around water and food. In a good monsoon year, the elk will spread out and frequent the small parks and meadows in the thicker areas. If water is scarce, they will group up around what water is available.
Below is an example of typical early season elk areas. The red is feeding. The blue is bedding and the yellow is water source. If you are a glass, this is probably not the type of terrain you want to hunt. Its flat for the most part and the bedding areas are not really glassable. If you like to chase bugles and still hunt, these are your spots.
The elk will travel a long way everyday to get to water and then back to their preferred feeding areas if they have to. If you have an early hunt and you are seeing more hunters than elk in the north, don't be hesitant to travel south into the juniper and cactus to find bulls. If there is water there, they will stay all year long.
The south sections get less summertime traffic from campers due to it being a lot warmer. Most people that are camping are looking to escape the heat from the deserts and concentrate in the pines to the north.
Late Hunts – As mentioned before, most of the mature bulls will break off from the herds of cows in mid to late October and seek privacy. They look for areas that have fewer roads and are harder to access.
Unit 6A has a late rifle hunt, late archery hunt and a late muzzleloader hunt. All these can be good depending on weather and you willingness to hike, climb and endure bad weather.
They prefer spots where they do not have to travel far to food and water. They are trying to put weight on for the winter. North facing slopes of the deep canyons offer great glassing. (sit on the north slope and glass to the south or southwest).
In the above illustration, the red outlines are likely glassing spots. The Blue outlines are probable feeding areas and the blue lines are bedding and late morning early afternoon feeding areas.
Moving around these canyon rims as the sun moves from east to west is the best strategy. You won't likely be able to glass all of the feeding and bedding areas from the same vantage point.
These are the thick spots that the bulls will winter in. The one exception is if there is a lot of snow and/or its bitter cold. If this is the case, you are likely to see the elk, especially in the morning, on the sunny south facing slopes where the snow should not be as deep and the elk can get in the sun for warmth. Spotting scopes and tripod mounted binoculars and essential for these late hunts in 6A.
This illustration would represent the best glassing approach if there is snow and or very cold temperatures during your late season, unit 6A elk hunt.
Yellow lines are feeding and red lines are glassing points. If it is cold or the snow is deep on the north slopes (cold to us is not cold to an elk, It needs to be in the teens at least for an elk to change his behavior due to being cold), they will often bed on these open slopes to soak up some sun and take advantage of less snow.
This is "Canyon Country" in Arizona's Unit 6A. You can see there are a lot of big and small canyons. The bulls do not necessarily need the deepest and steepest canyons they just need water, food and less humans. Smaller, out of the way canyons that other pass by are often the best.
As far as getting a tag in unit 6A, it will most likely take 3-10 years depending on the hunt. Even cow tags are getting harder to draw. But, Arizona is on the bonus point system which means that even with zero bonus points, you have a chance. Every year people with 0, 1, 2 points draw these tags.
2022 tag numbers for Arizona Unit 6A elk
Archery cow - 25 tags
Archery bull - 700 tags
Late archery bull - 50 tags
Rifle (general ) cow - 350 tags
Rifle (general) Bull - 750 tags
Late muzzleloader - 325 tags (bull)
Late muzzleloader - 75 tags (cow)
Unit 6A Scouting Packages and Downloads
We offer one and two day scouting packages in unit 6A (and all other units too) for Mule Deer, Coues Deer, Bear, Javelina 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
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.