Updated: Jan 30
Unit 7 West is located in northern Arizona. It is a fairly large unit that lies west of highway 180, to the north of interstate 10 and west of Flagstaff.
The southern parts of the unit are mostly pine with several larger mountains, Sitgreaves mountain, Kendrick Peak and Squaw Peak being the dominate features. Large grassland prairies lie in between the mountains with lots of smaller volcanic cones also prevalent.
The middle sections of unit 7 West (7W) are a mix of juniper, open prairie and volcanic cones. Red Mountain, Butcherknife Hill, Eberts Mountain and Spring Valley are all features located in this transition zone type terrain of unit 7W.
To the north, will look more like antelope country with large open grasslands and thick patches of juniper and pinion. Even though it is very open there are a surprising number of elk that live out here all year long and if there is heavy snow during the late season, even more will move into this area. White Hill, Cedar Mountain, Buck Mountain and the main topographical features in this part of the unit.
Unit 7W is considered one of the "middle tier" units by a lot people. There are a lot of elk here, but they also give out a lot of tags. Also, the archery bull and cow hunts are held simultaneously which a lot of hunters don't care for. There is also a fair amount of private property which you need to be aware of. Most of it is well marked though and there are many thousands of acres of public land to hunt.
The boundaries of unit 7 West are very easy to remember. To the south, interstate 40 is the boundary. To the west it is highway 64 from Williams to Vail and to the east it is highway 180 from I-40 to Vail.
Archery Elk in Unit 7W
One of the more popular elk hunts in northern Arizona. It is a tag that is somewhat easier to draw than than the ultra popular units 9 and 10 but offers almost the same experience. Both unit 9 and unit 10 border unit 7 West and elk often pass back and forth between all three units.
A couple of things that keep unit 7W from being one of the top elk units in Arizona is the number of tags given out and the archery cow hunt runs at the same time as the archery bull hunt, so there are a lot of hunters out and about in the unit during the hunt, especially the first Friday through about Tuesday. It seems to quiet down a lot from say Wednesday to Friday evening, then people start coming back for the final weekend. If you can get time off to hunt mid-week, it is worth it.
There are usually two late bull hunts in unit 7 West. The first one will be early to mid November and be archery only. These hunts are easy to draw most years and can be very fun, even if the bulls have stopped rutting and it is cold. Sitting water can be effective on dryer years and spot and stalk is the way to go when hunting during wetter years and even dry years during the morning when bulls are feeding or you glass them in their beds. This is very much the same technique you might use while hunting mule deer, only you are hunting elk. Glass for the bulls, determine their direction of travel, bedding area etc, check the wind and plan your stalk accordingly. They usually give out way less tags for this hunt so the hunting pressure is lower than the early hunt.
The second late hunt is the general (any weapon) season which usually starts up right around Thanksgiving and last one week. Same techniques and strategy as the late archery hunt. Glass the south and east facing slopes at very first light for feeding elk, then switch over the north facing bedding areas after the sun is well up. They give quite a few tags for this hunt but it is a fun one and you should see a lot of bigger herds of elk. Look for the more secluded, out of the way, harder to get to and thicker timbered areas for the loner, more bulls.
Unit 7W has virtually no natural water. A few seeps on Kendrick Peak and if it has been raining, there will be water pooled up in some of the washes but almost all water for wildlife in this unit is from dirt tanks constructed for cattle and a few game and fish department installed "trick tanks"
Elk water at least once per day, often more in the summer and when they are are up all night rutting and running around, fighting and chasing cows. Sitting a water tank in a ground blind or a tree stand can be very effective in this unit when conditions are right. If the monsoons rains stop before the hunt, water will be a key. Even if you are not planning on sitting the water, locating tanks that hold water will be magnets for evening elk activity.
If the monsoons are still dropping rain in the afternoon and evenings water will be less effective but they still drink every evening and many mornings. They will just have more options to choose from as far as which tanks to drink from.
During wet years, they often prefer the tanks on private property. When its dry, they will go to any tank that has water and there are some deep ones that often hold water all year even in years where rain is scarce.
During the late hunts water is less significant, but still important. Elk will still water daily, but most bulls will be watering at night. Still, there should be a reliable water source nearby when you start narrowing down you hunting and scouting areas within the unit.
I am going to spend a little more time talking about bedding areas because I do not think they get enough attention when elk hunting. Elk head for beds EARLY during most circumstances. Especially in heavily hunted areas. A bull elk is going to spend the vast majority of daylight hour in its bedding area, so it makes sense that you will need to spend that time looking where the elk are at.
Unit 7 West has an abundance of volcano cones, mountains and a few ridge lines where elk love to bed. They like the volcano cone's north west sides especially. They can get up on the cone, find a bed and spend the day looking out over the open, flat country that surrounds most cones. Most of the time, the wind currents will be from the flat, open areas around the base of the cone, going up into their bedding areas. This gives them a lot of security by being able to hear, see and smell any potential threats.
When doing your "E - Scouting" for unit 7 West, look for the cones in the middle and northern sections of the units for the best mid-glassing opportunities. Below is a screen grab from Google Earth with arrows pointing to likely elk bedding areas. Note that view is looking south, so the darker colored, more timbered spots are facing north.
The ridge lines running off Kendrick Peak and Sitgreaves Mountain are also favorite bedding areas. The ridges that run east to west will be the best ones to glass. Look for the darkest timber on the ridge, near the top and slightly below and sit back a distance away to glass into these pockets. The elk will often get up mid-day to switch beds when the sun moves across the sky and the shade moves with it. The elk do not like to bed in the sun during the early hunt. They will move once the sun lights up their morning bed. This is a great time to be glassing instead of back at camp like most of the other hunters.
A great technique for hunting and scouting these areas is to locate these bedding spots on Google Earth or your preferred software and mark a way point of each likely area in your GPS or phone based GPS app. Once you have these loaded you can navigate the MANY roads in the unit to get a good view of the spot from a distance and start glassing it. A mistake many people make is to just stand by the road, hand hold your binoculars and spend 5 minutes scanning the slope then give up and move on.
What you need to do is park out of sight. Find a comfortable spot to SIT and set up your tri-pod and start picking apart every tree, shadow, rock etc on the hill. Even a big elk, when bedded and not moving, can b