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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2015: Arizona deer, sheep and bison


Nontypical Arizona mule deer buck
Photo credit: Getty Images

Arizona’s deer, bighorn sheep and bison overview

Sometimes what seems so simple is actually very complex after all. The same can be said for Arizona’s deer, bighorn sheep and bison drawing system. In this informative write up you will gain a better understanding of what is possible, and what is impossible, when it comes to applying for and drawing these tags in Arizona. The Grand Canyon State has some of the very best mule deer, Coues deer and desert sheep hunting out there. The Coues deer in Arizona are a fairly overlooked species and the over-the-counter (OTC) archery deer season during the rut in December and January is one of the most enjoyable hunts you will find. Desert sheep hunting in Arizona is about as good as gets with the Boone and Crockett records to prove it! Free range bison can be hunted on the North Kaibab near the Grand Canyon National Park. The precipitation received so far this year should make this a year to remember. Do not miss your chance to apply. The deadline is fast approaching! You can apply online here.

Why Arizona for mule deer

Arizona Desert Outfitters with a giant mule deer
  • Multiple species. With both mule deer and Coues deer available for hunting, there are trophy bucks available for each of the deer species.
  • Mild winters. Unlike many western states, Arizona does not have to worry about winter mortality. Bucks reach maturity easier without being susceptible to winter conditions each year after the rut.
  • OTC opportunity. Arizona has some of the most liberal OTC archery deer season dates available. It is possible to bowhunt in January, August, September and December.
  • Giant mule deer. The famous Arizona Strip and North Kaibab have long been regarded as the best of the west for giant mule deer.
  • Incredible Coues deer. Arizona is also home to some of the biggest Coues deer. There is not another place that rivals Arizona for buck quality and the B&C book supports this claim. 

Arizona is home to legendary mule deer hunting. The infamous Kaibab plateau and the Arizona Strip are both household names when it comes to trophy mule deer. Units 12A East, 12A West, 12B, 13A and 13B are the absolute best mule deer hunting that Arizona has to offer. These units all lie north of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon and consistently produce bucks that dreams are made of — and all manage to produce older age class bucks. Each year, bucks exceeding 200” Boone and Crockett are taken and a 180 plus buck is a realistic expectation. With excessive spring precipitation, 2015 is shaping up to be a year to remember. Units 12B, 13A and 13B are the top choices for the biggest bucks. Unfortunately, if you are a nonresident with less than 18 bonus points, do not waste your time applying for a November rifle hunt in these units. Statistically and mathematically you will not draw a tag. Units 12A West and 12A East have late rifle seasons that are almost as incredible, but a nonresident needs at least 16 points to have a chance. The early seasons in 12A West and 12A East are a tough hunt with bucks buried in thick timber and pressured heavily from other hunters, but these tags are easier to draw.

South of the Grand Canyon there are a lot of other options. Aside from a few standouts, like Unit 3A and Unit 3C, the rest of the state is host to overwhelming abundance of hunting opportunities with a slim chance of harvesting a mature buck.

Arizona's top Boone and Crockett mule deer entries all-time: nontypical



Units within county

Coconino513C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5BN, 5BS, 6A, 6B, 7E, 7W, 8, 9, 10, 11M, 12AE, 12AW, 12B
Mohave2213A, 13B
Apache41, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B
Cochise128, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34B, 35A
Navajo12A, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A
Pinal124A, 24B, 26M, 31, 32, 33, 37A, 37B, 39, 40A
Yavapai16A, 6B, 8, 16A, 17A, 17B, 18A, 18B, 20A, 20B, 20C, 21, 42, 44A


Arizona's top Boone and Crockett mule deer entries all-time: nontypical



Units within county

Coconino603C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5BN, 5BS, 6A, 6B, 7E, 7W, 8, 9, 10, 11M, 12AE, 12AW, 12B
Mohave2813A, 13B
Apache41, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B
Pima132, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B, 36C, 37A, 38M, 40A, 40B

Why Arizona for Coues deer

A3 Trophy Hunts Coues deer buck
Photo credit: A3 Trophy Hunts

Contrary to Arizona’s mule deer situation there are a lot of options for Coues deer hunting for big bucks. The late rifle seasons will provide a chance to pursue bucks in the Arizona desert and rim country that are beginning to rut and ready to make the mistake you are looking for. There are countless units in Arizona that will give you a chance to harvest a Coues deer that could exceed 100” B&C. Hunting and glassing for Coues deer is a unique experience and one that can become addictive if you allow it. The best units in the state include Unit 33, Unit 23, Unit 22, Unit 24B, Unit 24A and Unit 36A. Late rifle Coues deer tags can be drawn by nonresident applicants with 10 or fewer points.
OTC archery deer is one of the greatest opportunities that Arizona has to offer. These tags are valid for either deer species. The key to making this option successful is to find an area that you like and stay with it for a few years. You will begin to find areas that receive less hunting pressure and hold the type of bucks you are after. Whether it is early season velvet bucks or late season bucks in the rut, Arizona’s OTC opportunity should have what you want.

Arizona's top Boone and Crockett Coues deer entries all-time: typical



Units within county

Pima9432, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B, 36C
Santa Cruz3534A, 35A, 35B, 36B
Gila3322, 23, 24A, 24B
Cochise3028, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34B, 35A
Greenlee1027, 28


Arizona's top Boone and Crockett Coues deer entries all-time: nontypical



Units within county

Pima2432, 33, 34A, 34B, 36A, 36B, 36C
Gila1822, 23, 24A, 24B
Cochise1328, 29, 30A, 30B, 31, 32, 33, 34B, 35A
Santa Cruz1334A, 35A, 35B, 36B
Graham428, 31, 32
Yavapai46A, 6B, 8, 21, 22

Why Arizona for desert bighorn sheep

High Point Outfitters desert bighorn sheep
Photo credit: High Point Outfitters
  • Multiple species. In addition to some of the best desert sheep hunting around, Arizona also has some incredible Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep units.
  • Trophy rams. 10% of the hunters that are fortunate enough to receive a desert sheep tag end up in the B&C book. That is an astounding statistic!
  • Incredible weather. Nearly all of the desert sheep seasons are in December and Arizona’s desert in December is awfully tough to beat! You can hunt surrounded by beautiful weather and amazing landscapes.

Arizona is a major contender when it comes to trophy desert bighorns. Arizona is an amazing desert sheep state if you consider record book entries compared to overall tag numbers over the last five seasons. 45 of the 433 total desert sheep tag holders during that period entered a desert sheep into the Boone and Crockett record book. That is over 10% of the tag holders punching their ticket on a book ram.

Desert bighorn sheep tag allocation versus record book entries

Arizona has everything a desert sheep hunter desires: wilderness style backcountry hunts to units that can be glassed from roadways and everything in between. The best part is that tags are not reserved for only the applicants with the most points. A very real chance is there to draw a tag at random, especially for residents. Multiple units produce rams that will score above 160” B&C and a few units have provided 175” or greater trophies.

The best units are Unit 22, Unit 24B (North and South subunits), Unit 31 and Unit 32. These choices are typically drawn only by applicants with the maximum number of points, but do not get discouraged. There are other great options that could provide a better chance to draw, including Unit 44B North, Unit 15D (North and South subunits), Unit 15C, Unit 13B and Unit 37A.

Arizona's top Boone and Crockett desert bighorn sheep entries all-time



Units within county

Yuma7040B, 41, 43B, 45A, 45B, 45C, 46B
Mohave5213A, 13B, 15B West, 15C, 15D, 16A, 16B, 18B
Pima4132, 37A, 40A, 40B, 46A
Maricopa3322, 24B, 31, 32
La Paz2743A, 44B, 45A, 45B


Why Arizona for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Rocky Mountain bighorn - Dieringer Outfitters
Photo credit: Dieringer Outfitters

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are doing a great job of gaining ground and Arizona has produced some big rams in recent years. No longer considered a state with only small bighorns, Arizona has provided hunters with several rams that have surpassed the 175” benchmark. With only a few unit options available — and nearly all of the tags drawn by resident applicants — this is not an option for nonresident bighorn applicants to get their hopes up.

Arizona's top Boone and Crockett Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep entries all-time



Units within county

Gila322, 23, 24A, 24B
Apache21, 2A, 2C, 3A, 3B, 27

Why Arizona for bison

Robbie Mathew's Arizona bison

Photo credit: Robbie Mathews
  • Although record book entries are among the lowest of all western states, a representative bison is still considered a privilege to harvest.
  • Free range bison are available when hunting the House Rock bison herd.

The House Rock bison hunt is the only herd available for hunting at this time. Hunters should be prepared for severe winter conditions and low availability of bison. This is considered to be one of the most difficult hunts in the state. It will test your patience because these bison can be difficult to locate. If you want to be successful, plan on spending the entire season hunting to improve your chance. Unlike some western bison hunts, you are on your own for this hunt. No game department personnel will accompany you or assist in field dressing your animal. Plan to be in good physical condition because hunters are often required to walk several miles every day over rugged terrain. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended as the area is remote and conditions can change quickly. Arizona has the fewest number of bison entered in the Boone and Crockett record book among all states, excluding Oklahoma. 

Bison entries in the Boone and Crockett record books


Number of entries

South Dakota148


Arizona's top Boone and Crockett Desert bison entries all-time



Units within county

Coconino195A, 5B North, 5B South, 12A East, 12A West, 12B, 13A,

General herd conditions:

Mule deer

Winter mortality is never a real concern for Arizona mule deer, but precipitation is paramount. So far the spring precipitation of 2015 is incredible with many areas recording levels far above average. The bucks on the Arizona Strip and Kaibab (Units 13A, 13B, 12A East, 12A West and 12B) should be able to grow to their full potential this year. Mule deer found south of the Colorado River will also benefit from timely precipitation. Age class is always the key component to helping a buck grow an impressive rack. In addition to the Strip and Kaibab Units listed above, Units 3A and 3C along with Units 17A, 45A, 45B and 45C are all managed under the Alternative Hunt Management Guidelines, which tries to keep the buck to doe ratios above 30 bucks per 100 does. This target has proven to establish a more abundant, older age class and, ultimately, higher scoring bucks.

Coues deer

Remote and rugged country found in the central and southeastern part of Arizona helps boost the trophy quality and numbers of Coues deer. Although there are a lot of tags issued during the October and November rifle seasons, the Coues deer numbers statewide continue to be very stable. Coues deer are found primarily in regions where there are plenty of plants to forage on, but are not as dependent on rainfall as the mule deer.

Desert sheep

The desert sheep populations in Arizona are in great shape with an increase in tag numbers to prove it. The trophy quality continues to improve with a high percentage of tag holders harvesting high scoring rams. Predators, specifically mountain lions, are probably the greatest threat to Arizona sheep populations. 

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herds are also increasing. Arizona has reopened hunting opportunities in the Black River hunt area of Unit 1 and Unit 27 as an indication of thriving herds. Overall trophy quality is also impressive.


Bison are scattered across the state with few concentrated in specific areas. These bison were once contained in Unit 12A East within the House Rock Bison Ranch, but years ago escaped and spread across the Kaibab Plateau and well into the Grand Canyon National Park. While the highest numbers are found within the Grand Canyon National Park where hunting is prohibited. Occasionally, they move in and out of the park, living on the National Forest, which makes them huntable. Success is low for the few lucky tag holders. There are only an estimated 600 bison that live among the House Rock herd. 

What’s new in 2015?

  • The any antlered deer hunts in Units 39, 40A and 40B that used to take place in late October and early November will now be consolidated into a single hunt in mid-November.
  • The rifle Coues deer hunt in Unit 22 that took place in October has been replaced with a hunt that will occur in November.
  • Additional November rifle seasons for Coues deer have been added in Unit 22, Unit 23 and Unit 24B.
  • A December muzzleloader deer season in Unit 8 has been added.
  • The desert sheep hunt in Unit 46A has been split into two separate subunits. One will take place in subunit 46A East and the other will occur in 46A West.
  • Just like the neighboring unit, the desert sheep hunt in Unit 46B has been split into two separate subunits. One will take place in subunit 46B East and the other will occur in 46B West.
  • The Black River hunt area for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Unit 1 and Unit 27 has returned to the lineup for 2015 after several years without a season because of a struggling herd.
  • The Rocky Mountain bighorn hunt in Unit 6A and Unit 22 is now a single season that will run the entire month of December. This ends the two separate two-week seasons.
  • The Rocky Mountain bighorn seasons in the south portion of Unit 27 and Unit 28 will now be a single season that will run the entire month of December.
  • The Raymond Ranch bison hunt has been cancelled for the fall of 2015.
  • Several new seasons have been added and removed for bison on the House Rock herd.

The draw system: An overview

  • Tag or license: A 365-day big game hunting license plus tags for each species.
  • Point system: Bonus point system.
  • Youth: Special youth hunting license fees and tag fees for any “youth-only” season. If a youth is drawn for a non “youth-only” hunt choice, then they will pay the adult price for their tag.
  • Draw type: Lottery, but read section on “Unlocking Arizona’s System” to gain a better understanding.
  • Resident perk:
    • Residents are allocated at least 90% of the tags for any deer hunt choice.
    • Residents are also awarded at least 90% of the total number of sheep tags for the entire species.
    • Only residents can apply for any bighorn sheep hunt choice that has only one total tag available.
  • Application: You can apply as a single person or up to a party of four hunters. Bonus points are averaged for the entire group and rounded to the nearest whole number (up or down). Applying as a party could eliminate you from being drawn if there are not enough tags available to fill the party.

Application types and deadlines for 2015

Resident &

Online and paper
application deadline
(by 11:59 p.m. MST)

deadline date


DeerJune 9, 2015No correction periodAugust 7, 2015
Bighorn sheepJune 9, 2015No correction periodAugust 7, 2015
BisonJune 9, 2015No correction periodAugust 7, 2015





Collected upfront?

Refundable if not drawn?

General hunting license$37N/AYesNo
Hunting and fishing
combo license
Youth hunting license
(10 to 17 years of age)
Deer hunt
permit tag
$58*$315*Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Youth deer hunt
permit tag
$38*$40*Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Bighorn sheep hunt
permit tag
$313*$1,815*Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Youth bighorn sheep hunt
permit tag
$313*$1,815*Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Bison bull/and hunt
permit tag
$1,113$5,415Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Bison cow/yearling hunt
permit tag
$663$3,265Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Bison yearling only hunt
permit tag
$363$1,765Only if applied with
paper application
For paper
Archery deer OTC tag$45$300N/AN/A
Bonus point only fee$13$15YesN/A

*Hunt permit tag fees listed include the $13 resident and $15 nonresident application fee that is collected upfront on online applications.

Special limitations to consider

You may only harvest one desert sheep and one Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Arizona in your lifetime.

Unlocking Arizona’s system

The key to Arizona is to truly understand how the draw process works for each of these two species.

Arizona has a complex lottery system. The annual permit drawing is conducted in three pass:
    1.    First pass (20% of tags to those with the most bonus points).
    2.    Second pass (first and second choices).
    3.    Third pass (third, fourth and fifth choices).

A hunter is wise to understand the system in detail to maximize his chances of getting a tag. The drawing for tags for each separate hunt choice is also conducted in pass.

Deer pass

  • Pass 1: 20% of the total tags in each hunt choice are reserved for those with the most bonus points. If there are not enough tags for every hunter in that point level, the computer selects by random which applicants get tags. Note: Nonresidents may draw no more than 10% of total tags (or no more than half the tags issued in Pass 1). In high demand hunt choices the nonresident 10% quota is typically filled in this pass leaving no further nonresident tag availability beyond this pass. Due to the popularity and high demand of Unit 13A rifle deer and Unit 13B rifle deer, these choices require nonresidents to have maximum bonus points (18 points going into this 2015 draw). If you do not have 18 points, you will not have a chance to draw Unit 13A rifle and Unit 13B rifle as a nonresident.
  • Pass 2: Remaining tags are issued randomly to hunters who applied for the hunt as a first or second choice. Each applicant has one chance in the drawing plus an extra chance for each bonus point they have. However, in some units the nonresident tag quota is filled in Pass 1 because more nonresidents than residents have accumulated high numbers of bonus points. If a hunter’s name is drawn in Pass 2, he is considered for his second choice if his first choice is no longer available.
  • Pass 3: Any tags remaining after Pass 1 and 2 are issued to hunters who listed the hunt as a third, fourth or fifth choice in their applications. No tags for hunts that are well known for yielding trophy size game are available in this pass.

Bighorn sheep pass

For bighorn sheep, the draw works a little differently. It is important to understand that nonresidents are limited to up to 10% of the total sheep tags across all units. As with deer, Pass 1 will draw 20% of the total sheep tags to the applicants with the most bonus points. It is also important to understand that 26 is the maximum number of bonus points for bighorn sheep applicants going into the 2015 draw and only six of the 134 applicants in this maximum pool are nonresidents. With a total of 117 bighorn tags statewide, only 23 tags (roughly 20%) will be drawn in the first pass of the draw out of the 134 applicants with 26 bonus points. Now you can see why resident applicants almost always draw the entire group of tags in the first pass for bighorn sheep.

This is actually good news to nonresident applicants — especially those with less than maximum bonus points! Unlike deer, there are tags available for the next pass of the draw that draws tags randomly regardless of bonus point level. It is hard to predict which units the Pass 1 tags will come from because it is up to how the applicants in the maximum point pool apply. We can assume that the highest demand units, or premier units (Unit 22, Unit 24B (North, and South), Unit 31 and Unit 32), will fill up in this pass. The beauty is that Arizona has a lot of quality sheep units that produce 160 plus rams that are available for Pass 2 and this pass draws tags at random.   

The main takeaway from this complex explanation is that in order to increase your chances at drawing an Arizona sheep tag, do not waste a choice on the premier units if you do not have 26 or more bonus points. It is actually easier for a nonresident with less than maximum bonus points to draw a sheep tag than it is to draw a nonresident rifle deer tag on the Strip (Unit 13A or Unit 13B) with less than maximum bonus points. Crazy, right?


For bison the nonresidents are limited to 10% of all of the bison tags. 20% of the tags are distributed to those applying with the maximum bonus points. Typically, these tags are drawn by resident applicants since so many more residents have accumulated a higher level of bonus points than nonresidents. 

The point system

Arizona has bonus points. Repeat applicants or those who have bought bonus points in previous years have better chances of drawing tags. In addition to the bonus points awarded for the species, applicants who have applied for a particular species for five consecutive years will earn a loyalty point for that species. An additional permanent point can be earned for travelling to Arizona and successfully completing an Arizona Hunter Education course.

There are not separate species point categories for mule deer and Coues deer. There is only a deer species point. Bonus points for deer can be used for either deer species. This is also true for the sheep species. The sheep points can be applied for either Rocky Mountain bighorn or desert bighorn sheep. 

Bison in Arizona historically have had two application periods: one in June and the other in October. This gives an applicant the opportunity to accrue two points per year. 

If you fail to apply for five consecutive years for particular species, then your points accrued for that species will be lost.


Discounted youth hunting licenses and tag fees are available, but only if the hunt choice is designated as youth-only. There are also a limited number of youth-only hunts available. Youth hunters under 14 years old must have proof of completing a hunter education course.

Party applications

For deer and sheep you may apply up to four people on one party application. If there are fewer tags available than the total number on a party application and that party application is drawn, Arizona will NOT issue additional tags to fulfill the party application. In this case, your application will be rejected. Bonus points for the party will be averaged and rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.

Arizona deer, bighorn sheep, and bison draw FAQs

Where and how do I apply?

Arizona’s application can be submitted in one of two ways: online or by paper application through the mail (must be received by 7 PM Arizona Time on June 9, 2015). See deadlines and fees in the tables above.

Is Arizona good for building points?

Arizona is inexpensive to build points if you take advantage of applying for multiple species. You are required to purchase a 365-day hunting license in order to accumulate bonus points and only one license is required to apply for all of Arizona’s species. Bonus points will give you an additional chance in the drawing and could eventually help you gain an advantage by being in the maximum point level for applicants applying for a particular hunt choice (this applies to deer hunt choices, not sheep).

Can I turn my tag in if I decide not to hunt?

No. Arizona is among the least forgiving of states when it comes to errors, refunds and tag returns.

Can I transfer my tag to my child?

Yes. Arizona does allow a parent, or legal guardian, to transfer a tag to an eligible youth hunter. You can also transfer your tag to an approved non-profit organization that provides special opportunities to children with limitations from life threatening conditions.

Do I have to front fees in Arizona?

Yes and no. You will have to purchase a current hunting license (if you have not already purchased one in the elk and antelope draw earlier in the year) and there is an application fee of $13 for resident and $15 for nonresidents per species for online applications. If you apply on paper you will be required to pay the entire tag fee and hunting license fee (if not previously purchased). If unsuccessful in the draw, you will be refunded the entire tag fee if you applied on paper. If you apply for bonus points only, you will be required to submit the appropriate fee and it will not be refunded after the draw and you will be awarded your bonus point.

Can I archery hunt in Arizona with my rifle tag?

Yes. You can use archery equipment during the any rifle season.

The seasons

  • Arizona has rifle seasons that allow for any legal weapon to be used.
  • Muzzleloader-only seasons allow for the use of muzzleloaders. Archery equipment cannot be used on a muzzleloader tag.
  • Archery-only seasons are available for deer. During these seasons only compound and recurve bows are legal. Crossbows are only legal during archery-only seasons if the hunter has a disabled archery permit.

Weapon restrictions


  • There is a minimum of .45 caliber for deer.
  • Any propellant is legal in Arizona.
  • Sabots are also legal for use.
  • Any bullet type/projectile may be used.
  • Any ignition system is legal in Arizona.
  • Any sight system including magnifying riflescopes can be used.


  • Arrows or bolts must have broadheads measuring at least 7/8 inch in width with a primary cutting edge no less than 0.015 inch thick.
  • Bows must have a peak draw weight of no less than 30 pounds.
  • Expanding broadheads are legal.

Managing points and expectations

I have zero to three bonus points for deer. What can I expect?

As a nonresident with few points there is absolutely no chance of drawing a mule deer tag in Unit 13A, Unit 13B or any late rifle deer tag in Unit 12A East, Unit 12A West or Unit 12B. A nonresident with few points needs to decide if they are going to continue building points or if they want a chance to go hunting. If the answer is to go hunting, then the best options for mule deer are to apply for a hunt choice that has nonresident tags still available after Pass 1 of the draw. This way there is a random chance at drawing a tag. Your best bet for mule deer would be to apply for an early rifle tag in either Unit 12A East, Unit 12A West, Unit 12B on the west subunit or the rifle hunt in Units 3A and 3C. If you are a nonresident archery hunter, then you should consider the archery season in Units 3A, Unit 3C or Units 12A West, 12A East and 12B. There are also several rifle Coues deer options that may be available to a nonresident with just a few points. The best December rifle Coues deer option to consider would be Unit 31 thanks to the high number of tags issued. Other good late rifle Coues deer choices that could be available include Unit 6A, Unit 6B, Unit 8, Unit 34A, Unit 36A and Unit 36B.  

Arizona deer bonus points for resident and nonresident






Resident applicants always have a chance to draw any hunt choice for deer thanks to resident tags being available for Pass 2 of the draw. With 90% of the total deer tags for any hunt choice going to residents, apply for your dream hunt as a first choice and follow it up with a second choice that would make you happy.

Regardless of residency, if you are itching for the chance to head to Arizona this year, and would also like to build a bonus point, then an OTC archery deer tag can make that happen. These tags are sold at any AZGFD department office or any license dealer. They are valid for either deer species and in several units across the state. The seasons are open during various months so you can hunt bucks in early season velvet by spot and stalk, sit water or even return later in the year and pursue bucks in rut. This is a great opportunity for any archery hunter.

I have four to ten bonus points for deer. What should I do?

A nonresident in this category is starting to have some real options. The options are not yet available for the best hunts that Arizona has to offer for mule deer. If you happen to have seven to ten points, nonresidents can draw nearly any late rifle Coues deer hunt and have the time of their life! If your heart is set on mule deer, and you do not want to just build points, then you should employ the same strategy as the applicants with zero to three points. Please realize that you now have a very real chance of picking up a tag during the Pass 1 of the draw, especially with seven or more points. Good options would be Unit 12A East, Unit 12A West, Unit 12B on the west subunit or the rifle hunt in Units 3A and 3C.

Residents should do the same thing here as the described above. Either build points or apply for the Coues deer or mule deer hunt of your dreams. 

Applying for deer with 11 or more bonus points. What can I expect?

Nonresidents still need to understand that unless you have 18 points going into the 2015 draw, the Strip Units 13A and 13B are out of reach for you to rifle hunt. If you are within one or two points of maximum, then apply for late rifle deer in Unit 12B, 12A West or 12A East. Other good options for nonresident applicants with 15 or more points are the archery seasons in Unit 13A or Unit 13B. You should be ready for a long challenging hunt with a chance to shoot a giant. Another mule deer hunt to consider would be the late rifle season in Unit 27 if you are willing to get physical. 

If you have 10 to 13 nonresident deer points and are tired of accumulating points and would like to go hunting, then you may want to apply for one of the very best Coues deer hunts in the state. Late rifle in Unit 22, Unit 23 or Unit 33 are tough to beat!

Applying for bighorn sheep with less than 25 bonus points. What should I do?

A nonresident always has a chance to draw sheep tags in Arizona thanks to the way the sheep draw is handled. The trick here for nonresidents is to select from the hunt choices with at least two tags available and a unit where the entire tag quota is not distributed in the Pass 1 of the draw. Options to avoid would be Unit 22, Unit 24B (South), Unit 31 and Unit 32. You should also avoid the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep options because tags are typically only drawn by residents. 

Arizona sheep bonus points for resident and nonresident






Resident applicants with few points should follow the same advice as the nonresident to avoid hunt choices where the quota is likely to be filled during the Pass 1 of the draw. The main advantage that residents have is the ability to apply for hunt choices that only offer one tag. In addition, it is far more likely for a resident to draw a tag randomly in Pass 2 thanks to 90% of the total tags being reserved for residents. 

Bighorn Sheep with 25 or 26 bonus points. Now what?

Applicants that have made it this far have the right to get picky. Nonresidents will still have a greater challenge in Pass 1 of the draw simply because there are so many more resident applicants with maximum points than nonresidents. The greatest sheep units in Arizona are drawn during Pass 1 exclusively by applicants with maximum points. Your first choice should be in a unit that has been producing the biggest rams. For desert sheep, these units are Unit 22, Unit 24B, Unit 31, Unit 32 and Unit 44B. For Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep look at Unit 6A and Unit 22.

Bison with any level of points.

Since there is only one unit group to select from (Units 12A East, 12A West, 12B and 13A) there really is no strategy to applying for bison regardless of your point level. The only questions to consider are: When can you hunt? Are you interested in archery, muzzleloader or rifle? Is a cow or yearling bison acceptable for you? There are several season dates ranging from August 14 to December 31. Remember that 20% of the total tags are reserved to those with the most bonus points. The early dates should be warmer and bison could be at, or near, water if conditions are dry. The late seasons may have snow that will help to track a herd. Take your pick!


As you can see the Arizona deer, sheep and bison draw is complex and confusing. The most painful part is that even after years of building those precious points and you are lucky enough to finally draw a tag, there is never a guarantee. That is hunting. Good luck!


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