AZ Deer Hunting Forecast & Game Plan
By Andrew Gillett
With temperatures in the Southwest still well into the triple digits, it might not feel like hunting season is about to start, but the archery deer opener is just around the corner. On Friday August 25 many areas throughout the state will open the first of three archery deer seasons. This early season will remain open until the designated harvest limit is reached for the unit or until September 14.
How it Works
Archery deer tags are sold over-the-counter at license dealers for residents and online for both residents and non-residents. Non-resident sales are limited to 10% of the prior year’s tag sales and are sold out for 2023. Tags for next year will go on sale Nov. 24 at https://otcarcherydeer.azgfd.gov/.
BE AWARE THAT THE TAG SALES PAGE INCORRECTLY STATES OPENING DAY AS AUGUST 18, 2023. NO UNITS OPEN UNTIL AUGUST 25, 2023.
Many units have seasons opening this week, and each has its own specific harvest threshold. Once the harvest threshold is reached the unit will close to archery hunting at sundown the following Wednesday. You can confirm the threshold and unit status here https://harvest-tracking.azgfd.gov/harvest-tracking-3-2/.
After robust moisture through the winter months, spring and summer in Arizona regressed toward the mean with over 100 consecutive days without measurable precipitation through most of the state. The carryover feed and moisture from winter has helped bucks stay healthy during the dry season, but recent trips indicate that conditions are beginning to dry out and the drought will play an important factor in upcoming hunts. Regardless, deer appear to be healthy and it’s likely that some great deer are about to get a ride home in the back of someone’s pickup!
With water sources starting to recede, deer will be more concentrated near areas with reliable water sources. Desert mule deer do not always water daily and will be less predictable at tanks and troughs. The opposite is true for Coues’ deer and mule deer in northern parts of the state, which are more water reliant and often visit water sources during daylight. With the use of trail cameras for hunting banned, hunters may want to glass water sources from a distance and identify where deer are focusing and then set up ambushes.
If you are headed out in the desert during the early season, be sure to pack plenty of water and to verify the season status for your selected unit. If you are lucky enough to fill your tag let us know by using the #taghub or tagging @eastmanshuntingjournals in your social media posts!