Arizona Hunting: Over the Counter Elk?

You’re telling me you don’t have to get drawn?

Yes, it is possible you can buy a tag to hunt elk at any properly vetted license and tag dealer (cough, WalMart) and go elk hunting all year.  Now of course I’ll dive into the specifics and the catches of this hunt because usually if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. What I’ll share with you is mostly informational, but if you are wanting more information about states out west, this will be some good wisdom to have in your conservation brain.


How does it work?

Of course there is the associated tag and license fees that can come with it, and out of state license and  tag fees can be hefty for anyone out of the the Grand Canyon State.  Specifically, an out of state license is $160 and the non-permit tag is $650 for out of state residents, which is brutal, but for in state residents, the price is manageable. What is interesting though is your non-permit tag would last for the entire year and you can use it for any of the four designated areas.  These areas include:

Winslow – Holbrook Area
Camp Verde Area
Alamo Lake Area
Units 28-31 Safford Area

Each of these designated areas have their own specific boundaries, private versus public access, and some have specific dates. Generally, elk can be hunted most of year where Arizona Game and Fish is trying to keep unwanted elk out of areas of agricultural fields and in areas of competitive species, such as mule deer. What’s really cool is you can shoot any elk, with any weapon of choice, including a high power rifle.  Some of the areas may be in a town limits, and you’d have to adhere to local laws which may restrict to archery only.  For the nuts and bolts of each of the four specific areas and mapping,  here is a link providing all the rules and restrictions.

Of course this seems way too good to be true, and so I did some local online forum research.  To my surprise, I did find reports and pictures of people who have taken elk in these population management designated areas, specifically to an area I was interested in going to.

My Experience with Camp Verde OC Non-permit Elk Tag

It was crazy, there was big bulls bugling everywhere.  I’m sure you’re saying no way, but in reality, after a day and a half, I didn’t see any elk.  I covered ground hiking and glassing, miles of road and more glassing, but no elk. Mainly, I went up to this hunt over the weekend of December 1st and 2nd because of a snowstorm in the mountains of the high country, and December 1st was the opening day in this area for this specific population management hunt.  You can hunt elk all year in this area, but then it closes September 14 for the start of the regular elk seasons, while not opening till the December 1st again.  I thought the odds of seeing an elk were in my favor because of the weather and the season allotments, but it looks like the Dumb and Dumber voice in my head “so you think there’s a chance” may have been false.

Do I think this was a waste of my time?

Absolutely not because:

  1. I was in the field scouting a new area that could help for other species such as mule deer, which I did see a big buck and tracks everywhere.
  2. It felt awesome I was actually elk hunting with a rifle since it had been years.
  3. I could really see for myself what the hoopla was.
  4. The conditions were right because of the weather, and transient elk do go through the area’s deep canyons to the Verde River below.
  5. Discovering a pioneer lookout fort probably from the 1800s.

Why not take advantage of this opportunity since the funds go towards conservation,  and it will be my luck I’ll see an elk when I didn’t buy the tag. I found many areas that looked elky with juniper and pinyon-pine trees, which were perfect cover to meander down to the Verde River in the valley below.  More snow is projected up top on the mountains and rim country, and the elk may push down below through the canyon bottoms the rest of December and January.   What I also do know is over the counter archery deer season is January 1st through 15th, and wouldn’t it be something while looking for mule deer, I come across some elk and also have my 300 win mag with me. BLAM, way better eats too!

Possible 1800s pioneer lookout fort



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