Where is the best place to take a trophy bull elk? It’s the same question that is on the minds of every hunter hitting the elk country this year. Everyone has their honey hole, and their opinion of what state or location has the best and the biggest elk. If you check the record books, there are a few places that stand out time after time for producing some giant bulls. Catron County, NM Catron County is responsible for 3% of SCI record book submissions For both non typical and typical scoring bull elk. That’s pretty impressive for any single location in the world, let alone a county.
Over the years, legendary sized animals have been taken here including Pronghorn, Elk and Mule Deer. While elk occur throughout much of the state, each unit has its own characteristics with different amounts of cover, forage and precipitation. So here’s a rundown of what I’ve learned about these units. Unit Wpn Density of Elk % succ 16A Arch High to Moderate 15% Rifle Hight to Moderate 42% 16b Arch High to Moderate 17% Rifle High to Moderate 39% The western central portions of Gila National Forest that make up units 15 and 16 seem to have above average success rates and have consistently been producing record bulls for 20 plus years. Also noteworthy about these units is that private land success was a whopping 100% for archery and rifle hunters last season.
So what do you have to do to get a tag in these units… short of selling your first born child? For some hunt numbers, you’re looking at odds of 1%, but if you’re willing to hunt muzzle loader or archery seasons, your odds improve drastically. Realistically, your odds of drawing are about 1 permit for 10 years of application. Some OTC tags are available, but the areas which you can hunt inside these units are restricted. Let’s be honest, the pursuit of a trophy bull elk is at least a 10 year commitment for most anyways. Putting in for premium tags is like planting seeds, you just have to see what sprouts first. Coconino County, Arizona. Coconino County boasts 3% of typical elk records along with almost 6% of non-typical records making it one of most likely places in the world to find a monster bull elk. There are a lot of different areas to hunt in this side of the state. Pretty much any area around the White Mountains, Coconino and Socorro Counties will hold monster elk, the key will be getting a unit that has a good season and offers tags for good parts of the season.
Here’s a list of some opinions and game densities in Eastern Arizona. Region Elk Density 1 Average to high 2A Low 2B Low 3A Low to average 3B Average to high 3C High, High Quality Hunt 4A Average. OTC ares 4B Low 27 High, low draw odds 5A Average 5B High, Excellent 6A High, Excellent 6B Average, High hunter #'s 7 Average 8 Average to high 9 High, High Quality Hunt 11 Average I’d love to get the chance to hunt units 6A or 9, but these units offer 300- 600 permits annually, so you may have to wait a little while to get your chance here. If you want my opinion, however, it’s worth the wait. The other units and sub units were worth noting so that you can see the vast differences in hunt quality between sub units. Just because you get a unit 4B tag your first year in the draw, doesn’t mean you’ll be looking at the numbers of animals you’ll see in 4A.
Every year I put in for bonus points and I think I just might have to add two more to my list. Arizona and New Mexico offer excellent hunting opportunities and excellent trophy quality. Although I still have several years to wait before taking my own trophy home from these states, I still dream of the day it happens. The first place you will need to start is reading the regulations, especially those concerning the hunt numbers. The hunt number indicates not only the unit, but what season and weapons are allowed on that unit. So be very careful to read the correct hunt number for your application. It may be difficult for some of us, but the whole world is going paperless, so it will be more difficult to cross reference the information you’ll need to make a successful application. Once you draw the tag, the work on finding or scouting locations will begin.
If you have the opportunity to get out there before the season and do some scouting, the higher your probability of finding that once in a lifetime bull. Remember, just because you got the tag doesn’t mean that you will be successful on the hunt. Here’s a good heads up on some premium elk country. Good luck, and if you get one, send me pictures! Closeup of bull by Sandra Leidholdt