January Bowhunting in Arizona

By Bob Robb

It’s getting to be a lot like Christmas—or so the song goes. If you are an enterprising bowhunter who is still looking for an incredible western opportunity where you can buy a license and tag over-the-counter and hunt the entire month, look no further than southern Arizona.

That’s right. Here you can purchase licenses and tags when you arrive and go hunting in almost the entire southern half of the state, with your tag valid through January 31. That’s the good news. The better news is that the tag is good for any deer, meaning you can hunt both mule deer and Coues deer. The best news is that both are rutting hard in this region, meaning will find bucks chasing does from the tops of the mountains to the desert floor.

The best way to find bucks to stalk is to glass long and hard. You’ll find the Coues deer high up in the mountains and the muleys down among the cactus and thorn bush of the desert floor. It becomes a matter of finding an elevated spot overlooking a lot of country and putting in your time behind your optics. Also, there is no shortage of both public land to hunt and dirt roads in the region, making access to deer-rich areas relatively simply for those with a vehicle designed for such travel.

While the spot & stalk method is the most popular way to hunt January bucks, it is also possible to employ some of the same whitetail strategies that work during the rut, including rattling, calling, and using a decoy.  I like to call this type of hunting “spot & stalk rattling”. Here we first glass up a buck, then creep within 150 yards or less. If the cover is too thick to safely move on without fear of spooking the deer, we try to rattle and grunt to get the buck to come investigate. Over several years of this, I would say that, under the right circumstances, the odds are about 50-50 the buck will come check me out.

If you’re not confident enough to try this on your own, there are several guide outfits that can assist you. One with a solid track record of success for the past three decades is DuWane Adams of San Manuel, Ariz. (520-385-4995; e-mail coon@theriver.com). I have hunted many times with DuWane over the years for both deer and quail, and never been disappointed.

It takes a little time to organize and plan a hunt like this, so the time to begin is now, in early December. An over-the-counter nonresident hunting license costs $151.25, and a nonresident archery deer tag runs $225.25. One note: the Arizona hunting license year runs January 1 to December 31, so don’t plan on starting before New Year’s Day. More information on all Arizona big game hunting is available from the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

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