While Arizona is an amazing elk hunting locale, opportunities to hunt the state are tight as it is a draw only state. Steve says the window to apply for the draw is small, and it's right around the corner opening around January 10th and closing around February 10th. It's a short time frame, so hunters need to make sure they aren't asleep at the wheel or they'll miss out. The draw process to have a chance to hunt some of the best elk in the world can be complicated. It's a five choice system with a three phase draw, Steve says. The great thing about this draw system for non-residents is that it's a 50/50 split kind of situation. So, 50% of non-resident tags are issued in the bonus point round and those tags will go to the highest bonus point holders. Depending on the hunt, weapon type, season date, unit and other factors, Steve says it varies how many bonus points a hunter will need to guarantee a tag. It could be as few as 6 points in some units and up to 25 points or more for a rifle hunting tag in one of the best units during the rut. The variation on how many points it can take to guarantee a tag is wide so hunters have to be diligent about applying each year. However, there is also a completely random aspect to the draw process also. The other 50% of the non-resident tags are issued during the random draw, Steve says, and in this phase a non-resident can draw a random tag regardless of how many points they have in any given year, and this part of the draw is purely a "luck of the draw" situation. There is an element of fairness and an element of randomness which makes for a great system, Steve says. Understanding the complications of the draw process is something that Chappell Guide Service knows well and Steve says hunters that want to chase elk in Arizona can reach out to him for help and advice.
Elk season 2020 is largely in the books and Steve says it was kind of the tale of two years wrapped into one for southwest elk hunting. On one end, there was a lot of good winter and spring moisture so the bulls in Arizona put on some really impressive antlers. Steve says it was fun to watch the bulls grow and develop through trail camera photos. However, the summer and fall produced dry conditions which led to a very subdued rut. Steve says those conditions made for challenging rut hunts. His clients did punch tags and did well overall, but the rut didn't provide stellar opportunities this season. On the back end, Steve says they are just wrapping up late season hunts now and those have turned out well with all of his clients punching their tags.
Although elk hunting seasons are largely over, there are still some limited opportunities in select units in various elk hunting strongholds. If you happen to have one of those tags in your pocket, Steve says hunters need to be prepared for a more physical hunt. After being pressured all fall, generally only cows and younger bulls will be in the more accessible areas. However, for the units with some late season hunting happening already, Steve says it's possible that the elk are now pushing into canyon country. For that reason the hunts are more physical and shot opportunities are going to come at a longer range. Steve says he recommends glassing in smaller canyons that adjoin areas with a water source within a mile or so, this is likely where you'll find the elk. It's also important to note that elk are switching from grazing on grass to browsing on plant matter like leaves, bark and twigs, a variety of trees and shrubs and more, so the areas you are hunting need to reflect those food sources.
Steve also talks about elk calls and the best vocalizations for late season hunting. Plus, he'll discuss the opportunities that come with cow elk hunting, like easier access to tags, and how it's a great way for novice elk hunters to get their feet wet.
Be sure to watch Steve Chappell as he and clients chase monster Arizona elk each week on "Elk Camp" on Sportsman Channel, Mondays at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can also watch previous seasons and episodes of "Elk Camp" on MyOutdoorTV.