All About Hunting in Arizona

Arizona may very well be a hunter’s paradise as there are a number of freedoms granted to hunters here. With a varied number of species available to hunt in Arizona that is perfectly complemented by the beautiful scenery, you will not be disappointed if you choose Arizona as your hunting destination.

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1. What Species to Hunt in Arizona?

1.1 Antelope (Pronghorn)

Antelope mostly inhabit high elevation meadows between semi-desert grasslands and forested areas. They are found mostly in the northern plains and scattered herds can be seen in the grasslands of southeastern Arizona.

The antelope has a white patch on its rump that is distinct and makes it easily identifiable. Once considered endangered and close to extinction, they gradually made a comeback and are now a prominent part of the hunting in Arizona with hundreds of permits issued each year.

1.2 Black Bears

The black bear is found in woodland habitats, such as pinyon-juniper, oak woodland, chaparral and coniferous forests. Their population is pretty low north of the Colorado River. Black bear hunting is regulated by permits and has a tag limit of one black bear per year for a hunter.

1.3 Bighorn Sheep

The population in Arizona consists of both the desert and Rocky mountain species and has been estimated to be around 6000 animals. The entire population in the country is 45,000 fallen from around 2 million animals in North America at the peak.

The cause of this was competition with livestock for food and water, in addition to diseases spread through livestock. Until 1954, it was illegal to harvest Bighorns in Arizona. Now, there are around 80-100 permits available each year, of mostly desert Bighorns.

1.4 Elk

Elk was once a very populous species in America. With the advent of settlers and farming and other activities, their numbers dwindled but Elk still withstood the impact of progress better than other species, mostly owing to the rough terrain that they inhabit.

They can be found in northern Arizona inhabiting fir-aspen and pine-juniper forests. The elk population is well-balanced now are around thousands of permits are issued every year.

1.5 Bison

Bison were not a prominent species in Arizona but after a re-introduction process during the 1900s, they were once again a part of Arizona. There are two bison herds that are managed by the Game and Fish Department of Arizona, the Raymond herd, and the House Rock herd.

The department holds a House Rock bison hunter clinic to enable the hunt of these animals. There are a lot of regulations and specificities that go into a bison hunt, making it unlike any other game species in Arizona.

Big Game Draw in Arizona

1.6 Mule Deer

The most widespread big game population in Arizona is that of deer. These are the Mule Deer and the White-tailed Deer, but the former is more populous. Mule deer are not limited to one type of territory but can be found in deserts as well as mountains.

Recently, due to a series of droughts, the mule deer populations have lessened and hunts have been curtailed but there are still thousands of permits available.

1.7 White-Tailed Deer

A subspecies of the white-tailed deer, the Coues deer is found in Arizona. They are common in the south-eastern mountains but can also range up to Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains. They prefer chaparral, oak and pine woodlands.

The most distinctive feature is, of course, the broad whitetail. The state-wide take ranges from 1500-7000 per year, depending on the current population while factoring in possible drought conditions.

1.8 Turkey

Turkey, as in many states, is another popular big-game species. The species of turkey available in Arizona are Merriam’s turkey, Gould’s turkey, and the Rio Grande turkeys.

Fall hunting and spring hunting of turkeys happens only by permit today.

1.9 Javelina

The javelin initially evolved in South America and then migrated north only to recently arrive in Arizona. The collared peccary (javelina) have a huge latitudinal range that means that they can be found from Arizona to Argentina.

They are common in desert, chaparral and oak-grassland habitats. Starting in 2006, Arizona has offered javelina permits for fall and spring seasons.

1.10 Mountain Lion

Another big game species in Arizona, the mountain lion is found throughout the Western hemisphere. From earlier being classified as a predatory species, mountain lions were then reclassified as a big game species requiring tags to be harvested.

As of 2018, Arizona has a one tag per hunter per year limit across the state.

1.11 Small Game Species

Apart from the big game species mentioned above, Arizona also gives hunters ample small game hunting opportunities.

Some of the best dove hunting in the US can be done in Arizona. The Mourning Dove is the most common game bird, and white-winged doves, collared doves and rock doves are also available. Quail is also a popular small game species. The three major species for hunting are Gambel’s quail, scaled quail, and Mearns quail. 

The cottontail rabbit species are mountain cottontail, eastern cottontail and desert cottontail and they are pretty, and the latter is the most abundant. The taking of cottontail is not fixed and changes every year. Details can be found on the Arizona Game and Fish website.

There are also predatory or fur-bearer species such as coyotes, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcat, badgers, ringtail and weasels available for the hunt. Certain waterfowl species such as the American Wigeon and Blue-winged Teal are present in Arizona as well.

An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game

2. Seasons

Arizona seasons vary by region and by species being hunted. They also have specific subdivisions within a particular open season for different types of weapons being used such as muzzleloader, archery, etc.

  1. Deer season in Arizona starts in October and goes on until December.
  2. Bighorn sheep season in Arizona is general and goes on from October till December.
  3. The bison season goes on from August to December with limited opportunity seasons also available in this time period.
  4. Turkey hunting can go on from August to October.
  5. Javelina seasons go on from October to December.
  6. Black Bear season runs from August to December.
  7. Mountain lion seasons start in August and go on till May.
  8. Small game seasons vary according to the different species but generally go from September to March.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Public Lands

Generally in Arizona, U.S. Forest Service, State of Arizona, and Bureau of Land Management lands are open for the public to hunt on. National parks, and National Monuments and State Parks are generally not open for hunting though there may be exceptions.

While the Arizona Game and Fish Department does not publish maps, they are available from the other agencies.

The U.S.  Forest Service manages 15 percent of the state lands. While access is open for fishing and hunting during the proper seasons, special closures can happen in some areas.

The Bureau of Land Management manages around 16 percent of the state, while the state of Arizona manages 13 percent.

All of the above agencies have their own rules and regulations and the hunter must properly be aware of them before proceeding to hung on these lands.

Hunting Arizona with Randy Newberg – How to Draw Tags and Find Hunts

3.2 Private Lands

In case the hunter wants to hunt on private land, either written or verbal permission from the landowner is a must. Even merely crossing these lands to get to public lands requires permission. Without permission, the hunter will be considered to have trespassed.

4. License Requirements

Arizona requires hunters to have a mandatory license to hunt wildlife in the state. The licensee is required to carry the license when on the hunt.

All Arizona resident, as well as non-resident hunters above 10 years of age, are required to have a valid hunting license. In case of hunters who are below 10 years of age, they may hunt wildlife, excluding big game, if they are accompanied by a properly licensed guide who is at least 18 years of age.

No hunter below the age of 14 can take big game without having completed a Hunter Education Course, and no one under the age of 10 can take big game at all.

4.1 Who is Eligible For a Resident License?

Anyone who is domiciled in the state for six months preceding the date of application for the license, and also does not have residency in any other state or jurisdiction of the United States.

Any member of the armed forces who are stationed on active duty in the state of Arizona, whether permanent or temporary, is also eligible for a resident license. Military personnel stationed elsewhere but who have their state of residency as Arizona can also get a resident license.

All others must purchase a non –resident license.

Arizona’s Hunt Recommendation Process

4.2 Where to Buy?

The easiest way to get a license is to purchase it online at the Arizona Fish and Game Department website. Alternatively, over 200 license dealers located throughout the state can also be contacted.

License and stamps are also available at all Arizona Game and Fish Department offices. Licenses are valid 365 days from the date of purchase, while stamps are valid from July to June of the following year.

4.3 Complimentary Licenses

The state of Arizona also offers complimentary licenses to certain individuals who qualify for them, free of cost. These are only available at the Arizona Game and Fish Department offices.

4.3.1 Pioneer License

A hunter who is above 70 years of age and has spent 25 consecutive years as an Arizona resident immediately before applying for the license is eligible.

4.3.2 Disabled Veteran License

If a hunter can show certification from the Veteran’s Administration regarding permanent service-related injuries that are rated as 100 percent disabling, as well as having spent one or more consecutive years as an Arizona resident immediately before applying, they are eligible.

4.3.3 Apprentice Hunting License

Arizona introduced an Apprentice Hunting license in 2009 to encourage the mentoring of new hunters by seasoned hunters. This license allows a hunter to take along a beginner on a hunt without having to pay for an actual license.

It is valid only for two days for taking of all kind of wildlife except big game. It is free for both residents and non-residents. However, it is available only at Arizona Game and Fish Department offices.

4.3.4 Boy Scout and Girl Scout High Achievement License

Scouts who have reached the highest level of their organization and are up to 20 years of age, can get a fee reduced license. They will need to complete the application and present any required documentation at an Arizona Game and Fish Department office to qualify for around $5.

4.3.5 Lifetime License

These are available only to Arizona residents and the cost will vary based on the license type or age. If anyone who has a lifetime license shifts residency, the license will be invalid.

5. Hunters Education

5.1 Do You Require Hunter Education?

Arizona’s hunter education requirements are comparatively more relaxed as compared to other states.

Hunter Education is not mandatory for anyone who is 14 years of age or older in Arizona. No one under 14 is allowed to hunt big game without a license. And no one under ten is allowed to hunt big game at all.

The hunter education certificate becomes valid on a child’s tenth birthday, even though the child can take the course earlier.

5.2 Hunter Education Course

Hunter Education can be completed in three formats.

5.2.1 Classroom Course

Anyone above the age of 9 can take this course. There will be certified Arizona Game and Fish Department Volunteer Instructors to teach the students. The course can vary in length from 16 hours up to 40 hours, depending on the instructors.

5.2.2 Online Course Field Day

This has an online course component where the students can self-pace and learn the program. After a course exam, where a passing score of 80 % is mandatory, the students can print a completion certificate and schedule a field day.

The field day is again taught by certified volunteers and may average 4-5 hours.

5.2.3 Bonus Point Field Test

This is an adults-only test, for hunters aged 18 and older, who have completed the online course mentioned earlier. The hunter also needs to have at least three years of hunting experience. After completion, and a passing score of 80 %, the hunter can schedule a field test.

The field test will be administered by certified volunteers and have Live-fire, Matching, Practical Hunt and a written examination as components. The test takes around an hour.

The hunter education course will include topics such as responsibility, safety, skills, conservation, first aid, survival skills, hunting rules and regulations, etc.

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

The hunter must avoid shooting too close to an occupied building or residence. Unless you have the resident’s permission, you cannot discharge a weapon within 440 yards of the residence.

It is also illegal to shoot from, onto, or across either a railway or a roadway.

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

Legal hunting hours are daylight hours, that depends on the state’s sunrise-sunset chart, or as prescribed by the department. A general rule of thumb would be that if you can see well enough to safely shoot, it is a legal time to shoot.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

Wearing hunter orange is not required by the state of Arizona, but it is definitely encouraged as a means to prevent accidents.

6.4 Bag Limit

The bag limit is specific to each animal and can be found with other information about seasons on the Department of Game and Fish website.

6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

Except for raccoons, reptiles and certain other mammals as prescribed by the Department, taking wild animals or birds by moonlight or artificial light during the night is illegal.

Arizona Hunting Regulations

7. Prohibited Practices

  • It is illegal to use any kind of lure, cover scent, or attractant that uses deer urine. Using edible substances, other than water or salt, as bait is illegal, or to help take big game is illegal.
  • It is illegal to take any wildlife without a proper and valid hunting license.
  • It is illegal to exceed the bag limit or possession limit prescribed for wildlife.
  • Big game must be tagged properly as soon as it is taken.
  • It is illegal to obtain a resident or complimentary license through fraudulent means.
  • Wildlife may not be taken during the closed season or after legal hours.
  • It is illegal to use artificial light sources or lighted sight pins to aid in hunting. If you are in a vehicle and have a weapon with you, using a spotlight would be illegal. Some coyote seasons may allow artificial light, but this should not be from a vehicle.
  • It is illegal to take wildlife from a motor vehicle, boat or aircraft unless special permits have been obtained. This restriction does not just apply to actually shooting an animal. You are not allowed to chase, herd, or look for animals in a vehicle.
  • Unless your hunting method or device is as prescribed by the Commission, it will be considered illegal.
  • The hunter should take care not to litter during or after a hunt. Shell casings and other debris, as well as the proper disposal of wildlife carcasses, are the responsibility of the hunter.


Hunting is an enjoyable activity and can be made even more so by having a safe and legal hunting experience during the process. Be aware of all the rules and regulations in your preferred state to have a great hunting trip.

For further detailed information on all the above topics, visit the website of The Arizona Game and Fish Department:


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