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Species within this unit:

Bighorn Sheep, Black Bear, Elk, Javelina, Merriam’s Turkey, Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Tree Squirrel , Quail


Unit Boundaries
22 boundary – Beginning at the junction of the Salt and Verde Rivers; north along the Verde River to Childs; easterly on the Childs-Strawberry Rd. to Fossil Creek; north on Fossil Creek to Fossil Springs; southeasterly on FS trail 18 (Fossil Spring Trail) to the top of the rim; northeasterly along the Rim to Nash Point along the Tonto-Coconino National Forest boundary along the Mogollon Rim; easterly along this boundary to Tonto Creek; southerly along the east fork of Tonto Creek to the spring box, north of the Tonto Creek Hatchery, and continuing southerly along Tonto Creek to the Salt River; westerly along the Salt River to the Verde River; except those portions that are sovereign tribal lands of the Tonto Apache Tribe and the Fort McDowell Mohave-Apache Community.

For up-to-date information visit the Arizona Game and Fish Website.  


Information Credited To The Arizona Game & Fish Department

Black Bear

Unit 23 is split into two halves for the black bear hunt. The two halves have different hunt starting dates, so be sure to check which half you plan to hunt and be sure of the starting date. See the Hunt Regulations for the definitions of the north and south half boundaries.

The season dates are valid only until the female harvest objective is reached, after which time the season closes at sundown on the Wednesday immediately following. Hunters are responsible for checking to see if the hunt is still ongoing before they go afield. Season status must be checked by calling 1-800-970-BEAR (2327). Hunters are also required to contact the Arizona Game & Fish Department in person or by phone at the same number within 48 hours after taking a bear. In addition, a premolar tooth from each bear taken must be received in the Phoenix office of the Arizona Game & Fish Department within 20 days after contacting the Department.




Elk herds in Unit 23 have been stable despite the drought the last couple of years. There have been years of above average precipitation and snow fall as well as years of severe drought and below average precipitation. Habitat conditions despite the drought improve as monsoons arrive.

Bull elk in Unit 23 are managed for older age class bulls resulting in higher bull to cow ratios as well as higher calve to cow ratios. Hunters are encouraged to participate in donating an incisor tooth sample from their harvested bulls to assist our department in managing for older age class bulls.




The Unit 23 javelina population remains roughly the same as last year.  As with other species the drought has a negative impact on javelina populations. Look forward to years with good winter and summer rains as they should be favorable on the javelina populations.



Merriam’s Turkey

Turkey numbers in Unit 23 fluctuate from year to year depending on a number of factors; most importantly is the poult hatch and survival up to the hunt. Last summer Unit 23 surveys revealed 2.3 poults per hen, which is above the three year average.  Total turkey observations were a little below average compared to previous years.  Portions of Unit 23 in the Canyon Creek area were burned in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire and will have an impact on turkey populations there.


Mountain Lion

The mountain lion harvest has averaged 11 lions in Unit 23 the past few years. Units 27 and 32 are the only units with a higher average harvest. The lion population in this unit appears to be stable with an abundant reservoir to the east on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Hunters who use lion dogs take over 80% of the lions harvested. Hunters who are hunting another species such as deer or elk take the other 20%.



Mule Deer

Mule deer numbers in Unit 23 are at currently at low levels compared to long term averages. The past several years’ drought is primarily responsible for this condition, but recent normal range precipitation seem to be helping the mule deer in 23 bounce back.   Mule deer inhabit virtually all habitat types in the unit. The southern and lower elevation areas provide mule deer hunting along the A-Cross road (Forest Road 60) and the Cherry Creek road (Forest Road 203). The northern and higher elevation areas north of Young to scout are the Naegelin Rim/Canyon area and the Valentine Ridge/Canyon area. Portions of Unit 23 in the Canyon Creek area were burned in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire and will have an impact on mule deer populations there.



White-tailed Deer

White-tail deer numbers in unit 23 are static to improving. The long-term drought we have been experiencing over the past several years has had an effect on them but they seem to thrive in unit 23 regardless.  How well the fawns survive based on the limited precipitation in the spring and summer is a good indicator of the condition of the total populations the following year.  Look forward to improved populations on years with increased rainfall.

White-tail deer in Unit 23 are managed for older age class bucks resulting in higher buck to doe ratios as well as higher fawn to doe ratios. When drawn, our department encourages hunters to participate in donating an incisor tooth sample to help our department manage for older age class bucks.



Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed pigeon numbers appear to be stable in Unit 23. These birds are fair weather residents and will migrate south with the onset of cooler weather. During some years, the mid-October season occurs after the bulk of the birds have headed south. Statewide, the band-tailed population appears to be on a downward trend. The reasons for this probably have more to do with timber harvest practices than any other factor. Band-tailed pigeons nest in dense stands of ponderosa pines, which in the past 20 years have been heavily thinned out in many areas. Gambel acorns are the primary fall food source in unit 23.


Birding_GilaCounty_White-Winged Dove.jpg


Unit 23 is not considered a primary dove unit, but it does offer limited dove hunting opportunities. The summer “monsoons” thunderstorms usually push the few white-wing doves summering in Unit 23 south before the dove season opens. Mourning doves are the primary species available on the early hunt and the only species present during the late hunt.

Unit 23 has two dove hunts offered each year. The early season begins September 1 while the late season begins in November. Check the migratory bird hunt regulations for exact season dates.



Tree Squirrel

Unit 23 has three species of tree squirrels that have huntable populations. These are the Aberts (tassel-eared), Arizona gray, and the red or chickaree. Aberts are the most common of these three in unit 23. They inhabit Ponderosa Pine forest and are very rarely out of sight of a ponderosa pine tree. Next in abundance is the Arizona gray squirrel that inhabits the denser mixed broadleaf communities of riparian deciduous forest between the elevations of 5,000 and 6,500 feet (Brown 1984). The third species, the red, is found in the limited mixed conifer forest along the Mogollon Rim.




The overall outlook for quail in Unit 23 is below average to average based on precipitation for the year.  There are some localized spots that will have hold-over adult birds from last year, otherwise covey numbers are lower than usual.



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