Arizona Outdoor Skills Events
So You Want to Hunt?
Are you interested in hunting but just don’t know where to start? Do you want to harvest your own food? Are you interested in personal challenges and developing your outdoor skills? Hunting offers this and more. And for those of you who know how to hunt, are you new to Arizona? The information below was developed to help you navigate your way to getting started.
Arizona offers some of the best hunting in the nation thanks to an extreme diversity of landscapes, extensive open public lands, and many types of animals that provide extraordinary hunting experiences, challenges. and excellent food values.
Like any new hobby or activity, getting started can sometimes seem overwhelming. But once you learn the basics found here, you’ll have the confidence and basic knowledge to take to the field. While there are a lot of ins and outs to hunting—seasons, rules, regulations, areas you can hunt, using a firearm, what you do after you take an animal—with a little practice, these become ordinary understandings / knowledge.
So, let’s get started planning your next hunting adventure.
This webpage is designed to give you a simplified and logical learning approach to hunting in Arizona. Whether you are brand new to hunting, just moved to Arizona, want to hunt a new species, or want to expand your skills, this page will help you on your path to our great Arizona outdoors.
Use the table of contents to jump to a section you are specifically interested in learning more about, or work through the page from start to finish to get a comprehensive lesson on hunting in Arizona. Additionally, we encourage you to do your own research and outreach. Check out YouTube videos, read articles, contact local conservation organizations, or ask a fellow outdoorsman or woman to take you along on their next outing. Every experience will get you one step closer to confidently going on your own outdoor adventures, and hopefully one day passing on that knowledge to someone else!
Good luck, be safe, and happy hunting!
The award-winning Outdoor Skills Network is your one-stop source for public, hands-on, “learn how to hunt” events. If you’re a beginner wanting to learn how to hunt, fish, shoot and gain more knowledge about outdoor skills, wildlife conservation, ethics, safety and more – look no further. These events are hosted by an extensive partnership and taught by seasoned and passionate experts. While the emphasis is on families, there are also events for adults.
Hunting is just one portion of these events. Most of these camps offer information about wildlife biology, habits, ecology, stewardship, ethics, conservation, recreational shooting, wildlife viewing, camping, and more. If you’re not quite ready to hunt yet but want to learn more, just contact the camp host and let them know. It’s a great way to get connected and make new acquaintances.
These events are made possible by an extensive collaboration between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and dozens of conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups and local clubs, groups and community partners dedicated to sharing their knowledge, expertise and passion for hunting and wildlife conservation.
The Outdoor Skills Network brings all these events and activities into one easy-to-find listing, and online registration. Find the one you would like to attend, it’s fast and easy. Find an event today
Video: Mentored Hunt Camp – Spring Turkey 9 minutes
Video: Mentored Hunt Event – Dove at Robbins Butte 7 minutes
Video: Women’s “Learn to Hunt” – Dove in Yuma 3 minutes
Video: Mentored Hunt Camp – Ducks in Cibola 7 minutes
Events by Skill/Experience Level
Outdoor Skills Network events are categorized by skill/experience to help guide participants. Event types and descriptions are merely guidelines to help you choose what is best for you— they are not prerequisites. Most events offer activities that are suitable for all skill levels and interests.
- Introductory events – No hunting or pursuit of wildlife, shooting lessons, instructional, typically 1-day activity.
- Beginner events – Basic take of wildlife, 1-day event, pass shooting, species include dove, ducks, squirrel.
- Developing events – Pursuit of wildlife, overnight events, remote locations, species include quail, rabbit, predators, javelina, turkey.
- Intermediate events – Pursuit of more challenging species, deer, elk, stalking, remote locations, overnight, lots of field time.
Be a Hunting Mentor/Teacher
If you’re an experienced hunter / sportsman / sportswomen and you happened to find this page, we can use your help. All the events offered through the Outdoor Skills Network are made possible by dedicated, volunteer sportsmen and women like you. We always need mentors to keep these events going and growing each year.
Do you have a desire to pass on your hunting knowledge, conservation and ethical values to the next generation? Beyond that, sharing the hunting tradition with someone new is a fun and rewarding experience. But most don’t know where to get started.
Did you know one of the main reasons new people don’t go hunting is they don’t know how to get started and need a teacher—but are afraid to ask? We break down those walls with organized events hosted through the Outdoor Skills Network throughout the year that connect beginners with teachers. We will connect you with the groups doing events, so it’s safe, easy and organized for you to join in at whatever level you’re comfortable with. Learn more
Hunting in Arizona – Why, What, When, Where and How
Before you jump into the nuts and bolts of how to hunt in Arizona, you’ll want to ask yourself a few very basic questions.
- What animals can I hunt in Arizona?
- What animal do I want to hunt?
- Where can I hunt them?
- When can I hunt them?
- What equipment do I have/need to get started?
- But most importantly, you’ll want to ask yourself, “What type of hunting am I most interested in trying that fits my personality, physicality and desires?
Are you interested hunting that is more social? Then try rabbit, quail or dove hunting. Or maybe you want something more rugged and challenging? Then try javelina, deer or elk hunting. Perhaps you’re more focused on filling your freezer and supplementing your groceries? Then you’ll most likely consider big game hunting for deer or elk. If you like the occasional wild game dish and frequent exciting hunting opportunities, you might want to consider hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels and quail.
You may be interested in hunting a specific species, or just looking for hunting opportunities close to home. Maybe you are looking for a bigger adventure like chasing elk. Fortunately, the diversity of Arizona’s wildlife offers something for just about everyone! Take a moment to think about what suits you best and what type of experience you’re searching for.
Why Hunt in Arizona
Okay, let’s set aside the scientific jargon for a minute and have a real conversation about how you ended up here. In some way, shape or form you’re interested in learning about hunting. For many, it’s an eye-opening and life-changing experience.
Our goal is to give you practical information, answer questions, dismantle myths, and provide you with resources that will get you headed in the right direction. This page likely won’t answer all your questions, but we hope it helps get you started and closer to your hunting journey.
First, is hunting okay? Yes. Hunting is only allowed for certain species and is highly regulated—with licensing, seasons, harvest limits, legal methods of take, fair chase, rules, laws and ethical requirements. Additionally, wildlife populations are monitored and managed for sustainable use by the public (to hunt and eat) and to assure all species remain healthy and abundant.
Another fact most people don’t know is that hunters and hunting conservation groups and sportsmen / women in general actually give back more to wildlife conservation than they take. They contribute extensively on habitat projects, landscape improvements, fundraising and advocacy for wildlife. Additionally, Arizona Game and Fish (charged with managing 800 species—most are non-hunted) and most other state wildlife agencies don’t get any general tax dollars to manage wildlife. They are primarily funded by the sale of licenses, tags, and stamps bought by hunters as well as federal excise taxes on much of the equipment used by hunters in these recreational activities.
Furthermore, hunting and the outdoor lifestyle of sustainable use has been part of Arizona’s rich history since the very beginning. Diverse wildlife and varied landscapes make Arizona an extraordinary destination for hunting, fishing and more—it’s a beautiful and challenging place. Hunting also provides quality time outdoors, a healthy food source, time with family and friends, and, what many don’t know—plays a key role in wildlife conservation.
What to Hunt in Arizona
Arizona offers some of the best, and most unique, hunting opportunities in the nation. The state has 10 huntable big game species and 18 huntable small game species (including five quail species and four rabbit species), along with waterfowl and abundant furbearer and predator game species—hunters can count on having an enjoyable and memorable experience throughout the year.
Each animal offers unique challenges and will take you to different places in the state in their pursuit. Not to mention, each one is an excellent food source and a culinary experience of wild game that most will never experience in their lifetime.
Check out the ‘Game Species’ page on the Arizona Game and Fish Department website to learn more about these individual species, their life history in Arizona, hunt history, distribution, biology, and more! Learn more
Check out the Sportsmen’s Value Map to view highly valued wildlife habitat areas of huntable Arizona species. *The Sportsmen’s Value Mapping (SVM) is derived from a random survey of 7,500 hunters and anglers in Arizona. Learn more
When to Hunt in Arizona
In addition to considering what animal you might be interested in hunting, you should also consider what time of the year hunting seasons are open for those animals. From hunting dove in September, deer in October, javelina in February, or turkey in May, Arizona offers a year-round calendar of hunting opportunities.
Check out the “Hunting Seasons at a Glance” calendar to get a general idea of when hunting seasons are open in Arizona. This calendar is a general outlook of seasons, and specific dates are subject to change.
However, some animals require a special hunting tag issued through an application and drawing process (called “the draw”) that happens well before the season dates. There are three draw cycles throughout the year.
- February: pronghorn antelope, elk
- June: deer, fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep, fall bison, sandhill crane
- October: spring javelina, spring bear, spring turkey, spring bison
For a detailed calendar of hunting seasons and dates, refer to the appropriate regulation booklet for the animal of interest. Learn more.
Where to Hunt in Arizona
The good news is more than 50% of Arizona is public land and, with a few exceptions, hunting is permitted throughout. There are six US National Forests, four US Wildlife Refuges, extensive Bureau of Land Management lands, extensive State Trust lands, and many Arizona Game and Fish wildlife management areas that offer endless hunting opportunities and experiences. You can have confidence that there’s a place for you to hunt, camp, recreate and explore.
Deciding where to hunt in Arizona will be dependent on the species you choose to pursue and the habitat they inhabit. Time of year, weather, elevation, ruggedness, season dates, distance from home, and animal populations can factor into your decision-making as well. Some species occur throughout the state. For example, you can hunt mule deer in the low Sonoran desert of southern Arizona or in the ponderosa pine forest of northern Arizona. On the other hand, some species are only found in specific areas of the state. For example, Merriam’s turkey are primarily found in the ponderosa pine forest of northern Arizona but are not found in southern Arizona (although you can find Gould’s turkey in southern Arizona).
For wildlife management reasons, Arizona Game and Fish organizes the state into six regions, and within those regions are smaller numbered areas called Game Management Units (GMUs). There are about 77 different GMUs.
Each unit has a detailed webpage packed full of information including boundaries, available species information, climate information, campground information, and government agency contact information. Under the ‘species information’ sections there are specific location recommendations on where to find the species in the unit. These are great starting points for scouting an area or finding new places to hunt. Of course, the best way to get information on a prospective hunting area is to get your boots on the ground, explore, take notes, and inventory your hunting spots! Learn more
How to Hunt in Arizona
Well, we’ve made it to the “How” section of the webpage which really brings us full circle to why most of you are here. The short and vague answer of how to hunt in Arizona is, it depends. Hopefully by this point you have an idea of the type of hunting you’d like to do, including species type, weapon type, terrain type, weather type, proximity to home, wild game harvest type, and much more.
Regulations: How to Navigate
Some beginners and those new to the state sometimes struggle with navigating the hunting regulations. In Arizona, because the demand for many big game hunts exceeds the number of permits available, many of the hunts require a lottery-style application drawing process. Because of that, we have 1) more regulation booklets and 2) more information within those booklets because of the draw.
Let’s start with the regulations. Arizona has six regulation booklets/pamphlets. They include season dates, bag limits, hunt types, open areas, rules, regulations, drawing application details, and other requirements for hunting. The six booklets/pamphlets are:
- Arizona Hunting Regulations – Big game species in this booklet include deer (mule deer and white-tailed deer), fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep, fall bison, fall bear, and mountain lion. Small game species include tree squirrels, cottontail rabbit, predatory and fur-bearing mammals, other birds and mammals, pheasant, quail (Gambel’s, scaled & Mearn’s), chukar partridge, dusky blue grouse, and sandhill crane. Deadline to apply for drawing for tags is the second Tuesday in June.
- Pronghorn, Elk and Raptor Hunt Draw Information – Species in this booklet include pronghorn antelope and elk. Deadline to apply for drawing for tags is the second Tuesday in February.
- Spring Turkey, Javelina, Bison, Bear and Raptor Capture Hunt Draw Information – Species in this booklet include spring hunts for turkey, javelina, bison, and bear. Deadline to apply for drawing for tags is the second Tuesday in October.
- Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon Regulations – This pamphlet is for migratory birds and includes mourning dove, white-winged dove, and collared doves.
- Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations – This pamphlet is for migratory birds and includes ducks, geese (white & dark), mergansers, coots, and common moorhens and common snipe
- Arizona Reptile and Amphibian Regulations – While not directly considered hunting, a hunting license and or fishing license is required for the take of reptiles and amphibians.
Below are some general guidelines for hunting different types of species in Arizona, but remember, this is just the start. Continue to do your own research, ask questions, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website, watch videos, and simply get outdoors.
Learning to hunt is an ongoing journey for hunters ranging from novices to seasoned pros, where every exposure will give you a little more experience and direction. Most importantly, enjoy the process. Reap the rewards of being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, procuring your own wild game, connecting with nature, and so much more! Have fun, be safe, and happy hunting!
**This is in no way intended to be a complete list of information required to hunt the species below. These are general guidelines to get you started. For a full list of rules and regulations, read the Arizona hunt regulations. Learn more
- Species types – Cottontail rabbit, tree squirrel, migratory game birds, and upland game birds like quail.
- License required – To hunt small game, typically only a valid Arizona hunting license (or combination hunting/fishing license) is required. For migratory birds you will need a migratory bird stamp.
- Gear basics – Shotgun, boots, shells, hunter orange (hat or shirt – recommended, not mandatory), eye and ear protection, game bag, cleaning knife, ziplock bags, water.
- Common strategies – Wingshooting, jump shooting, spot and stalk, dog for flushing.
- Species types – Black bear, bighorn sheep, bison, deer (mule and white-tailed), elk, javelina, mountain lion, pronghorn, and turkey.
- License required – To hunt big game, you will need a valid Arizona hunting license (or combination hunting/fishing license) and a big game hunt permit. Most Arizona big game hunts require a permit to be obtained through the big game hunt draw. Learn more
- Gear basics – Rifle/shotgun/archery, ammo/arrows, camouflage, boots, binoculars, backpack/hunting pack, cleaning knife, game bags, water.
- Common strategies – Spot and stalk, glassing, sitting on water tanks, blind/tree stand sitting, calling setups.
- Species types – Coyotes, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcat, ringtail, weasel, and badgers.
- License required – To hunt predators in Arizona, you will need a valid Arizona hunting license or combination hunting/fishing license. To trap predators in Arizona, you will need a valid Arizona trapping license.
- Gear basics – Rifle, predator calls, traps, cleaning knife.
- Common strategies – Calling setups, spot and stock, sitting on water tanks, trapping.
- Species types – Ducks, geese, coot, snipe, moorhens.
- License required – To hunt waterfowl in Arizona, you will need a valid Arizona hunting license (or combination hunting/fishing license), a migratory bird stamp, and a federal migratory bird hunting stamp.
- Gear basics – Shotgun, non-toxic ammo, chest waders, decoys, duck/goose calls, cleaning knife, ziploc bags.
Common strategies – Decoy setups, calling setups, jump shoot water tanks, pass shooting.
Well, that’s completely up to you! Listed below are just a few tips to getting started.
- Continue to check out the Arizona Game and Fish Department website
- Read through the Arizona hunting regulations – available on the AZGFD website
- Consider joining an Arizona conservation organization – we have tons of great ones
- Contact an Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager with questions
- Online video sources. The content is endless, but make sure to select the videos that best fit your needs, i.e. “Learn to ______”, “Beginner ______”, etc.
- Know someone that hunts? Ask them questions! Most sportsmen and women are happy to share their knowledge and passion with new hunters, but YOU have to make the ask
- Research animals’ biology, behavior, habits, and habitat
- Check out the Outdoor Skills Network website to see if there’s a Learn to Hunt Event that is right for you
- Take a Hunter Education course and learn lots of other great information
- Have a question that isn’t answered here? Just email us, we’re happy to help!
Douglas A. Burt
Hunting and Shooting Sports Program Manager – R3