Game Management Unit 29
Species within this unit:
Black Bear, Javelina, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbit, Dove, Quail
Beginning on I-10 at the New Mexico state line; westerly on I-10 to the Bowie-Apache Pass road; southerly on the Bowie-Apache Pass road to AZ Hwy 186; southeast on AZ Hwy 186 to AZ Hwy 181; south on AZ Hwy 181 to the Rucker-Turkey Creek cutoff road; southerly on the cutoff road to Rucker Canyon road; easterly on this road to the Tex Canyon road; southerly on this road to U.S. Hwy 80; northeast on U.S. Hwy 80 to the New Mexico state line; north along the state line to I-10.
Overview: Female quotas set for marginal population areas, as in unit 29 have been instituted with hopes of minimizing the sow harvest from the population. If successful, better bear hunting opportunities will result in the coming years. Please review the easy steps outlined in the hunt regulation booklet to ensure that the bear season is still open after the opening week. Conformation differences between sexes are rather slight but nonetheless discernible. Taking time to observe a bear before shooting enhances the chance of it being a boar, and at the same time helping keep female harvest down. This year spring, fall archery, and general hunts will be offered. Care should be taken to watch for cubs near a potential game bear. Small bruins are not always readily visible in dense cover. They do not always stay close to their mother. Older boars generally have greater skull mass than do the sows and have a wider eye set. Male bear muzzles tend to be wider, giving the animal a “short snout” appearance. The female nose conversely seems longer and pointy. Chest depth of course, is better for males displaying a wide view from the front and more of cylindrical body side profile. When seen from the side, sows appear funnel shaped, with the small end of the triangle toward the head. These characteristics vary considerably in young bears but hold fairly well for mature animals.
Area: Bear activity during spring hunts is not related to food supplies as much as the fall seasons. Early food sources such as grasses and manzanita fruit occur in a wide elevation band throughout the unit. Bear distribution during plentiful years may be from the Pinon/Juniper zones on up to the spruce forests. In poor years bears must travel a great deal for feed, making them more visible to hunters. During the fall hunts, bears range widely is search of mushrooms, acorns, juniper berries, manzanita berries and cactus fruit in order to prepare their bodies for winter.
Access to bear areas in the unit may be reached from I-10 at Willcox, Bowie, and San Simon exits. A USFS land states map, available from the Forest Service, will be of great help in locating detailed entry roads. Major canyons of the unit all have good bear populations. Consider food items available and watch for sign especially along waterways. Plan on hunting primarily on Forest Service lands.
Overview: Javelina are thinly scattered throughout the unit mainly below elevations of 6600′. They prefer agave and/or prickly pear covered foothills closely associated with permanent water sources. They will also occupy mesquite flats up to conifer forests within the unit. Javelina numbers are low, so hunters should be prepared to hunt hard.
Area: Access to javelina habitat may be gained from I-10 at exits at Willcox, Bowie, San Simon and Cavot Rd. Refer to the USFS map of the Chiricahua Mountains for detailed access information. The USFS map of the Chiricahua Mountains, Coronado National Forest and Bureau of Land Management maps are highly recommended to all hunters. These are available from the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management offices.
Areas of average javelina numbers include the entire north portion of the unit, the San Simon river bottom on the northeast corner of the unit, the Portal area on the east central side, the Horseshoe canyon area on the southeast edge, and the Tex Canyon area in the southwest sector. Other areas with huntable populations are: West Cottonwood Canyon just south of West Turkey Creek; Pridham, John Long, and Rucker Canyons. In the south, access Price Canyon from State Highway 80, and hunt the lower terrain. In these areas mentioned on the west and south sides, be sure to stay on the Forest Service lands. The north and eastside access is south of Bowie, San Simon or Cavot Rd. from I-10. With the exception of a few posted areas, most of the north and east portions of the unit are accessible to the public. The areas between Emigrant Canyon and Woods Canyon are good areas. Also check the washes that head north toward the interstate. The Coronado National Forest map will show most of the authorized access areas.
To locate javelina, watch for feeding signs, trails with tracks, and bedding areas. To become familiar with javelina characteristics, contact any Arizona Game and Fish Office for pamphlets describing their life history. Binoculars and spotting scopes are highly recommended. Prehunt scouting is also advantageous.
Overview: Mule deer are distributed throughout the unit at elevations usually below 5400′. The north end of the unit has muleys above this level while the east and west side populations are below this mark.
Areas: The general distribution of mule deer makes it rather difficult to direct hunters, especially in view of their nomadic characteristics. Knowledge of land status relating to ownership is as important as hunting skills in this unit, since so much of mule deer habitat is on private land. Most all private landowners do not allow hunting on their private lands. The USFS map of the Chiricahua Mountains, Coronado National Forest is highly recommended to all hunters. These are available from the US Forest Service Offices. Access to the west side of the unit can be gained by leaving I-10 at Willcox, go south on highway 186. The majority of mule deer habitat on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains is on private land. Public access here is best at Cottonwood, Pridam and Stanford south of West Turkey Creek and through Tex Canyon in the southwest part of the unit. The north and eastside access is south of Bowie, San Simon or Cavot Rd. from I-10. With the exception of a few posted areas, most of the north and east portions of the unit are accessible to the public. South end hunting areas can be reached from State Highway 80 through Douglas or Road Forks, New Mexico. Access Forest Service lands and hunt the lower terrain. The USFS map of the Coronado National Forest, Chiricahua Mountains will locate secondary roads as well as two-track access.
Larger bucks usually stay in the flat terrain during the season. Plan on working the mesquite flats and washes below the 4500′ elevation, except on the westside. On the westside, bucks will be in the open, rolling grasslands mixed with oaks and mesquites at elevations up to 5200′. Scouting before the season is very important. Mule deer numbers have decreased mainly due to drought and low fawn recruitment in this portion of the state. Hunters should be prepared to hunt hard.
Overview: Since whitetail populations are well distributed throughout the forest, hunters will be equally successful in just about any location in the unit above 4000′ elevation. General distribution is moderate at elevation 5000′ and up. Since the majority of whitetail habitat is located on lands administered by the US Forest Service, access is very good, especially for hunters willing to strap on a backpack and hunt into the wilderness areas. For detailed access information, a Coronado National Forest map is invaluable on a hunt. The USFS map of the Chiricahua Mountains, Coronado National Forest is available from US Forest Service Offices. Glassing from high points or stalking brings results for hunters. Most sportsmen use a combination of the two methods. The use of binoculars and/or spotting scopes is highly recommended.
Area: Work the upper reaches of these drainages of the unit. Starting on the west side of the unit, the following road accesses are recommended: Pinery, Pine, Upper West Turkey, Cottonwood, Stanford, Pridham, John Long, Rucker, and Tex Canyons. There are sign in boxes into Jhus Canyon and John Long Canyon. Hunters MUST sign in to gain access into the area. Hunters that do not sign in will be cited for trespassing and future access into these areas may be lost. On the south: Price, Shake, Jack Wood, and Horseshoe Canyons. East side: Sulphur, Dripping Springs, Fossil, Cave, East Turkey, Silver, East Whitetail, Jhus, Brushy Canyons. Jhus Canyon can now be driven into and PLEASE obey all posted signs. The landowner agreed to allow vehicular access to the forest as long as hunters obey all signs. On the north: Woods and Emigrant Canyons. I cannot over emphasize the value of the Coronado National Forest map for finding access. Scouting before the season will help greatly.
Access to the west side areas can be gained by using the Willcox exits on I-10 for Highway 186 and then 181. North side locations can be reached by exits at Bowie, San Simon, and Road Forks exits from I-10. Southern portions can be reached on Highway 80, east of Douglas.
Overview: Rabbit populations in the unit are average this year. They are most numerous in the mesquite flats close to the foothills and near all agricultural areas on the north and east sides of the unit. Access is gained to these areas by exits off I-10 at Bowie, San Simon or Cavot Rd.
Area: Cottontails are well distributed throughout the unit from elevations below 7000′. Concentrations exist at moderate elevations of 4000′ to 5200′. Coronado National Forest maps of the Chiricahua Mountains will be of great help in locating detailed access to hunting areas.
Overview: Mourning dove concentrations will be found along the San Simon River drainage, few whitewings will remain.
Area: In the September season, locate watering places and hunt near them. Late season hunting is similar, but expand your efforts to include areas adjacent to irrigated fields. Many of the stock tanks south of Bowie and San Simon offer good wingshooting and please pickup all shot shell hulls prior to leaving the area.
San Simon River Drainage: exit Interstate 10 at the Portal or Cavot junctions and go south a few miles to the San Simon River bottom.
Overview: The spring rains were good in most of unit 29 and as a result, overall quail numbers should be good. Some scouting may find areas that have adult holdovers from last year.
West side access can be gained through Willcox south on highway 186. East side access is by exits at Bowie, San Simon or Cavot Rd. from I-10. There exists a multitude of secondary access routes on either side of the unit. Coronado National Forest maps of the Chiricahua Mountains will be a great help in locating lesser access roads. These are available at Forest Service Offices.
Area: Gambel’s quail inhabit lower Chihuahuan desert grasslands from elevations of 3400-4700′.
Scaled quail like the upper grasslands associated with the foothills from elevations of 4200-5500′.
Mearn’s quail prefer the oak-juniper site from 4700-6500 elevations. Distribution of these quail is unit-wide with these limits given above. There will be exceptions to this, but by and large, most of the various quail will be within the stated elevations.
Once in the field, quail can be located by their tracks or calls if not seen. Hunting dogs are a great help in locating birds and retrieving them in dense vegetation. Hunters in October and early November can usually encounter rattlesnakes in the unit, so precautions are needed when using dogs. Of course, watering holes are good to pick up signs of quail. Birds usually are not more than a mile from drinking water as a general rule.
Gould’s turkeys have been reestablished into the Chiricahua mountain range. Since the initial release of turkeys in 2003, the Gould’s turkey population throughout the Chiricahua Mountains is doing quite well, with sightings being recorded in non-historical areas. The turkey population throughout the unit is still showing signs of expansion. Currently, not all available turkey habitats are occupied and turkeys are still concentrated in a few specific canyons. This success story has allowed hunters the ability to harvest a Gould’s turkey without having to travel south of the Mexican border.
On the west side: turkeys mainly occupy Pinery, Pine, Cottonwood and W. Turkey Creek canyons. To the south turkeys can be seen in
Rucker, Red Rock and John Long canyons. On the east side: Cave Creek, near Herb Martyr and John Hands campgrounds.
Access to the west side areas can be gained by using the Willcox exits on I-10 for Highway 186 and then 181. North side locations can be reached by exits at Bowie, San Simon, and Road Forks exits from I-10. Southern portions can be reached on Highway 80, east of Douglas
Overview: Sandhill Crane hunting recently opened in Unit 29, Fall 2019, which has provided more opportunities for hunters. Hunters should realize that while this is a new opportunity, it will not be like other crane hunts in the Sulphur Spring Valley. Hunters with the Unit 29 tags will likely only find Cranes within the unit in the San Simon Valley in the agricultural fields around San Simon and North of Portal near the New Mexico/Arizona State line. Success on this hunt will be dependent on hunters scouting the farm fields to locate where birds are feeding and gaining permission from landowners to hunt those fields.
Primary Game Species/ Hunting Month(s) White-Tailed Deer October-December Mule Deer October/November Javelina February-March Secondary Game Species/Hunting Month(s) Quail October-February
Average # permits in past 5 years White-Tailed Deer 900 Mule Deer 500 Javelina 300
Month Avg. Temp Avg. Rainfall Avg. Snowfall January 40° 2.0″ 6.0″ February 48° 2.0″ 2.0″ March 55° 1.0″ 1.0″ October 65° 1.0″ 0.0″ November 55° 2.0″ 2.0″ December 40° 2.0″ 8.0″
Cities, Roads & Campgrounds
Major Cities and Towns in or Near Game Management Unit and Nearest Gas, Food, and Lodging
Portal, Willcox, Rodeo, NM, Roadforks, NM
Major Highways and Roads Leading To
From the East: State Hwy 80
From the West: Hwys 186, 181
From the North: I-10
From the South: State Hwy 80
Cave Creek, Rustler Park, West Turkey Creek, and Rucker Canyon.
Brief Description of Terrain, Elevation, and Vegetation
Chihuahuan Desert to spruce/fir forest. Elevations range from 3,500′ to 9,780′.
Government Agencies and Phone Numbers
Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region V – 520-628-5376 Coronado National Forest – 520-670-4552