Northern AZ Scouting Trip - Elk + Mule Deer


Jun 7, 2021
This weekend I was able to beat the Phoenix heat up in northern AZ for some elk and mulie scouting. My dad has a late rifle bull tag in this unit and I am planning on OTC archery deer in this same unit. I was able to locate several groups of does, but did not have any luck finding bucks or elk sign. The terrain in this unit has some small hills and deep canyons mostly consisting of pine woods. The hills are typically 100-500’ and not steep. With dense pine and the lack of glassing knobs I am wondering how I should spend by time on my next scouting trip and if I should deviate from my normal spot-and-stalk strategy.

I wanted to see how others spend their time scouting/hunting elk/mulies in terrain that is best described as pine woods with small hilly areas where you only be able to glass a few hundred yards or less. There were 2-3 localized spots I checked out that offered better glassing opportunities but either a) were heavily occupied by cattle or b) seemed sparse with deer and no elk sign.

Do you prioritize glassing even though it may eliminate 99% of the hunt-able region, or do you focus on still-hunting when it comes to wooded areas? We have hunted mulies the last few years in bigger and steeper terrain that had many good glassing opportunities.

For the elk hunt we were planning on still hunting a lot of the heavily timbered areas where glassing is not an option, but for archery mulies this does not sound as feasible. What is your take when it comes still hunting mulies in pine woods?

Had a couple cool run-ins with other wildlife. Accidentally creeped up on a bear cup at 20 yards. An Arizona mountain king snake kept trying to go under my tent the first night there. I ended up moving it with a trekking pole.


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Well Known Rokslider
Jan 15, 2022
The outfitter that I hunt with down there in Arizona spends a heck of a lot of time just looking for big tracks, especially in units that are like Unit 6, 7 and 8, that are very flat and timbered to some degree, or places like Unit 12.

Once he finds really big tracks, he then starts concentrating on spending a huge amount of time in that specific little location, trying to track down and get a glimpse of that particular animal. Sometimes that takes weeks, months, even multiple years.

For him, in areas where glassing is limited, big tracks are the key. Tracks period, are the key. But, based on my multiple hunts with him down there and learning by what he's taught me, those bigger antlered bucks and bulls in Arizona drastically change their behaviors and safety areas by the time the late seasons have arrived.