Game Management Unit 34A
Species within this unit:
Black Bear, Javelina, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbit, Dove, Quail
Beginning at I-19 and Grand Avenue in Nogales; northeast on Grand Avenue (U.S. Hwy. 89) to AZ Hwy 82; northeast on AZ Hwy 82 to AZ Hwy 83; northerly on AZ Hwy 83 to the Sahuarita road; west along the Sahuarita road alignment to I-19 Exit 75; south on I-19 to Grand Avenue (U.S. Hwy 89).
Overview: There is a good population of bears in the area but it will take some planning and scouting for a hunter to be successful. The black bear population is generally in the upper reaches of the Santa Rita Mountains, however bears are often observed at lower elevations later in the year. During the spring bear hunt, after leaving den sites, bears are searching for areas with an abundance of tender grasses. Therefore, look for wet areas and south exposures where young, green grasses may be found. When the bears come out of the dens their foot pads are soft. They prefer to use cleared trails until the pads become callused. Also search canyon bottoms for fresh bear tracks and scat. It is also helpful to find a high vantage point from which to glass.
The fall season has an archery only hunt that generally runs from the end of August to the end of September (check current regulations for exact dates). This season occurs when bears are more active. During this hunt bears are observed in the lower elevations foraging on prickly pear fruits and traveling in the creek bottoms, and along trails. This is the best opportunity to observe bears but it is still a challenging hunt and requires planning and scouting for the hunter to be successful. Most successful hunters begin early in the morning. Using a predator call can also prove useful but be aware that the bear may come in close your call.
Area: There are several areas to look at for this hunt. The first is the Gardner Canyon and Cave Canyon Areas. To get there take Highway 83 to the Gardner Canyon turn off (four miles north of Sonoita). The area is well signed, using a Forest Service or Topo map to navigate should be easy. Once you get into the area there is good foot trail access into bear country. Walk the trails and look for fresh bear sign and trails.
Another area to consider is Temporal Canyon. To get there take Highway 82 to Patagonia. Once in Patagonia you want to take First Street north. First street will take you north into the Temporal Canyon area. Once there you can take the 72A road into the Mansfield canyon area or continue north on 72 to Walker Basin.
The Squaw Gulch area is another place to look for bears. To get there take Highway 82 to Forest Road 143 (Approx. mile marker 15) and head north. When you get to Forest Road 144 turn to the east and follow the road on back. Squaw Peak is along the way and is an area to look at as well.
Josephine Canyon is another area to explore when looking for bears. You can get there from the Patagonia or the Mount Hopkins side. To get there from the Patagonia side take Highway 82 to Forest Road 143 go north to the Josephine Canyon turn off and then go the east. To get there from the Mount Hopkins road take I-10 to the Canoa Exit and go south on the frontage road to the Elephant Head road. Go east to the Mount Hopkins road and follow it to the Bull Springs road (approx. 6 miles). Follow this road south to the Josephine Canyon turn off.
There has been bear activity on the north side of the Mountain range as well. However it is against Federal and State rule for any person to enter the Madera Canyon area with a weapon (including bow and arrow) capable of operating. In other words the Madera Canyon area to within 1/4 mile of the closure area is illegal to hunt in. To get more details on the closure area contact the Forest Service Nogales Ranger District: 303 Old Tucson Rd. Nogales, AZ 85621 (520) 281-2296. There is an alternative for the archer. The Florida Canyon Work Center has a trailhead just before entering the work center area. This trailhead allows the hunter foot access to several trails on the north side of the Santa Rita’s. To get there take I-19 to the Continental road turnoff. Follow the road east to Forest Road 481. Take the 481 road south to the trailhead parking area.
Melendrez pass is another option. The area can be accessed from Highway 83. Take Highway 83 south from I-10 to the Gardner Canyon turn off. Go approximately 1 mile to the Fish Canyon road. Take Forest Road 163 to Forest Road 165 west to Melendrez pass. From here you can access trail systems that take you south to Sawmill Springs or work the country to the west.
The possession or use of motorized vehicles off forest system roads and trails is prohibited. For further information concerning this or any other laws administered by the USFS contact the Coronado National Forest, Nogales Ranger District: 303 Old Tucson Rd. Nogales, AZ 85621 (520) 281-2296.
Even though these units are made up predominantly of public lands, private property can be encountered. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with your hunting area before venturing afield. The best way to accomplish this is by obtaining and studying USFS, topographic and state land maps of all interested areas.
Summary: This bear population is healthy and bears are seen throughout the spring and summer. Pick up a U.S. Forest Service map or topographic map before you go. Also, don't forget to get a copy of the hunt regulations. Pre-season scouting will help the hunter get familiar with the area and locate potential hunting areas where bears may be present. Try to work along trails looking for sign. Also, watch the roads for bear tracks. Bears will also turn rocks and tree trunks along trails looking for grubs. Springs and waters are other areas to look for bear sign. Also be aware that weather can change rapidly at higher elevations during this time of year, and the temperature can vary by as much as forty degrees. Always take plenty of water and let someone know where you will be hunting and when to expect you home.
Overview: Javelina are widely distributed throughout Unit 34A. Successful hunters find javelina by pre-scouting likely areas and by using optics to locate animals. Focus on areas where there is abundant sign. Scouting is important because javelina do not move far from a well established home range. If you locate a group of javelina before the season, and the weather remains the same, there is a high probability they will be in the same place on opening day. Using optics is important. Javelina blend in well with their surroundings and when not moving they are hard to detect. Effective use of optics will save a person a lot of walking. If you find an area with tracks and rooting, be patient, javelina are probably in the area.
Area: The Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER). To get to the SRER drive south on I-19 to the Sahuarita exit. Turn east past the Old Nogales Highway to Santa Rita Road (F.S. 505). Javelina can be found throughout the entire range. Be aware that SRER is leased by the University of Arizona for research purposes and research personnel are frequently in the field. Use caution while hunting and remember it is illegal to disturb any research plots marked or otherwise
Another good area is the southwest side of the Santa Rita’s. Take the Amado exit off I-19; get on the east side of the freeway and take the frontage road north about 1/2 mile. Turn east at the Elephant Head road and take the Mount Hopkins road to the south. After about 5 miles you will see the Bull Springs road (FR 143) then head south. Glass and hike the canyons on both sides of the road all the way to Josephine Canyon. Pick up a U.S. Forest Service map to help you find the roads; they are invaluable. Also be aware of any private property and obey all postings.
Overview: *NOTICE* December 2013 Archery hunt is closed. All other seasons open per current 2013 regulations. Consult current year Arizona Hunting and Trapping Regulations for exact season dates.
Area: The Santa Rita Experimental Range is a good place to look for mule deer. The Range is relatively flat country that makes for easy walking but it does not have many high points to glass from. The best ways to hunt deer on the range are to either get up on the hills on the far east side or to walk the high edges of the major river beds that cut across the Range. Getting out for some pre-hunt scouting will greatly improve your chances of success. Use a U.S. Forest Service map to locate water sources.
Another area to try for mule deer is south of the old road going from Amado up to Mt. Hopkins from I-19. This is F.S. road 184. When this road gets close to the mountains there is F.S. road 143 turning south. All the country between 143 west to the river and from 184 south to Mavis Wash has fair numbers of mule deer. There are deep canyons that you can walk along to get a good view. There are some very good mature bucks in this area. Water is limited in the area so it would benefit the hunter to locate them, as mule deer must use them. Also be sure to reference a map to know private land status as nearly all land south of Tubac to Nogales and into the mountains is private and hunting is by permission only.
Overview: *NOTICE* December 2013 Archery hunt is closed. All other seasons open per current 2013 regulations. Whitetail deer are found throughout the unit. It is a good idea to do some pre-season scouting not only to find the deer but also to also check and make sure access is still available for your favorite hunting grounds.
Area: The best numbers are in the southern end of the mountains but you can also expect a lot of hunters in small amounts of area between private properties as the area is popular. The Squaw Gulch area on the southwest corner of the mountain is also good. If you hike in at least 1/2 mile away from the road you will get away from most hunters. The country on the west side of the Temporal drainage has good numbers of deer. The 72 road goes past the trailhead at the Arizona trail parking lot and accesses Temporal Gulch or the Mansfield canyon area via the 72A road. The thicker cover areas from Mansfield Canyon heading south harbor a few older age class bucks.
The Fort and Hog Canyon areas are favorites of many hunters. The traditional entrance off of Highway 82 is not public access and has been posted no trespassing by the homeowner's association. Please respect landowner rights and use the alternative access. Access is through Gardner Canyon. To get there, exit Highway 83 at Gardner Canyon. Follow this road to the west to Forest Road 795. Take the 795 Road to Forest Road 4111. The 4111 road will take you south into Hog Canyon. You can glass some good habitat along the way.
Forest Road 143 on the southwest side of the Santa Rita Mountains goes through some excellent whitetail habitat. Also, Josephine and Bond Canyons are good but be prepared for steep country. For those wanting a little more level hunting, try the State land southwest of Josephine Canyon and F.S. road 143.
Upper Sawmill Canyon, east of Madera Canyon has some good whitetail hunting. A good way to get to the high country there is to come in on the east side of the mountains to F.S. road 165 into Melendrez Pass and hunt down into Sawmill. This method provides excellent glassing opportunities. To get to the 165 road you will need to take Highway 83 south to the Gardner canyon turnoff (forest road 92) and go west. Take the Fish Canyon road number 163 and follow it past Kentucky camp. The road will continue west and then north, intersecting forest road 165 which will take you west to Melendrez Pass.
A new access road was constructed in 1997. This road provides legal access into the Big Casa Blanca and Wood canyon areas. To get there take State Highway 82 to mile marker 25.5 (approximately 5 miles east of Patagonia), and follow the Casa Blanca Canyon road to the northwest. After about 3.5 miles look for a road heading to the north. Follow this road to the crest of the ridge. The road will then travel east and take you into Wood Canyon.
Overview: Cottontail are being seen in good numbers. The Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER) has fair numbers in mostly the eastern half. The SRER is designated as a wildlife area from March 1st through August 31st. This means that it is closed to the taking of wildlife by firearms for 6 months during the spring and summer months.
Area: To get to the SRER go south on I-19 to the Sahuarita exit. Turn east and go past the Old Nogales Highway to Santa Rita Rd. Turn south and it will take you to the SRER. Pick up a U.S. Forest Service map before you go. It is up to date on the road system on the Range and is very helpful. The best concentrations of cottontails are found up near the hills on the east side of the Range. Good numbers are also found between Sahuarita Rd. and the north end of the Santa Rita Mountains and also between the northeast side of the mountains and State Highway 83. Remember there are lots of new houses in the area and it is illegal to discharge a firearm within ¼ mile of an occupied structure.
Overview: Remember to pick up a copy of the Dove Hunting Regulations before you go and a Migratory Bird Stamp is required. The stamp can be purchased at any license dealer. Also make sure you pick up your shotgun husks as well. Littering can lead to the closure of private lands, access losses and be detrimental to livestock and wildlife, and is a revocable offense.
Area: To get to the Santa Rita Experimental Range take I-19 south to the Sahuarita exit. Drive east past the Old Nogales Highway and take the 505 road south onto the Range (it would be helpful to obtain a U.S. Forest Service map as it shows the road numbering system in the area and the stock tanks are indicated). Any of the roads on the Range go to or past stock tanks. When hunting around stock tanks be cognizant of any livestock in the area. You may be on the only water in the pasture and they need water too. Also be aware of any research activity that may be in progress by the University of Arizona. Be cautious of research personnel and do not disturb any research plots marked or otherwise.
Dove can also be found in the Gardner Canyon area of the Santa Rita Mountains. To get to Gardner Canyon, take State Route 83 south from I-10. The turnoff is approximately 20 miles south of I-10 and it is marked. Then drive west to Forest Land and hunt the river bottom. There are a few small pieces of private property in the area so keep an eye out for those.
Late season hunting is good in some of the major canyons on the south and southeast sides of the Santa Rita Mtns. The doves are usually found in large grassy canyon bottoms. Remember, a little pre-season scouting will vastly improve your success in hunting.
Overview: GMU 34A is primarily a Mearn’s Quail unit, but hunting for both Gambel's and Scaled quail can be found in different areas of the unit.
Area: To get to the Santa Rita Experimental Range go south on I-19 to the Sahuarita exit. Go east past the Old Nogales Highway to Santa Rita Road (F.S. 505). This road will take you to the Range. (Pick up a U.S. Forest Service map. It will show you the road system in the entire unit.) For the best success go to any stock tank and hunt out from there. To find some Scaled Quail hunt close to the hills on the east side of the Range. Major drainages off the F.S. 486 road are good bets to find quail. Be aware of any research activity that may be in progress by the University of Arizona. Be cautious of research personnel and do not disturb any research plots marked or otherwise.
Other good areas to find quail are at the north end of the Santa Rita Mountains. There are large areas of State land between the mountains and Sahuarita Rd. that have good quail numbers. There are lots of new houses in this area so be sure to not to hunt within ¼ mile distance of any residence.
Mearn’s Quail can be found in all canyon systems on the southeast side of the Santa Rita Mountains from Fish Canyon to Temporal canyon. If you want to get away from the majority of the hunters, try the higher elevations and steeper slopes. For a little more solitude try upper Temporal, Squaw Gulch, and the canyons around Alto on the southwest side of the Santa Ritas. It's more work but the birds are there and the country is beautiful. Make sure you and your dog are in good shape to hunt those areas. Don't forget to pick up a copy of the hunting regulations before you go. Make sure to check the hunt regulations as the season starts later for Mearns quail than the desert quail, and the bag and possession limits are different.
A popular area for Mearns Quail hunters is Fort and Hog Canyon. The traditional entrance off of Highway 82 is not public access and has been posted no trespassing by the homeowner's association. Respect landowner's rights and use the alternative access through Gardner Canyon.
|Primary Game Species/ Hunting Month(s)|
|White-Tailed Deer||August, October, November-January|
|Mule Deer||August, October, November-January|
|Secondary Game Species/ Hunting Month(s)|
Average # permits in past 5 years
|Month||Avg. Temp||Avg. Rainfall|
Other Pertinent Climate Information
The unit experiences severe climatic changes throughout the year. The monsoon season brings intense electrical storms and causes flash flooding. During the winter, snow and sudden temperature drops are not uncommon. Note: The November opener for mule deer saw ½" to 2" of snowfall on the unit.
Cities, Roads & Campgrounds
Major Cities and Towns in or Near Game Management Unit and Nearest Gas, Food, and Lodging
Tucson, Nogales, Patagonia, Sonoita
Major Highways and Roads Leading To
From the East: State Hwy 83, Gardner Canyon Rd, Greaterville Rd
From the West: I-19, Continental Rd, Elephant Head Rd
From the North: Sahuarita Rd, Santa Rita Rd
From the South: State Hwy 82, Temporal Canyon Rd, Forest Rd 143, Hog Canyon Rd, Adobe Canyon Rd, Big Casablanca Canyon Rd, Patagonia Lake Rd
Patagonia Lake State Park (12 miles east of Nogales), Bog Springs (Madera Canyon), Madera Canyon, and Round Up (Madera Canyon).
Wildcat Campsites are available throughout the Unit. Heavy use of sites during the hunts and on holidays.
Brief Description of Terrain, Elevation, and Vegetation
The unit rises from 2,000' on the north to 9,453' at the top of Mt. Wrightson. Unit 34A has Sonoran desert, Arizona chaparral, desert grassland, pine forest, and several riparian corridors. The terrain goes from flat desert areas and washes, to steep ridges, to tall and steep slopes.
Government Agencies and Phone Numbers
Arizona Game and Fish Department Region V (520) 628-5376
U.S. Forest Service (520) 281-2296
Patagonia Lake State Park (520) 287-6965
State Land Department (520) 628-6015