Game Management Unit 41
Species within this unit:
Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Dove, Quail
Beginning at I-8 and AZ Hwy 95 (in Yuma); easterly on I-8 to exit 87; northerly on the Sentinel-Sundad road to the Cotton Center-Palo Verde road; northerly and easterly on the Cotton Center-Palo Verde road to AZ Hwy 85; northerly on AZ Hwy 85 to Oglesby road; north on Oglesby road to I-10; westerly on I-10 to Exit 45; southerly on Vicksburg-Kofa National Wildlife Refuge road to the Refuge boundary; easterly, southerly, westerly, and northerly along the boundary to the Castle Dome road; southwesterly on the Castle Dome road to U.S. Hwy 95; southerly on U.S. Hwy 95 to I-8.
Overview: Currently unit 41 is divided into 41 EAST (Eagletail Mountains and Picacho Hills) and 41 West (Palomas Mountains, Tank Mountains and Little Horn Mountains). Most mountain ranges are surveyed via helicopter every three years. Surveys were flown in 2009 and suggest the bighorn population has declined slightly. The ten year average for harvested rams is 165 in 41 East and 158 in 41 West.
41 East: The Eagletail Mountains have long been noted for producing nice rams. Historically a large population of bighorn sheep inhabited the Eagletails. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the population, for no apparent reason, experienced a sharp decline. In the early 1980s the Arizona Game and Fish Department transplanted two groups of bighorn sheep into the Eagletail Mountains in an effort to increase the population. Survey observations in 2009 were somewhat below the ten year average.
Bighorn can be found throughout the Eagletail Mountains. Favorite spots are the Anvil Tank area (in the middle of the range) to the Triple Eye Tank area on the west end of the mountains. Access: Take Interstate 10 west of Buckeye to the Harquahala Valley exit, then south to Courthouse Road, then west along Courthouse Road to the El Paso natural gas line road. From the gas line road a number of roads will take you to the wilderness boundary. Most of the Eagletail Mountains lie within the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness. Vehicles are prohibited from entering the wilderness area. For complete wilderness use regulations contact:
Bureau of Land Management
Yuma District Office
2555 E. Gila Ridge Road
Yuma, AZ. 85365
Phone: (928) 317-3200
Picacho Hills: Although the Picacho Hills appear small at first, a good population of bighorn sheep is found there. Bighorn can be found throughout the range. Favorite spots are Picacho Tanks area on the southeast side to Bucket Tank on the northwest end. Access: Take the Harquahala Valley Road south from Interstate 10 to Baseline Road, the west on Baseline to Avenue 543 then south on 543 about 10 miles where you will find the Picacho Hills immediately west of the road. You can also access the Picacho's by taking the Sentinel Highway North from Interstate 8 west of Gila Bend. Take the Sentinel Highway north to the railroad, then north on avenue 571 to the Butterfield Rd., then west for 1 mile, then north on avenue 579 about 10 miles to the Picacho Hills.
41 West: 2009 survey observations were below the ten year average.
Palomas Mountains: Occasionally a nice ram can be found here but finding sheep can be difficult. The west end of the Palomoas Mountains lie on the Yuma Proving Grounds and access is restricted. Access: Take the Dateland Highway (64 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8) north to the railroad tracks, then west on the dirt road along the south side of the tracks about 2 miles to the only crossing over the tracks to the north. You will notice a large rock pyramid here. The west 100 yards, then north along the west side of an irrigation ditch to the end where it intersects with an east-west road, then west along this road to the last well. Here a small road leads north through a boulder field directly to the Palomas Mountains about three miles to the north.
Tank Mountains: Most of the bighorn are found on the west half of the range from White Tanks to the boundary of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. This area lies on the Yuma Proving Grounds and access is restricted. Rams typically end up on the southwest corner of the range during the winter months. Access: Take the Dateland Highway (64 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8) north to Whitewing Ranch. About three fourths of a mile east of the entrance to the ranch is a crossing over the railroad tracks. Take this road north and west 18 miles to the east end of the Tank Mountains. Continuing due west along the north side of the mountains about 10 miles to an intersection with two old military trailers and an Arizona Game and Fish Department water catchment on the northwest quadrant of the intersection. This is the White Tanks road. Take this road south to White Tanks. No vehicle travel is permitted within 1/2 mile of the tanks.
Little Horn Mountains: The Little Horn Mountains are located about 12 miles directly north of the Tank Mountains. There is a substantial population of bighorn sheep inhabiting the range. The Little Horns are comprised of a large mesa complex. Most of the bighorn are found on top of this mesa which makes it very hard to see bighorn without having to climb to the top. Further complicating the matter is a series of deep canyons that transect the top of the mesa. These canyons provide good forage and bedding areas for bighorn. Occasionally bighorn can been found on the low hills immediately just north of the main mountain mass. Sheep can also be found in the low hills just west of the Hovatter Road along the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge boundary, especially in the Sheep Tank Mine area. Access: Take the Dateland Highway (64 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8) north to Whitewing Ranch. About three fourths of a mile east of the entrance to the ranch is a crossing over the railroad tracks. Take this road north and west 18 miles to the east end of the Tank Mountains. Just past the ranger cabin (really just a tin shed!) you will find an intersection with three roads (one goes due west, one goes northwest, and one goes due north), take the due north road 1.6 miles north, at this intersection head due west and eventually north to the Little Horns. Alternatively, you can also access the Little Horns by taking the Hovatter Road south from Interstate 10 directly to the Little Horns.
Overview: With mule deer densities at about 1 deer per square mile, hunting mule deer in Unit 41 on the best years and under the best circumstances is a tough hunt, but, the rewards can be great as some of the largest mule deer bucks in western Arizona are found in the unit. There are reasons that mule deer grow to old age and large size in the southwest deserts. Low deer densities of less than one deer per square mile make it very difficult to locate deer. The fact that almost all of the deer are located in very flat terrain limits the use of optics. Most of the deer are found in desert riparian areas (washes) that are heavily vegetated.
The best way to hunt these "flat-landers" is to hunt in pairs and glass the flats from hill tops. When a deer is spotted one person can remain on high ground and guide his partner to the deer.
Deer are also found along the Gila River just north of Interstate 8. These deer are very difficult to find because of the dense vegetation and low numbers, but the rewards can be great for some very large mule deer bucks can be found here. The people that have the most success taking deer in the dry Gila River area do it by finding a large track and tracking the deer, usually for days.
During dry years many deer may be found in and around the agriculture areas of Harquahala Valley, Hyder Valley and the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. Deer typically feed or water at night in these areas, then return to the adjacent desert during the daytime. Sometimes deer can be found in the fields just before dark or at sunrise. When hunting the agriculture areas be sure to observe all safety rules and watch for farm workers and equipment. Many of these areas are posted private land. Be sure to check the land status before hunting these areas.
Numerous Arizona Game and Fish Department water catchments are found throughout the unit. No camping is permitted within 1/4 mile of these waters. You can purchase a copy of Arizona Wildlife Water Maps at any Department office. Please remember that these are the only available water sources for wildlife in this vast area, so limit your stay and activities when visiting them. Report any problems with catchments to the Arizona Game and Fish Department Region IV Headquarters, Yuma at (928) 342-0091.
Palomas Plains: Although mule deer are found throughout the unit, most of the deer are found in the Palomas Plains area north of Dateland. The Palomas Plains are very flat and are bisected by large desert riparian areas. Access: To reach the Palomas Plains from the north (Interstate 10) take the Hovatter Road or Harquahala Valley Road straight south into the north part of the unit. From the south, take the Sentinel Highway through Hyder or the Dateland Highway north to ½ mile east of the entrance to White Wing Ranch. This road will take you to the heart of the Palomas Plains and the best mule deer hunting.
Wellton-Mohawk Valley: During dry years, mule deer can be found in the agriculture and desert areas along the north side of the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. Typically, the deer feed and or water at night in the fields, then spend the days in the desert areas just north of the agriculture area. Please take note of any private land and be careful not to shoot near buildings. To reach this area take exits 29, 36, 40 and 52 off Interstate 8 east of Yuma. Follow these roads straight north until you reach the desert.
Hyder Valley: During dry years deer can be found around the agriculture areas in the Hyder Valley. Please take note of any private posted lands and don't shoot near buildings. To reach the Hyder area, take the Sentinel Highway north from Interstate 8 west if Gila Bend.
Harquahala Valley: During dry years deer can be found around the agriculture areas in Harquahala Valley. Please take note not to enter posted private land and don't shoot near buildings. To reach this area, take the Harquahala Valley Road south off of Interstate 10 west of Buckeye.
Eagletail Mountains: The Eagletail Mountains, located just southwest of Harquahala Valley, is the only mountain range in Unit 41 that contains significant numbers of deer. Deer numbers in the Eagletail Mountains are currently depressed due the recent extended drought. The Eagletail Mountains are noted for large trophy mule deer. Almost all of the Eagletail Mountains lie within the Eagletail Mountain Wilderness Area allowing for a hunt away from the majority of other hunters. This is an excellent opportunity for a pack in hunt via backpack or horse. Special BLM wilderness use regulations apply here. To plan your hunt contact the Yuma District BLM office at:
Bureau of Land Management
Yuma District Office
2555 E. Gila Ridge Rd.
Yuma, AZ 85365
Phone: (928) 317-3200
Access: Take the Harquahala Road south from Interstate 10 (west of Buckeye) to Courthouse Road, then west to the gas line road, then west along this road. There are several roads leading to the edge of the wilderness from this road.
OHV Use: Most of Unit 41 mule deer inhabit large flat areas that can be negotiated by various types of OHV vehicles. Most of the land in Unit 41 is under the jurisdiction of the BLM. Vehicles are restricted to existing roads, trails and large desert washes on BLM land. Cross country travel is not permitted under any circumstance. Operators of OHV's are also responsible for damage to native plants. These regulations are enforced by both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and BLM Rangers.
There is a small amount of state land scattered throughout the unit. OHV use on state land is restricted to existing trails and roads; however, a vehicle may be used to retrieve a downed and legally taken big game animal on or off road. Operators of OHV's retrieving downed big game are still responsible for damage to native plants.
Overview: Historically, unit 41 probably had the best dove hunting in the state, specifically, the Wellton Mohawk and Hyder valleys. Due to habitat loss and changes in crop patterns the dove hunting has been greatly reduced, but remains good to very good in localized areas.
Areas: Wellton Mohawk Valley: During the 1970's the Wellton Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District had tremendous populations of mourning and whitewing dove populations. Habitat loss and changes in crop patterns have reduced these populations greatly. Most of the wheat and maize fields that hunters traditionally hunted in the Wellton Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District are now planted in vegetables by dove season. Drive around the valley and look for any remaining wheat stubble fields that are not yet put into vegetables. Good shooting can also be found in some spots along the Gila River that runs through the middle of the valley. Some citrus still remains and good dove hunting can be found there as the doves come off the roost in the early morning. When hunting both roost and feeding fields remember that whitewing fly a little later in the morning than Mourning Doves. Some good flights of doves can be found around the edge of the desert as doves fly from their desert roost into the valley to feed. Access: Take Interstate 8 east of Yuma about 30 miles, then any of the following exits: exits 20, 29, 36, 40 and 52 north into the valley.
Hyder Valley: Due to reduction of farming activities in the Hyder area, this area no longer provides the fine dove hunting that it once did. Good localized flights can still be found around the few remaining fields and citrus. Access: West of Gila Bend on Interstate 8, take the Sentinel Highway north about 10 miles to the Hyder valley.
Private Property: Much of the dove hunting in Unit 41 takes place on or near private property. Many farms post their land during the dove hunt. Please take notice of these postings. Before hunting on non-posted land try to find the owner and get permission. Do not enter fields where there are standing crops. The Whitewing Ranch and Red Mountain Farms are closed to hunting.
Other: Do not clean birds in the canals or on roadsides. Bury all remaining carcasses and feathers. Pick up all litter and empty shell cases. Please note that empty shot shell casings are considered littering!
Overview: The 2010 hunt is expected to be a good one. With the above average moisture received this year the desert will provide plenty of forage for the quail. Hatches are predicted to be above average this year.
Areas: Desert: The Palomas Plains area north of Dateland has numerous large desert riparian areas that provide good quail habitat. Access: About 65 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8, take the Dateland highway north to 1/2 mile east of the entrance to Whitewing Ranch, then north on this road into the desert area. Vehicles are restricted to existing roads, trails and desert washes.
Wellton Mohawk Valley and Gila River area: A good hatch has produced good numbers along the north side of the valley and the Gila River area. Birds along the Gila River are very difficult to hunt because of the dense brush. Please take notice of private land and posting and don't enter fields where standing crops are growing. Access: About 30 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8, take exits 20, 29, 36, 40 and 52 north to the valley and the Gila River area.
Hyder Valley and Gila River Area: Fair numbers of birds can be found around the agriculture areas of the Hyder valley and the Gila River area north of Sentinel. Please take notice of private land and posting. Access: From Sentinel on Interstate 8 west Gila Bend, Take the Sentinel highway north to the Gila River and then on north to Hyder.
Harquahala Valley: Fair numbers of birds can be found around the agriculture areas and the adjacent desert areas of the valley. Please take notice of private land and posting. Access: West of Buckeye on Interstate 10, take the Harquahala Valley road to the valley.
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Other Pertinent Climate Information
Most of this area is extremely remote and waterless, so planning is very important when making a trip into the heart of Unit 41. Leave a written itinerary and bring along maps and extra water and equipment.
Cities, Roads & Campgrounds
Major Cities and Towns in or Near Game Management Unit and Nearest Gas, Food, and Lodging
Gila Bend, Wellton, Yuma
Major Highways and Roads Leading To
From the East: Arlington Rd.
From the West: None
From the North: Hovatter, Harquahala Rds from I-10
From the South: Sentinel, Dateland Rds from I-8
Camping is allowed on BLM-administered public lands throughout the unit.
Brief Description of Terrain, Elevation, and Vegetation
Most of the unit is flat desert land cut by deep, lushly vegetated riparian drainage. The unit encompasses several very rough and barren mountain ranges, the Eagletail, Little Horn, Tank, and Palomas mountains. Elevation ranges from just 400' on the desert plain to nearly 3,000' on some of the higher peaks. The flats are sparsely vegetated with creosote ironwood, paloverde, and saguaro cactus; the mountains with creosote and paloverde.
Government Agencies and Phone Numbers
Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region IV - (928) 342-0091 BLM Yuma Field Office - (928) 317-3200
Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District - (928) 785-3351