Shed Hunting in Arizona – What To Know & Tips!

Shed hunting is becoming more and more popular every year. Of all the places to shed hunt, Arizona is easily one of the best locations that you should head to.

So what do you need to know in order to successfully shed hunt in Arizona? Let’s talk about it!

Table of Contents

AZ Game Management Units and Locations

When it comes to shed hunting, Arizona gives you plenty of options. You can shed hunt for coues deer, mule deer, and elk. In some areas, you will find all three!

The vast majority of people coming to Arizona to shed hunt will focus on elk, as the elk here are some of the largest in the world and any deer sheds can be an added bonus.

If you are after truly large elk sheds, you will want to focus on the higher-quality elk areas in the state in game management units such as 9, 10, 23, 1, 3, and 27.

Hunters continue to kill the biggest bulls out of this handful of units every year, so big sheds can also be found here. There will, however, be much more competition. If you want less competition but still have a chance of finding big elk sheds, you still have plenty of options in Arizona.

Shed Hunting in Arizona - What To Know & Tips!

Units like 5B, 4B, 6A, 6B, 7, and 8. These units hold healthy populations of elk and you can still find big sheds here with much less competition out in the field.

In all of these elk units, you will also find mule deer and will most likely stumble across muley sheds as well. A few will also hold coues deer, so you stand a chance of finding sheds from all three species. These include units 27, 23, and 6A. Remember, mule deer also live in all of these areas as well!

For those wanting to focus solely on trophy mule deer sheds, you will have to head to the northern tip of the state. Here you will not find any elk or coues deer, but stand the chance of finding amazing mule deer sheds. Look at units 13B, 13A, 12AW, and 12AE.

For those wanting coues deer sheds, any unit in Arizona that is home to coues deer can produce top-quality sheds. A few favorites that have higher densities of deer (meaning more bucks and possibly more sheds) include units like 33, 34B, 32, 31, 24A, 35A, and 35B.

Where to Look and Terrain

Once you have a game management unit picked out, you must then find the right areas and terrain to find sheds in. Arizona is different from other states in that the animals do not have specific “wintering areas”. Here, elk and deer will simply find remote places to avoid hunters and hikers.

In order to best find sheds in Arizona, you must find the feeding grounds of bucks and bulls. Because this is where they spend most of their time, you are more likely to find sheds here and in surrounding travel and bedding areas.

South-facing slopes are a favorite, as these sides of the hills receive good sunlight which will grow feed and allow animals to warm up quicker in the mornings.

Elk in particular love to find deep, nasty canyons in Arizona in order to be secluded. The biggest bulls will move into these areas after the rut in order to isolate themselves and will spend the rest of the year in these areas.

If you can find a remote canyon away from any roads or trails, try focusing on the major feeding locations and travel routes throughout the area.

Deer will follow a similar pattern, whether you are after mule deer or coues deer. After the rut, big bucks will head into core areas away from does and smaller bucks. This usually means steep ridges, deep canyons, or rocky areas that other deer will generally want to avoid.

Arizona Shed Hunting Rules and Regulations

There is currently no shed hunting season in Arizona. You also do not need a license or permit in order to collect shed antlers. This means that you can go out and collect shed antlers at any time of the year, regardless of the area or species.

The only rule to be aware of is regarding deadheads. Any found deadheads must be reported to the Game and Fish Department and are not legal to pick up. After a short investigation, permission may be given to a person to then legally pick up and own the deadhead.

For more information pertaining to the legality of shed hunting and deadheads, you can visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website and review the year’s current rules and regulations at:

Shed Hunting Tips and Tricks

So is there anything you should know before heading to Arizona to begin shed hunting? Hiking and shed hunting in Arizona is very different from other states, and there are a few simple tips and tricks that can help you stay safe and be successful. These include:

  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Even during the winter, temperatures can reach over 80 degrees.
  • If you plan on shed hunting in lower elevations (under 8,000 feet) you may want to wear snake gaiters. Rattlesnakes are very prevalent in Arizona and can be found at any time of year in many areas.
  • The rocky terrain is rough on boots, so bring along some tough hiking boots and a pair of trekking poles in order to safely navigate around.
  • Be willing to go, where others won’t! Im not advocating for you to hike past your limits…but if you are prepared, and willing to go farther, or steeper…you will be rewarded.
  • Keep a detailed log of where you shed hunt. Documenting areas where you have had success, is just as important as documenting areas that don’t produce. If you do this, you’ll begin to notice terrain patterns to look for.

Planning Your Trip and Logistics

The first step in shed hunting Arizona is actually getting there. For non-residents of the state, the most common method of traveling here is to drive. This will also give you a vehicle to utilize in the field as you travel around to various shed hunting locations.

Shed Hunting in Arizona - What To Know & Tips!

For those that live further away, flying can also be a viable option. The two major airports in the state are found in Tucson and Phoenix. The best one to fly to will depend on your goals, as Tucson is a great option if you only intend to shed hunt for coues deer and mule deer or the eastern elk units.

Phoenix may be better if you intend to focus on the other elk units or trophy mule deer areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you shed hunt in National Parks in Arizona?

No, shed hunting is not permitted in any national park or monument in Arizona.

What time of year is best to shed hunt in Arizona?

Shed antlers can be collected at any time of year in Arizona, although the best times to shed hunt are in the spring when the temperatures are cooler and the antlers have recently been dropped.

When do elk shed their antlers in Arizona?

Most mature bulls will begin dropping their antlers in early to mid-march, with smaller bulls dropping their antlers in the month of April.

When do deer shed their antlers in Arizona?

Deer in the northern portion of Arizona can drop their antlers as early as February, while deer in the southern portion of the state can hold their antlers into April or even May.

Final Thoughts

If you truly want to experience an amazing shed hunting location, then Arizona should be at the top of your list.

Hopefully, you now have the information you need to start planning your shed hunting adventure and can find that next big set of a lifetime!

See Also: Why Is Deer Hunting So Short In Many States?