Pack Your Bags: What to Bring on a Guided Arizona Big Game Hunt
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Often one of the first questions upon booking a guided hunt in Arizona is "what do I need to bring?" This will vary depending upon the given season, outfitter, species, terrain type, time of year, and many other factors. The best answer is to talk with your guide or outfitter directly about your specific hunt, they will best inform you on the necessary equipment and responsibilities of being the hunter. In our opinion most hunts booked through us require the same basic elements, regardless of season, species, unit, or hunter.
I can only address our expectations as outfitters and guides in Arizona, these are our guidelines, although they should be fairly simple and straightforward for hunting our state, confirm each aspect on every hunt you book. Always ask your guide or outfitter what is expected of you as the client and hunter. The better prepared you are prior to your trip, generally the more positive experience you'll have at the end of it, and hopefully a heavy pack out!
Here are the hunt basics.
In the state of Arizona both your Tag and Hunting License need to be signed prior to the hunt to be valid. A license must be purchased prior to your tag. (as is the case basically everywhere) Any tags that can be bought without applying through the Big Game Draw Process in Arizona are referred to as OTC or Over-The-Counter-Tags. OTC tags and duplicates for any lost tag may be purchased at any licensed tag dealer including places such as Wal-Mart, Sportsman’s, Cabala’s, etc. With hunts in Arizona most tags will be allocated through the Arizona Game & Fish Big Game Draw. Draw deadlines are the second Tuesday in February, June, and October depending upon species. You must be in possession of your tag and license at all times while hunting.
Each type of tag has a designated weapon type. Non-Permit (OTC) tags for Deer are "Archery Only", Non-permit (OTC) tags for Black Bear are often any weapon, however this depends upon the given unit. Some OTC Black Bear seasons are restricted to "Archery Only" season dates. Draw tags fall into several general categories. "Archery Only" dictates the use of only a bow, crossbows is not considered a part of this. Muzzleloader hunters must only use Muzzleloaders. Rifle hunts are commonly referred to a "General season" hunts, meaning any legal weapon for that species is applicable. HAM hunts encompass "Handgun, Archery, Muzzleloader" tags. No matter your hunt, make sure to bring the appropriate weapon, relative to the tag drawn and the advice of your guide.
Often times the terrain in Arizona is rough and rugged. Hunting it successfully may require all day outings glassing for game. It is paramount to have a pack large enough to carry your daily supplies, while maintaining a balance between weight and capacity. Our recommendation for a pack is one of 2200+ cubic inches. This allows the space for personal items and leaves room left over for packing out some portion of an animal. An internal frame or external frame pack with a bag close to 3500 cubic inches has been ideal. This size pack is perfectly suited for Arizona Black Bear, Coues Whitetail, Mule Deer, and Elk. A solid built pack is a fundamental investment for any serious outdoorsman.
The quickest killer of hunts is the quality of your boots. Make sure you spend the time and money to invest in footwear properly suited to your body and the terrain you wish to hunt in. Each person is going to vary, however, if you are not sure where to start, ask your guide. Odds are he puts 100's of miles on a set of hiking books each year and will have a solid idea on what the terrain demands. We specialized in OTC Arizona Black Bear Hunts in August, September, and October. For these hunts we have had great success with Salomon GTX 4D II boots. Although they lack a strong waterproof exterior, after a few serious hunts. The comfort level, ankle support, and durability for the price point are perfectly designed for our Arizona terrain. Whatever boots you choose, make sure they are broke-in. Blisters ruin hunts.
There are as many answers to the "what should I have" question as there are types of binoculars. The short, hard to argue with answer is to find the best you can afford, then save up your extra pennies and get the next set above those. Optics are worth every dollar spent, more than any other item, you will get what you paid for. If you buy cheap binos, expect cheap results and a headaches after hours of glassing. The western hunting game is all about optics, optics, optics. Just like the proper wine being paired with the proper food, pair your optics with a tripod. If you have not done this already, it will change your life... Good glass on a solid tripod will increase your effectiveness more than any other piece of equipment you own. For close range stuff 8x and 10x are ideal. For medium ranges 12x and 15x glass are king. If you are dedicated beyond the average person that’s where 20-60 power optics come into play and long range glassing along with precise field judging becomes possible.
This one should be really obvious... If you take medication for anything, a sore back, heart problems, mood, allergies, or anything at all, bring them with you. No one wants a hunter to be without their medications, no matter the circumstance. Please always inform your outfitter of anything medically relevant prior to your hunt. We want everyone to go home to their families at the end of the hunt, your health is far more important than any hunting adventure!
This is not the first thing that comes to most hunter's minds, I can assure you of their value in steep country. Almost every hunt in Arizona will have rough, rugged, and remote terrain. Be prepared. Trekking poles, in my opinion, are invaluable to extending your body's physical longevity during a hunt. They drastically reduce the impact and your knees, ankles, and hips. Also, they add stability on uneven, lose, and rocky terrain. They are for hunters of every age. Treat your body well now and you will have many more years of extreme hunts ahead of you! To us, this is a game changing essential for mountainous hunts.
Yes, it rains in Arizona. Our rains can be unpredictable and sudden depending on the time of year. Always have some sort or minimal rain protection. It could actually save your life. Having gone through Hypothermia on a warm early season hunt, I can personally attest to the value of rain gear and the physical pain and fear associated with hypothermia. At a minimum bring a plastic rain poncho to shed the water off of you. They weigh mere ounces but their value is far heavier.
A bedroll and pillow is essentially what you will need. In our camps we typically sleep on cots, which are provided as a part of the hunt, along with a sleeping pad. Depending upon the hunt we may be utilizing a travel trailer, pop up summer cabin tents, late season wall tents, or backpack style pup tents. The style of pillow and sleeping bag you bring will be determined by the time of year, temperature range, and style of hunt. A good night's sleep goes a long ways on a physically demanding hunt.
This is as individual as you can get. We will have our own personal preferences and guidelines for each season. The most important thing while hunting Arizona's terrain is to have clothing that allows for full range of movement, durability in thick brush, and is suited for the temperature range. Merino is fantastic for base layers, thermo regulation, and odor control. Synthetics are ideal for exterior layers, durability, waterproofing, and longevity. Many higher end camo systems incorporate a variety of fabrics and layers to preform seamlessly in a wide range of environments. It is import that your clothing system is adaptable to multiple situations.
We expect all hunters to act in a sportsman like manor at all times. This includes being proficient with their respective weapons and to be well practiced prior to their hunt. Every hunter must know and execute proper weapon safety at all times, without exception. Proficiency for rifle hunters includes the ability to execute shots from ranges commonly between 250 and 500 yards. If possible practice beyond these ranges and as far as your weapon will allow you to. For archery hunters, practicing to 70 yards in highly recommended. Western hunting is characterized by mountainous and open terrain, oftentimes dictating long shots. The further you practice, the better. Although we do not intentionally take far shots, the ability to do so will vastly increase your odds of success. Ethical shots are commonplace at long distances when a hunter has done their duty as a sportsman to prepare themselves prior to pulling the trigger.
Bring with you ample patience, whether you are hunting black bears in the high deserts of Arizona, Coues deer in the thick secluded canons, or elk in the seas of juniper and ponderosa pines. To accompany that a successful hunter most bring resilience, no matter how many miles you walk, shots you miss, or storms pass through. The only way to succeed in the extreme and iconic conditions that are, hunting in Arizona is to enjoy each moment and keep on trying. Many tags are filled the last evening of the hunt, simply because we will not quit until the clock runs out.
This is subject is often avoided by clients and guides alike, as to not offend clients; it is however an industry norm and an import aspect of your hunt preparation for any guided hunt. We believe that gratuity should be based on how your hunting experience was with your guide during your hunt. Regardless of filling the tag, gratuity is often a reflection of the hunter's experience and appreciation of the adventure. Standard gratuity is between 10 and 15 percent of the over all cost of your hunt. Please plan accordingly. Oftentimes tips account for a significant portion of your guide's, cook's, and spotter's income throughout the season. Our guides take each and every hunt seriously, no matter the tag, location, or time of year. We are there to facilitate a successful hunt in every reasonable way possible. The most important aspect of your hunt, as the hunter, is to enjoy the experience, no matter the conditions! The unplanned and unpredictable are what will make each hunt one of a kind.
Hopefully this list will better prepare you for your upcoming Guided Arizona Big Game Hunt. If you are not sure on what your outfitter expects of you on your specific hunt, ask! Any reputable outfitter will guide you through each step of the process. If you are interested in booking a hunt with us shoot us an Email at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the individual species pages on the website for black bear, coues whitetail deer, elk, and mule deer hunting information, or call us at (623) 606-3364.