Unit 23 Late Rifle Bull Elk: Hunt Overview
Updated: Feb 25
Unit 23 has arguably the most coveted public land elk tags on the face of the earth, and for good reason. The unit has been managed for older age class animals and trophy quality. Limited tag numbers and ideal elk habitat tends to grow some of the largest bulls within the state. These distinctly different management practices set unit 23 apart along with the exceptional natural topography, flora, and climate to grow big, old, giant elk. Elk are plentiful throughout the majority of the unit and seeing dozens of bulls during a hunt is normal occurrence.
The unit has many perineal water sources ranging from small springs to large flowing creeks. Agricultural water sources for cattle also dot the landscape. In an arid state, this plentiful access to water is ideal for wildlife to thrive. The highest elevations of unit 23 are mostly covered in mixed conifer forests, oaks, manzanita brush, juniper woodlands, with grassy meadows and ridge lines. Within the unit lies the Hell's Gate Wilderness, Sierra Ancha Wilderness, and Salome Wilderness. The former is in 23 North while the later two are in 23 South. There are many places outside the official wilderness areas that are similarly untouched simply because of the rugged topography and difficulty of access to some spots. This is part of the allure of the unit, vast untouched lands.
The Eastern boundary of the unit is the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, another world-renowned elk hunting location. The Mogollon Rim defines the Northern boundary while the Salt River and Tonto Creek make up the Southern and Western boundaries respectively. Late elk habitat is widespread at elevations above the desert zone.
The late rifle elk habitat in unit 23 often dictates that long range shooting is absolutely a requirement. 400-800 yard shots are the norm in the densely covered and steep mountainous country. The brushy, treed, and rocky canyons and cuts are one of the factors that allow elk in unit 23 to have considerably higher average age classes of bulls than surrounding units. The busted up, late-in-the-hunt, warrior of a bull shown below is a prime example of this. This bull's body was unbelievably large. One hind leg, minus the hoof, tipped the meat processors scales at 96 pounds. It takes old age and a great environment to grow bulls like this! Check out that hunt story here.
What does it take to draw a unit 23 late rifle elk tag?
Draw odds for the unit 23 late rifle hunt for Residents in 2020 were 100% for applicants with 12 or more points. At 11 points, 3/4 hunters were drawn. At 10 points, 1/10 were drawn. For 2020, Non-residents required 19 or more points to secure their tag for this top quality late rifle hunt. The unit 23 late season rifle elk hunt should definitely be a consideration for anyone looking to hunt bulls from 340-370+ inches. This hunt has serious trophy potential and is for those intent on killing giant world class bull elk.
Our guides specialize in unit 23 hunts for multiple species! Each of us have independently and cooperatively spent decades worth of hunting seasons in the unit from top to bottom. It it one of the places we consider home after a lifetime of pursuits here. As with all of our hunt recommendations, if you would like more information or have drawn a tag and would like to get in touch with us, look at the Arizona elk hunting species page or contact Dillon Currie at (623) 606-3364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.