Unit 23 Rifle Mule Deer: Hunt Overview
Updated: Jun 14
Mule deer live in nearly every habitat type within unit 23. The unit is diverse and large. Overall mule deer populations in GMU 23 are well below their historic averages primarily due to prolonged drought conditions and an ever changing environment. In recent years precipitation has improved, benefitting the mule deer of Central, Arizona. The unit at times appears never-ending with great vehicular access to many unfettered wild areas. It is country that draws you in with curiosity and reveals enough to always pique your interest.
The Northern and high elevation portions of the unit are made up primarily of Ponderoas Pine dominated forests, below the Mogollon Rim and parts of the Sierra Ancha Mountains. Lower elevation and Southerly sloped are predominately Piñon-Juniper landscapes. Drier and more exposed sloped tend towards either Prickly Pear and grass or Shrub Live Oak and Mazanita biomes.
What does it take to draw a 23 Mule Deer permit for Residents and Non-Residents?
November Mule Deer tags for Residents of Arizona in 2019 took from 4-9 Bonus Points to secure. With no Bonus Points the draw odds were 9.6%. For Non-Residents it took1-4 Bonus Points to draw the unit 23 hunt and at 0 points odds were 18.3%.
The fact the the draw odds were substantially easier for Non-Residents than for Residents is an oddity. It is reflective of the demand for the tags relative to each category. The unit has somewhat of a cult like dedication from Resident hunters, despite the fact that it is not well known for big deer. Because trophy quality is pretty limited on this hunt, Non-Residents tend to apply elsewhere thus the great draw odds. If you're interested in why this might be the case you can read up on the Arizona Draw Process here to better understand why these stats happen.
How do the 23 rifle Mule deer hunts compare to other draw rifle tags?
Compared to other Central Arizona units like 21,22, and 24B unit 23 is pretty on par quality wise. Mule inhabit pocketed area throughout the unit and much of the desert transitional portions in the Southern end. Since unit 23 is below the Mogollon Rim, by definition all of the Mule deer in the unit would be categorized by SCI as Desert Mule deer. Many portions of the unit where Mule deer live are definitely not "desert" habitats aside from the southern fifth near Roosevelt Lake. Since these deer are on the Northern extent of the desert sub species and butt up against the contiguous habitat of the "Rocky Mountain" sub species, above the rim, these deer physically exhibit characteristics that blend the two. Trophy potential on average is fairly moderate. 135-165 is the category most mature bucks will fall under, that get taken on this hunt. However, that isn't to say there is not potential for something larger to be taken. It simply just isn't the norm. The incredible and, in many parts of the unit, unique habitat are what make this hunt more than other Central AZ hunts. If you aren't caught up in competition of "score" then this hunt lacks nothing.
When we are looking for a reliable, relatively easy-to-draw, and fun mule deer hunt the unit 23 mid-November season is high on our list. Our years of experience and generations of knowledge hunting the unit make it and experience that is always interesting and exciting. Although populations may still be well below their historic figures, it is our opinion that many of the mule deer groups in unit 23 have made substantial comebacks over the last 5-7 years. Whether you are looking to apply or have already draw the tag our AZ mule deer guides can help you with your unit 23 hunt.
The 2020 Arizona Deer Draw Deadline is 6/9/2020. Do not miss out on your opportunity to hunt Arizona!