Hunt Elk in Arizona With Over-the-Counter Tags in 2017

Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) offers general and archery-only elk tags they call “over-the-counter nonpermit-tags”. Only a government agency could come up with a permit called a non-permit. These tags are very limited and are only offered for specific locations on all or portions of 14 units where elk are not wanted. Figure 1 shows hunt units where the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Nonpermit-tag hunts occur. The actual hunt areas are the portions shown in white.

arizona OTC elk tag map

Figure 1. Elk Over-the-Counter Nonpermit-tag hunt areas are shown in white.

Why would the Arizona Game and Fish Department want to limit the numbers of elk?

There are two main reasons:

  • The first and most legitimate reason is because elk are expanding into areas that were traditionally mule deer areas, such as the elk moving in from Utah into the Kaibab Plateau. The elk are expanding and doing well, but the mule deer are not. Removing or preventing the elk populations from increasing will prevent any potential competition for scarce resources between the two species.
  • Secondly, when elk move on to private land, they eat grass and drink water that ranchers intend for cows, sheep or horses.  Ranchers lose money, so AZGFD created “Limited Population Management Zones” (5% of elk habitat in Arizona) to keep the numbers of elk low in these areas. Note that I sympathize with ranchers when elk conflict with cattle on private land, but not so on public land. I’ve even heard ranchers complain about deer drinking water on public land. In addition to conflict with ranchers, elk can also pose serious road hazards in suburban areas. Also note, throughout our history, any time there has been a conflict between wildlife and the economy, the economy wins.

So, to prevent elk populations from increasing in these areas, there are limited opportunities to hunt elk with OTC tags. The numbers of elk are expected to be very low in these areas and hunter success should also be very low.

Probably Low Success Hunts, but with Unique Hunting Seasons

Population estimates in some of these areas may be as low as a dozen elk. But if you lived near one of these areas or know someone that does, these might make for some interesting hunts. FYI, similar non-permit tags also are available in Arizona for javelina/peccary.

Some of these seasons offer nearly year round hunts with very long seasons and the unique opportunity to hunt bull elk between April 1 – July 31.

I feel like I have to hustle to keep meat from spoiling when it 50° outside. I can’t imagine shooting an elk in Arizona in July at low elevation. It can be done because all of the April – July 31 hunts are very close to roads, but you will still need access to plenty of ice and all the other logistics will have to be well planned ahead of time.

So, if you have any interest in helping AZGFD limit elk populations in these management zones, all you need is a valid hunting license and an elk OTC nonpermit-tag ($32.25 + $114 = $146.25 for residents and $151.25 + $587.50 = $738.75 for non-residents). The non-permit tag is good for all areas, all season and for all any legal weapon or archery hunts. The 2017-over-the-counter nonpermit-tag handout says that seasons and hunt areas may change in the future to “address problem areas”.

The table below summarizes the hunt areas in 2013 (subject to change every year), units, weapons, specific elk to be hunted and the hunt seasons.

Arizona – 2017 General and Archery-only Elk Over-the-Counter Nonpermit-tags

Hunt Area Units Weapon Elk Season
Alamo Lakes Portions of 16A & 44A   ALW Any Elk Jan 1- Mar 31
Aug 1- Dec 31
Rincon Basin Portions of 4A & 4B   Archery Bull Elk Apr 1- Jul 31
Any Elk Jan 1- Mar 31
Aug 1- Dec 31
Verde Valley Portions of 6A, 19A, 21   ALW Bull Elk Apr 1- Jul 31
Any Elk Jan 1- Mar 31
Aug 1- Sep 14
Dec 1- Dec 31
Winslow-Holbrook Portions of 2A, 3A, 4A, 4B   ALW Bull Elk Apr 1- Jul 31
Any Elk Jan 1- Mar 31
Aug 1- Dec 31
Units 28, 31 & 32 All of unit 28 (not Gila R), 31 & 32   ALW Any Elk Nov 24- Dec31

Note: The Kiabab units (12A & 12B) have been removed.

ALW = Any Legal Weapon

Any legal Weapon in Arizona for hunting elk includes:

  • Any center fire rifle
  • Muzzleloading rifles
  • All other rifles using black powder or synthetic black powder
  • Center fire handguns
  • Handguns using black powder or synthetic black powder
  • Shotguns  – slugs only
  • Archery; minimum draw weight 40 lbs, broadheads no less than 7/8 inch in width with metal cutting edges
  • Crossbows;  minimum draw weight 25 lbs, bolts minimum length 16 inches, broad heads no less than 7/8 inch in width with metal cutting edges

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone that has hunted elk in Arizona with an over-the-counter Elk nonpermit-tag. I have a cousin that lives in Tucson and that’s not too far from units 28, 31 & 32.


  1. Is the 2013 hunt units the same every year, I see it every time I look here?

    • No Ernie, just my mistake. I have been waiting for the AZGFD to update for the 2017 season. The Kiabab area (units 12A & 12B) are no longer included and have been removed from the Table. The information in the Table has been updated for 2017.

  2. Harvested a cow there a few years ago. A bull a couple of years later. There are so few elk you could name them based off their tracks. But they are there.

  3. In 2016 I harvested a cow elk in unit 3A about 35 miles South of Holbrook in October. There were three cows coming out of a gorge. I used a crossbow (due to service connected disability.)
    Lucky to see three together. They stopped to graze and I looked for a Buck but saw none. I took a 30 yard side shot with 22 inch broad tip. Hit just behind right shoulder, she went up then stepped back then moved forward another 40 yards then dropped. Lucky

  4. What’s a good unit I can hunt for elk if I have a Otc tag?

    • There are basically no good OTC units in Arizona. All of these units are in areas where Arizona Fish & Game does not want elk. These tags are available, but unless you know the area, have permission to hunt private land and know when elk move into these areas, you will be at a disadvantage.

      See Nick and Steve’s Comments. Steve harvested a cow elk in unit 3A (35 miles South of Holbrook) in October, 2016.

  5. 19A and 6A in the Verde Valley area could be promising but you’d have to do some serious scouting and know where you are. It’s higher elevation in 6A lots of National Forest land. My Mom retired up in that area so I spent some time on the forestry roads just exploring the lower lying areas, lots of cattle roaming around as well. I may give it a shot, but for that kind of dough on an out of state tag, I’d want to at least have solid game plan.

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