Hunting Arizona Border Units
by Bill Crounse
Southern Arizona offers some of the finest Coues hunting in the country, but the units along the Mexican border can present challenges not found in northern units. At times, hunters may encounter illegal aliens or drug smugglers as they work their way into the United States. Warnings are posted in these areas, as well as in the unit descriptions on the AZ Game and Fish website, alerting sportsmen to the possibility of encountering illegal activity. Sometimes these warnings discourage hunters from attempting to hunt some beautiful and productive units. Every year, I have hunters ask me about hunting these units before they apply, so I thought I would share some thoughts and tips to consider if you are thinking about hunting these areas.
I assume that you already exercise common sense and good habits in the field, extra water and first aid kits, so I will try to stick with border specific tips. The southern units are very dry, so learn where the water is. Critters like to drink, so knowing where the water is can help you come up with a hunt strategy as well as providing water in an emergency. Humanitarian groups also have water cached in border areas for people in trouble, just look for a blue flag waving in the desert.
Make sure you take a cell phone with you when you go. Due to remote areas lacking coverage, some hunters leave their phone in the truck. What many people do not realize is that the 911 system in Southern AZ has towers and service in many of the remote places that service providers can’t cover. If you are in trouble, start looking for high ground and more than likely you will be able to reach 911 and they can triangulate your location. Have the number to the Border Patrol Station that covers the unit you are hunting ready in case you see some sort of illegal activity.
The big concern hunters ask me about is the criminal activity. If you see smuggling activities or encounter a cache of drug bundles, do not approach and call the Border Patrol. As a business rule, smugglers tend to leave others alone. But all rules can have exceptions and the best bet is to let the right people handle the situation. The biggest complaint from hunters I have heard is that “a group of aliens spooked a bedded buck” they had been watching.
Another concern, camping in these areas. While we all like to camp away from everyone else, pick your camping spot wisely. There are spots where groups of hunters camp every year that are usually out of the way of illegal activities and several camps in a general area can provide a measure of security. Talk to Border Patrol Agents, Wildlife Managers and other hunters via online hunting boards to find the best camping spots.
An added bonus to these border units is the number of deer tags. Most units have a mind boggling number of tags available, and some units usually have plenty of left-over tags in case you didn’t draw that trophy AZ Strip tag. That being said, with some hunts you will also see a lot of hunters in areas near roads. If you want that trophy buck, get away from the road a ways. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be far and the hike can really pay off in the end. During these hikes, you will more than likely find some trash spots where aliens have rested. If possible, carry a trash bag in your pack and bring some of it out with you.
Only you can weigh the pros and cons and decide if you want to hunt the border units, but with a little information and preparation you may be able to find the deer of your dreams.