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Game Management Unit 39

 
Additional Hunting Unit Report pages
- Region I - Pinetop
- Region IV - Yuma
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- Region III - Kingman
- Region VI - Mesa
 


Species within this unit: Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Dove, Quail
 
Unit Boundaries
Beginning at AZ Hwy 85 and the Gila River; east along the Gila River to the western boundary of the Gila River Indian Reservation; southeasterly along the reservation boundary to (AZ Hwy 347 (Maricopa Road); south on this road to AZ Hwy 84; east on AZ Hwy 84 to Stanfield; south on the Stanfield-Cocklebur Road to I-8; westerly on I-8 to Exit 87; northerly on the Sentinel- Agua Caliente Road to Hyder Road; northeasterly on Hyder Road to 555th Ave; north on 555th Ave to Lahman Rd.; east on Lahman Rd. which becomes Agua Caliente Rd.; northeasterly on Agua Caliente Rd. to Old Hwy 80; northeasterly on Old Hwy 80  to Arizona Hwy 85; southerly on AZ Hwy 85 to the Gila River; except those portions that are sovereign tribal lands of the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Ak-Chin Indian Community.
 
Species Information back to top
Bighorn Sheep

Overview:

Unit 39 is subdivided for bighorn sheep management purposes East and West of Old Hwy 80.

39 East Desert Bighorn Sheep can be found throughout the Maricopa and Estrella Mountains. Past rams harvested from GMU 39E have scored 140-160+; one ram score exceeded 170. The 39 East bighorn population has significantly declined in the Estrella, N. Maricopa, and S. Maricopa Mountains.  In the late 1990’s over a hundred sheep were observed during helicopter surveys in GMU 39 East.   During the last survey of 2006, 23 sheep were observed in GMU 39 East.  Due to recent surveys in GMU 39E, the hunts have been closed until the populationl supports a bighorn ram hunt again.   

39W Desert Bighorn Sheep can be found throughout the Gila Bend Mountains and Buckeye Hills. Past rams harvested from 39W have scored 150-170+.  Currently the population is believed to be stable.  The Department transplanted five sheep into the Buckeye Hills this past fall.  The Buckeye Hills have been realigned with the east half of the unit, in order to allow the transplanted sheep to acclimate and boost recruitment in these hills.   

A strategy for your hunt, round up friends to scout out the unit.. The more eyes you have helping you look, will increase your odds in finding them. A great time to carry a camera or video camera. By late November, you should have a good feel where to start your hunt. Hopefully you have in your mind the ram you plan to harvest from your earlier scouting effort.


I recommend hunters scout early, to allow themselves plenty of time to explore all areas and especially see as many sheep as possible. In late August and into September the rams are in the rut; excellent opportunity to observe several rams. Keep in mind that the temperatures could range over 100 degree Fahrenheit. Remember to stay hydrated, please use common sense and be prepared for desert survival. The rams you may have observed in September will not necessarily be there in December. Mature rams have been known to roam in small bachelor groups or be solitaire; do not over look adjacent small hills to a large mountain as your hunt approaches. The Department completes sheep surveys by October; I recommend you call me or the regional office for insight into completed surveys. Note, not all units are surveyed each year.  
In locating sheep, I prefer to observe with at least a 10 or 20 power binocular/scope first from the base of the mountain. This allows sheep plenty of escape room and sheep that are there may stay and watch you. Otherwise, a direct assault on the mountain will more likely send sheep fleeing before you see them. As curious as sheep are, they may watch you approach without running. Make an indirect approach, as if you're searching for your keys (avoid eye contact), you'll surprise yourself how close you may get. Practice this technique during your scouting effort. When you are on the mountain, stay within the first two-thirds of the way up the mountain; the third above you will still provide sheep escape room. Regularly stop and sit and listen as you use your binoculars. Chances are you'll hear sheep before you see them, as rocks fall as sheep move about.

If drawn, guides and taxidermist will find you. I recommend you attend the October sheep clinic held each year in Phoenix, sponsored by Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, ADBSS. You can ask questions in person to wildlife biologists, wildlife managers, past sheep hunters, and various government agencies that administer the land your hunt is on. If you’re not drawn, I encourage you to participate as a helper in a sheep hunt.

Areas:

Unit 39E includes the Maricopa and Estrella Mountains; the majority of these areas are wilderness areas. Unit 39E may be accessed at road junctions along state route 85, S.R. 85, between Gila Bend and Buckeye, as well as through the Rainbow Valley.  Access is also possible along the north side of Interstate 8, I-8, between Gila Bend and Stanfield.  Access north of S.R. 238/ Maricopa Rd. into the SDNM is closed, as well as the east end of the gas pipeline road north of the North Maricopa Mountain.

Unit 39W includes the Gila Bend Mountains and the Buckeye Hills will be excluded.  Unit 39W may be accessed along the Agua Caliente Road between Sentinel and Arlington and Old US Hwy 80 between Gila Bend and Arlington, as well as along the north side of Interstate 8, I-8, between Sentinel and Gila Bend.

I recommend that you contact BLM at 623-580-5500 or their website http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en.html  to obtain wilderness information regarding access and activities constraints.  One last note, January 17th, 2001 President Clinton signed the areas of the North and South Maricopa Mountains to be included into the Sonoran Desert National Monument.  BLM is preparing a comprehensive management plan and has conducted public and inter-agency scoping meetings and a final draft is expected to come out this year.
 
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Mule Deer

Overview: Currently, the hunt recommendation splits the hunt into two hunt periods to alleviate overcrowding in specific areas where deer are known to congregate.  

Most deer are staying near the Gila River and adjacent to agricultural fields, if you hunt these areas you will increase your chance for success, otherwise finding deer in units 39 & 40A will be difficult. Sonoran desert mule deer during the general rifle hunt can be found along the mountain bases, low rolling hills and throughout the network of desert washes. The general hunter will usually hunt along mountain bases and use the higher elevation to increase visibility. The more adventure some hunter will work the low land washes; the hunter will cut sign in the washes looking for a large trophy buck. Hunting the desert mulie is not an easy challenge; the hunt will test your endurance and persistence to continue hunting after possibly going days without seeing a deer. I find that when hunters congregate in an area the bucks move on to adjacent areas, while the does and fawns are more prone to stay in the area. Mature bucks may be found in small bachelor herds or solitaire during the general season, their visibility is low. However during the rut when the bucks join the does, visibility goes up with more animals to spot. It has been my experience that hunts during the rutting period will increase your odds immensely. These hunts are with primitive weapons usually, for example archery or muzzleloader.


White-tailed deer does not regularly come to mind in the Sonoran Desert; however, there are a few small populations found in unit 40A. I have seen several very nice pickups, too include a pickup that scored roughly 122 1/2. I have known hunting camps from time to time take both a white-tailed and mule deer buck out of the same area.

I would personally review a good field dressing video prior to going to the field. This helps me organize my thoughts when the real work begins after the animal is down. Remember before you take your shot be aware of your location to your camp and/or vehicle and also take into account the weather.

In December, any antler deer muzzleloader hunt is open in GMU 39/40A&B/ 41/42. For more information on Units 41 & 42 review their perspective mule deer hunt page or contact the regional office at 928-342-0091. Wildlife Manager Joe Sayer manages in Unit 41 (Home office, not assigned yet, main office 928-342-0091) and Wildlife Manager Craig Heath (Home office 623-882-2140) manages in Unit 42.

In December and January, the any antler archery deer hunt is open in a multi-unit hunt to include units’ 39/40A&B. Special note GMU 42 has been dropped from the December multi-unit archery hunt.  December and January archery tags are available over the counter.

Areas: The area encompasses several wilderness areas, Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR). The wilderness areas are the Tabletop, Estrella, Maricopa, Woolsey, and Signal Peak Mountains. The Bureau of Land Management, (BLM), administers all these wilderness areas. The Barry M. Goldwater Range is unique, because Luke Air Force Base regulates access and activities on the Barry M. Goldwater Range through its sister base the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, Gila Bend A.F.A.F.

Unit 39 may be accessed by numerous cattle gates along state route 85, State Route 85, between Gila Bend and Buckeye, as well as along the north side of Interstate 8, between Sentinel and Stanfield.  Access north of S.R. 238/ Maricopa Rd. into the SDNM is closed, as well as the east end of the gas pipeline road north of the North Maricopa Mountain.

 

BLM is preparing a comprehensive management plan and has conducted public and inter-agency scoping meetings and a final draft is expected to come out this year. You can be put on a mailing list for updates and scheduled meetings through BLM at 623-580-5500 or the website http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en.html.


Unit 40A is accessible by cattle gates along the south side of Interstate 8 between Gila Bend and Stanfield, as well as along the east side of State Route 85 between Gila Bend and Why. The Barry M. Goldwater Range boundary will be posted and have locked gate entrances. Permits are now available through several federal governmental agencies as follows: BLM at the Deer Valley and Yuma office, Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, Marine Corps Air Station (Yuma), and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

All off road vehicles will be required to meet street legal requirements, i.e. registration, insurance, and specific equipment, prior to entering the range. To access the Barry M. Goldwater Range, you and all your party members 18 and older will require written permission. Note the new changes to the BMGR Access Program. Currently, you have to view a video release; it is about twenty minutes long.  Thereafter, you'll sign a hold harmless document and obtain a one-year permit from July 1st to June 30th of the following year. Once these requirements are met, you are required to call a 1-800-number or range security at 928-683-6220/6200 to coordinate your entry and departure from the range.  The permit is to be presented upon request to any government law enforcement or range security officer. Note: the Barry M. Goldwater Range is an active tactical U.S. Air Force bombing Range and these precautions are necessary to avoid placing yourself in harm’s way. Tactical ranges are where air to surface impacts occurs and are closed to public access.  Ranges A & B are over flight areas (the Paradise Valley area is excluded from public access) open for recreation generally all year round to the public after meeting the above requirements. One last note, Area A has been relinquished back to BLM and January 17th, 2001 President Clinton signed the Sonoran Desert National Monument proclamation that includes Area A.

Unit 40B is splits east and west of the Mohawk Mountains. 40B East is administered the same as 40A on the Barry M. Goldwater Range. However, 40B East Barry M. Goldwater Range consist of only tactical ranges and no access will be granted, unless you have official business. Hunting opportunities for mule deer are limited to the surrounding Ajo area. Ajo is located 40 miles south of Gila Bend on State Route 85. The U.S. Marines Corps Air Station, Yuma (928-341-3318) administers unit 40B west from the Mohawk Mountain to Yuma. If you'd like further information on the west-side, contact Wildlife Manager Scott Fischer home office (928) 329-6517 or main Yuma office 928-342-0091.


In November, temperatures will range from 80 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the units. Precipitation in November is higher for the areas west of the Mohawk Mountains, accumulating as much as an inch. December and January weather are similar, with less precipitation.

 

Javelina

Overview: In the month of January, a multi-unit archery javelina hunt is open to units 40A&B and 39. Currently the javelina population along the Gila River and on the BMGR is showing good recruitment, however hunt success is still low.  I recommend early morning scouting and taking time to listen.  Javelinas are very social and vocal in the early mornings.

The junior’s archery and muzzleloader hunt has changed to a junior general rifle hunt in GMU 39 this coming fall.  The hunt was established to target the robust populations of javelina along the Gila River and Robbins Butte Wildlife Area.  For more information contact the Wildlife Area Manger Phil Smith or myself.
 
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Dove

Overview:  2010 dove flights have been steady and growing.  The introduction of Eurasian doves has increased opportunities to hunt year round.  I am observing more bag limits with Eurasian doves from year to year.  Be a responsible hunter and keep your harvested birds separate from your fellow hunters’ birds.  Eurasian doves are frequent visitors of dairies and municipalities.  Although many dairy men may not allow you to hunt with shotguns around their cows, you may consider using a bow with flu-flu arrows.  Doves can be found throughout the units where open water and/or agriculture operations are located. A common hunting practice is to set up near water or agriculture fields at day break and take your shots as they fly by.  Caution to all hunters about hunting near a baited field; this is a federal violation.  Therefore, hunt fields that follow normal farming operations. It is your responsibility to scout your hunting area to assure it is not baited. Note that in these units during the first dove season (September) is a morning hunt only; this hunt also has a white - winged dove limit. A new change, the first season will include a junior hunt all day for persons up to and throughout the calendar year of their 17th birthday. Junior hunters that participant in the morning are still restricted to the daily bag limit, if they choose to hunt in the evening as well. When the second hunt season (November) starts, you'll note that the hunt is open all day and is restricted to mourning doves only. Junior hunters check with the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Mesa (480-981-9400) or Wildlife Area Manager Phil Smith (602-290-2237) about special dove hunts on the Robbins Butte Farm near the Gila River and S.R.85.

If you want to avoid the congestion of hunters along a farm field, another alternative is to locate a remote stock tank that maintains water year round. These stock tanks provide good to excellence hunting opportunities.

Areas: The area encompasses several wilderness areas, the Sonoran Desert National Monument, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range, BMGR. The wilderness areas are the Tabletop, Estrella, Maricopa, Woolsey, and Signal Peak Mountains. All these wilderness areas are administered by the Bureau of Land Management, BLM. The BMGR is unique, because Luke Air Force Base regulates access and activities on the BMGR through its sister base the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, Gila Bend A.F.A.F.

One last note, January 17th, 2001 President Clinton signed the areas of the North and South Maricopa Mountains to be included into the Sonoran Desert National Monument. BLM is preparing a comprehensive management plan and has conducted public and inter-agency scoping meetings and a final draft is expected to come out this year.   You can be put on a mailing list for updates and scheduled meetings through BLM.  


Unit 39 may be accessed by numerous cattle gates along state route 85, State Route 85, between Gila Bend and Buckeye, as well as along the north side of Interstate 8, between Sentinel and Stanfield.  Access north of S.R. 238/ Maricopa Rd. into the SDNM is closed, as well as the east end of the gas pipeline road north of the North Maricopa Mountain.  I recommend that you contact BLM at 623-580-5500 to obtain wilderness area information regarding access and activities constraints.

Additional information can be found in February 1998's issue of Arizona Wildlife Views. Farmers in unit 39 have been very tolerant towards dove hunters, especially those that take the time to contact the farmer before the season to obtain permission to hunt on his property.   A hunter access program is no longer used for the Paloma Ranch, due its recent break up and purchase among several different landowners. Hunters can obtain permission from a few farms allowing access such as: Lee Banning, William Perry, Tyson Stuhr, and Sunset Farms. Contact numbers for the farms can be obtained at the farm areas north of I-8 between mp 102 and 110. Remember to pick up your shotgun hulls; this is a citable offense. Obey the rules of the ranch and enjoy yourself.

 

 
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Quail

Overview: Earlier this year, many coveys were observed. Currently, the area has received some November and December rainfalls and the results have been significantly more observations.

Gambel's quail can be generally found along large washes and closely associated to mountainsides. I recommend you acquire a quail call to assist you in locating coveys, as they call back.

Areas: The area encompasses several wilderness areas, the Sonoran Desert National Monument, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range, BMGR. The wilderness areas are the Tabletop, Estrella, Maricopa, Woolsey, and Signal Peak Mountains. The Bureau of Land Management, BLM, administers all these wilderness areas. The BMGR is unique, because Luke Air Force Base regulates access and activities on the BMGR through its sister base the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, Gila Bend A.F.A.F. One last note, January 17th, 2001 President Clinton signed the areas of the North and South Maricopa Mountains to be included into the Sonoran Desert National Monument. BLM is preparing a comprehensive management plan and has conducted public and inter-agency scoping meetings and a final draft is expected to come out this year. You can be put on a mailing list for updates and scheduled meetings through BLM. Additional information can be found in February 1998's issue of Arizona Wildlife Views.

Unit 39 may be accessed by numerous cattle gates along state route 85, State Route 85, between Gila Bend and Buckeye, as well as along the north side of Interstate 8, between Sentinel and Stanfield.  Access north of S.R. 238/ Maricopa Rd. into the SDNM is closed, as well as the east end of the gas pipeline road north of the North Maricopa Mountain.  I recommend that you contact BLM at 623-580-5500 to obtain wilderness area information regarding access and activities constraints.

In November, temperatures will range from 80 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit through out the units. Precipitation in November is high for the area, accumulating as much as an inch. December and January weather are similar, with less precipitation.

 

POWERS BUTTE WILDLIFE AREA

 

When looking for a day of bird-watching with family or a morning of dove hunting with friends, Powers Butte Wildlife Area is the place to go. Bordering the Gila River, this wildlife area offers many opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast, including hiking, bird-watching, hunting, and fishing.

 

Recreational Opportunities

Riparian habitats like wetlands and streamside forests provide critical nesting, cover and food resources for many types of birds, including sensitive and rare species. The wildlife attracted to these habitats provide valuable recreational opportunities.

Restrictions:

a.

No open fires.

b.

No firewood cutting or gathering.

c.

No overnight public camping.

d.

Motorized vehicle travel permitted on designated roads, on designated trails, or in designated areas only.

e.

Open to hunting in season.

 

Location

The Powers Butte Wildlife Area is located along the east side of the Gila River, about 20 miles north of Gila Bend, in Maricopa County. Powers Butte Wildlife Area, which encompasses 1,120 acres, is located within Game Management Unit 39.

Directions: From Buckeye, take Highway 85 south to the Robbins Butte turn off (about 1 mile south of the Gila River bridge).  Turn West onto the Robbins Butte road.  At about ½ mile, the road “Y’s” – take this Y to the left.  Follow this road for about another 10 miles to Powers Butte Wildlife Area.


 

Wildlife

Mourning doves, white-winged doves, Gambel's quail, and cottontail rabbits inhabit the Powers Butte Wildlife Area all of which can be hunted during the appropriate season.

 

Robbins Butte Wildlife Area

Robbins Butte Wildlife Area

DIRECTIONS : The Robbins Butte Wildlife Area (RBWA) is located approximately seven miles southwest of Buckeye, Arizona, comprising approximately 1681 acres.  From Buckeye, take Highway 85 South toward Gila Bend.  At about 5 miles, you will cross the Gila River Bridge.  After crossing the Gila River bridge, turn west onto the Robbins Butte Road (follow the signs to Robbins Butte).

Wildlife Species
A combination of wildlife food crops, natural foods and nesting habitat attracts many breeding white-winged and mourning doves (Zenaida asiatica and Z. macroura). An average combined number of 5,000 doves usually are present at RBWA before the September hunt. Hunting during the first dove season is restricted to the south of the main access road and provides good hunting opportunity for dove hunters during the September season.  After the first dove season concludes, the fields to the North of the main access road are open for entry by hunters pursuing dove, quail and cottontail rabbits.

RBWA is the center of the annual Gila River Christmas Bird Count, and over 115 species of winter-resident birds have been observed in the vicinity. In addition, many raptors winter in and near RBWA, including the White-tailed Kite (Elanus caeruleus). The summer avian community has not been counted, but species numbers probably exceed those of winter.

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Unit Summary
Primary Game Species/ Hunting Month(s)
Mule Deer November/December
Bighorn Sheep December
Waterfowl October-January
Secondary Game Species/ Hunting Month(s)
Quail November-February
Dove September, November-January
Average # permits in past 5 years
Mule Deer 150/150 (Combined with 40A & 40B)
   
 
Climate Information
Month Ave. Temp Ave. Rainfall
January Max 69°/Min 38° 0.61"
February Max 65°/Min 35° 0.60"
September Max 103°/Min 69° 0.71"
October Max 92°/Min 57° 0.45"
November Max 79°/Min 45° 0.67"
December Max 69°/Min 39° 0.93"
Other Pertinent Climate Information
November deer hunters should come prepared for rain. Summer climate is extreme and harsh, so plenty of water is essential.
 
Cities, Roads & Campgrounds
Major Cities and Towns in or Near Game Management Unit and Nearest Gas, Food, and Lodging
Gila Bend, Sentinel, Buckeye, Maricopa
Major Highways and Roads Leading To
From the East: I-8
From the West: I-8, I-10
From the North: State Hwy 85
From the South: State Hwy 85
Developed Campgrounds
A Wheel Inn in Gila Bend; FAM Camp, Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field (active/reserve/retired military only)
Undeveloped Campgrounds
Camping is allowed on Bureau of Land Management lands throughout the unit.
 
Brief Description of Terrain, Elevation, and Vegetation
The unit's terrain is primarily flat desert land cut by a network of washes and interrupted by several low mountain ranges. Elevations range from approximately 700' on the flats to 4,300' on Montezuma Peak in the Estrella Mountains. The Gila River flows through the western portion of the unit. Riparian communities are concentrated near Painted Rock and Gillespie dams. Creosote-bursage communities are abundant throughout the unit. Saguaro-paloverde communities occur sparsely along major drainages and on the southern Maricopa Mountains.
 
Government Agencies and Phone Numbers
Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region IV - 928 342-0091
Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix Field Office - 602 580-5500
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Painted Rock Office - 928 683-6488
 
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