Overview: Unit 45, or the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, has a long reputation for quality mule deer hunting. During the late 1980s and early 90s the refuge gained a reputation for large bucks, however, during the recent drought the refuge has experienced a steady decline in both fawn production and hunter success. Currently the deer population has decreased from about 1,500 deer in the mid to late 1980s to about 800 in 2009. Low hunter success over the last couple of years bears out this population decrease. Despite the decreasing population large mule deer bucks can still be found on the refuge, although not in the numbers experienced in the recent past.
Persons hunting the refuge have a variety of habitats in which to hunt deer. Much of the deer habitat on the refuge consists of flat to rolling low desert. Deer hunting in this type of country, even on the best years, can be difficult. Most people hunting the flats try to find high points from which to glass the flats. Hunter densities are much lower in the flat country than the mountainous areas of the refuge.
Historically, the high rolling country found in the interior of the Kofa Mountains had the highest deer densities on the refuge. Hunter concentrations tend to be much higher in these areas than the more flat terrain. One of the side benefits of hunting the high country is the opportunity to observe some of the many bighorn that inhabit the refuge.
Kofa Mountains: Take the El Paso Natural Gas Line Road eight miles south of Quartzsite on Highway 95 east into the refuge. From this road several roads will give you access to the interior of the Kofa Mountains. Additionally the MST&T Road at milepost 92.7 will also provide good access through the Livingston Hills and south into Burro Canyon. The Palm Canyon and the King Valley Road, also off Highway 95 will get you to good hunting areas. The Hovatter Road off of Interstate 10 west of Tonopah and the Engesser Road taken from the Whitewing Ranch area north of Dateland will get you to some of good areas on the east side of the refuge.
King Valley: This vast valley separates the Kofa Mountains to the north from the Castle Dome Mountains on the south end of the refuge. Large desert riparian areas here provide great mule deer habitat. The best way to hunt this area is to find hills and glass the flats from these high points. Some very large and very smart deer inhabit this area. Take the King Valley road east of Stone Cabin on Highway 95. This road will provide you with the best access to this area.
Castle Dome Mountains: This is a very rough mountain range found in the southwest Corner of the refuge. Unlike the interior of the Kofa Mountains very few deer area found the mountainous areas, however, the canyon bottoms and washes leading into the mountains around the edge of the Castle Domes provide great opportunities for large bucks. Take the King Valley road east of Stone Cabin for access to the north side of the Castle Domes. Several unmarked roads south of Stone Cabin will give you access to southwest side of the mountains. The Castle Dome road off of Highway 95 will give you the only access to the southwest end of the Castle Domes.
Notes: Most of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is wilderness areas and special regulations apply. Vehicle use is limited to existing designated roads and must remain within 100 feet of these roads. All firearms, including handguns, rifles and shotguns, within a vehicle must be unloaded and either cased or broken down. For complete refuge regulations contact:
P.O. Box 6290
9300 E 28th Street
Yuma, Az. 85365-6290
Phone: (928) 783-7861
Fax (928) 783-8611
The results of 2009 sheep surveys in GMU 45A indicated a significant decrease and historic low in the Kofa sheep population
Since then the bighorn sheep numbers have continued to decline and the latest population estimate is 130 sheep. There is an estimate of five class III rams in this unit and no class IV rams were observed on the latest surveys flown in 2009. As a result, the number of permits offered has remained at 1. The ten year average score of rams taken in 45A is 154, and hunter success is usually 100%.
As with any bighorn sheep hunt, pre-hunt scouting is very important to a successful hunt in this unit. Good areas to scout are the Livingston Hills, which can be accessed from the MST&T road off of milepost 92.7 on Highway 95. This road will take you all the way to the MST&T tower, and there are roads to the south that will lead you into Burro Canyon. This is an area where hunters have had success in the past. Hunters can also access good hunting areas by taking Palm Canyon road off of 95 and then driving into Kofa Queen Canyon. All of these roads can get pretty rough, and four wheel drive is needed.
Unit 45A’s quail population has fluctuated greatly in response to the amount of rainfall received. Fortunately this unit has received good winter rains in yearly since 2008, and quail hunting should be good. The quail population is evenly dispersed throughout the unit, with many decent sized coveys.