Winter Deer Hunting Blues

Most western States are beginning to see frozen water and accumulations of snow which usually means deer seasons are over.  December is post-rut with does and bucks heading for lower country to spend the next few months trying to survive.  Many deer hunters alleviate the lull of winter with watching winter habitat to see what might be in the hills for next year and scouting for shed antler season.  It’s easy to get the winter deer hunting blues with hunts being so far away, but it doesn’t have to be.

Say What, Over-The-Counter!

The mere thought of over-the-counter (OTC) deer tags brings excitement to every deer hunters soul.  OTC tags have a special place in the deer hunting community because they are the exception rather than the norm in modern wildlife management and hunting regulations.  Most hunts and tags are planned months in advance because of hunt application deadlines and draws.  The days of picking up and going deer hunting on a whim are almost forgotten.  With applications and drawings come added complexities some hunters loath.  OTC deer tags are a refreshing burst of simplicity.  Arizona has OTC deer archery tags available to residents and non-residents during the months old man winter has his grips on the more northern states.

Why Arizona

Muley Freek staff member waits on a 190" class buck as the sun sets over the AZ desert

Muley Freak staff member waits on a 190″ class buck as the sun sets over the AZ desert

These Arizona OTC tags have been flying under the radar for a long time, although the secret is beginning to get out.  What’s not a secret is the Southwest is beautiful this time of year.  Climate is one of the main reasons millions flock to Arizona in the winter and hunting deer during these months is down right enjoyable.  While your northern buddies are all bundled up shoveling driveways, breaking ice, and cruising winter ranges dreaming of hunting you could be in the temperate climate of the Southwest stalking rutting mule deer and coues deer.  That’s right, rutting OTC deer tags!  The Arizona deer rut occurs a little later than one might think.  While many northern states rut occurs in November, central and southern Arizona deer rut happens in December and January with OTC deer tags available for both December and January seasons in several units.  Hunting rutting deer is every deer hunters dream and in Arizona it’s a simple reality.  Show up, bring your bow, and buy a tag.

Still Challenging

There is very rarely such a thing as an easy hunt and although a hunter can expect to encounter rutting deer it’s still challenging, especially with archery equipment.  Because you’ll most likely be hunting public land you will also be sharing deer with other hunters, and this can be a challenge in itself.  Don’t forget your OnXMaps either because you will have to watch out for private land boundaries, with some instances of public/private ownership being very checker-boarded.  Although rutting bucks let their guard down during the rut you’ll have to get through the several sets of eyes and noses of those does the bucks are chasing.  Many of the units are wide open desert landscapes and this makes stalking difficult and a long hike across open terrain doesn’t make it any easier.  Despite the challenges we found recently on our own Arizona muley OTC deer tag hunt it’s a hek of a lot of fun.  We saw bucks daily and put on multiple stalks across big country.

Muley Freak staff glassing the vast open country of the AZ desert while on a December OTC archery deer hunt

Muley Freak staff glassing the vast open country of the AZ desert while on a December OTC archery deer hunt

On the list of must haves is great optics.  Whether it’s coues or muleys you will spend a lot of time glassing.  On our Muley Freak OTC Arizona archery hunt we couldn’t of done without great glass.  Our strategy was to find a high bluff and use Vortex Razor binos on our tripod to locate deer then throw on the Vortex Razor spotting scope to see if there was a buck.  Often we spotted deer across these rolling juniper grasslands from miles away and having quality high powered optics was a must.

So if your looking for a way to cure the winter deer hunting blues head south to Arizona and grab yourself an OTC archery deer tag.

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