The Best Spots to Hunt Elk on Arizona’s Massive Big Boquillas Ranch

The expansive Big Boquillas Ranch in northern Arizona provides an ideal habitat for elk hunting. Spanning over 750,000 acres, this historic working cattle ranch contains excellent elk habitat with plentiful food and water sources. As one of the largest elk hunting areas in Arizona, the Big Boquillas Ranch offers many prized areas to spot trophy bulls and cow elk.

In this detailed guide, I will share insider tips on the prime locations to hunt elk on the Big Boquillas based on terrain, habitat, elk populations, and historical patterns Whether you are an Arizona resident or traveling hunter, this guide will help you have a successful elk hunt on the massive Big Bo Ranch

Overview of Hunting Access on the Big Boquillas

The Big Boquillas Ranch allows public access for elk hunting through its unique fair chase hunting program. Approximately 70% of the ranch is private land, while the remaining 30% is state trust land.

Hunters must purchase an access permit from the ranch to hunt elk on both the private and state trust lands. Permit fees fund maintenance of roads, fences, and waters sources that benefit wildlife.

The ranch emphasizes ethical hunting practices and cooperation from hunters Those who do not follow ranch rules can face citations for trespassing and lose future access

Choosing the Best Hunt Unit on the Ranch

The Big Boquillas Ranch includes three primary hunt units:

  • Unit 10 – Approximately 500,000 acres of private land
  • Unit 9 – Around 250,000 acres of state trust land
  • Unit 8 – Small portion in the southeast area

Unit 10 contains the majority of the ranch and offers the most abundant elk habitat. This is the top area to target trophy bull elk and large cow herds.

Unit 9 has excellent elk and antelope hunting on the state trust lands. Due to the terrain, Unit 9 favors rifle hunting compared to archery.

Unit 8 only covers a small part of the ranch but can be a good option for archery elk hunting.

Scouting the Landscape and Terrain

The varied landscape and terrain of the Big Boquillas provides diverse elk habitat. Here is an overview of the land:

  • Foothills and mountains – Rugged steep foothills surround the Mogollon Rim region. Pine forests offer secluded wallows and breeding areas.

  • Grasslands – Large open grasslands provide prime feeding grounds for thousands of elk.

  • Forests – Ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forests give cover and transition zones.

  • Canyons – Deep canyons filled with oaks, maples, and other deciduous trees.

  • Meadows – Scattered meadows surrounded by pines and aspens create great grazing.

  • Water sources – Over 100 man-made stock ponds and natural springs.

Best Areas for Bull Elk Hunting

The Big Boquillas contains high densities of trophy bull elk for hunters to target:

Peaks and Foothills

The steep, rugged peaks and foothills around the Mogollon Rim hold some of the oldest and biggest bulls on the ranch. The remote terrain gives them seclusion from hunting pressure. Expect to pack in several miles on foot or horseback to reach remote basins.

Pinon-Juniper Transition Zones

Bulls seek out the protective cover where pinon-juniper forests transition into ponderosa pine. Wallows are common in these areas. Glass openings at dawn and dusk.

Canyons and Drainages

Lush vegetation in canyons and drainages attracts breeding elk. Still hunt along canyon floors and glass the rim edges. Popular spots include Webber Creek, Volunteer Canyon, and Doyle Canyon.


Elk, especially satellite bulls, feed in the open meadows at dawn and dusk. Arrive before daylight and set up near springs or pond edges. Top meadows include Parks Pasture, Naeglin Meadow, and Soldier Meadow.

Prime Areas for Cow Elk Hunting

Cow elk congregate in large numbers on certain parts of the Big Boquillas:

  • Parks Pasture – This expansive pasture has plentiful water and contains hundreds of elk.

  • Perkinsville Pasture – Scattered ponds and meadows attract herds of cows with calves.

  • Walapai Mountain Foothills – Lush vegetation in the foothills draws elk from the mountains to feed.

  • Spider Meadow – Excellent glassing opportunities to spot elk moving down from Webber Peak.

  • Doyle Pasture – Cottonwood trees and flowing water in Doyle Creek Canyon provide excellent habitat.

Timing the Hunt

Elk hunting seasons on the Big Boquillas:

  • Archery Elk – Early September – Mid September
  • Archery Deer/Elk Overlap – Mid September – Early October
  • General Rifle Elk – Mid October – Early December
  • Late Rifle Elk – Early December – End of December

The early archery season allows hunting during the rut when bulls are bugling. Rifle season overlaps the later portion of the rut. Both provide exciting hunts!

For archery hunting, target the early season when elk congregate on summer range. As seasons progress, elk disperse to thick timber for the rifle hunts.

The peak of the rut typically occurs around September 25th on the ranch. Time your hunt around this period for the most rutting activity.

Hunting Methods and Strategies

The Big Boquillas’ diverse terrain allows for several hunting strategies:

Spot and Stalk

Glass meadows and open parks at dawn and dusk to spot elk. Stalk within bow range when they bed down. Use cover like ridges, brush, or timber.

Canyons and foothills are great for spotting elk on facing slopes and make challenging stalks. Have patience and take it slow.

Still Hunting

Still hunt trails, ranch roads, and game paths at first and last light when elk travel to feed. Stop frequently to glass and listen. Elk sounds and sign will give away their location.

Waterhole Ambush

Scout stock ponds, tanks, and springs used by elk. Set up blinds or natural cover like brush and rocks overlooking the water. Arrive before daylight as elk come to drink.


Locate fresh elk sign then try bugling during the rut. Set up downwind and call aggressively to challenge bulls and bring them in close.

Cow calling works for archery hunting when cows congregate with calves. Bugle tubes, cow calls, and raking brush can entice responses.


Have partners set up above or below canyons, meadows, and thick cover. Alternate standers and pushers for drives during the rifle hunts. Elk will get bumped towards standers.

Final Tips for Elk Hunting the Big Bo

Here are my final tips for a successful hunt on the expansive Big Boquillas Ranch:

  • Scout extensively and have back-up areas identified in case of pressure.

  • Be ready to cover a lot of ground on foot, horseback, or ATV. Many prime areas are remote.

  • Pack for diverse conditions with varying elevations and weather extremes.

  • Focus on burned areas and recent timber cuts that create new elk habitat.

  • Be proficient with game calls and mimic sounds between bugles.

  • Study the ranch map and terrain to plan optimal routes and approach strategies.

  • Purchase the highest power and quality optics you can afford. Spotting elk is critical.

  • Manage expectations on see numerous elk. Take your time glassing over a large area.

What’s up with UNIT 10 & The BIG Boquillas ranch?!?!


What is the best elk unit in AZ?

You can’t go wrong with Unit 23. While Unit 23 may not always produce giant bulls in the numbers that Unit 9 and 10 do, hunters can’t go wrong by applying for an elk tag in unit 23. With great genetics it usually has great rutting activity which makes for a very fun and enjoyable hunt.

Where are the elk in unit 10 az?

The central part of Unit 10 from Mount Floyd north to Long Point, the Bishop Lake Plateau, the Aubrey Cliffs, Robber’s Roost, and Cataract Canyon all hold huntable populations and trophy bulls. The Coconino Plateau holds a good population of elk right out in the open ‘antelope’ country far from the trees.

What is the unit 3 elk in Arizona?

The 3A-3C early season elk hunts have been consistent producers of many of the highest quality bulls killed in Arizona each year. Undoubtedly, this unit is for those serious about chasing big bulls. The region is made up of pine forest, juniper woodland, and open grassland.

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