Arizona Strip deer hunt will unite generations

Scouting trip turned up scant evidence of mulies

Outdoors Writer Don Martin is shown glassing into the Paiute Wilderness area near Ram Canyon on a recent scouting trip on the Arizona Strip.

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Outdoors Writer Don Martin is shown glassing into the Paiute Wilderness area near Ram Canyon on a recent scouting trip on the Arizona Strip.

This past week I have had the opportunity, along with fellow Kingman resident Fred Bianes, to do some scouting on the world famous Arizona Strip, Unit 13B.

Fred and I, along with Kingmanite Crystal Reeves, had beaten some tremendous odds when we drew tags for the Strip. These mule deer tags are the most sought after public lands tags in Arizona. Only 75 tags were issued for this hunt, and over 6,000 sportsmen applied for them.

Both Crystal and I had waited a long time for these coveted tags – Crystal had accumulated 18 bonus points and I had 17 before we drew. For me, it was only the second mule deer tag I have drawn in over 25 years in Arizona.

Fred, on the other hand, had been very lucky when he drew his tag with only 9 points.

But it didn’t really matter how few or how many points it had taken, we were all going to be able to hunt on the Strip.

While Fred and Crystal obviously planned to use their tags, I made a decision to sign mine over to my 14-year-old grandson Logan, who lives in Oklahoma.

Logan is fairly new to hunting and just last year he took his first mule deer, a doe on a special juniors-only Kaibab antlerless hunt. Despite the season being 10-days long, Logan would have just 5 days to hunt because of his school responsibilities.

The plan was that Fred and I would go up at least three weeks before the 10-day hunt opened to scout.

The Arizona Strip is huge, with over 1.5 million acres of mostly public land for deer and other wildlife to roam about.

Deer numbers up there are not what most people think. There are not deer behind every tree, and mature bucks aren’t everywhere as we would find out.

Scouting is essential for those who want to try and make the best of what for many is a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In my case, it just didn’t turn out like I had planned.

The day before Fred and I were supposed to leave for our scouting trip, I developed some serious heart-related issues and ended up in Kingman Regional Medical Center for a couple of days.

Thanks to the care and support of Dr. Mahmoud Khan and Dr. Bokari, and the awesome staff at KRMC, they were able to get me stabilized and I was able to go on the scouting trip.

Despite being shortened on the time we wanted to spend on the Strip, Fred and I finally made it up there.

With camp set up we then started a methodical search for mule deer in some of the most beautiful country in Arizona.

For the first couple of days up there, I had some breathing issues, but was ultimately able to move around as I wanted with no discomfort.

What we found was not what we expected.

Areas that in the past had produced some awesome trophy bucks for my friends and clients now seemed to be totally devoid of deer or even fresh sign.

And it didn’t seem to matter what area we looked at, whether in the northern part of the massive unit, or in the south.

In the first 5 days of scouting Fred and I put over 300 miles on the pickup and/or Arctic Cat UTV. We also spent a fair amount of time glassing, too. The next five days of serious scouting was more of the same.

Our sum total was three bucks seen – a weird looking 4x4, a decent 5x4, and a fat fork horn.

We found that most of the stock tanks were dry, and I’m sure that is part of the reason why the deer aren’t in their usual haunts. If not for those AZGFD trick tanks which are scattered all over the Strip, those deer would be in big trouble.

The long awaited hunt starts in just a few days. And what Fred and I expected to find during our over two weeks of scouting up there was nothing short of disappointing.

That being said, special thanks goes out to Tim Shurtliff, the wildlife manager for the unit who has answered the many, many questions I have posed for him the past few months.

And despite all the gloom and doom, I’ve been able to enlist the help of some good friends who live in nearby St. George who have done some scouting and will help us this weekend.

Jay Chan and my brother are also coming up for the hunt, so I’m hopeful we’ll find a decent deer for my grandson to try and take.

But win, lose, tie or draw, it will be three generations of the Martin family and many of our good friends making lifetime memories.