What is THE BEST unit for…

I had never been to my 2013 Utah Archery Elk Unit, but I made a decision to apply for it anyway.

I had never been to my 2013 Utah Archery Elk Unit, but I made a decision to apply for it anyway.

That’s the question I get asked all of the time and it is not always easy for me to answer.  First, I have to figure out what clients, followers and friends are defining as THE BEST.

  • The biggest animals?
  • Highest kill percentage?
  • Hunt Experience?
  • The best terrain and country?
  • The best hunt if the elk are rutting?

Once I get a sense of what the individual defines as THE BEST, which is typically size and kill percentage, then I have a direction to work in.

Things that always cross my mind when discussing THE BEST units:

  1. Ability of the Hunter (Mentally & Physically)
  2. Trophy Expectations
  3. Schedule/Time
  4. Method of Take (weapon choice)
  5. Guided or Unguided
  6. Private or Public Land

Popular doesn’t always equal the BIGGEST animals!

I typically apply for some of the better hunts, but I don’t stew over the finer details.  It’s not all about the score too me, but of course I want to hunt big animals.  I have seen too many locals kill GIANT animals on QUOTE UNQUOTE junk hunts/units, to buy into only applying for the top units.   Yes, the top units/hunts will on average produce the best hunt experience and trophy animals, but when you draw a premium unit you will also have to compete with a higher density of quality hunters and outfitters, sometimes this will diminish the quality of the experience. One reason locals seem to find giants in less popular units/hunts is because they have the knowledge and put in the time to scout it.  Another thing I believe to be true is, the Auction and Raffle Tag holders tend to skim the top off of the popular units as they draw the most attention.

Be cautious of correlating DRAW wait time with Trophy Expectations!

The statement I hear almost daily, “I have waited 20 years for this tag, so I want to hunt THE Best.”

I completely understand how horrible it is to wait 2 decades for a tag, but hunters today are often correlating draw wait time with “Trophy or Hunt Expectations.”  A perfect example of this is Arizona’s Pronghorn Antelope, where only about 500 rifle tags are given out each year, thus the Max Point pool is ridiculously high.  When you talk to folks and they mention 90 inches, you quickly try to make sure they understand what 90 actually is!  Most people don’t realize that there may be 0-10 bucks in the entire state that will even gross score 90 inches on a given year, let alone NET 90 with a dried set of horns.  So, typically 0-2 hunters out of 500 (that’s a whopping .oo4%) will take a TRUE 90″ buck during the general Arizona pronghorn season.  This is an example of TROPHY EXPECTATIONS being skewed way too high because of the draw wait time.

Mark Nuessle took this beast 85"+ gross green score Pronghorn Antelope with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters (me), while hunting a not so popular unit.

Mark Nuessle took this BEAST 85″+ gross Arizona Pronghorn Antelope with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters (me), while hunting a unit which is not published in anyone’s Top 5.

My point is, don’t get consumed with fear by what is published in a magazine or on the web.  Just because a unit/hunt is not in the top 5 on a website or magazine, doesn’t mean you are DOOMED if you draw it.  With that said, you will need to scout hard or higher a quality outfitter to increase your odds of success.  Then, go all in and let fate take over.

-Craig Steele