Rich LaRocco: CWMU is a program designed to increase public and private hunting opportunity by getting individual landowners involved in hunting-related wildlife conservation. At this writing, 60 ranches totaling more than one million acres are enrolled in it. More than 2,300 buck deer, bull elk and buck pronghorn permits are available for hunts on these ranches. The landowners who take part in the program become, in effect, partners with the state in deciding how many big game permits will be issued for their property. Typically, 85 to 90 percent of the buck or bull tags remain with the rancher, who is free to sell them, while 10 percent go to the public. Almost all of the antlerless tags go to the public as well. The public tags are issued to residents only in a computer lottery. The other tags go to guests or clients of the ranch, or to an outfitter who contracts with the rancher to conduct hunts on his property. Importantly, CWMU ranchers get to set their own seasons within certain guidelines. Most start hunting September 1 and end October 31 with a two-week break in there somewhere.
USHR: Why is that season an advantage?
LaRocco: Big mule deer are much easier to hunt in September because they feed in the morning and evening that time of year, plus they tend to avoid the brushiest areas, which makes glassing productive. Later, when the regular season opens, big mulies become virtually nocturnal and very cover-oriented. They also don't feed much. As regards elk, they usually rut in September, so you can locate them by bugling. Like mule deer, they are also quite active during daylight hours this early in the season.
USHR: What sort of trophy quality can hunters find on CWMU ranches?
LaRocco: That depends on the ranch. Some CWMU ranches are in famous trophy areas where you usually have to draw a tag in........(continued)