This Mule Deer Hunt A Real Discovery


Published: March - 2000

There are still hunters around who remember what were - there is no other word for it - the halcyon days of mule-deer hunting in the West. These were mostly back in the '50s and '60s when nonresidents could pull up to a sporting-goods store in almost any of the Rocky Mountain states and buy a tag for a mule deer right over the counter, sometimes even multiple tags for multiple deer. Hunter densities on public land were relatively low, and if you wanted to get permission from a rancher to hunt his private land, a handshake and a bottle of whiskey were often enough to seal the deal.

It was a time when 26- and 27-inch bucks were the norm, and every hunter seemed to have a fair shot at a 30-incher. Las Vegas casinos even held "big-buck" contests in those days, hoping to entice all the hunters passing through town to stop and show off their trophies - and drop a little money at the tables. Try finding a big-buck contest anywhere in today's "family-oriented" Las Vegas!

No doubt nostalgia plays a large part in the view stated above, and the debate will continue about what actually are the current numbers of genuine trophy mule-deer bucks, compared to what they were "back then." Nonetheless, there is no question that habitat loss, changes in farming and ranching practices, and a de-emphasis on predator control has reduced mule-deer numbers overall. At the same time, western wildlife departments and landowners have recognized that demand for mule deer hunts has remained strong. This has led them to try to get the very most they can out of a limited resource. And who's to say they're wrong?

The result, however, for nonresident mule-deer hunters (and not a few residents, too) is limited-quota draws, preference points, exorbitantly-priced "landowner" tags and guided hunts that seem to start around $3,000 and can range as high as $7,500, based on the promise of a hunter taking a real wall-hanger. The upshot of all this is, when you hear about an outfitter........(continued)

 
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