Continuing subscribers know we published a rather strange letter last month on the status of mule deer herds in Sonora, Mexico. The anonymous letter was written in broken English, posted in Mexico and was signed by "The Sonoran Hunters." The letter indicated that desert mule deer hunting in Sonora has deteriorated markedly in the last 10 years due to severe hunting pressure, drought and poaching. It concluded with a plea for US hunters to leave mule deer in Sonora alone, take the $5,000 it might cost to book a hunt there and hunt mule deer in the US instead. At the moment no one is sure who sent the letter. There is however, an indication (not a certainty) that the letter was written by a group of Mexican hunters who traditionally had access to some of the better ranches and have been pushed out by outfitters. The outfitters pay the landowners a handsome price for a lease and visiting American hunters now take the same animals the local hunters formerly had access to. The letter, then, may be just sour grapes on the part of some Mexican hunters. On the other hand, it may have pointed up a real problem.
Deciding which is true requires a close look at the overall mule deer situation in Sonora. Let's look at hunting pressure first. Most people agree that hunting pressure has increased markedly. Until the late 1970s and even into the early 1980s, Mexico's desert mule deer hunting was virtually unknown outside Mexico. A few hard core big game hunters in the US knew about the resource, put hunts together and harvested some exceptional bucks. However, by and large, mule deer hunting in Sonora was the sport of the well to do of Mexico. Virtually all desert mule deer habitat in Sonora is on private land. Many of the ranches were open to Mexican hunters provided you were well connected - had a relative or business acquaintance that owned a ranch or were good friends with a rancher. Access by these individuals was largely free of charge. Then outfitters like Ernesto Zaragosa and Javier Artee and........(continued)