Where You Can Still Get Big Paunsaugunt Mulies


Published: March - 2001

I have written about Utah's Paunsaugunt area several times and told you recent reports indicate that mule deer hunting here may be dying a slow death. So, when I met Wade Heaton, of the Heaton Ranch fame, on a Canadian hunt last fall, I asked him about the current state of deer hunting in southwestern Utah. You may recall that Heaton and his family own perhaps the best-known mule deer ranch in North America, and it's located in the Paunsaugunt.

Heaton operates Color Country Outfitters and runs mule deer unts in the northwest corner of the Paunsaugunt. He controls the hunting on 13 of the 15 ranches included in a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) located here and known as the Alton CWMU.

Before getting into specifics about hunting on the Alton, I should refresh your memory on how the CWMU program works. Administered by the Utah Division of Wildlife, this program provides ranchers with an allotment of big game permits for their properties. They are then free to sell these landowner permits to sport hunters. The program also allows ranchers to set hunting seasons on their properties anytime between September 1 and the end of October. (Of course, they can also hunt the general archery season, which normally opens around August 20.) In exchange, the rancher must allow hunting access to one resident public hunter (from a public drawing) for every 10 landowner permits provided to the rancher. In most cases, this means residents gain access to land normally closed to them. More importantly, the income from the permits gives ranchers a reason to manage wildlife on their properties. It has even allowed some ranchers to keep "their heads above water" when cattle prices have fallen.

The Alton is perhaps the best example of the CWMU program at work. While it is generally accepted that hunting on the Paunsaugunt overall has been going downhill, the opposite is true on the Alton. There are several reasons why, not the least of which is the careful habitat management practiced on the Alton ranches. In the........(continued)

 
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