Focus On Mule Deer; Color Country Outfitters


Published: May - 2002

I recently completed a week-long, 1,000-mile tour of southwestern Utah, southeastern Nevada and northern Arizona, gathering information on the status of mule deer. Based on my conversations with some of the biggest mule deer "nuts" on Earth, I'm happy to report that the mule deer picture is getting brighter, especially in Utah where there has been a concerted effort to improve their plight.

The positive mule deer trend in Utah is the result of hard work by many concerned parties, including Sportsmen For Fish and Wildlife, members of the Cooperative Wildlife Management Association, Paunsaugunt Landowners Association, Mule Deer Foundation, outfitters and guides and, of course, Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources personnel. They produced a comprehensive long-term program recommending, among other things, a 25 percent reduction in the number of permits on the Paunsaugunt; increased predator control; tooth extraction on harvested animals; and a $55,000 habitat and water improvement program on the winter range.

Additionally, a subtle, but major, change seems to be occurring in the wildlife management philosophy here. Where for years, biologists' management approach has been to concentrate on buck to doe ratios, recent evidence shows that managing for age produces better trophy results. The average age of the deer on the Paunsaugunt is slightly over 3 1/2 years, and the buck to doe ratio is 39 bucks per 100 does. In most western states, these results would be considered quite satisfactory, and some can only hope to achieve these levels. But the truth is that the quality of the bucks killed today on the Paunsaugunt is well below what it was over a decade ago.

It is worth comparing the average age and sex ratio of deer on the Paunsaugunt with those of the nearby Alton Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit, where careful records have been kept for years. The average age of bucks killed there has steadily increased to 6.7 years, and the buck to doe ratio is over 70 bucks per 100 does. Not surprisingly, they're killing some monsters there!

Wade Heaton of Color Country Outfitters hunts........(continued)

 
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