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North America’s Best Spots for 2014-15 Mule Deer Hunting

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Want a trophy mule deer? These are the best places to find them.

There’s been a rumor floating around. The rumor is that big trophy class mule deer are declining and impossible to find. There’s no doubt several harsh winters, along with the expansion of wolf territory and other factors, have taken a toll on mule deer populations.

The good news is that states are responding to the situation with sound management practices. Wildlife agencies and conservation organizations have recognized the challenges that mule deer face and have altered their management practices to deal with them.

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James Frye

Another rumor is that the 1960s through the 1970s was the best period for hunters interested in “giant” mule deer. The truth is that between 2000 and 2009, more mule deer entries found their way into the record books than in any other time in history.

Admittedly, the numbers could be somewhat skewed since it is possible that less hunters were interested in scoring and entering trophies in bygone eras. However, the influx of recent trophy entries supports that fact that there are still “giant” mule deer out there that are being taken by hunters every year.

Where to Find Them

If you are serious about seeking a trophy mule deer, you need to focus on areas where management, access, quota and habitat work in conjunction with one another to produce big bucks.

A well known but seldom sought area is the Arizona strip which consists of the sub-zones in Unit 13. Persistence is the only way to hunt this area, since less than one percent of hunters with preference points get a tag.

For similar-sized mule deer bucks in similar terrain, consider Sonora, Mexico. The individual ranch practices have a huge impact on trophy numbers and size. The best way to be confident in a ranch is to use a reputable booking agency, like Cabelas T.A.G.S. program.

Colorado is one of the most efficient and effective states for managing its mule deer herd. Garfield, Eagle and Mesa Counties are good focus points. If you are a bowhunter, the Colorado Eastern Plains region has outstanding public land opportunities, generous tags including some over the counter, and a long season.

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The Northern part of Utah has been yielding an increasing number of record book entries over the past decade. The key in this area is to find private land access or use the services of a guide that has a track record for finding the big ones.

Nevada issues very few tags. The hunting pressure for mule deer in Nevada is relatively low, so the chances of finding a really good trophy are better than in other, more heavily hunted states.

A really good bet with low hunting pressure is Alberta, Canada. Alberta does not issue a lot of resident tags and have very low non-resident pressure. There is also an early archery season that has a lot of potential to see many good bucks and to come across a trophy.

Outside of the desert and plains areas, high country mule deer opportunities offer a chance at a good trophy buck. The heavily timbered areas of western Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho are really hard to hunt but offer an excellent opportunity to shoot a trophy mule deer.

Photo by James Frye
James Frye

Raise the Odds

There are many other areas where you have a great chance of getting a decent mule deer buck, but the odds of coming across a real giant are slim.

If you are interested in a very respectable mule deer and aren’t worried if it doesn’t score well enough for entry in one of the record books, there are several high population, high odds areas.

The key to these areas is to find a private land owner or guide that has scouted extensively and knows what bucks are available in a given area. Texas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, California, South Dakota and Nebraska all have pockets where mule deer are doing well.

However, some of these areas have declining populations and are struggling to produce big racked bucks. Having local knowledge to tap for information is key to being successful in these areas.

Trophy mule deer hunting requires extreme dedication. If you are not concerned with a minimal size, you have great odds of being successful if you do your homework in advance. If it’s a trophy you’re after, well, now you have a little more info to go by.

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North America’s Best Spots for 2014-15 Mule Deer Hunting