I have long since been enamored by mule deer–big mule deer! I recall at a very young age laying on my back in the living room, legs propped up on the hearth warming my cold feet by the fire, as I admired the big set of non-typical mule deer antlers that adorned our fireplace. Dad took this buck like a young man back in the mule deer glory days.
A Lifetime of Great Mule Deer
I wanted one for myself and longed for the days when I’d get my chance. I have since, been fortunate to take many great mule deer over my lifetime, many of which have come from the great State of Colorado. Back in the late 80’s and all through the 90’s Colorado mule deer herds were struggling to get a foothold. The number of deer overall was down, and big bucks were few. It was in 1999 that CO made some hard and fast decisions’ regarding the future of mule deer in their State. They cut tags back significantly, and begin to micromanage herds through smaller units. They incorporated buck to doe ratio management objectives as one of many metrics for measuring the health of a herd. With some mild winters and fewer animals harvested, it wasn’t long before the mule deer glory days begin to show signs of a comeback. By 2004 CO had a thriving deer herd, with buck to doe ratios and overall herd numbers exceeding management goals in many units across the state. This was great news for hunters, as tag numbers increased, mule deer aficionados flocked from near and far to capitalize on the new opportunities. It was about this time I started hunting CO. Big bucks seem to be falling in several units across the state.
First Trip to Colorado
My first trip to CO was with a 3rd season tag in hand. During that hunt, I frequented a local taxidermist shop to see what hunters had drug in that day. The big bucks seemed to be piling up like cordwood. I hunted nine consecutive days that year and ended up taking a decent buck at the bottom of the 9th inning. It was a great experience. I knew I’d be back. I have hunted CO every year since. I have had the good fortune of hunting or scouting over 20 units in CO from timberline to the open sage country. I have hunted with a smoke pole and rifle. I have hunted hard to draw units, and units you can draw every year. I have hunted early season velvet bucks and late season bucks in the rut and every season in between. I have learned there are big bucks in most these units. Not in significant numbers, but they are there. Two of my biggest bucks came from units you can draw with very few points. If you are a mule deer aficionado like me, the opportunities abound.
This winter, and especially the winter of 2008 put the hurt on the deer herds. We lost a lot of fawns and older deer, but through sound management, they will rebound. Best of all, CO has excellent genetics in many units throughout the state. In 2007 Kyle Lopez, at 14, took the kind of buck we all dream about a 300-inch non-typical medusa. Seven years later, Brett Ross, a meat hunter, stumbled into and harvested a 300 class buck of his own. Both these bucks were harvested in units, which take very few if any points to draw. These units are on very few hunters radar. Notice a pattern when it comes to giant bucks harvested in CO? Many are coming from no-name easy to draw units. I believe there are several reasons for this. First, units that are touted as some of the best units for big bucks, typically get the most pressure from serious mule deer hunters and outfitters. These hunters are legitimate killers, and will likely harvest a good portion of the top end bucks every year. This doesn’t bode well, for growing big bucks on a consistent basis. Sure, a few big bucks will get harvested every year in these top units, but the reality is the odds aren’t stacked in your favor unless you put in the time or hire an outfitter. Conversely, units with very little pressure, low deer numbers, and big rugged terrain allow bucks with the genetic makeup to become something special. If you want to hunt mule deer every year, CO should be on your radar.
Harvesting Big Bucks
As I said before, many good tags can be drawn with little to no points. If you don’t want to wait, LO tags can be purchased for many units across the state, but it’s buyer beware. I have had sellers tell me trophy class deer in the magical 200-inch class are in abundance in their respective units. Thankfully, I know better than to believe that sales pitch! Even in the best units, which can take a quarter of your life to draw, those class of deer is tough to find, let alone kill. Be sure to invest some due diligence before laying down your hard earned cash on an LO tag. Furthermore, have realistic expectations for the unit you are hunting. A 200 class deer may be very unrealistic in some units. There may be one or two in your unit, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to find one, let alone harvest one. I meet hunters every year from all over the country who were misled by someone who provided them with unreliable information which led to unrealistic expectations and an overall bad experience. Don’t be this hunter! Do your research! Great LO tags can be had for a reasonable price and a chance to take a big buck.
I love to hunt mule deer more than any other big game animal, and for this reason, I’m not willing to wait 20 years to draw a premium tag in CO. I want to hunt every year which is why I focus on low point units and occasionally the right LO tag. One thing I love about hunting Colorado is the buck of a lifetime can come from almost any unit in any given year. A tag is a chance, not a guarantee. Colorado is one of my top picks for mule deer because the possibility is always there that you could bag the best buck of your life.