2007 Colorado Mule Deer Forecast

Here are some of the top units this year. (September 2007)

Units in the northwestern part of Colorado pumped out big mulies last year.
Photo by Brian K. Strickland.

Looking for a good place to start your search for a Colorado mule deer this year? For both quality and high success rates, check out a group of Game Management Units in the northwest corner of the state. GMUs 11, 211, 12, 22, 23, 24, 13, 131, 32, 42, 10, 201 and 231 have mule deer populations that are way up.

"We are over our population objective of the high 60,000s," said Randy Hampton with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "We would like to reduce that number."

Those are welcome words to deer hunters.

Colorado, like many of the Western states, had experienced dwindling deer populations. In 1999, the state began selling a limited number of licenses. The state won't say that those limited license sales were the driving force in bringing back the mule deer numbers, but it doesn't look like they're going to be changing the rules any time soon.

The state will be continuing to tightly manage the mule deer herds and try to head off any crisis.

In order to help you get a better look at how the hunting is in the northwest, and where to apply for next year's tag, here are some of the state's reported harvest results.

NUMBERS CAN'T LIE

Let's first look at some of the numbers verified bythe Colorado 2006 deer harvest for all rifle seasons.

Unit 11 -- 68 percent success rate. Hunters took 1,231 bucks, 597 does and 34 fawns, for a total harvest of 1,862 for 2,730 hunters.

Unit 211 -- 71 percent success rate. A total of 1,132 bucks, 555 does and 27 fawns, for a harvest of 1,714 for 2,400 hunters.

Unit 22 -- 63 percent success rate. Hunters took 813 bucks, 183 does and two fawns, for a total harvest of 998 for 1,587 hunters.

All together, units 11, 211, 12, 22, 23, 24, 13, 131, 32, 42, 10, 201 and 231 have an estimated 100,000 deer population. This area basically is the White River and Flat Tops Wilderness. The area is bounded by Meeker, south of Craig, north of Glenwood Springs, all the way over to the west side of Steamboat Springs.

The 235,035-acre White River hunting area is a land of extremes, dominated by the Flat Tops Wilderness Area with an elevation up to 12,994 feet.

Garfield is one of the counties that lead the listings of record-book mule deer. Eagle and Grand counties are also well represented.

The White River, especially in the early seasons, is very accessible.

"You can take the family sedan across some of those roads, set up a camp and hike in," said Hampton of the CDOW.

"There are not only plenty of deer, but it has the largest migratory elk herd in North America."

Speaking of elk, Colorado is one of the few states that offer an over-the-counter bull elk license even to non-residents.

The key to hunting success in Meeker is to know when the deer and elk move, with deer being the quickest to move because of hunting pressure and weather. The idea is to hunt high early and low later. By the start of October, the deer are normally between 8,000 and 10,000 feet.

Bryan Rider with Timberline Sporting Goods in Rifle, Colo., said that GMUs 22, 32 and 42 produced excellent mule deer in 2006. Photos on the store's wall show that the bucks seem to be getting bigger each year.

"The bucks taken this last year have been some of thelargest that I have seen," said Rider.

There's been a lot of talk about natural gas exploration in the northwestern part of the state and its effects on deer hunting. Many local hunters feel the deer and elk are going to be pushed out, due to the influx of people working in the area. Some sections of GMU 22 are already posted because of drilling.

GETTING TAGS

Colorado has a limited draw. "But if you can find a unit that's got additional licenses available, the limited draw doesn't really apply," said Hampton.

"You can walk into a sporting-goods store and buy one, as long as you do it before the season starts."

Hampton lists the Meeker area, GMUs 12, 23, 24, and 22 as prime examples. Last year, they had 8,000 doe licenses left over and about 3,000 buck licenses left over.

"What we really try to push in northwest Colorado are doe licenses -- what are considered additional licenses," explains Hampton. "If you have a buck license, you can also have a doe license, so there's extra opportunity."

The division also pushes the doe licenses for youths. In Colorado this year, the category of "youths" now includes 16- and 17-year-olds. In the past, the category had been up to 16. Sixteen and 17-year-olds needed to buy adult licenses.

A doe license is ideal for a young hunter because does

are usually smaller animals. There are more of them, and they tend to be an easier hunt.

BANKING POINTS

Preference-point banking was an option last year, and it allowed hunters to keep the excess points not required to draw the license they applied for. This year, any first-choice license received will use all of the hunter's points. Purging of preference points will also begin for hunters who are inactive in 2007.

The change came about as a series of initiatives by a group looking at how to deal with preference-point issues.

The problem is, you could spend 13 preference points waiting for an elk tag for GMU 201, for example. That means you were waiting 13 years to draw. Or you put in for 12, and every year it got to be one more. You were always one behind the curve.

Then you got someone new who moved to Colorado and had no points. He'd think he'd never get a chance to hunt here.

"We had to take a look at the system and try to correct that," Hampton said. "Part of the way to do that is to make sure people are actively using their points, not sitting on an account and thinking 'I have 14 points, but I don't want to go this year, next year, the year after that. I'll just sit back for five years and see what I can

do with the points down the road.' "

TROPHY DEER

GMUs 10 and 201 in the northwest corner of the state are considered trophy GMUs. In 10, 105 hunters harvested 92 bucks for a hunter-

uccess percentage of 88 in 2006. In 201, 40 hunters harvested 35 bucks for another 88 percent success.

"We have units that are managed for quality," Hampton said, "and some units that are managed for quantity. These units are one of those situations where you might find yourself needing some preference points and putting in for a couple of different years."

The state doesn't actually define what a "trophy deer" is, and they manage populations, not individual critters. They have quality units as defined by the buck-doe ratios.

"The closest we get to defining 'trophy' would be in our Samson Law, where anything over 23 inches (inside spread) is considered to be a Samson quality," said Hampton.

The Samson Law is Colorado's anti-poaching law. The only time the division defines a trophy is when it comes to poaching cases. If you poach a trophy animal, you incur an extra fine.

Quantity and quality are the key words in describing the mule deer hunting in Colorado. GMUs 11, 211, 12, 22, 23, 24, 32, 42, 13, 131 and 231 are associated with quantity.

Mule deer from GMUs 10 and 201 are synonymous with quality, though quality deer are taken from 11, 211, 12, 22, 23, 24, 32, 42, 13, 131 and 231 as well. If you don't have these GMUs on your hunting calendar this year, make a note to definitely try these units in 2008.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Here's some help to get started on your way to a Colorado mule deer hunt.

'¢ Meeker Chamber of Commerce. Call (970) 878-5510, or e-mail them at info@meekerchamber.com.

'¢ U.S. Forest Service, White River National Forest. Call (970) 878-4039, or visit www.fs.fed.us /r2/whiteriver.

'¢ Colorado Division of Wildlife, Meeker office. Call (970) 878-6090, or visit www.wildlife.state.co.us.

'¢ Bureau of Land Management, White River Field Office. Visit www.co.blm.gov/wrra/index.htm, or call (970) 878-3800.

'¢ Timberline Sporting Goods, in Rifle, Colo. Call (970) 625-4868.

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