Archive for July, 2008

When are Mule Deer Fawns born?

Posted by on Thursday, 31 July, 2008

When are Mule Deer Fawns born?

Here in Northern Arizona, we have a rainyfawn hiding in grass season referred to by locals as the Monsoon Season. This year and last, it began about the first week of July and lasted until the end of July. Just coincidentally, this is the time when most of the fawns are born. In other areas, fawn mule deer may be expected to be born about the first week of June. I have seen several does this week, that look like they are about ready to pop, but still haven’t shed that excess weight.

When I moved to Arizona, I expected that fawns would be born much earlier – even April. This assumption was based on the, apparently, false logic that the further south you go, the earlier spring arrives. The earlier the spring, the earlier the fawning season. Now the question that might be on your mind is – wouldn’t the breeding season have to be later?

In order for fawning to occur in late July, breeding must occur in late December – early January. Because winter doesn’t get serious until that time period, mule deer don’t have much cause to congregate. Breeding doesn’t occur until bucks and does get together. During the summer and even into late fall, mule deer in this part of the world are spread as thin as the hair on top of my head.

That’s my twist on when fawns are born and why. Pay attention and see what you observe.

It won’t be long now

Posted by on Wednesday, 30 July, 2008

August is upon us. The first opportunity to go after the monster mulies is nigh. Did you get a tag? Nowadays it can be harder, much harder to get a tag than to get a trophy buck (once you have the tag, of course).

No tags - too badIf you are like me, you have applied for all the tags you can afford in either time or money. I applied for mule deer tags in five states, along with elk, moose, antelope, turkey, and javelina. So far, the only tag I’ve obtained is a turkey tag.

My old standby, has been Arizona over-the-counter archery deer. As of this year, Arizona has messed that up. I can get an archery tag but not for a good unit.

Utah archery deer has also been a last-ditch opportunity. The archery tags sold out quite early this year – sooner than I was willing to commit. With surrounding states reducing mule deer hunting opportunity, Utah will have more demand for their over-the-counter tags.

Get practicing with your bowGet out the bow if you haven’t already. The hunt will be here before you can blink. Get in shape, if you need to do that. Take a crash course. Buy your hunting grub in bulk. It will save you money.

Best of luck to you in 2008 and, as always

May the Force be with you.

May the Force be with you

Arizona lions

Posted by on Thursday, 24 July, 2008

Arizona mountain lions

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — While mountain lion hunting in Colorado can be quite good, if the idea of hiking for miles through knee-deep snow doesn’t appeal to you, consider a trek across the border and south, into Arizona, for a horseback ride into cougar country.

The Arizona Game & Fish Department estimates the state’s mountain lion population at around 2,500. Lions are present throughout the entire state, with the exception of the very southwest corner.

The most popular game management unit for lions is the famous 12A south unit, in the Kaibab National Forest north of Flagstaff.

Other lion-heavy areas include units 22, 23, 24A (north and east of Phoenix), and units 27, 28 and 31 east and north of Tucson, which includes the Blue Wilderness Area.

Good go-to advice

According to a current research project being conducted by AZGFD, the lion’s primary habitat in the state appears to be principally in timbered areas, particularly in units populated by stands of chaparral and ponderosa pine.

Mountain lions tend to follow the deer herds to some extent, but will also hunt other game animals including elk.

Due to the drought Arizona has faced over the past years, the mule deer population is down, whitetail deer populations have remained stable, and javelina populations are down. But at 2,500 lions, the lion population in Arizona is relatively healthy.

When to hunt

With the exception of special units closed to hunting, and units closed during certain times of the year (be sure to consult the 2005-2006 Arizona Hunting Regulations brochure), lion season is open year-round. But lions are generally hunted in the winter months (October through April) due to the moisture that helps the dogs pick up scent, and because of milder temperatures for hunters (and dogs).

Of special interest to lion hunters is Arizona’s regulation allowing a hunter to harvest a lion a day in certain game management units, until the harvest objective has been met.

After that, the limit reverts back to one lion per year (and none of the previous lions harvested count against the one per year limit).

The reason for this allowance is that AZGFD is attempting to protect transplanted bighorn sheep in certain GMUs.

Hunters can call (877) 438-0447 for up-to-date info on open units.

License info

Nonresidents may purchase a mountain lion tag over-the-counter (called a “non-permit” tag) for $200, in addition to needing a nonresident hunting license.

Hunters must contact AZGFD within 20 days of harvest, and must provide a sample tooth of any harvested lions.

Go guided

If you hire a guide, be sure to ask if his dogs are “dry land” lion dogs. These specially trained dogs are more adept lion trackers than the “damps,” or wet ground dogs.

The going rate for a lion hunt is around $3,500, with hunts usually organized into 4-day or 8-day ventures.

Contact information

Arizona Game & Fish Department (602-942-3000)
Pat Barber, predator and furbearer biologist (602-789-3354)Guides and outfitters
Outdoorsman’s (602-944-7121)
Bedlion Outfitters (928-526-5993)
Arizona Lion Hunts (623-386-0102)
Arizona Wildlife Outfitters (928-681-4867)

By Jim Smith
Fishing and Hunting News

February 15, 2006,

Folks in Montana are Losing it

Posted by on Monday, 21 July, 2008

Montana Mule Deer causing problems

I have long held the opinion that Montana folks are salt-of-the earth, common sense type people. Now, I am starting to wonder. Have they been invaded by huggers or what?

In Helena, they have a few more mule deer in town than some folks like, Mule Deer like it in Townso they have spent all kinds of money studying the problem and finally decided to have the cops catch the deer in nets, then shoot them, then feed them to the needy. Just a short distance from Helena, there is a deer unit that has a much lower than desired mule deer population. The deer in Helena are fairly safe from predators and the ones outside are not. The deer have been talking and have decided they like it better in town.

For some strange reason, no one has thought of moving the deer. Lately though, the Helena bunch has been talking about having a yearly archery hunt, but they do not think the archers will be successful enough to kill the requisite number of deer. And, if a hunter shoots a muley which then dies on someone’s front porch – o’ brother.

In contrast, over in Billings, some folks want to build a bridge across the Little Missouri. Some other folks are resisting on the basis that a bridge would cause problems for all the mule deer in the river bottoms. What it all boils down to is this: no matter which side of the fence you are on – them mule deer sure cause a lot of problems.

Northern Utah to trim Elk so Deer can Grow

Posted by on Saturday, 19 July, 2008

Folks in Northern Utah are fed up with having no mule deer. Meanwhile, the growing elk herd is getting fed up with hay.


A local family, in Cache Valley, has been using personal resources as well as donated hay to feed a growing herd of elk for 20 plus years now. The local deer lovers have been planting bitterbrush for deer to eat and now the elk have to go.

The Utah DWR is willing to reduce elk numbers to a minimum which may include shipping some to nearby Hardware Ranch where elk are fed every winter. Not everyone is happy about this. The sad thing is, fewer elk and more bitterbrush will not necessarily mean more deer. The mule deer in that area have had 25 years to recover but can’t do so because they are being eaten as fast as they can reproduce.

Nonetheless, this is a precedent setting action. This is the first time I have heard of an agency “voluntarily” reducing elk numbers in order to help mule deer. I wonder what position they will take if it doesn’t help. Stay tuned.

Hard Winter in Western Wyoming ?

Posted by on Sunday, 13 July, 2008

Wolves or Drilling in Wyoming

Some sources are reporting heavy winter mortality in Western Wyoming mule deer herds. With wolves moving into that area, who knows if the cause is snow or big puppies.

The hunting community, via certain organizations – like the Mule Deer Foundation, is up in arms about the BLM leasing rights to oil drilling companies. Such parties are claiming that the deer herd has diminished by half since the drilling started.

If, indeed harsh winters are killing large numbers of mule deer, the loss may have nothing to do with drilling, but may be purely coincidental to drilling.

A fact that is going unmentioned here is that wolves and grizzlies are increasing their presence in the area in a big way. Both drilling and harsh winters may only be scapegoats.

Wyoming Deer Hit Hard by Winter

Posted by on Monday, 7 July, 2008

Two different reports, one in May and one in June indicate a high winter mortality amongst Mule Deer in South Western Wyoming:
Associated Press – May 26, 2008 4:45 PM ET

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. (AP) – A mortality survey of Wyoming’s largest mule deer herd indicates that the harsh winter took a toll on the animals.

The annual mortality surveys for the Wyoming Range mule deer herd were conducted this spring near Cokeville, Pinedale and Big Piney and near Leroy in the Bridger Valley.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists and others counted 313 dead mule deer during the Cokeville, Pinedale and Big Piney surveys.

Officials said an additional 340 dead mule deer were found on the Leroy survey in Uinta County, for a total of 653 dead deer.

Game officials noted an unusually high number of adult deer deaths.

Information from: Star-Tribune,

Parts of deer herd hit hard by rough winter
Deaths high around Cokeville, but Pinedale, Daniel fared well.Winter kill deer

By Cory Hatch Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June 4, 2008

A harsh winter and poor forage led to a high number of mule deer deaths for portions of the Wyoming Range herd, including some animals that summer near Jackson.

Gary Fralick, a wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said volunteers counted 313 dead mule deer in the Cokeville area, most of which succumbed to starvation or other effects of winter. Thirty-eight percent of the animals were adult and 58 percent were fawns. An additional 340 winter-killed mule deer were found in the Leroy area.

The relatively high percentage of adult deaths compared with fawns is typical during a harsh winter, Fralick said.

“We had severe snow accumulations and extreme temperatures,” he said. The plants deer feed on “are just in poor shape and are not able to sustain these herds over the hard winter because of drought and because [they] are getting old and decadent,” he said. “On that particular winter range, every three years you can pretty much count on a winter that will take a significant portion of that population.”

Fralick said relatively low winter mortality for portions of the herd in the Pinedale, Big Piney and Daniel areas likely compensated for the hit on the population. Winter mortality for the entire herd likely ranged from 5 percent to 15 percent, he said.

“What that means is the other segment of the deer on the winter range came out in outstanding condition,” Fralick said. “There was good winter survival [in Daniel and Big Piney and the Pinedale Mesa] those deer came through the winter in pretty good shape.”

The mule deer herd is the largest in Wyoming, stretching from Interstate 80 to the Snake River Canyon, and in the past has ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 animals.

During a two-year radio-collar study that started in 1990, Fralick said, researchers documented deer from the Cokeville area that migrated to summer ranges in the Greys River Range, the Grayback Ridge area, the Snake River Canyon and into Hoback Basin.

“There’s major movement off of those winter ranges,” he said. “These deer are migrating from winter to summer range 180 to 200 miles.”

Fralick said the high mortality last winter could mean fewer deer going back to summer range in places like the Smiths Fork, Commissary Ridge and the south end of the Salt Range.

Fralick said hunting seasons this year are already set, and most of those seasons’ limits are already conservative. But he said this year’s winter kill could affect hunters in a couple of years.

“That’s going to translate into fewer 2-year-old bucks in two years,” he said.

Heavy rain and snow this winter and spring could help restore forage in the Cokeville area, but Fralick said it’s too late for some of the plants.

“A lot of the browse plans have been dying over the past five years,” he said. “The ones that are still alive it’s going to benefit, but the trend has been toward dead and decadent on these browse plants.”

Fralick said other factors also take a toll, including human land use, drought and especially motor vehicle collisions.

“We lose 200 to 600 or more deer every year on Wyoming Range highways,” he said.

Bob Wharff, executive director of the Wyoming chapter of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, criticized the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for not initiating emergency feeding for mule deer populations that were hard hit this winter.



“I’m mad that Game and Fish didn’t feed the deer,” he said. “They have told us numerous times that if the conditions got bad that they would institute an emergency feeding program. It makes no sense to me to not take care of that population. I do think we’re morally obligated to do that.

Filming Monster Mulies

Posted by on Saturday, 5 July, 2008

You don’t want to miss our DVDVelvet Buck titled Amateur Velvet.  On a recent trip to Southern Utah, my son and I stopped at a local convenience store run by Mr. Quinn Howe.

Among other things, Quinn is an elk rancher, with ranches near Price and Monticello.  And, it was a pleasant surprise to see about a dozen mule deer mounts hanging in his store.  I asked if I could video tape his shoulder mounts and was kindly told that I could.  I asked Quinn if he killed all of the bucks in the store.  He said they were all killed by members of his family, beginning quite a few years ago.  I asked if the huge bucks were killed in Colorado.  He said they were all killed in Utah, but most amazingly, he said that only the small ones were hanging in the store.  The “big bucks” were at home.  On the store walls were two non-typicals that netted about 230 each.

After Quinn got our adrenaline pumped up,Amateur Velvet Buck we headed up the mountain to film some high country mule deer bucks.  I have been hunting this area for 22 years (every time I can draw a tag).  I have never seen so few deer.  It seems that the deer herd just keeps getting smaller and smaller.

The does were in the process of birthing fawns, and the coyotes were eating them about as fast as they hit the ground.  It is such easy pickings for the coyotes.  We could have caught several fawns, so the coyotes would have no problem doing so.

I have also never seen it so dry.  The roads were beat to powder, as were the game trails.  The deer were very definitely staying near water.

All that said, we did find a few trophy class muley bucks.Herd of Bucks filmed  Filming these bucks caused us to go a little muley crazy.  The bucks we filmed were not yet completely formed, but some of them showed real potential. You ought to see what we saw.  Stay tuned, and get Amateur Velvet for yourself, as soon as it becomes available.

Kirt Darner in the News again

Posted by on Wednesday, 2 July, 2008

It is indeed unfortunate that a man with so much potential finds himself in such a situation, but Kirt Darner may have fixed himself up good this time.Darner Buck


According to reports from several New Mexico newspapers and the Colorado DOW, Darner admitted to illegally transporting wild elk and receiving two stolen bighorn sheep heads.

His plea was entered Monday in New Mexico District Court in Grants. He faces more than 41⁄2 years in jail and a minimum of $10,000 in fines and restitution. Sentencing has not been set.

Darner’s name and near-legendary reputation are familiar to many hunters.

Once featured in Remington advertisements for bolt-action rifles, Darner had his hunting license revoked for three years in 2001 by the DOW after wildlife officers discovered a hunter Darner was guiding illegally shot from the window of a truck at an elk decoy.

Also, the hunter did not possess a valid permit for that hunting unit.

Darner made his name on his purported ability to outsmart and kill trophy sized mule deer bucks, but over the years his reputation faded considerably after run-ins with wildlife officers and at least one of his trophies were discovered to have been killed by other hunters.

Darner also once was featured in the popular book, “Colorado’s Biggest Bucks and Bulls,” and had several entries in the Boone & Crockett Club record book. He pulled those entries himself after a disagreement with Boone & Crockett officials over the validity of his claims.

An Associated Press report Monday said Darner and his wife, Paula, were co-owners of the 40-acre Lobo Canyon Ranch north of Grants when they were indicted in February of 2006 on multiple charges related to the theft of the sheep heads and the transport of the stolen elk. The Darners were accused of drugging and illegally moving three state-owned elk from the Lobo Canyon Ranch to the Pancho Peaks ranch and game park in southeastern New Mexico in 2002. Kirt Darner was paid $5,000 for each elk.

Mew Mexico Game and Fish Department officers, during a search at the Darner property in February 2005, discovered the heads of desert bighorn sheep and a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep inside a vehicle.

The heads allegedly were stolen in 2000 from a Montrose taxidermy shop. The shop was preparing the mounts for the Colorado DOW, which estimated the value of the heads at more than $20,000 each when stolen.

The DOW had offered a $4,000 reward for information about the sheep-head thefts. According to the DOW, no one has been charged with the theft of the heads; Darner was charged with receiving stolen property.

As part of his plea, Darner, 69, agreed never to hunt, fish or possess firearms in his lifetime. He also agreed not to operate as a guide or outfitter in New Mexico or Colorado