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What happened to mule deer in Colorado and what does the future hold?

Are mature mule deer a thing of the past in Colorado

Are mature mule deer a thing of the past in Colorado? Photo credit: Brady Miller

If you hunted mule deer in Colorado during the 2019 season, then you’ve probably asked yourself a lot of questions since your hunt ended. With the 2020 Colorado application season already knocking on our doors, there’s no better time than now than to look at what might have caused the 2019 season to result in lower success across the entire western slope  — and what might be in store for the future of Colorado’s mule deer herds.

For those of you who had a great mule deer hunt in Colorado last year, I tip my hat to you as you most definitely earned your success and are definitely in the minority.

Unfortunately, the majority of the people I talked to experienced a season that was a little disheartening, considering they were hunting in the mule deer capital of the world. Keep in mind that everything in Colorado isn't doom and gloom, but I wanted to put together an article on some of my thoughts and do my best to figure out what could be happening.

So what happened to mule deer hunting during the 2019 season?

Frustrated look after hunting Colorado mule deer in 2019

This is an unstaged photo I took of Neville on our last day of hunting after pursuing mule deer for nine days straight and only turning up a tiny 4x4.

What created the perfect storm that resulted in decreased harvests across the Centennial State? Was it weather? Winterkill? Too many hunters? Were there too many deer taken in 2018? Did an influx of elk hunters impact the deer hunts? Did chronic wasting disease (CWD) mitigation efforts play a role? Did prior hard winters finally catch up with fewer bucks making it to maturity? Other impacts outside of hunting? Were there too many predators and not enough predator control? I believe a lot of factors contributed to the tough 2019 season. There isn't one answer to this question.

A lot of thoughts have gone through my head since the hunting season ended. What exactly happened?


Let’s put some numbers behind the 2019 season

Last week, Colorado published their 2019 harvest statistics. These numbers were not available as of March 12 when we published our Colorado mule deer application strategy article.

Because Colorado doesn’t require mandatory harvest reporting, their harvest reports do not account for every buck or doe killed by hunters. And the total hunter numbers could be higher as well. I've voiced my concern to states I hunt, but I do wish more states would go to mandatory harvest reporting. I felt like it was important to look at these values, even though they aren't the end-all solution.

Now, before we go further I do want to point out that while some of the percentages might not seem that significant to some people, but it's hard to not look at them and wonder what all the hype was about with reports from hunters that 2019 was the worst year of hunting they had seen. Even with a small decrease in harvest success, there is still a trend happening in Colorado when more hunters are in the field, harvest success is slowing decreasing.

Another aspect I think about is it's hard to say if some of these success rates were due to hunters shooting any buck on the last day as they didn't want to come home empty-handed. The reason I'm thinking this way is while visiting with hunters, the ones I talked to told me they hadn't seen anything all week so they just shot a buck since they were out there. I have also received plenty of emails and messages of similar reports. Keep in mind that it is definitely their right to take a deer and not go home empty. When I look at harvest success reported from a state, I really wish we had another report to see the age class of the deer being taken so we can see the percentage of young vs old bucks.

2019 statewide all weapons harvest numbers

During the 2019 season, 28,310 deer were taken statewide. This is a 5.99% decrease from 2018 when 30,114 were taken. Further, the 2019 season was the lowest harvest since 2015. Trends do happen (the up and down swings), but this is just something that I'm watching closely.

Also, the total number of deer hunters for all seasons has been on the rise since 2015. And you can also notice an interesting trend that the more hunters, the lower the harvest success. Another aspect I have touched on during other articles is the pressure put on by elk hunters during all the mule deer seasons. It's hard to quantify, but when you have unlimited elk hunters in a unit, they are going to impact other hunters. I'll save this for another day.

Third rifle season numbers

During the 2019 third rifle season, 9,531 bucks were taken. This is a 12.38% decrease from 2018 when 10,711 bucks were killed. Also, the lowest record number of bucks killed since 2015.

The total number of deer hunters during the third season in 2019 was 25,544. While the harvest numbers were lower, the number of deer hunters in the field was not. That number marks a 9.44% increase in the number of hunters for 2019.

Based upon the trends during the past few years in both hunter numbers and harvest success rates, it seems Colorado has possibly hit its tipping point: too many hunters in the field will now impact their harvest numbers.

As you can see from the above graphic, 2019 was the lowest recorded harvest success in the past 10 years. And harvest success is on a downward trend.

Second rifle season numbers

During the 2019 second rifle season, 9,400 bucks were taken. This is a 2.35% decrease from 2018 when 9,626 bucks were killed. This isn't an alarming trend, as I stated earlier, up and down swings do happen.

The total number of hunters for the second season in 2019 was up again when compared to 2018. 2019 found 27,417 hunters afield with a 3.58% increase overall. Again, 2019 had the lowest recorded harvest success rate in the past 10 years. And, again, you can see that harvest success is slowing going downhill.

It should be worth noting that since 2015, there has been a 21.28% increase in the number of second season deer hunters. And those hunters have taken a bunch of deer!

Muzzleloader season numbers

Did the muzzleloader hunters do any better? After all, they got to hunt the bucks before the popular rifle seasons kicked off. Unfortunately, the downward trend continued with muzzleloader hunts.

2019 was tied for the lowest recorded harvest success rate in the past 10 years! 

The graphic above paints a clear picture. Too many tags plus not enough deer equals a lower harvest success rate across the board.

The overall muzzleloader harvest for bucks is not too alarming. But it is still the lowest recorded kill count since 2015.

Fourth rifle season numbers

This is an interesting season to look at the data. While the 2019 buck harvest doesn't seem to be too far off the historic average, what is interesting is the 2018 harvest. You will see the giant spike in buck harvest. Now it might not seem like a big deal when we are talking 200 more bucks, but it is something I feel worth noting. So it seems that another theory of the 2018 season being the "perfect storm" compounded with all the other factors, might have made a slight impact on the deer herds. The big question remains, what will these numbers look like when the 2021 season dates arrive for the fourth season? Those mule deer hunters will be hunting bucks over Thanksgiving!

Calling out the above 2018 value might seem a little odd since 2018 was not that different than the norm (roughly 14% increase from 2017 to 2018, and almost a 15% decrease from 2018 to 2019), but I'm just trying to figure out trends in the data and this was just a thought that jumped in my head after I built this graphic and I figured it was worth sharing. Another way to look at this is to keep in mind that there are only 96 units that have a fourth season hunt in Colorado and all of them are west of the Continental Divide. So while 200 deer isn't a lot, it is still a slight outlier.

In looking at the total number of fourth season hunters, you will again see the giant trend of more hunters and decreased harvest success.

Again, the 2019 fourth season hunter numbers have jumped up to 3,231 which is a 7.7% change. An even crazier thing to look at is that since 2014, there has been a 46.33% increase in the number of fourth season hunters. And like all the other rifle seasons, harvest success is on a downward trend.


What do I think is happening to Colorado mule deer?

There are a few factors that could be contributing to the issue:

  • Too many predators/mismanagement of predators
  • Mule deer management
  • A harder winter in 2018/2019 than was previously thought (and prior winters)
  • Other factors (I'll try to touch on this area in another article as well)

It will be really telling how the 2020 season plays out, but since we can’t predict the future, we might as well look at hard evidence. 

Let's look at a few of those items. The predator section, that part of my research has gotten long-winded fast. So I will save that for a followup article that will be published next week. This is always a touchy subject, so I'm trying to do my best with the research.

Mule deer management

While mule deer populations are decreasing across the West. Colorado has seen a slight increase in deer populations.

Since 2013, the deer population has increased from 390,660 to 433,130, based upon the last available report in 2018. Before that, Colorado was on a drastic eight-year decline. I'm interested to see what the 2019 post-hunt deer population estimates will look like.

It’s hard to look at the harvest data and future season dates and understand that the population trend isn’t going to continue. (The 2019 post-hunt statewide deer population wasn’t available as of the date that this article was written.)

With the season dates getting pushed back even further, I believe mule deer are going to plummet after a few more years. If you want a recap of those changes, you can check out an article I wrote in July 2019. Along those same lines, maybe for the management of mule deer, the state needs to look at other items like other outdoor recreation activities. I wouldn't touch on it much here since I don't live in Colorado, but goHUNT has put out several news articles about this in the past.

2021 approved season dates:

  • Second season rifle will now be Oct. 30 to Nov. 7.
  • Third season rifle will now be Nov. 13 to 19.
  • Fourth season rifle will now be Nov. 24 to 28.

Colorado pushed third season dates back into what could be considered prime mule deer rut dates. Those dates had typically been your premium fourth season dates. They also shortened third season dates, which could create crowding issues since that season is already loaded with tons of OTC elk hunters. Further, the tag numbers are not changing. And, on top of that, you now have a ton of second season hunters (a rifle season that typically has higher tag holders) hunting season dates that were previously third season dates.

In my mind, these later system dates will really benefit elk hunters as the increase of snowpack will push elk lower; however, these dates are going to have a huge impact on mule deer — especially on mature bucks. I won't touch on it here, but I do know Colorado is looking to do more to prevent CWD, so these later hunts will be a tool to take out more deer. I need to do some more research about this, because personally, it's hard to hear that and understand that it will help in the long run.

Keep in mind that if you are an archery or muzzleloader hunter, these later season dates are going to impact you as well because some of the better bucks that might have slipped through the rifle seasons will not be there during the following year for archery and muzzleloader hunters.

In my opinion, all of these factors seem to indicate that Colorado wants to take a different approach when it comes to managing mule deer and I can't see these season dates helping the herds.

The 2018/2019 winter was harder than previously thought

This is something that I keep coming back to. Last year, for the most part, we never heard reports that Colorado had bad winterkill. Was the winter harder on deer than we thought even though it didn’t seem to be particularly impactful in other ways?

As most know by now, due to my biology background, I love data and graphics. So, below, we will take a look at some data I continually compile in Colorado each year for my hunting research.

Just because spring might seem to have arrived in March, the danger zone is far from over for mule deer. April, May and parts of June are critical times in the life cycle of mule deer. Warm weather might be on the way, but remember that all of that can change if we get a historic late spring storm.

Remember that mule deer just can’t put on fat stores overnight after coming off a long winter. Stress during these “danger months” can potentially be fatal to mule deer.

March 2019

Colorado snow water equivalent percent of normal as of March 2019

March 11, 2019 snow water equivalent. Source: NRCS

Here is a look at the tail end of the winter in Colorado on March 11, 2019. You can see that the majority of the state was continuing to experience elevated levels of snowpack. Based upon this timeframe, these numbers don’t seem too far out of the ordinary.

April 2019

Colorado snow water equivalent April 2019

April 1, 2019 snow water equivalent. Source: NRCS

Once again, these values are slightly above the 30-year average, but not overly alarming. In certain areas of the state there was an increase in the average snowpack and, in other areas, there was a slight decrease when compared to March.

May 2019

Colorado snow water equivalent May 2019

May 1, 2019 snow water equivalent. Source: NRCS

Now on to May. The alarming part of the above graphic is that even though it’s May, snow water equivalent values are still increasing. These values could start to impact mule deer trying to put on fat after a hard winter.

June 2019

Colorado snow water equivalent map June 2019

June 1, 2019 snow water equivalent. Source: NRCS

We have finally arrived at the month I want to discuss. One look at the image above and it should be alarming. The scary thing is that there are other data sources from the NRCS that reported even higher values later in June.

First, snowpack values this high could severely impact fawn recruitment and thus will impact future years mule deer populations. Winter weather conditions this late in the year could make it tough on a newborn fawn. At the same time, that much snowpack still in the mountains is going to impact the high country from greening up. All of this snowpack could cause mule deer to postpone their spring migrations to their summer range and, in doing so, could face more highway mortalities. These snowpack levels mean there was a ton of snow still in the highcountry and the spring melt has been delayed. Along with all this, parts of Colorado saw over two feet of new snow in June! Maybe all this late spring and new snow conditions impacted mature bucks that were already depleted from the winter?

Other factors

Personally I want to dive into some research efforts on other areas of concern for mule deer. And not just in Colorado, but in other states that are experiencing a decline in mule deer populations. I'll try to collect my thoughts and findings with a supplemental article. But in the meantime, I'd love to hear from everyone on possible areas to look at.


Warmer weather wasn’t the real reason the later rifle seasons were so tough. Here’s why:

I’m not going to blame the difficult 2019 season on the slightly warmer weather. I said it on a podcast right before the second season kicked off. I mentioned that I predicted a second season tag was going to be a phenomenal tag. Those hunters got the snow and cold temperatures. If people are basing things off weather, 2019 still had snow and some cold temperatures that pushed deer down. In fact, there was more snow in 2019 than 2018 in some areas. In 2016, during another warm weather third season, I located an absolutely crazy number of mature bucks. Everywhere I looked I saw a mature deer and tons of smaller bucks. Plus they were rutting during the earlier third season dates and warm weather.

Here is the proof

Colorado snow water equivalent November 2019

November 1, 2019 snow water equivalent. Source: NRCS

The graphic above is showcasing Colorado’s snow water equivalent as a percent of normal. This is essentially known as snowpack. As of November 1, 2019 you can see that Colorado actually had a ton of snowpack for that time of year. 

During my hunt with Neville in 2019, we hunted as high as we could in the unit and as low as we could. When we hunted deep in the snow, we found deer, but only does. We pushed higher and still only located does. Not a buck around. We even resorted to still hunting in the timber following tracks. We didn’t see our first 4x4 buck until the second to the last day of the season and this buck was barely over 120”.

It was a tough year and I have been thinking about what we could have done differently ever since. If we had shot a few giant deer, you better believe that I'd still be writing this article due to so many people who I heard from who thought this past year was the worst season in Colorado ever.

It maybe seems that, since the 2016 winterkill year in the West, Colorado hasn’t recovered and currently can’t take the pressure from the current number of tag holders, especially when hunter numbers are increasing for deer. Further, those hunters are taking more bucks on average than what used to be the case, resulting in overall lower hunter numbers.

In conclusion

So where did all the mature bucks go in Colorado? Did they just disappear? Or were they never there to begin with? I think this is a serious question to consider.

In 2019, I saw far fewer fawns than I have ever seen in Colorado — maybe only two to three fawns during the entirety of a nine-day hunt. This isn't a good thing for the future of deer in this great state.

I’ve talked to Colorado residents who have said that based upon where they live, 2019 was the worst year they have seen. In their area where deer typically winter — and some deer live year-round there — in 2019, there were barely any deer at all. In some cases, there were none.

Are the bucks outsmarting hunters and hunters not adapting to the conditions? Maybe, but when looking at the bigger picture, everyone I talked to who hunted during the third and fourth season across different areas of the state experienced the same thing. While driving around during the day and evening to move hunting spots, I only saw two dead deer in all of the hunting camps I passed.

Overall, like many, I’m very concerned about the direction of Colorado mule deer and what managers are doing to fix the current situation. With extremely later season dates on the horizon in 2021, I wonder if things are only going to get worse.

At the rate Colorado is headed, I know people will still apply, but I seriously think people ahead of the curve will start looking elsewhere for a while. And maybe they should.

Stay tuned for my follow-up article on the topic of predators. Like I stated earlier, I wrote out the predator portion for this article... but it got very long and detailed fast. The next article will add some great value to the overall picture.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

goHUNT INSIDER bar 5

59 Comments

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Mtn M. - posted 1 month ago on 04-08-2020 12:49:57 am

1) CPW has enough of our money to work with. The reason they claim don't have enough is they're a typical increasingly bloated, inefficient, incapable government entity, who mismanages their funds; wasting them on admin and frivolous expenditures. I wish voters would quit cratering to giving them more and more. It's been going on for decades... Has it changed the situation? Obviously not. Bigger government is never the answer.

2) If hunters and predators don't do their jobs, nature takes it own coarse... hence CWD, etc.

3) CO lands are becoming increasingly mismanaged for the almighty buck, no pun intended. Urban/suburban sprawl, overgrazing, rural subdivisions, 2nd, 3rd and 4th vacation properties for all the hypocrites, over-suppression of wildfires, etc. etc. etc. Hunters aren't the only pressure that forces critters around. If you can't find one in the woods, get a landowner permit and shoot the 5x5 corn-fed monster hopping the fence onto someone's rural lawn.

4) Maybe they're just becoming smarter... Tim Bedore warned us all in 2009.

Ron R. - posted 1 month ago on 04-07-2020 04:24:50 am

They were monetized and privitized under genetic patenting laws, by foreign interests wishing to reduce the carrying capacity of the human ecological variable.

The parks and open space model is a command and control model for you Brady, CPAW is a body politic of a foreign Soveriegn involved in a domestic land reform. In other words, an engineered irradication of local indiginous peasants in order to use the land and resources for something else.

If you can remember any of the history of the colonization of north america you probably heard about the monetization of buffalo hides in order to starve out the poor savages being removed from the land mass being colonized by the Empire. Well, the Empire has other plans for North America now, and we aren't part of the plan.

TMI?

North america had to subsidize its deer and elk production in order to meet the demands of an over stimulated venture in Sport hunting by foreign investers. Over time, the deer and elk farming outpaced the production of the north american model........and the wildlife became monetized. Once monetized,deer and elk became subject to the economy, and fluctuates with that economy accordingly. Giving the banking empire complete control over north americas free ranging essential consumptive resources.

The North American hunters saw this thing comming years ago, but got shut down by the socially engineered crusade to save the planet. First the bears ate the fawns, then came the cuddly kitty cats, and finally the flea bitten four legged threat to plenty was collard up eartagged and turned loose on the greatest acheivement in the conserva

Gary C. - posted 1 month ago on 04-06-2020 06:36:47 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Thanks for the article, Brady. We all appreciate your passion for deer hunting. Quick question: Do you think the current situation is impacting deer opportunities in ALL units or just in the more heavily hunted units?

I ask selfishly, because I've been sitting on deer points for years and waiting for good news. I currently have 18 resident points and don't would like to use them on a quality hunt. I cashed in 16 antelope points a couple years ago and only got to hunt two days because of a new job. It would be crushing to waste all those points again.

I hope you and the rest of the posters are well and keeping safe from COVID. All the best!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 month ago on 04-03-2020 12:38:03 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Aaron - Can't wait to see the 2020 report with that testing data as well!

Robert T. - posted 1 month ago on 04-03-2020 11:56:08 am

EXCELLENT point Aaron on the mandatory CWD testing! That should definitely help with providing a good read on harvest data! I had forgotten about that.

Aaron S. - posted 1 month ago on 04-03-2020 11:08:54 am

Good job Brady. Nice article. In a year when 2020 results are posted, it may be real eye opening. Since many of the hunt areas in the western half of CO is under mandatory CWD testing for 2020, this should also yield some fairly accurate harvest data.

Bill_Day
Bill D. - posted 1 month ago on 04-01-2020 08:33:42 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article Brady, and thanks everyone for the excellent discussion!

Micah C. - posted 1 month ago on 03-31-2020 09:44:07 am
goHUNT INSIDER

What's most interesting to me is the major push by Colorado (and other states) to get more hunters in spite of this data! My read on that marketing push is that with lower hunter numbers we don't have the money to manage the resource, but unfortunately we don't have the resources to go around to all the hunters. I think this is driving the increase in prices for tags.
If number of hunters vs revenue is a major issue maybe it's time for us as hunters to change the game. Rather than blaming out of state hunters, or wolves, it's time to go after mountain bikers, skiers, hikers etc. I don't mean ban them or anything, just get them to pay their fair share, and maybe even start using permits to limit their impact. Hunters pay for tags, they pay taxes on hunting gear, they invest in rural communities, and we're happy to do it because we want these resources for the future - we understand that we are part of the ecosystem. But I get the feeling that other outdoor sports don't see/feel the impact they cause, and aren't interested in paying for it. I'm all for getting people out camping and hiking to enjoy creation, but they've got to pay to help manage.

Evan S. - posted 1 month ago on 03-30-2020 02:45:55 pm
Gunnison, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

I think in some areas winter kill was a real issue. In my opinion it is all in how the snow comes down. I feel that the big storms that can dump a couple of feet all in one shot, in a winter area, can be really hard on deer. I live in the Gunnison basin, and a big number of our deer will get hit by cars when the snow starts really coming down hard. If each storm is a smaller I feel that the deer can at least move around to find feed. Personally I think that deer numbers are really strong in our area. But it will be interesting with the new season dates will do to our deer numbers. Thanks for the article Brady, really good stuff!

Samuel R. - posted 1 month ago on 03-28-2020 04:55:24 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Just wait for the wolves to join in!! 5 years after that you won't find Mule deer...

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 month ago on 03-28-2020 11:36:10 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Erik - I open myself up for criticism a lot :) So it's all good and I can take it. I would have written this article regardless of my outcome in 2019. But the main reason I wrote this was due to all the chatter I saw after the season was over.

If nothing else, this is a great discussion and I love to see passionate people giving their input.

Kurt B. - posted 1 month ago on 03-28-2020 09:46:55 am
Patagonia, AZ

Al, I think one of the things we have to do right off is to treat mule deer and whitetail management separately. What happens in a dense eastern whitetail population is completely different that a wide-spread mule deer population in the west. We had a biologist who was from Wisconsin who was very familiar with their management but that doesn't work in AZ. They have different breeding strategies, different habitat issues, weather conditions, to name a few. Using strategies from another species and another state is a mistake.
I don't know when other western states make their recommendations but if they are early they could miss a major winter storm effect. In the southwest they could miss a lack of precipitation causing a bad spring growth issue or feed availability of forage for the pregnant or lactating doe so that could reduce fawn survival. There are so many things to look at and just hunt info doesn't give the real picture. The wildlife manager needs to be in the field noting the conditions of the environment all year. In AZ they have talked about doing surveys only every 2-3 years. Almost all surveys are aerial and depending who is in the aircraft and their abilities and knowledge of the country they are flying over, you can vastly alter the results. I hated to see AZ get away from ground surveys. I have noted that there is a close relationship between the lack of hours of boots on the ground and knowing their district. They say they don't have time to be in the field with their other duties. Be that as it may, the agency needs to make sure they have the time or they are not doing justice to the natural resource. I better get off my soapbox now.

Erik S. - posted 1 month ago on 03-28-2020 08:39:29 am
goHUNT INSIDER

There is so much to dive into here, but I have to laugh that you wrote this article the year you ate tag soup in CO and not any of the other years you had success. Had to say it, that short clip of you pissed off in the office :). BTW those films were good stuff, nice shooting. Lots of bucks were killed in 2019 and lots will be killed in 2020. If the rumors are true that CPW's main reason for the new season structure is to combat CWD then we have to be all for it, or else the future could be real grim. I just think Mule deer as a whole are in danger across the west and It isnt due to hunting pressure, season structure, etc. Its a combination of HABITAT (#1), predator mismanagement, and winter kill. Not telling anyone what they already dont know here....

Al C. - posted 1 month ago on 03-28-2020 07:19:13 am

I appreciate your input Kurt and I am sorry that the social political aspect of management has taken such a priority over biology. Wildlife agencies and their sample methods or models are the constant whipping boys of us Monday morning quarterbacks. I am curious about the scientific validity of mandatory harvest reporting versus winter range surveys in a mountain environment like Colorado. I understand mandatory reporting will verify that it was a bad or good harvest year, but how is that a significant input when a severe winter can have fawn recruitment below 20% and a significant post rut buck die off. Setting next years tag quotas on mandatory harvest reporting versus the survival rate of deer through the winter seems to be a little backwards. I am also interested in the scientific data that supports the claim that too many does reduce the reproductively of the herd. What are the parameters of that NY statement ? I have actually read the opposite in CO DAU management plans where a too high buck to doe ratio results in post rut bucks going into winter with a lower chance of surviving a harsh winter. Not all areas in Colorado have winter escape routes. Once you migrate to the valley floor there is no where else to go with all the surrounding mountain passes sporting chest deep snow.

Ryan_McSparran
Ryan M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 03:51:48 pm
Littleton, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

Super interesting, Brady. Thanks for taking the time to break all this down. I'm not sure I buy that mule deer hunting has tanked...YET. I still think perhaps it was just a tough year. In units on opposite sides of the state, my buddies and I saw a number of nice bucks during the 4th season. That said - I completely agree with your analysis in the application strategy article on Colorado Deer. They are about to get hammered this year and next.

I also completely agree with @Robert T. on the impact of OTC elk hunting (Hey Bob!). That's gotta change sooner rather than later. I'd encourage anyone with concerns about these issues to email the CPW Commission at dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us​. There's a lot of good feedback here that I think they'd appreciate hearing.

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 03:38:07 pm
Patagonia, AZ

I have an observation that speaks to the variety of comments on the question of "why" are the hunts worse? When I was a Wildlife Manager (Game Warden) in AZ for 30 years I was always adamant about doing what I thought was right for the resource no matter what outside pressures came to bare. Yes, I had people disagree with my field recommendations but many times they couldn't give me good reasons other than anecdotal input. For example, there is a huge canyon in my old district of which during a busy deer hunt could have 25-30 camps. This happened more often than not in my patrols over the years. I'd check a camp with no deer hanging and the hunters would tell me the hunt was crappy and we should shut it down for 5 years. Five years was always the magic number. They's complain that they didn't see anything. The next camp would tell me that all they had seen was does and that we should open the doe season so there'd be more bucks. The next camp would have a couple bucks hanging and they'd say they had seen lots of bucks and does and commend us for doing a great job managing the deer and to keep up the great work. Each hunter makes his comments based on his snapshot in time and that is his valid belief. I would sometimes check hunters who would tell me that they'd been hunting the area for 25 years and hadn't killed a buck in the last 10 years. I always wondered why they were still hunting the same area. One way or the other, we need to cut some slack to the biologists who have to make the recommendations. They are also under political pressure from their agency and sometimes the governors office or the cattleman's groups as well as protectionists. Wildlife management has been taken away from the professional and is now in the political field. A heard a couple states that have passed laws that keep the public from passing referendums that tell the agencies how to manage the resource. Lastly, I believe that the person who is in the field year-round is the one who should be listened to. Many biologists are stuck at a desk looking a data collected by someone else. My two cents worth. By the way, I don't miss the politics at all.

Robert T. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 02:29:02 pm

Sounds good Brady on keeping in touch and feel free to use me as a resource here however I can help your efforts. Backcountry fly fishing and hunting are my passion!

My son and I both had a few opportunties on smaller bucks but passed as we like to let'em grow! We did see one shooter but he was just too far and on the move.

I'm on FB if you use that much and certainly feel free to friend me (I think I sent you a request right after the season but realize many don't use it) or we can certainly keep in touch here. Your work is right on the mark! Bob

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:41:27 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Robert. It was hoping somehow I'd get to reach out to you again. I enjoyed our conversation on the mountain and hope you guys got a buck. I believe we heard a shot from the direction you guys headed either that day or the day after. Thanks for taking the time to respond. Love to keep in touch.

The elk hunter pressure is a real deal. I've touched on a little bit, but I will say that the past few years I've started to modify my methods in how I hunt mule deer, but not directly in line with tactics for mule deer per se, but now they are slightly based on how I have to pay attention to where I believe elk hunters are at, and where the mule deer might be moving into when they receive a high amount of pressure from all the elk hunter traffic. It's a tough balance no doubt. But something that needs to be looked at.

alex.penulo
Alexander K. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:35:35 pm
Denver, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

Robert - I'll second that motion. Well said. I'd rather have less opportunity in state than poorly managed wildlife.

Garrett G. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:26:21 pm
Grand Jct, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

Preach Robert!!!!! Love that!!!!

Robert T. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:10:36 pm

Hi Brady, first I want to say it was great to meet you this year 3rd rifle season (meet off the trail one morning when you guys pulled up...my son Rob recognized you). I will tell you I've hunted that country for 26 years and guided in it full time 9 straight years and my opinion is your analysis has a lot of merit and likely not far off! Of course as others have noted without the complete data it's challenging to confirm but again I've spent enough time there summers and falls to see what's happened and I'm confident other areas are similar and some even worse!

A few additional comments from my end are I do believe in some areas doe tags have been over sold too. I also have felt for years Colorado needs to implement a 4pt restriction on bucks (similar to elk).

One additional major comment I will add which is a sensitive subject for some is I would like to see Elk tags move off OTC. It's gotten out of hand in the last several years where there are just too many of us in the field at once! I will tell you that Archery elk is just nuts anymore here!!! On one hand social media has done a superb job of promoting archery which is great for our sport but the OTC system is killing the experience! Elk are getting pressured more than ever in Archery (and of course rifle too). I firmly believe DOW needs to manage elk tags similar to deer where ALL are a lottery and better balance the hunting pressure. This of course means there could be years even I won't draw a tag as a resident but I would far rather see that than have this continue they ways things have been the last few years.

I didn't mean to get off track with regard to bringing elk into the discussion but I did given your point on number of hunters in the woods which of course results in pressure on all game! With the increase we've seen with OTC archery hunters in recent years, the pressure on elk and deer is more than ever before!

Bottom line DOW here needs to more closely manage hunting of all big game including the hunting pressure through closer management of the tags issued!

Garrett G. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 11:57:05 am
Grand Jct, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

Colorado has 100% failed in every category of Mule Deer management. Being my home state, I have seen a drastic change the last decade. There are so many factors that contribute to this. Severe overpopulation of bears and coyotes, unbelievably fast growing number of non-hunting recreational land users, BLM mis-managing cattle permits allowing public land to be over-grazed to nothing but dirt, wild horses taking over several units, CPW continuing to increase deer tag numbers even with a decreasing population, people shooting "any buck" on the last day not allowing deer to become mature, doe tags, and now these ABSURD season dates...

I could go on forever as this is something I am very, very, passionate about. It is a very sad situation for the mule deer in CO.

Tayson W. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 11:45:50 am
goHUNT INSIDER

One thing I'm super scared for as a Utah resident is the fact that at the Utah RAC meetings when they were proposing their new hunting plan for the next 5 or 7 years, they used a study from Colorado. They claimed it was a "peer-reviewed" study that stated the optimal number of bucks to does for max production (fawning) was 15 bucks to 100 does. Having hunting Colorado this last 3rd season and personally seeing the terrible state it is in, I'm worried Utah is right behind them. They refused to listen to any public input on not going to a target objective of 15:100 buck doe ratio and now I'm worried we will see Utah continue to slide in the future. Anytime we asked them to raise the target buck ratio, they said, "we may as well make it a limited entry unit then". Things are looking dismal in my two favorite states.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 11:19:43 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Next time you draw that tag tell the boss you caught the corona virus and go fill it...

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 11:15:35 am
Patagonia, AZ

I read the comment on shooting does. I have always held that the only reason to shoot does is to hold the population in check. The population would have to be over the capacity of the habitat. Shooting a doe is shooting a 'buck maker' in my mind. That said, the comment about shooting a forkie is an argument I have seen for years. When AZ opened up allowing to shoot spikes about 40 years ago a hunter at a meeting who was against it said, "It doesn't take much of a man to shoot a spike." Trophy is in the mind of the beholder and I'll never tell a hunter what size buck he can shoot. In the biological picture, generally a yearling spike is genetically inferior to a forkie so protecting the spike allows him to pass on inferior genes. That is a pretty simplistic explanation but generally held true. Another thought to look at is fawn drop and survival. We have had years in our Coues whitetail population in SE AZ when the buck:doe ratio was wider than I think it should be. Their breeding strategy is not as effective as mule deer in that they chase around a single doe to try to breed it. mule deer bucks gather a bunch of does and breed them all. If a doe doesn't get bred she cycles back in and hopefully gets bred later. This can happen three times before she doesn't cycle. When this occurs there is a spread in the time period that fawns are dropped and an increased chance of predation on the fawns. When the drop is compressed there is a shorter time period that the fawns are as susceptible to predators. Just something else to complicate the issue.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 11:10:51 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Eric - Exactly! Mandatory harvest reporting is something I mention to states all the time. When I was still a resident of Montana, I drew what is arguably the best unit in the state of Montana. But due to work obligations, I only got to hunt it hard for a short time during the archery season and never was able to return back for the rifle hunt. Since Montana does random sampling over the phone, I was one of the hunters who was never called. It seems very bad when there's only an extremely limited amount of tags given out for that unit, and one of the best units in the state, but they can't require everyone to somehow turn a harvest report.

Eric W. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 10:38:05 am
goHUNT INSIDER

I personally feel that the data is incomplete. Without mandatory harvest check-in, there's an error in the data. I can tell you right now, there's more deer harvested than reported, and it's perfectly legal. I was one of them. I actually contacted Parks and Wildlife when I took my buck and the individual who answered the phone politely said, thanks but no thanks. Also, I have a lot of pictures of some big deer. Some, right behind newly built housing developments, others, required me strapping up my boots and getting away from the road, which is how I shot my first Mulie ever last year. What annoys me is that the state is making management decisions based on an error. Yes, the 2018/19 winter was brutal, yes... There's CWD. But it's not the first bad winter and CWD has been around for a while. The bucks are there. Just got to go find them.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 10:03:38 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Alexander, Rich and Greg - Very, very great points! Really love the well thought out discussions and these topics have sparked some other ideas I've wanted to explore. I'm going dig in a little deeper on some additional. The winter range is an area that concerns me as well.

alex.penulo
Alexander K. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 09:04:40 am
Denver, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

There are a lot of comments here that clearly demonstrate the problems with incomplete data. I strongly believe in mandatory reporting and encourage tooth collection for aging deer. I certainly think (again I am not a biologist) that increased pressure from hunters and NON-HUNTING recreation is pushing deer (not to mention bighorn sheep and mountain goats) out of the high country or into less accessible locations. There have been several recent studies that have observed the adverse impact on wildlife by backcountry skiers. CPW is trying to address the full impact of outdoor recreation on wildlife. I would bet that the rise in backcountry recreationalists dwarfs the increase in hunting pressure. This issue cannot be ignored.

In terms of killing does, there should be more doe tags. Data from QDMA and many others supports doe tags. I grew up in the Hudson Valley of NY. There is a surplus of does and few if any mature bucks. Empirical evidence supports harvesting does does lead to better mature buck ratios and numbers.

I am loathe to use one experience to characterize the entire state, but last season I drove from Dinosaur National Monument to Craig at 10 pm. My buddy and I stopped counting deer after 550...I wish I was exaggerating. There are so many deer and large bucks in the private low lands (based on my limited observations). I would like to see what happens this season and to see if the quarantine helps reduce the impact normally created by the hikers, skiers, dogs, etc.

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 08:33:21 am
Patagonia, AZ

Another note as someone asked about MD population in other states. In AZ as a whole the MD are down. In southern AZ the populations, by my own estimate, are down about 50-60% from 15 years ago. We used to have 350 tags in one unit and now it is down to 100. Another from 250 to 40. I believe it is a combination of factors and some of which we are unaware of.

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 08:28:11 am
Patagonia, AZ

Thanks for your clarification. It's difficult to compare data when there are differing collection methods. AZ sends out questionnaires to hunters and if I remember correctly there is about a 40-60% return rate. It is not required to respond. Interestingly enough, this year I noticed a lack of buck sightings while hunting Coues whitetail in SE AZ. All hunters I talked to were experiencing the same thing. What I was seeing didn't match up with what my trail cams had been showing since August. I was helping hunters on all the hunts. Even the late December hunt didn't have the number of bucks sighted as usual. I also archery hunted the late December hunt as well as the January hunt. THEN I started seeing the bucks really come out. I can only guess what the conditions were to case this phenomena. Lower population, temperature, late response to the rut, does coming into estrus later, I don't know. That's why I have always said the wildlife management is an inexact science and we will never know all the conditions that impact our wildlife. I have often wondered why some days I can observe numerous deer and then the next day, nothing. It's like I didn't get the memo about the deer or just the bucks having a day off. On another note, during my career I noticed that hunters are quick to blame predators. In most cases down here predation is additive and usually not the main cause. The exception is the pronghorn population. Anyway, good talking to you.

hijeep72
Rich M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 08:12:35 am
Eagle, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

Something somewhat overlooked, I have lived in the Eagle Valley for a very long time, grew up here, Unit 44 mainly. In the last several years, the Town of Eagle, has more or less catered to the mountain biking people, with this a very large portion of the habitat for the bucks that used to be here has been turned into mountain bike trails on both sides of Brush Creek this has impacted the winter range, mountain bike people do not adhere to seasonal closings of any sort and the town does not monitor this. The elk numbers have dropped dramatically in the Brush Creek area for several reasons, predators being a large part of that, most elk have relocated to several large private areas where there aren't mountain bikers, cattle are not grazed and the vegetation is still good as the water supplies on these properties is much better than on public land. A lot of the large bucks that do remain, are on these properties for all of these reasons, seclusion, feed, water. Predators are a very large problem in the Eagle Valley, maybe the Game&Fish will actually change some rules to address this issue. There still are some very good bucks, but with the new season structure it will be interesting to see how that goes this fall.

Brennan A. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 07:42:39 am
Murray, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

I think it’s time state agencies in the west need to adopt mandatory reporting and go to basically a complete lottery system for all big game. Only do OTC hunts for a couple years of management hunts if necessary. I’ve lived in AZ and Utah my whole life. Arizona has basically only lottery hunts for elk and mule deer and those populations are doing great. Utah has been too lenient with OTC hunts and the deer population is way down here. So many hunters are coming to the west now that states need to be more careful. At least for a while.

Greg K. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 07:01:00 am

Gary I agree. I think there should be mandatory reporting. Seems like an easy thing to put into place. I also agree with the other guy who was saying the amount of elk hunters in the woods really affects the deer hunting.

One thing I forgot to mention as well is it’s hard to know how much elk outcompete deer for wintering grounds. They share the same winter range, but it can be hard to measure exactly how much that affects the deer herd health.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 06:33:11 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Greg K.

Biologists need to know what is getting killed by hunters.

I agree with you, but without this they dont have one of the PRIMARY resources they need at their disposal.

Greg K. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 06:21:20 am

Of course, let’s blame it on the predators because you didn’t shoot a big bad buck. They can’t GIVE away enough lion and bear tags here in Colorado.

I think you’re not considering the primary factors:

-Lets not forget the best mule deer habitat is private here in Colorado, i.e where most of the mule deer are.
-The amount of winter range determines any wildlife population, and what’s been happening to the winter range here in Colorado? It’s burned, been pillaged by domestic livestock, or developed (oil and gas, recreation, etc.). This means the deer are congregated in very small patches of crucial winter range, which in turn makes the transmission of disease much more likely as well.

Is there predation? Of course there is, but when deer are in such bad condition because they have lack of feed, predation becomes more prevalent due to the animal’s poor body condition. Another thing I should mention, a healthy herd has about 50% doe buck ratio just so people are aware. Having all does and a few bucks is bad news for herd health.

Biologist work with the resources they are given. They’re not the enemy here. They generally want the same thing hunters want, more deer and healthy herd numbers. It all comes down to habitat for wildlife, and the western landscape is increasingly being degraded.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 05:50:19 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Also, the success rates that are being reported in Colorado for all big game is so far off the mark it isnt even funny. They said there was a 0% success rate for bulls in the unit I hunted last year. I know 100% for sure that there were 5 bulls killed in that unit with muzzleloaders.....thats just what I know about.

If they really want to get a handle on what is getting killed they need to figure out a way to do mandatory reporting. Its the only way.

As hunters, we are the ultimate predators. And we are the only way to truly know what does and what doesn't get killed.

They should implement a law that says that if you dont report, you dont get apply.

Meaning that if you dont report your kill within 4 days that you dont get to apply next year. If you dont report and it is found that you did harvest an animal, you dont get to apply for 5 years.

They need to get a handle on what is actually getting killed in their state.

It would be very easy for them to set up an app to report harvests. Georgia does this. It is simple and fast and can be done from a smart phone EASILY. Why isn't this being done in Colorado?!

Simple folks.....its all about the money. I.E. selling tags. If you dont think this is true you have your head buried in the sand.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 05:34:43 am
goHUNT INSIDER

IMHO- They simply need to stop shooting does. I have said this for years. If you are unhappy with the deer populations the dont allow or partake in the harvest of harvest of does. FOR ANYONE.

This is the only way to bring back the populations. STOP SHOOTING DOES.

More Does=More deer=more bucks.

As far as someone saying that they shot a for horn so they had meat to take home with them. Well I say that is just stupid. Who pays that much money as a non-resident to go shoot a fork horn deer in Colorado. Eat your tag and go home to your eastern or mid-west state and shoot a fork horn or doe there....

People amaze me.

Phillip W. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 05:34:25 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Thanks for the breakdown. It’s time we start seeing more people wave the white flag about colorado. After years of every article, podcast, and tv show talking about how great CO is and how easy it is to get a tag, the secret obviously got out. Now it’s a case of being loved to death. Between the hordes of recreational backpackers and hikers in the spring, summer, and fall and the wagon trains of hunters from all over the country for hunting seasons, game populations never get a break. There’s so many dudes in the woods when seasons open, that it’s not even fun to hunt. Your time in the field isn’t spent pursuing an animal. It’s more about playing the pressure game, and that sucks. In 2018, I had 2 bucks shot out from under me as I stalked, and that’s when I decided paying for out of state licenses was worth it. That all probably comes across as a lot of crying, but it’s time CO takes a break from being everybody’s go-to.

Greg M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 04:46:43 am
Mancos, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

Last year the winter kill was worse than previously thought for sure, I saw far less deer than I have the last four years living in SW CO. And that is hunting in the highcountry and helping a few friends with their tags in 2nd and 3rd season. I will say the faun recruitment this year is as strong as ive seen it though. But those new season dates are not great for the populations at all. I guess will see this year point creep is going to go up though for sure.

Frank C. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:28:54 am
goHUNT INSIDER

One thing I noticed living in Gunnison CO. Highway mortality was off the charts for the 2018/2019 winter. Heavy snowpack had a huge impact on winter range, condensing deer along highway 50 east and west of Gunnison. Adding to that increased traffic from Denver with Crested Butte Ski Area joining the mighty Epic pass. It was the worst highway mortality I've seen since the winter of 07/08. This winter has moderate snowpack and less than desirable skiing conditions and highway mortality is a non issue. Plus the pandemic has kept people off the highway. Not sure if or how CPW considers highway mortality when setting tag numbers.

mbfinnie
Matt F. - posted 2 months ago on 03-27-2020 12:02:34 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Brady Miller, are you seeing indications of a similar situation in other states? In other words, is this generally limited to Colorado?

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 09:49:30 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Kurt. I appreciate the comment and the information from Arizona you presented in your original and follow-up comment. From the information I have looked at from Colorado, confidence limits in their harvest data are based on the 95% confidence limits.

Here is some additional information I pulled. Colorado uses a stratified random sampling of licenses based on hunt code, residency and/or hunter age group. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this voluntary sample-based survey allows them to estimate harvest more cost-effectively and without the penalties for noncompliance necessary with a mandatory survey. The harvest figures are estimates of harvest and participation extrapolated by comparing survey responses to licenses sold.

Colorado does have very high success rates along with a very high population of mule deer.

These are just items that keep me up at night and I am trying to figure out what caused the season to play out like it did, and what the future might hold in Colorado when they push they season dates back.

If I didn't hear from as many hunters as I did who reported 2019 was the worst year of Colorado hunting they have ever experienced, then I might not have tried as hard to figure out what might be going on. This year I ran into several hunters in the field and all of them said the same thing. I even heard from a hunter who said he talked to an outfitter on the mountain, and that outfitter as of Friday of the 3rd season, none of their deer hunters had killed a buck yet. I'm not saying this is an answer to the fairly decent harvest still, but the bucks I did see get shot were all very young bucks. The hunters told me they hadn't seen anything all week so they just shot a buck since they were out there. I know a lot of people were willing to hold out and not shoot just anything, but some wanted to bring something home. And that is definitely their right to take a deer and not go home empty. This is why I try to look at harvest success, I really wish we had another report to see the age class of the deer being taken so we can see the percentage of young vs old bucks.

I just did a little Google search, and a search on social media sites and there are even more people that are relaying the same information on the low number of bucks spotted and tough season. And on top of that, a lot of them have been hunting Colorado their entire lives and are reporting they have never seen hunting so bad.

Also, I appreciate everyone else who took the time to comment. I love seeing all the ideas and thoughts on the season.

@Ryan - Great points and they are well received. My hope was to showcase the highs and lows each year in a way to really look at the data. This way we can see the trends after past winterkill years.

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 09:14:02 pm
Patagonia, AZ

Follow up comment. AZ has always pushed for hunter opportunity which most of us called revenue increase. The wildlife managers in the field always had to argue their recommendations for permit numbers. At least in our region, we had to fight our regional biologist over permit numbers. We called it 'bargaining for bucks'. I don't know what Colorado's targets are for buck:doe:fawn rations are nor the hunt success target. We could have a poor b:d:f ration but if the hunt questionnaire data showed a hunt success that was in target range we were pushed to increase tags and the other way around too. I argued that you can have good b:d"f ratios all the way to a highly reduced population.

Kurt B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 09:07:51 pm
Patagonia, AZ

In AZ we have hunt success considerably lower that what CO has. I was wondering what the confidence limits are on the hunt data that you are using. Our confidence limits for our data would show no significant change on your success rate. I'm curious if the season was reported to be so poor why the hunt success is still up in the 30's?

Al C. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 09:01:10 pm

Last summer was crazy for scouting my part of the west slope. Elk everywhere and just a few pockets of bucks here and there. Doe to fawn ratio extremely low. Avalanches packed draws and valleys with timber and snow like I’ve never seen before.

Word on the street is that cpw director is pushing hunting opportunity over quality and objections of gmu DMs are being side lined.

The real question is whether mule deer are really worth the investment compared to elk. No matter what you do, every 10 years or less the deer herds will be reduced by another Colorado harsh winter. The elk herds will soldier through the harsh winter, resist predation better, and can survive on a less selective range of forage. Mule deer are just hit or miss and these days they’re missing.

michael a. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 08:15:57 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

The feed was epic up high.

ryanmounce
Ryan M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 06:48:42 pm
Amarillo TX
goHUNT INSIDER

Could be a long shot but perhaps included in the increased hunter numbers shown in your graphics there were a lot more non-residents that we’re unfamiliar with the hunt area as well as some folks new to hunting. If you mix more people in that are new (to the area or the sport) and don’t have the experience then it seems to me like the success would naturally drop as well.
The graphics are also a little deceiving. When you plot a range of 20 percentage points it’s going to make the data look quite a bit more drastic when realistically the harvest percent only drop 3% ish from last year in certain seasons. If that same data was plotted on a scale of 0-100% success those curves would look a lot flatter and less drastic.
Nevertheless I am hoping this isn’t the end of Colorado as a mule deer Mecca. Maybe the trend will start to go back up soon.

Brandon S. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:59:33 pm
Treasureton, ID
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article on the 2019 CO mule deer season. I decided to hunt a unit during the 3rd season just across the highway from the unit the year before. I was extremely disappointed at not only the quality but the quantity of deer that I was finding. I hunted 9 days and was away from the crowds. Only young bucks were being harvested with tons of elk hunters. I found out later that the unit that I hunted the year before was faced with the exact same conditions. The deer were few and far between, especially the larger bucks. I am afraid moving the deer seasons further into November, after the five year plan, may absolutely destroy what is left of giant mule deer in CO and we will see the odds of 3rd season and the dreaded point creep raise dramatically when 4th season hunters get tired of sitting on so many points waiting when the old fourth season will be the new third season dates. However, if the success numbers keep sliding, it really won't matter what season you waste your points on.

Brad H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:53:52 pm

i turned down the 44 third season, glad i did. But now between the later dates and wolves, that unit will soon be history.

jwallen68
JOHN A. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:42:26 pm
Aurora, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

I agree last year was a tough one. I used 11 preference pts on a RFW hunt which resulted in 140 1/2" buck that all the guides referred to as the best in camp among the 9 of us who had deer tags. Not the result I was there for at all. Do you think that the 5 yr season structure and the later dates could be an all-out assault on mature bucks by CPW to combat CWD?

Todd C. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:40:33 pm
Oakland, Oregon
goHUNT INSIDER

good article.

Todd C. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:40:33 pm
Oakland, Oregon
goHUNT INSIDER

good article.

Jacob H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:29:21 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

I’ve hunted a unit in northern Colorado several times now and the thing I noticed most in 2019 3rd season was warm weather and an insane number of hunters, even more than normal. I had spots that are a mile or two in that I have never seen a soul at the past several years and 2019 there were people there. Still had a great hunt and was even successful, but I do think it would be wise to lower the# of tags they are giving out. Just don’t give away mine! Haha

Greg V. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:28:38 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article! Thanks for all the info. Very depressing though, as I’m planning on burning my 26 points this year on a 4th season hunt. Just can’t wait any longer. And, seems like it might just get worse anyway. Now the big decision......Unit 44 or 66????

Eric J. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:26:15 pm
Johnstown, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

I know I'm a sample size of one but I actually saw more deer in 2019 then the previous two years I hunted same unit. Some could be I know the unit better but was able to take a decent buck opening of second day 4th rifle. My previous two times in there were third rifle. Saw three other bucks, one bigger than the one I took during my pack out. I do think the season changes will hurt the age class if that's a concern. It's not for me but I know it is for many.

marcus t. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:25:41 pm
Pullman, wa
goHUNT INSIDER

I was kicking myself for not even hunting my 44 tag last year as life got in my way! I feel better now.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:19:17 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Glad you enjoyed it! I caught that too on my final read and updated it.

Joey P. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:14:28 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Goood read, 2nd season 2021 10-30/11-7.