In all of North American big game hunting, a 30-inch mule deer may be the toughest trophy to bag. The reality is there just aren't as many monster mulies roaming the mountains, plains and deserts these days. Those that are have seen a lot of hunters and hunting seasons; they have survived them by being exceptionally wary and elusive. I've dreamed of such a buck for over 30 years, and such a trophy may be at the very top of my personal Bucket List. With a little luck, I might finally draw a tag in Wyoming this year and get a chance to pursue these big-eared beasts.
|Texas doesn't just produce big whitetails, it also produces some huge mule deer bucks. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Systems Inc.|
If you too drift off to sleep at night counting visions of wide-racked mule deer, here in alphabetical order is my list of the best bets in North America to bag such a critter, at prices that are in line with most deer hunting opportunities in North America.
Hunting in Alberta
Many hunters think of Alberta as a prime destination for trophy whitetails, but not as many realize the tremendous trophy mule deer opportunities available north of the border as well. The two principal areas are the Peace River region in northwestern Alberta, and the Prairie region in the south and southeast part of the province. While I have not hunted mule deer in Alberta yet, I have been there twice for whitetails and certainly saw some monster mule deer. To hunt in the Peace River region, contact Mike's Outfitting Ltd. For hunts in the Prairie region, try Silver Sage Outfitters or Double Diamond Outfitters.
Hunting in Arizona
Arizona's famed Kaibab Plateau and Arizona Strip have long been known to produce that state's biggest deer. Permits can be difficult to draw, although such limited opportunity areas tend to produce the biggest specimens of any species, wherever you may hunt them. Two outfitters in the area that specialize in big mulies are Duwane Adams of Arizona Big Game Hunting and Marvin James of James Guide Service.
Hunting in Colorado
With the largest population of mule deer anywhere at over 400,000 animals, Colorado has to be considered a top destination for big mule deer, simply based on numbers. Although there is an abundance of public land, the biggest deer tend to come on private land, and particularly those enrolled in the Ranching for Wildlife Program. Two outfitters that produce big mulies are Saddle Mountain Outfitters and Kennedy Hunting Services.
Hunting in Texas
Most hunters know that Texas has approximately 4 million whitetailed deer, but few realize that close to 250,000 mulies also call the west and northwest areas of Texas home. These two areas, known as the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle/High Plains ecological regions, respectively, provide ideal habitat for the desert mule deer subspecies. Some real dandy desert mule deer bucks are possible, on par with Mexico but at lower cost. I have previously hunted whitetails in Texas with Wildlife Systems Inc., and I can highly recommend them. Their mule deer hunts are also high quality but extremely limited. I'm on a waiting list with them to hunt mule deer perhaps in 2016 or later.
Hunting in Utah
Due to aggressive management of their mule deer herd (over 300,000 animals) and habitat, Utah has developed into arguably the top trophy mule deer destination in recent years. Public land hunts in top quality areas are done a draw basis, with tags being virtually "once in a lifetime" in many cases. Alternatively, "Conservation Tags" are available by auction through various conservation organizations, and usually run in the range of $4,000 to $10,000 (cost of guided hunt not included). The good news is that these limited entry opportunities, and the millions of dollars that are raised through the auctions and put back into conservation, are responsible for the hunting being so good now in Utah. The bad news is that such hunts are not within every hunter's budget. However, private land hunts with guaranteed tags are also available, with some hunts available at prices more in line with trophy mule deer hunts elsewhere. Two such outfitters are The R&K Hunting Company and Bucks & Bulls Guides & Outfitters.
Hunting in Wyoming
Wyoming is home to nearly 400,000 mule deer. The biggest bucks tend to come from the mountains in the western part of the State, which is mostly public land, while the eastern part is almost all private ranches. Tags are issued via draw, with those in the west being generally much harder to come by. One outfitter with a track record for producing tremendous bucks is Non-Typical Outfitters.