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CO Post Hunt Population Estimates

Apr 4, 2011
SLC, Utah
Thanks for posting ishoot... I agree, it's good to see some areas of mule deer numbers increasing a bit. Many areas/states in the west have been seeing an uptick in deer populations for the last couple of years, but many areas have continued to see numbers dropping. The last few winters have been very mild in many areas, no doubt helping out the deer herds to some extent: Utah and Idaho are pretty proud the numbers are increasing and the fish and game departments have let folks know about it, especially in Utah, even dishing out a few more tags to appease the grumbling hunters, touting that our herds seem to be on the mend...

Taking a quick look at some of the management DAU numbers, it becomes fairly evident that our mule deer herds are not on the mend as some would wish us to believe. Colorado's mule deer population is still in the tank (along with the other western states), even with some units slightly growing. DAU #6 had a population estimate of nearly 96,000 deer in 2006 post hunt, and just a scant 37,500 in 2014, as just one example. State wide number estimates are down from 600,000 plus in the same year (2006) to just 424,000 in 2014. Ugh!

I feel bad for the state game agencies, they seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place at this juncture, seemingly focusing on 'reactionary management styles' rather than pro-active styles, or maybe that's just my own perception of the whole thing... One thing I do know, now is not the time to sit on our laurels and bask in the glow of a few more mulies here and there. Game agencies, government agencies, NGO's and hunters all need to get on the same page here and begin to probe a bit deeper into the mule deer decline issue. Some headway is being made, but it is way too slow and minute in detail.

Sheesh, sorry for the rant, just breaks my heart watching the mule deer struggle with seemingly nothing to be done, come 'rapture or ruin', so to speak! :(

Big Fin

Staff member
Dec 27, 2000
Bozeman, MT
It is indicative of how things are going in many places. Having lots of public land habitat is great for access, but when you have a Congress and state Legislatures hell-bent on de-funding agencies, this is part of what we can expect as we go forward.

It is no secret that much of the range is in poor condition, from a variety of factors. The best tools we have are pretty much taken away from the agencies because of political influence, budget cuts, sniveling by adjacent neighbors, and a multitude of other challenges.

Hunters need to get involved in their local and national groups. We need to attend the planning meetings. We need to be involved in the ugly mess of politics, as much as we all hate the idea.

Those who have little concern for wildlife have taken our issues away from the agencies that are staffed by trained professionals. These anti-wildlife folks have moved the issue to the political arena where they will have no/little opposition to their efforts. As hunters, we are not well prepared to advocate for our cause in the game of politics, but we better get good at it given that is where the ball game is now being played.

This change of political football with our wildlife and habitat is probably the biggest negative change to hunting in the time I've been a hunter. Mule deer, along with bighorn sheep, are the two species most indicative of the negative changes wildlife politics can have.

I know this is not what hunters probably want to hear. I would project that if agencies, both Fed and State, were allowed to manage landscapes and species for the health of wildlife, we would see significant rebounds in mule deer numbers across the west.

I am thankful to have a Colorado buck tag this year. Back when numbers were higher, I could draw the tag almost every year or at least every other year. Now, with numbers down from where they once were, I draw the tag every third year.

Illustrates the point that if we want better drawing odds, the easiest solution is to have more critters on the mountain.