Do you hunt Arizona Mule Deer?

It’s no secret Arizona Units 13A, 13B, 12A & 12B are managed for quality & the Mule Deer herds North of the BIG DITCH are monitored closer than a pre-term newborn baby!  
Do you hunt Mule Deer South of the ditch?
The Arizona Mule Deer Hunting Guidelines are up for their two year review & the department is excepting & WANTING your comments with regards to management guidelines.  If you think Mule Deer numbers & hunt structures are just fine then go turn on the 50″ flat screen & stop reading here.  If you don’t like the current hunt structures, permit numbers &/or deer populations read on…

Bucks like this one use to be very common.
In 2006 the Arizona Game & Fish Department adopted a new management strategy after a generic survey was completed by hunters.  They decided hunters wanted more opportunity & less quality hunts.  So, basically that meant they were going to increase permit numbers & decrease success rates.   Over a period of time this would allow them to drop the buck to doe ratio to around 10 bucks to every 100 does.

Pre-2006 the Game & Fish set the guidelines in order to maintain a buck-to-doe ratio of 15-25 to every 100 does.  Looking at this it may not seem like much difference, but I recently found out when a biologist is trying to accomplish a goal they may let the buck-to-doe ratio drop below the actual low number in order to rule out any trends.

Quality experiences will led kids to value hunting…


Does Arizona have a HEALTHY population of deer?
Comparing Apples to Apples
So now you have your survey numbers, but not total population count, so what do you do with the numbers? To explain, let’s use an example. Assume you have a herd of pet deer on a farm. Within your herd you have 10 bucks, 50 does and 25 fawns. You neighbor also has a deer herd. His herd has 12 bucks, 70 does and 25 fawns. Which herd is in better shape? Tough to tell from the raw numbers, so we convert the numbers into standard ratios based on the number of does. Bucks divided by does multiplied by 100 equals the number of bucks per 100 does. Fawns divided by does multiplied by 100 equal fawns per 100 does. Trust me on the math. Converting our two deer herds into standard ratios yields:20 bucks: 100 does: 50 fawns for farm #1 
17 bucks: 100 does: 36 fawns for farm #2.

Biologically speaking, farm #1 has a healthier deer herd, even though farm #2 has more total deer. Why is farm #1 better? Keep reading.”

“Research studies suggest that ratios as low as 5-10 bucks per 100 does are adequate to ensure that all does are bred. Low male to female ratios are not, nor likely have ever been a biological limitation in Arizona’s elk, deer, antelope or sheep herds. Socially, the effects of male to female ratios on hunting experience can be quite different. A deer herd managed for high buck: doe ratios, say 40 bucks per 100 does, would result in a superior hunting experience (high hunter success, high number of bucks observed, high number of older age class bucks) at a cost of limited hunter opportunity (only a few hunters are able to go). Our alternative management units like the AZ Strip and the North Kaibab are managed this way. Conversely, a deer herd managed for lower buck: doe ratios, say 10-20 bucks per 100 does, would result in near maximum hunter opportunity with the cost of a diminished hunter experience (lower hunter success, lower number of bucks observed, lower number of older age class bucks), which is how our standard management units are managed under the current Commission approved guidelines for hunting seasons. If you have never seen our hunt guidelines, they are posted on our website (see link below).”  Jim Hinkle Arizona Game & Fish Department

With all of this in mind I can’t help but believe our deer herd would be much HEALTHIER if we managed at the HIGH end of the old buck to doe ratio (25:100).  In my own opinion it looks like the department & we hunters are not being good shepherds of our deer herds.  Seriously, we have the opportunity to increase the health of our overall deer herds by just bumping the permit numbers down a touch!  

Desert Mule Deer have to travel great distances to breed.

We have several general deer hunts with draw odds of 70%+ & over-the-counter archery hunts.  The opportunity to go hunting is not the problem, the problem is we now have extremely low quality deer hunts throughout much of Arizona & the cost of hunting is at extreme levels.  We must all realize that there must be a balance between quality & quantity, as we are dealing with a limited natural resource.  Quality hunts will indeed drive up demand, but if you spread out the quality by just a small amount we will see healthier deer herds & happier hunters.  

Most people don’t value hunting javelina enough to spend the coin to hunt them in this economy.   Again, we need a balance of quality & quantity & I strongly believe MOST hunters don’t want to just go hunting, they want a QUALITY experience or else they would just buy a javelina tag or go small game hunting, correct?

I will step off my soap box…  

Below I have listed an email address & an email written up by one of my good friends who cares about this situation.  If you don’t like the current Mule Deer numbers you need to email them by 28th of April.  Feel free to cut & paste, but it would probably be better if you used your own words!

“Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners:
I have lived and hunted in Region III for over 20 years and I would like to express my desire to see the Department return to more conservative mule deer management.  I realize that there are lots of hunters who feel deer hunting should be an annual privilege, while accepting that bull elk, pronghorn or bighorn sheep hunting will be far less frequent.  However, I feel at some point hunters and the Department, will have to accept that because of our current low mule deer populations, mule deer must be managed more conservatively to maintain deer hunting all together.
Deer populations have decreased in Arizona over the last 20 years, for a variety of reasons.  I understand that research suggests that the current low buck:doe ratio can maintain somewhat contiguous populations.  I believe that this reduced ratio coupled with the lower deer numbers complicates a buck’s ability to breed all the isolated, small herds of does during their short estrus window; leaving yearling bucks to breed does or allowing some does to go un-bred.  This would also negatively affect the fawn:doe ratio in these areas.
I have watched the mule deer populations decrease in Region III and experienced the quality of hunts decrease with the emphasis the Department placed on “opportunity.”  I have talked to fellow sportsmen who no longer hunt deer in Arizona because of the decreased quality of their hunt and are beginning to apply for deer hunts in other states.  I ask that the Commission please focus management efforts back towards conservative mule deer management and retention of current deer hunters in Arizona.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider my suggestions. “
Email them if you care:

Posted in AZ Non-Resident Hunters, DIY Mule Deer Hunt | 2 Replies
Craig Steele

About Craig Steele

Craig Steele is the founder and publisher at Craig is an obsessed hunter and professional hunting guide. He owns and operates Predator Exclusives. Craig also guides for Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters. Besides hunting and guiding, he operates CS Creativity, which is his marketing and graphic design business.

2 thoughts on “Do you hunt Arizona Mule Deer?

  1. Craig and Richelle Steele

    “Hervert and Krausman (1986) demonstrated that the elimination of free-standing water within
    the home-range core of desert mule deer females caused these animals to seek available water in
    less desirable habitats. By removing water sources from outside the monument, or increasing the
    housing density to such a degree that the increased level of human disturbance precludes the use
    of private lands, thus denying deer access to water, similar movements are likely to occur among
    deer that use SAGU. Forcing animals to inhabit suboptimal habitats may increase their
    susceptibility to predation, lower their nutritional status, or decrease their reproductive fitness.” citied from Bellantoni & Krausman Study University of Arizona


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