-By Jason Carter
-By Jason Carter
August is all but here already! Scouting for our hunts is happening on a weekly basis for all of us who work at the Epic Outdoors office. Antler growth for Mule deer seemed to start out a bit slow but it appears as though it will catch up. Evidence that antler growth has already surpassed the growth we saw this time last year is apparent in our scouting. The antler growth for elk appears to be solid as well. We are glad to see this growth considering the die-off that occurred in many areas of the West.
An incredible winter and spring, with record moisture levels and unusually cool temperatures that lasted through June occurred in the western states. With the heavy winter snows, deer experienced some significant winter kill, especially in parts of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. In the hard-hit areas, population numbers have been significantly reduced. Fawn recruitment is also low in these areas, which means populations will rebound slowly. In addition to Mule deer die-off, there was some minimal winter loss for elk, and significant winter loss for antelope in these same areas.
As we watched, and in some cases participated in, the public process of allocating tags in these states, it was our opinion that, in many cases, tag allocations and tag cuts in the affected areas for the 2023 hunting season did not correlate well with the percentage of winter loss. State fish and game agencies really don’t like to cut tag numbers as it adversely affects revenue generated from tag sales and reduces opportunities for hunters. When times are good and deer are relatively plentiful, I believe game and fish agencies should be somewhat liberal with tag allocations, as long as they don’t exceed the parameters of proper game management plans. However, when die-off occurs, significant tag reductions may be warranted.
Due to the apathetic nature of game and fish agencies to decrease tag numbers, a regular discussion at Epic Outdoors began to focus on figuring out what we could do to help save deer and maintain quality bucks in these heavily affected areas. As a result of those conversations, the Muleys Matter movement materialized. What is Muleys Matter? It is simply a program where hunters who don’t fill their tag can win legitimate prizes, including but not limited to, rifles, bows, hunts, shooting courses, Starlink set up, etc! So far, we have had over 40 donations to the cause. This program is designed to encourage hunters, who do not find the type of buck they are looking for, to leave their tag unfilled instead of harvesting an inferior buck just to punch a tag. We want hunters to harvest bucks if they find what they are after, but if they don’t, we hope they will let the small ones live. It’s a way we can all help the deer quality and populations return to healthy levels, regardless of tag allocations.
You can participate in this conservation effort by entering an unpunched tag, for Mule deer, in any of the following categories:
• Limited-entry Deer Tags – Arizona,
Colorado (West of I-25), Idaho,
Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and
• Over-the-Counter – Deer Tags
– Arizona, Idaho, and Wyoming
• “Bombs on Moms” Antlerless –
Doe tags in Arizona, Colorado,
Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico,
Utah, and Wyoming.
When your hunt is over, simply submit your unpunched tag to us before December 1, 2023, and you will be entered to win a prize in one of the above drawings.
The Muleys Matter program is designed to encourage all hunters to carefully consider their contribution to preservation and conservation and do what they can to help protect our wildlife. If we hunt, we each have a responsibility to do our part to properly manage populations. Our goal is to cause hunters to think twice before harvesting an immature buck or doe. Our best efforts should be made to help get big game populations and quality where they need to be. Antelope could also use a helping hand as well. We’ve focused on Mule deer because they have sustained significant loss and have a harder time rebounding in general, but consideration should be made for all wildlife populations at are jeopardized. Whereas tag allocation is out of our hands, let’s do what we can—please support this movement.
We’ve had an incredible amount of donations with many more to come! These donations come from great companies, as well as many concerned hunters in our community. If you’ve donated, we can’t thank you enough! There is nothing in it for Epic Outdoors except the satisfaction of going out on a limb and trying an out-of-the-box idea to help Mule deer. We have dedicated our time, money, and energy to push it, manage it, and follow it through. For more information and a list of rules and prizes, go to https://epicoutdoors.com/mm-how-to-enter/. Call or email us if you’d like more information or instructions on how to donate. As of now, we are planning on this being an annual event. Again, I want to thank you in advance for your support and participation!