Colorado Mule Deer in the Gunnison Basin. In this episode of the Epic Outdoors Podcast we talk with the Gunnison Area Wildlife Manager, Brandon Diamond, as well as Cody Dyce, President of the Gunnison Wildlife Association. These two guests bring different perspectives together and show us all how we can work together to create good relationships between hunters and wildlife management.
Disclaimer: this text was produced through an automated transcription service and likely contains errors. Please listen to the original audio for exact content.
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Let, let’s maybe rewind the clock a little bit. 3 99, 98. There were a lot of good deer, but you weren’t sorting through 190 inch deer and it wasn’t that way. It’s not that way, and it’s never gonna be that way. Anything to do with Western Big Games. Welcome to the Epic Outdoors Podcast, powered by Under Armour. Hey everybody. Jason Carter, Adam Bronson, Chris Peterson coming at you from Southern Utah. Bronson, we’ve got a lot of weather out there. We’ve had some we could use more, but we sure take everything we get. Yeah, it seems like we get one inch and we’re applying everywhere. Yeah. What’s that about? Point oh five, 0.005 inches of moisture. Hey, we’ll take it. It’s legit. Anyway, well, before we get started, we wanna thank Under Armour. We appreciate them. They support all of our podcasts and everything we do here at Epic Outdoors. You might go take a [email protected], check out a lot of the different products on there. So anyway, we also have some 40% off coupons. You don’t need to necessarily pay full price. Go to epic outdoors.com and download a 40% off coupon. So, all right. Hey, we want to give another shutout to a couple of our sponsors here of the podcast, red Rock Precision, Kurt and the guys there. In fact, I’ve got another rifle in the mix.
00:01:18:22 –> 00:02:26:02
Carter, I, it’s what happens when you’ve got kids that get older and think they need their owns of things, and so, you know, I’m gonna get me a new one and get them. And they don’t, but, but think it’s Dad not wanting to share. Possibly. Possibly. So either way, I’m working on a new six five PRC, or I should say they are working on one, but Kurt and the crew there at Red Rock Precision. Red Rock precision.com. Yeah, if you can dream it, they can put it together. But they do have a lot of like template and ideas. They can check it out on their website, but give them a call. In terms of application, my, this specific one’s gonna be a, a lighter weight, sheep, sheep and deer killing some bee. That’s what I’m building. I hope some bee. Okay. All right. That’s, that’s what I’m having ’em build. So I’m looking forward of putting it to use this fall. Another shout out is to vortex. Of course, we sell all kinds of optics here at Epic Outdoors and Epic Optics. One of them brands is Vortex, and we, we did have it a couple weeks ago, but maybe we’ll throw it out here on the podcast too, since it’s kind of getting closer to spring bear season. I mean, it’s about the only thing we can use, I mean, you don’t use binoculars to hunt turkeys in the spring, really?
00:02:26:02 –> 00:03:38:29
So, but spring bear hunting spot and stalkers, you’re gonna need some optics. So if you’re looking for something, we’ve got a stash of the 18 by 56 UHD Binos as well. The Summit, summit Carbon two tripods in stock. If you’re looking for a tripod mounted anos system and a tripod, we’ve got it give, are you doing a Bron? We’ll package a Bronson bundle. I wouldn’t term it that. Is this the Bronson bundle? I wouldn’t term it that. This is the Spring bear, spring bear bundle. I like, I like don’t call it the Bronson Bear Bundle Bron bundle either. I mean, I’m just, I’m just saying what we got. And that’s spring bear season. So loves to bundle and, and I think, Hey, give us a call. We’ll make you a deal. That’s right. That’s what we’re saying. Give us a call. We’ll make you on a dear deal on a great spring bear optics bundle. Well, I like it. I like it from Vortex, so, all right, sounds good. Well, we’d also like to throw a shout out to Triple S Polaris. Super good guys here in town, but they’ll ship anywhere. They actually have, I think, more clients outta state than instate. So anyway, super good guys down there, personal friends, give ’em a holler. Anything for your U-T-V-A-T-V needs, man, they’ve got all kinds of stuff. Generators, e-bikes, everything. So anyway, I do, can you believe it?
00:03:39:01 –> 00:04:57:10
I’m, I think I’m gonna buy an e-bike really? From him. Really? Really? Dude, dude, gas, look. What? What’s the price of gas? Huh? Chris? Too much hunt off E-bike. It’s a lot more than the price of rice in China right now. You’d be seeing me going down a regular O2 track on an e-bike. All right, here we go. Anyway, 4 3 5 8 6 5 0 100, 4 3, 5, 8, 6, 5 0, 100. Give ’em a holler. E-bikes, UTVs, ATVs, anything and everything. That’s what they’re known for. Super good friends, they’ll treat you right. They treat everybody right and, and I appreciate ’em. Alright. I also wanna throw a shout out to stealth cam. Super good guys over there at stealth cam. We offer ’em here, the Epic optics store. So you can go on their website, stealth cam.com, check out all the new models of the cameras out there. Of course, Bronson, there’s been some changes as far as trail cameras here in Utah, Nevada, other places. That’s right. Well, you know, with seasons and things like that and Nevada and, and Utah, in some cases it’s meant that you may have to use a few more cameras for the shorter duration of time that you can use ’em, but before you gotta pull ’em down by the end of July. So don’t forget if you need some, some of yours are getting old washed up, track broke, everything like that. Just need to re redo resupply your, your arsenal. Yeah, give us a call there.
00:04:57:12 –> 00:06:27:12
Or if you just need a few for whatever personal home use cabin, whatever like that might even run a few more of ’em just to cover the country. Yeah. You know, before August 1st comes around. That’s right. Keep us in mind when you’re ready to buy some. Anyway, we got some great guests lined up here today. Yeah, we get more questions probably throughout the year on Colorado Mule Deer than anything else. But one thing that we thought we’d do, and one area in particular is the Gunnison Basin Mule Deer Hunting. And we’re gonna talk to Brandon Diamond era area wildlife manager currently there, who’s been there a long time, been a terrestrial biologist and a wildlife manager there, as well as Cody Deis, who is a member of the Gunnison Wildlife Association President, actually. And a guide there for Lazy Up Our Outfitters. So gonna be a good discussion about all things mule deer in a very key area of Colorado, the Gunnison Basin. So yeah, everybody’s talking about Gunnison. Of course there was a lot of big deer taken, especially in unit 54 it appears. But anyway, we’re gonna hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. We’re gonna get these guys on the phone. Okay, here we go. Good morning, this is Brandon. Hey Brandon. Adam Bronson. Jason Carter with the Epic Outdoors Podcast. How are you doing today? I’m doing good. How are you guys? We’re doing great.
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Do you got Cody there with you or is he, we gotta call him. No, he, he’s sitting here. I dug out my, our little conference call speaker, so hopefully it sounds good on your end. Yeah, sounds fine. Well that works good. Well, how’s things in Gunnison this morning? Sunny and cold. It’s a beautiful day. We’ve finally got a little sun, Bronson. Yeah, we did. We’ve had some weather. We’ll take all we can get. We’ve been dry over here. How’s your, how’s your winter been up till now? Haven’t, doesn’t seem like it’s probably been anything too significant. No, in the scheme of things, it’s been fairly below average. I mean, some of our high country’s getting a lot of snow, which is a good thing. We’ll have some water coming down, but it’s pretty, it’s pretty light, which is good for big game game, but a little bit concerning going into the spring and summer. Yeah, for sure. Cody can, can you hear us okay? I can. Can you hear me? Yeah, we gotcha. Gotcha. Yep. Loud and clear. Well, we teed it up slightly before we gave you guys a call, but maybe before we dig into what we really wanna talk about, and that’s Mule Deer in the Gunnison Basin, why don’t we have each of you just do a quick introduction of yourself, kind of what your role is now.
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And I know Brandon, you’ve been there a long time in different hats, but have you maybe Brandon go first and then Cody as well, and then we’ll just kind of go into, maybe start back, I don’t know, 20 plus years or so with the Gunness and deer and then kind of how it’s evolved over time. But let’s introduce yourselves. Sounds great. Well, we appreciate talking with you guys this morning. I think Cody and I, we love talking about mule deer and so we appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast. My name is Brandon Diamond and I have worked for the Division of Wildlife in Colorado Parks and Wildlife now full-time since 2001. And I’m currently the area wildlife manager in Gunnison. So I supervise management and, and work across the Gunnison Basin as well as in the Norfolk Valley. So Paia, Hotchkiss, and Cedar Ridge. So we have a big area. Prior to this position, I was the wildlife officer for the West Elks. And so my world was, was pretty much game management, unit 54. Before that, for about 10 years, I was the terrestrial biologist. So I had big game management responsibilities across our area for, for mul deer, elk, sheep, goat, moose, pronghorn, fair mountain lion. And was also engaged with a lot of our non-game species like Gunnison, sage grouse. And before that I was the district wildlife manager, wildlife officer in the Nu Nuclear District.
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So my world was unit 61 and I got a, I got love for the UNC Compadre Plateau two, I did a lot of seasonal work there with mule deer right after I graduated from college. So appreciate it. You’ve been there a long time. 20, 20 plus years it sounds like. Yeah, yeah. No, we’re, we’re dug in. Our roots are deep here now, and my wife and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. It’s a wonderful place to be and a lot of, a lot of good memories and a a lot of adventures here locally over the years. Yeah, you’ve seen a lot, I mean, since 2001 all the way, you know, from Nucle to Paonia to Gunnison to about everything it seems like. So that’s awesome. Got a lot of great experience and, and we, you know, Bronson and I, we’ve hunted Gunnison and then we’ve also hunted out of Nucl quite a bit, and that’s pretty awesome country over there. Yeah, it’s a neat country. And I’m also a, a western alumni. I went to Western State College back when it was Western state, now it’s Western Colorado University, but been here since the mid nineties really. And, and even before that, some of my best memories as a kid were coming here to hunt elk with my family in the eighties and got a sense, a special place. And it’s, it’s changed a lot.
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We certainly have a lot of challenges from a wildlife management perspective, like a lot of places in the west, but we’re doing the best we can to, to preserve some of the, the wonder that’s here in terms of wildlife. You bet. Well, Cody, go ahead. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve got going on there and some of your history. Yeah, you know, I was born and raised in Pierce, South Dakota, grew up in kind of a hunting paradise, similar to Gunnison with lots of different opportunity and kind of bounced around and made my way to Gunnison in 2001. And so got here and kind of just stumbled into the resource. I was a mule deer guy, even though I kind of was raised in whitetail heavy country, mule deer always fascinated me. And so I came here and, you know, they were so prevalent that I, I kind of felt like I landed in paradise on, on accident. And so immediately my, my interest and appreciation for the resource started to grow and, and, and has since. So I’ve been here since 2001 and have been guiding mule deer hunters for the last 17 seasons. And so have, have had an opportunity to be on the landscape for a lot of days a year. And so not just guiding, but scouting and shed hunting and everything else.
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And so have, have developed an intimate relationship with the deer herd here and, and, and kind of rode the influx throughout the years. And so, you know, extremely passionate about deer, but also all wildlife and public glands, which has led me to a role as the president in the Gunnison Wildlife Association. And so, you know, that’s probably one of the greatest things that I’ve gotten involved with is, is having an opportunity to bring folks together and, and, and, and talk about wildlife and, and public land management in a constructive way. And so, which is fairly difficult. So anyways, the one thing that I can say, and I kind of point the light back to Brandon is that, you know, I think it’s unique that Brandon has had the opportunity to play the role of the biologist and then DWM or a game warden and now area Wildlife Manager out of the same office for that period of time, which I think is unique to most wildlife managers and, and, and how they, you know, kind of live out their careers. And so the the fortunate part for me about that is I’ve been able to develop a relationship with Brandon over the years that has allowed us to kind of have two different perspectives and exercise that back and forth on, on kind of how things are perceived from an agency standpoint and a public standpoint.
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So I think it’s really helped us to exercise our dialogue and, and kind of try and figure out where we’re at and, and what, you know, kind of a quote unquote reality is as far as wildlife, but particularly mule deer. So, you know, I, I think that’s what’s fun about having this opportunity is, is that we can kind of speak from both sides of the table and we do have that dialogue that’s been there where we don’t always agree, but we know kind of, you know, where where the middle is and, and what some of the realities are of, of what we’re kind of, you know, seeing and, and working with on, on both sides, agency versus public and, and that and that sort of thing. So, you know, I I think that’s significant that, you know, we’ve had that shared commitment together and continue to try and perpetuate a, a good attitude when it comes to being thankful for the resource that we have here. De de despite, I’ll say what people’s perception is. Well, yeah, that is a very unique perspective. A a sportsman’s organization, division of wildlife, you know, marriage, yeah. Interaction, courtship, whatever, you know, they’re very dynamic. We have ’em in here in Utah. Every state has them.
00:15:06:15 –> 00:16:32:18
You have good times, bad times, but in general, yeah, very passionate in both, on both sides about, in this case mule deer and Mule deer in a very, very high profile, I guess we’ll just call it that part of Colorado. Very, you know, you know, a lot of people have seen the potential there. And that’s what, what makes the passion, what makes the deep interest in on both sides of it. And maybe to kind of, I guess get us in talking about that and the Gunnison basin, we, we can’t really start talking about it without maybe some historical context prior to what I think Modern Day Hunters think of and talk about the last, let’s just say 15 plus years in terms of Big Deer and Gunnison Basin. But let, let’s maybe rewind the clock a little bit, pre 99, 98 in terms of, you know, back when things were over the counter. I know that maybe predates you guys both slightly being there, but, but you guys have you got there right after that, I guess. And so right when the transition, if you will happened, you know, what, what things looked like then population-wise, trends wise, BAU ratio wise. And then as we went to draw unit by unit, what we saw happen, you, you know, rather quickly, I guess over that five or six year period before we saw one of our first real severe winners.
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And so I’ll let you guys maybe talk about that a little bit. Well, and just pr just right before we jump into that, I think it’s super commendable that, that we can have you both on the same podcast. You guys obviously have a huge respect for each other, the organization versus game and Fish and, and that’s very unique and I think it’s awesome. Anyway, it’s, it, you know, brings kind of the social aspect with the biology and kind of managing for the, for the good of everything. And so anyway, there’s, there’s a lot of passion we can tell already from both sides. And, and I think it’s just commendable that we can have you both on here and, and that you guys are obviously working together and, and, and have a respect for each other. So yeah, Bronson as you, as you talked about pre 99, I, I mean from the hunter’s perspective, we always talked about the Eastern plains back then and like Opinion Canyon Unit 1 42 and some of that because there was not lot, lot going on. That was the draw areas. We didn’t have West Side very many of them. That’s right, that’s right. So, so there is a lot of history there and so I don’t know who wants to lead out on, on that, you know, pre 99 discussion. Sure. And, and I’ll, I’ll start it off and I appreciate your point, Jason.
00:17:42:13 –> 00:19:08:03
You know, I give, I give, before we start in on that, I’ll give Cody a lot of credit when he took over the role as president of GWA, I mean, I’ll be honest with you, our, our relationship with, with GWA was a little bit more adversarial in the old days. And I think that Cody has realized, and I’ve certainly realized over my career, you know, no, no good really can come from an adversarial relationship between state agencies and wildlife managers and the, the, the hunting public. You know, we have too many things to deal with in 2022, whether it’s Colorado or Utah or Montana, to be fighting amongst ourselves. And so while it’s important that we have a good dialogue and debate things, you know, we still gotta stay friends if we’re gonna accomplish sort of the, the longer term objectives of keeping critters on the mountain and, you know, so Cody gets a lot of credit and we appreciate this opportunity for sure. So going back to the 1990s in Gunnison, I actually have a little bit of a snapshot there because when I was at Western, it was a whole different, a different paradigm of management at the time, most years. And I grew up hunting with a bow. And so when I was in college, you could drive to Walmart and buy an over-the-Counter Elk license and an over-the-Counter Mule Deer license.
00:19:08:22 –> 00:20:39:01
And there were some years, several years where me or a friend would pick up a leftover Gunnison basin pronghorn license for archery. And we essentially had the run of the whole basin. ’cause at that time, all five of the game management units around Gunnison were over the counter with, with very little restrictions. Really, the only limited licenses at that time would’ve been cow licenses during rifle seasons, and otherwise everything was over the counter. So things have changed pretty dramatically since then. So in 1999, you know, over over the nineties there was, there was certainly a lot of interest in mule deer across Western Colorado because deer herds were generally in a state of decline for lots of reasons. Some of the same reasons that we still experienced today. But based on those declines and also based on a desire for higher buck to dough ratios, I think those two things sort of set the stage for a whole different look at Mule Deer Management across the state. And in 1999, the division of Wildlife at that time took a major leap and all mule deer license licenses across the state went to totally limited. And so you had to apply in the draw, a certain number of licenses were allocated each year. And so it was really a, a fundamental shift in how we had done business for a long, long time.
00:20:39:28 –> 00:21:46:12
You know, and certainly, you know, you, you talk to the, it’s always interesting, and I’m sure you guys do this too, when you, you talk to old timers in, in, in the places you live and the places you hunt, it’s always fascinating to kind of look at that snapshot of how things looked in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and, you know, the Gunnison Basin always had a strong mule deer population. In fact, when you talk to the old, there’s, there’s folks in this valley, a lot of ’em are unfortunately passing along these days. But, you know, they ate so many deer in their younger days that they couldn’t, they couldn’t eat another here in the modern era. And you know, like a lot of places also there was, there was very few elk. So we had lots and lots of deer, very few elk and deer were a strong part of the culture. And then over time, mule deer numbers generally declined. Elk numbers increased, lots of changes across the landscape in terms of what people were doing and wildlife was doing. And so we’re in a little bit different place now, but presently, you know, all licenses are limited.
00:21:48:01 –> 00:23:20:26
Following the 1999 limitations, obviously we had the ability to manage for different sex ratios and population objectives and different parts of the state took different approaches on that in 1999 in the Gunnison Basin, largely because we had so much local public interest and a lot of willingness to, to sacrifice hunting opportunity. Honestly, managers at that time actually cut buck licenses by 90% from what the three year historic average was. And so we were issuing a very small number of licenses there in the, in the late nineties and early two thousands. And that paired with some mild winters and favorable conditions year round. We didn’t have radio callers out to the degree we do now, but it would’ve been interesting to have that information in hand. But we had some really favorable years for deer. And our deer herd essentially erupted, very minimal hunting pressure. Deer herds growing buck door ratios were, were going through the roof at that time and for, for quite a few years there. And it was a different time also in terms of technology and information. You know, it was a, it was a well kept local secret. And what pushed the change? Like what pushed the change? Was social, were the hunters were wanting to see quality? Was it game and fish saying we need to do something or c combination? What kind of pushed that change?
00:23:21:24 –> 00:24:37:29
Yeah, I think it was, it was a combination of all of that, you know, I mean the, the division of wildlife at that time, certainly there was a significant economic impact from that change in management because, you know, a lot of people when we went from over the counter to limited, I mean, people were like, well, I’m not applying for a license. You know, so we had a significant number of hunters that just dropped out that didn’t want to take the time to apply, weren’t used to that. Of course we cut licenses to a great degree. So there was less opportunity there. And then, yeah, there was, and and again, you know, Gunnison, the philosophy in Gunnison was probably a little bit different from other parts of Western Colorado, but there was a desire at that time, you know, to increase our buck to dough ratios to increase our, our deer populations because of what had gone on on over the previous decade and what people had observed in the, in the 1990s and some of our units, we had buck dough ratios that were, were sometimes less than five to 100. You know, we had single, we had single digit buck to dough ratios in some units. And certainly there were people that were interested in increasing those. And so that was a conversation.
00:24:38:17 –> 00:25:40:09
We’re, we’re initially, I guess in 99 or whenever you, that that drastic, I guess you guys at the time were estimating how many over the counter tags you were selling for the Gunnison basin area and ’cause you mentioned cutting that by 90%, you had to have some general idea, but so that, that was part of it. But what was the metric for buck to dough ratio that, that those units fell within? Where did you say, this is where we want to try to be 30, 40, or where was that from the, you know, whatever, 10 or 15 or whatever you were at And did it change? Was that different region to region? It was, it was different region to region. I would have to look up what those, ’cause there were management plans written ar around oh 1 0 2 and you know, it immediately started the discussion, you know, gunna as you, as you guys know, the Gunnison basin is a really challenging place to manage deer because we experienced those severe winners about once a decade. And so that’s always in the back of our mind.
00:25:41:16 –> 00:27:02:21
At the time we went limited, you know, we’d, it was kind of uncharted water at that time because with, with winners in the back of our mind and, and all the variables that go into grow into deer herd, it was uncertain, you know, where that buck to dough ratio should land and you know, how, what the potential of that buck to dough ratio could be. And so I’d have to look at what those initial management plans, what the objectives were. What I can tell you is that when I got here, it was oh five or oh six, i, I revised the first set of deer management plans in the basin. And at that time we set the ratio, I believe for 40 to 45 per 100. Yeah. Pretty awesome. That’s kind of what I was generally remembering was about 40 ish or something. Yeah. Which is high. I, I mean that’s a very high but to go ratio. And I’m, I suppose that from 99 to oh five, because of the reasons you’ve indicated, 90% cuts hardly any permits being drawn, mild winners, all those things you guys were getting taught heavy, fast. And you know, to add one thing to most listeners, and you alluded to winter loss in the Gunnison Basin, as the name implies, it is a, it is a basin, it’s a, it’s a big valley where all these high country units came down kind of high elevation basically.
00:27:02:22 –> 00:28:20:04
But it’s, it’s eight 8,000 8,500 Brandon, roughly is, I mean, you don’t get much lower than that, right. For wintering deer. So the gun, the Gunnison proper, I believe is 7,200. Okay. 7,400. It’s, so we’re a little bit under 8,000, but that’s the low end. Yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s scheme of things. A lot of places that’s summer range and you guys, that’s as low as your deer can get is 7,400 feet up to, you know, say 8,500 feet roughly. Yeah. Yeah. And it seems to me like, just from a hunter’s perspective, we hunted Gunnison then, and it seems like oh 5, 0 6, 0 4 to oh six was just unbelievable. It was, it was unbelievable. It’s what what’s in a lot of people’s minds still today. And we’ll get to that maybe in a bit. We just, we’re trying to repeat that. I’m not sure where to do it. It’s just, it’s hard. Everybody remembers those days and of course that if you, you know, most people had started applying and gaining points for Deere, you know, in 99 and 2000. So by the time 2000 2, 3 4 came on, you had a first little batch of points to use somewhere and it was phenomenal. And we, we can get into that, you know, a little bit later in terms of that may never look like that again. But, but yeah, during this area it was a period of building, building, building, building box. Yeah. Yeah.
00:28:20:04 –> 00:29:23:12
You jumped in what, oh, oh five ish? Is that what you were saying? Oh, five ish. I got here as biologist I think in the winter of oh 3, 0 4. Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. And so when we set, when we set those objectives of 40 to 45 bucks per hundred dose, we were already over them. You know, there we, at, at the peak we were, we were pretty well in the sixties to one hundreds across the basin. I remember that in terms, I just don’t see a problem with that. I don’t see a problem. Let’s talk about the winter of oh 7, 0 8 and then, and then we have a heavy winter and there’s a lot of wasted wildlife. I totally get it, but I just don’t see a problem with those I ratios. Well, you know, it’s funny, I, the back in that day when I was even more green than I am now, I, I just simply spent a lot e every minute that I could get in the field, I, I was in the field just kind of overwhelmed by the, the, the resource and how many deer and bucks and big bucks and, you know, the whole thing.
00:29:23:23 –> 00:30:45:00
But the one thing that I realized after a couple seasons of just observing this is prior to guiding, just observing and then shed hunting, is that, you know, you drive around post hunt and observe deer and each deer group had a number of bucks and sometimes multiple mature bucks. And it was awesome to see, but what you saw by the end of the rutt is a lot of really fatigued deer. Yeah. And then you, you get onto the, to the post winter range or shed season and you’re finding a lot of these old mature deer dead have, have had shed their antlers. But, you know, just stress. I actually came, came into the office and was talking to the biologist at the time going, Hey, you know, I, I, I see this as a phenomenal thing, but these deer are cur killing themselves as a result of this buck high buck to dough ratio. And so as neat as it is, you can see that there’s an issue that these deer actually a detriment to themselves as a result of these high concentrations of buck. So, you know, I mean, it is just all how you want to see it. ’cause I thought it was awesome too, and why would you ever not want that forever? But at the same time, I think there are a lot of animals going to waste. Makes sense. Yeah.
00:30:45:00 –> 00:31:59:09
There, there is such thing as too good of a thing is what you’re saying. I, I mean there is such, there is a, a capacity there and a limit and, you know, that totally makes sense and I think it’s great to, to bring that out. So. Well, and it’s, it is an important point, Jason, because that you’re making, in terms of the people that hunted here prior to oh seven, you know, their, their bar will, will always forevermore be where it is. And it, it ties in The issue there is that it ties into current modern day management, but there’s, at the end of the day, there’s a reason why we manage the way we manage now. And some of that is lessons learned from the oh 7 0 8 winner. But yeah, having that bar and, and those experiences in the back of your mind, definitely sometimes short circuits us a little bit when we’re talking about current management. No doubt. Well, I guess unless there’s a little bit more you want to talk about leading up to this period of building, let’s discuss a little bit the magnitude for some of those listeners that don’t remember or not aware at all about that oh 7 0 8 winter, what it looked like. I remember a lot of the pictures we kept getting brutal. It was, it was rough feeding programs.
00:31:59:23 –> 00:33:23:25
I mean yeah, we wanna paint that picture a little bit about whether it’s statistical or just what it actually looked like and what you, what the result was in terms of adult deer loss, fond loss, all that. Yeah, so it, it, it was certainly a one in a hundred year winter. The Gunnison basin is, is prone to severe winters, but the oh 7 0 8 winter was, was the one in recent history. You know, we’ve had other bad winters, 78, 79, 83, 84, 96, 97 was a little bit rough, but yeah, the oh 7 0 8 winner was one of a kind, at least in modern history, a little to give you some reference. And I, I misspoke a minute ago. Gunnison is actually 7,700 feet in elevation, but at our’s office that’s what I was thinking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And at our office in Gunnison, we had over a hundred inches of snow measured. So at the very bottom of the valley in town, we were over a hundred inches of snow. So you can translate that to how it looked out on the, on the landscape, severe cold. We, we definitely had below average temperatures to go with the deep snow. One of the biggest issues we had that year was in December, and I, it was Christmas ish or just a little before, we got this really bizarre, heavy wet snow that just blanketed everything. And it was, it was substantial.
00:33:23:26 –> 00:34:58:15
It was six plus inches as I recall, basically in case the whole landscape. And then it got extremely cold, like negative 20 cold. And so that, that initial snow, we got persisted as a rock hard crust throughout the entire winter. And it just kept building and building and building and building, you know, winter feeding programs for big game are a, a whole topic in and of itself to discuss the implications of that. You know, that that winter we, we had a multimillion dollar feeding campaign going here across the Gunnison Basin. At the peak of the feeding program, we probably had close to 10,000 deer on feed grounds. So it was, it was exceptional. But, but what you would expect to happen happened, you know, we, we started seeing mature buck mortality and fallen mortality right off the bat, despite our best efforts. And we kept some deer alive. But, you know, mature bucks definitely took a beating that winter. We lost nearly our entire fawn crop for that year. We also had some pretty extensive feeding going on for elk, trying to keep ’em off of feed lines and things. And we were also feeding pronghorn that winter, which was quite an experience. They’re, they’re tough to get on feed grounds and our, our effectiveness there, I’m not sure was, you know, economically viable. But it was, it was extraordinary.
00:34:58:29 –> 00:36:35:25
And you know, obviously you can look at whatever data you wanna look at, whether it’s population estimates or sex ratios or license allocation. You know, we, we lost probably somewhere between 40 to 50% of our deer herd that year despite the feeding program. And, you know, it wasn’t proportionate. Yeah. Those were the best survivors bucks and fawns were, were the poorest survivors. And so obviously that had some pretty significant implications for years to come. You know, the following winter, the, the, one of the best things that came from the oh 7 0 8 winter was that we implemented a, a survival monitoring area in the Gunnison Basin. So every year we deploy or we keep a sample of 90 plus do on the landscape with radio callers and 60 fongs. And so that program was started because of all the discussions and debates we had on the heels of the oh 7 0 8 winner. So now we have a tremendous amount of radio caller information that’s benefited us in lots of ways and will continue to benefit us. But we have local survival estimates and, and if we do have another bad winner, we’re poised to, to have real data coming in live stream from those radio callers. But that winter was tremendous in terms of manage longer term management implications. You know, we, in 2013 or so, I revised the, there was, there was, we were compelled to revise those management plans again.
00:36:35:25 –> 00:38:00:01
And so we did that in 13. I think those plans went final. And one of the lessons learned from the oh 7 0 8 winner, which we still talk about a lot, you know, these days, you know, we, we set our objectives a little bit lower. We set our sex ratio back a touch, and then we are managing intentionally for smaller deer populations because at the end of the day, you know, we love, we all love seeing big groups of deer across the landscape, but when you get into one of those winters, and it doesn’t necessarily even have to be an oh 7 0 8 winner, we had the winner of 1617 here recently, which was not even close to oh 7 0 8, but it was significant. And when you see the, the, what actual carrying capacity is of our winter range here during those bad winters there, there has to be a nexus to our management. So we’ve, we’ve, we’ve learned a lot over the years. We’ve tried to adapt our management accordingly while also trying to provide, you know, a great experience for hunters to draw a license. But it certainly looks different now than it did pre oh 7 0 8. Can you talk about, I guess currently then, since it does look different, what, what are most of the sex ratios there instead of the 40 plus buck to-do ratios?
00:38:01:11 –> 00:39:11:12
Where, where do you try, you guys trying to maintain most of those now, and I know that’s, that’s just that and we’re, the population numbers is a completely different thing because of, you know, habitat and things like that. But through social and, and other things, you know, not wanting to quote waste a bunch of bucks in the, in the next hard winter where, where is that currently sit in the management plans? So it’s actually, it’s not, it’s not all that lower than it was previously in terms of the sex ratio, but it’s, our current management objectives for all three herds in the basin are 35 to 40 per 100 post hunt. So we’re still managing for, for an exceptional buck do ratio over the last few years just because of our herd performance. We’ve been over that. And so that, and these are post-season, right? Post-season we’re talking about? Yeah. Everything we, yeah, most of what we look at in terms of those metrics is all postseason. Yeah. For those listeners that’s, we’re talking end of November on after all the hunting season’s over, this is what’s still left. So everybody got their chance to take home what they wanna take home. And this is what’s, this is what’s going into the winter at December roughly? Yeah, exactly.
00:39:11:20 –> 00:40:21:16
And is that, that’s a bit, is that a bit higher than say other parts of the state say, you know, nuclear meager, you know, rangely, country Eagle or you know, are you privy to that info or, or can speak to that a bit? I think, I think we’re, I, I don’t know where everybody’s managing here presently, you know, like the Eagle Corridor unit 44 and that, that management unit, I’m sure they’re managing for a fairly high buck to deal ratio. Thirties, thirties, 25 to 30 seem to be a little more common than they were 15 years ago. But I still think we’re probably on the higher end. Yeah. As far as a specific objective for managing 35 to 40, you know, and, and I, it’s, it’s hard you can’t compare apples to apples necessarily just because every, everywhere in the state is dealing with, with just different management issues. You know, in the northwest part of the state, chronic wasting disease as an example is, is much more at the forefront of their management these days. And whereas in the southwest we haven’t, it’s not quite, we don’t have as high a prevalence rates at this time. So anyway, we’re still at the higher end of the spectrum though.
00:40:21:16 –> 00:41:48:03
Well, and it seems to me, and and Cody, you might even speak to this a bit too, there’s a very vocal sportsman’s groups, obviously Gunnison Wildlife Association, but it’s been extremely vocal for 15 plus 20 years, you know, and, and the, the, the locals there in Gunnison are extremely passionate about the deer especially it feels like, and, and have fought and clawed their way to, you know, and, and, and worked with the game and fish to a degree and maybe even have been at odds at times on maintaining, you know, high ratios, age class, things like that and fought for quality. And, and it’s awesome to have you both on here, but maybe speak to that a bit. I feel like, I feel like the sportsmen are very passionate compared to other areas that I’ve seen. You know, that’s interesting. And we’ve been kind of talking about that and examining that, you know, just over the years and particularly the last few years, years, I think, you know what the fact of the matter is is that there are, there are very passionate sportsmen out there, but I don’t think that they actually represent the whole, you know, and, and I think, you know, we can speak to this in any aspect of social dynamics that, you know, there’s, there’s the outspoken that are a percentage, but usually the majority is somewhat content.
00:41:48:10 –> 00:43:16:15
And so I can say being a part of that group of that, the, the folks that have been outspoken and and and involved in this group are folks that spend a lot of time in the field and have developed preferences over time for what they desire. And you know, I think the, the double-edged sword with what we’ve got going here and to kind of speak to a lot of the folks that have been involved is that whether we realize it or not, we, there was a bias created as a result of what I refer to as the wonder years pre oh 7 0 8. When, when you got to see that and experience that consistently for years, it’s easy to let that become your desire or have that be the bar of, of, of where you wanna maintain. But the reality is, and I think this is, I I’ll, I’ll be careful to speak for everybody, but just, just my perception of the tone of the group has changed, realizing that we, we can’t maintain at that level for, for ecological reasons. And the other thing is, and and we saw this happen and, and the folks that have been here and, and been involved and passionate and in the field is that with those kind of deer populations and dynamics, there’s other implications that come with that, that are undesirable.
00:43:16:27 –> 00:44:46:06
And from a local bias is you start to attract a lot of people that are seeking the same thing, you know? And so then that changes the hunting experience dynamic and that type of thing. And so pressure and interest and types of hunting and all of that. So, you know, I think what I can say is as far as the group is that we, we all desire to have the opportunity to go out and observe what a lot of people would call trophy trophy deer, you know? And, and, and obviously that’s different for everybody, but mature age class deer with preferable genetics, you know? And, and I think that’s becoming more common. But you know, that is the, the, the harsh reality is that there’s two sides to it, is that that’s a wonderful thing to experience, but it’s a hard thing to share too. And so, and, and, and that’s obviously speaking, like I said, with that local bias, but, you know, so that’s one aspect of it. The other is just trying to relate to what’s reasonable for, for managing versus what, what our desires are. And you know, I think that there’s a lot of gray there that people in general don’t really have a full understanding of what goes into ma management, how it’s done, models, that type of thing. You know, I, it, it, there’s just a disconnect there.
00:44:46:06 –> 00:45:53:22
And so I think, you know, that’s one thing that Brandon and I have developed and, and, and having, you know, that’s been part of the respect that we’ve generated is that we understand there’s two sides to it. So, you know, I, I think that’s where some of the, the rub has been in the past is that it’s kind of this subjective perspective of, of what I see out there or what I perceive that I see and what I want to see versus what we can have reasonably ecologically. And so, you know, I, I think that’s what has been one of my goals as president of this group, is to try and bridge that gap a little bit so that number one, we can foster a better appreciation for. What we do have, and I know you guys have spoke to it in regards to Gunnison before, is that we do have some of the highest bucket o ratios in the state so we can complain about how many big bucks we do or don’t see, mostly don’t see, or we feel like we don’t see, but we still have an outstanding deer herd. And so, you know, there’s some biases if you were here and got to experience that.
00:45:53:24 –> 00:47:05:29
But the reality is there’s a lot of people that still come here and even came here right after oh 7, 0 8, and we’re having better experiences deer hunting than they had in any other western state, you know? So it’s, it’s kind of all how you want to see it. But, and speaking back to the group and, and that type of thing, you know, I think the realization has come is that we can’t maintain, there’ll never be a pre oh 7, 0 8 will not happen again. We can’t do it. It, it’s not worth it. And, you know, I’ll speak just a little bit back to that winter and, and a field perspective of going out there shed hunting and coming across drainages where, where deer were stacked up on top of each other, like mummified never touched by a predator or scavenger. You definitely saw a waste. There was a waste that, that not even nature was absorbing what happened there. And so, you know, when you have that perspective, and I, I think, you know, it is something that not a lot of people can afford, and that’s a lot of time in the field to really get an intimate relationship with how nature works and the dynamics of, of mule deer and their trends and that type of thing.
00:47:07:00 –> 00:48:28:00
So, you know, I I think we kind of gotta take our manager’s word for it a little bit and be satisfied with what is good instead of always focusing on what is not desirable for us based on our experience, whether that’s two weekends in the field or multiple weeks depending on what your commitment is. But I, I think that’s the thing is there’s a big, big perception disconnect and, and I’ve found that with respect through inter interacting with folks in this group, is that what we commonly do is we talk about what we don’t like, but, but what, what we commonly don’t is talk about what we do like, you know. And so I think that that is something I think all people can consider is that, you know, even when it is not exactly what we want, we have to consider what what still is good. And, and, and I’ll speak to the present circumstances, and I shared a little bit with you guys at the show about, you know, some of what happened here this year that, you know, for some people it was awful. They didn’t see any other, you know, didn’t see enough deer, didn’t see enough big bucks. But then there’s a, there’s a pretty large number of guys that left here with bucks of a lifetime too, you know, and so it depends on who you talk to on how, what the status is here, you know?
00:48:28:01 –> 00:49:34:21
And I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned through this group is that though we’re a GWA and the past members we’re passionate, but we’re also biased, you know? And so I think that’s created some rub, but it’s also given us an opportunity to kind of challenge ourselves and, and, and talk about the reality of, of how good things actually are despite not being pre oh 7, 0 8. Like we would all want, just like you said, Jason, I mean, who doesn’t want 60 bucks to a hundred? Those, I mean, that’s dreamland, that’s paradise. But the reality is, is it’s not possible. Nor do we actually truly want that. We just don’t. Back then my biggest complaint was we’d harvested a two 20 buck and there was, it didn’t have I guards. Yeah, I remember. So there you go. There you have it. That’s the perfect, if you only had I guards, it’d be the perfect buck. I remember talking to people about the genetics of, no, I guards in Gunnison Basin, but, and that’s not necessarily true. I’ve seen a few bucks with I guards nowadays. But anyway, go ahead Bronson. There’s well just, we have just quite an opinion on, there’s a lot of variables on, on the dynamics in, in with the hunters and different things.
00:49:34:24 –> 00:50:46:16
But go ahead, lead out well that, you know, like you alluded, Disneyland, Fantasyland, dreamland, whatever you guys terminology wise, call it from let’s say 2002 to 2007 Heaven, dear heaven. Yeah. It, it was heaven, it was as good as it got. And whether people hunted it and saw it with their own eyes, they heard about it afterwards. And, and even people that didn’t quite have enough points or weren’t on the ball enough or didn’t even, hadn’t even started applying yet to Colorado to build points prior to the winter. They had heard about Colorado and they heard about Gunnison Basin then the winter hits. And, and for some people they never saw what it was like before. They just heard the, the stories. And so now we’re, now we’re dealing with people that, that either have, are going back for the first or second time or, or, or second or third time in some cases in burning their points as non-residents is as points required to draw some of these particularly third season or any four seasons have gone way up. Perception or expectations are through the roof. But, but I guess as you guys were talking it, I’ve been thinking about some of our premium, the best limited entry deer units that we have in Utah.
00:50:47:09 –> 00:51:58:16
We’re not managing ’em much differently than what you’re, you currently say your management plan is there for Gunnison, yet you guys have much higher overall deer numbers and obviously much higher tag numbers and multiple rifle seasons and archery and muzz loader and all that and hunting them in November. And I’m just thinking, wow, here, like the Henry Mountains, for instance, in Utah we have about 50 deer tags a year, click on all seasons combined. And, and our buck to dough ratios are in the 40 to 50 range. And there’s also other indices in there too, you know, on harvested bucks that have, you know, certain percentage of five years and older and all that. So there’s, there’s a few other metrics in place, but it’s also a mountain range that is not prolific in deer numbers. It is not. So we we’re, we’re talking about certain indices that are comparable, but others in terms of overall deer numbers of two or 3000 deer on the Henry’s versus, you know, tens of thousands collectively on all the Gunnison basin units combined. But, but overall, I’m still trying to, you know, people’s perception of a Henry Mountains tag or a Ponson tag or a Fillmore Oak Creek tag or all Arizona Strip, Arizona strip are, are these quote once in a lifetime tags, right?
00:51:59:22 –> 00:53:11:05
If you wanna hunt Gunnison, even as a non-resident, if you don’t just hold out for thirds and four seasons, you can hunt there every two to four years if you want second season, second season, you know, or in some cases the archeries or muzzle loaders. Now there’s, you know, there’s ways to go hunt and the resour or the potential to hunt, like you alluded, a deer of a lifetime is there. And, and it’s not just, oh, there’s one alive unit in a unit. No, I mean we, if we talked about the numbers of 200 inch bucks, you know, killed in say a couple units there this year. It was, it was incredible. It was amazing. It wasn’t a one and done, you know, 200 inch you’re here and that’s what it shows you can do. It was multiple, multiple, maybe a dozen for, for not having a quote once in a lifetime type weight to go hunt there. I I just wanna talk about that. It’s, people are maybe somewhat spoiled wanting the old stuff, but you still got really good in front of you right now if you just adapt your mindset, realize hunting more often, but not waiting for only third season. Let’s face it, all those units now for non-resident leads take 15 to 20 plus points to draw a third season tag. So it’s not, it’s hard to say I’m gonna start and wait for that today.
00:53:11:05 –> 00:54:14:28
If you’re close to it, maybe that that’s one thing, but it’s not. Well, and I, I think you make a lot of great points. We get to hunt the Henry’s once in our life, or the Arizona, you know, once in our life north of Grand Canyon once in our life or whatever, and you go, you know, as far as you know, the rifle hunts and then you, you look at places like Gunnison or, or a lot of other desirable units in and around the state and it’s, and you can hunt ’em fairly regular. And so, you know, the one thing we’ve seen is guys get a tag and they think that entitles ’em to a 200 inch or, and I know guys and like, or points equate it. Yeah. Or points equate 20 points means I, I’ve, I deserve a 200 inch. And, and Cody, like you said, I mean guys are out there, the same guy. I I, I have a, a really good friend, hunter Gunnison and didn’t see a buck necessarily over one 70, but it’s not because he doesn’t know how to hunt and it’s not because he doesn’t know the unit. ’cause he does, he knows it as well as anybody I know. It was just, it was just happenstance, it was luck. And some of the great bucks that were taken were taken right where he hunts.
00:54:14:28 –> 00:55:24:06
And so, you know, it’s his experience, he walks away with a different experience than say the guys that you talked about and Adam’s referred to and that are in our publication that walked away with a once in a lifetime buck. And so, you know, and there there’s also some intangibles that it’s one thing to give out a hundred tags in unit A, but if unit A now is one of the best areas in the state, those a hundred tags will be allocated to a, a more intense hunter, a trophy hunter, somebody that’s holding out that’s maybe taken more of, you know, there’s more big deer taken per hundred tags now because these guys are smashing incredible deer or willing to hold out for that. And so there’s a lot of intangible. How do you manage for that as a biologist? Yeah, there’s no non-resident wise. There’s no meat hunters going to hunt deer and Gunnison. No. That you don’t go there to hunt for meat? No, no, that’s not, I mean there are a few exceptions, but then they’re taking meat home but they’re not going there to fill the freezer Yeah, it’s like the old days quote, the old days, the guys that sit used said founder on venison, and now they can’t hardly even eat one. Those days are, I mean, Gunnison, at least there’s people, I’m sure locals and all that, but non residents coming using points come in there.
00:55:24:06 –> 00:56:41:09
They’re going there and looking for mature deer. And like you alluded to earlier, Cody, it’s hard to share the awesome resource you have. And but the, the type of hunter, I think targeting areas like eagle tar targeting areas like Gunison is different than it was in early two thousands. And the equipment is different. And, and Cody, you’ve seen this over guiding. I mean, you know this, right? People, people come there saying, why not me? What are, what’s, what are we doing wrong? I should have hired somebody else. Whatever the case may be. Yeah, no doubt. You know, I, I, I mean, you guys hit on a lot of things that I think we could speak to right there, just in that little section. I think one of the one things that stands out to me, you know, being a a, a guide, you know, Brandon and I deal with folks that desire to come here and hunt in different ways. I get to actually go with the guys that drew and, you know, you see a plethora every, every guy’s different and what their expectations are. But, you know, the one thing I guess, and I was hoping to have the opportunity as we’re speaking about Gunnison, in my experience of being in the field a lot of days a year from archery, muzzle loader, all the way to four season, a lot of days scouting, a lot of days hunting.
00:56:42:10 –> 00:57:57:17
And, and, and I try and tell this, and I’d love for anybody interested in Gunnison to hear this and hear this well, that the reality from my perspective, and granted it’s just me, but you can come to Gunnison and feel fortunate if you see a deer over 180 inches and now take heed that deer might be 180 1 or he might be two 10, you know? And so I think to calibrate people’s expectations before they come to a place like this, like, you know what I’ve experienced, there’s been a lot of guys come and think we’re gonna sort through 180 to 190 inch deer and hold out for that 200. Where the reality is that’s not the case with igar. It wasn’t multiple, I guards would be nice if you guys could help us out on that. And, and you guys can speak to this pre oh 7, 0 8, I mean, there were a lot of good deer, but you weren’t sorting through 190 inch deer. And it’s not that it wasn’t that way, it’s not that way and it’s never gonna be that way, you know? And so I think it, it, it’s important that people kind of calibrate their expectations in coming here. That you will see a lot of deer, you will likely see a lot of bucks. And, and what you gotta be thankful for is the resource, the country and the opportunity and experience.
00:57:57:18 –> 00:59:16:21
And, and I don’t want to sell short, you know, our, our, our pursuit for that dream deer. But to think that, that those points warrant anything is a fallacy, it really doesn’t mean that. And so I think what you gotta do anywhere you hunt, and particularly in Gunnison, is no, they exist and hope you’re the lucky one. I mean, the reality is that you can hunt hard, you can glass, you can spend time scouting pre-season. And because of the dynamics, particularly in the rifle seasons, it’s a wild card no matter what. So you, you, you just gotta hope you’re the lucky one. And, and that’s the reality of it. But that by no means does that mean that you shouldn’t hunt hard, that type of thing. So then, so, so there’s that aspect of it, which I, I hope everybody hears and understands, but then that can kind of take us into the dynamic shift of hunters and hunting pressure and technology and information and that type of thing out there. What’s changed and what we’ve got to observe how things have shifted and how that’s impacted deer movement and distribution location, that type of thing. I mean, so this is where, you know, back, going back to some of the things I said before, and I’ll often reference this double-edged sword thing, you know, I mean, there’s, there’s two sides of it always.
00:59:16:25 –> 01:00:36:10
And so, you know, I think that that is one thing that we look at and talk about now more than ever in, in, in regard to what our population are, what our buck to dough ratio is, and what the perception is out there based on people’s experience, you know? And I think that there are more hard hunters and just like you guys are talking about, you know, folks coming from out of state are not coming from meat, you know, I think that that is a truth that is not likely to leave this basin, but that, that would also, you know, to me bring up some of the stuff that I would like to make a point of is that, you know, these people come here with trophy expectations and then go home with younger deer. And, you know, I don’t know if this is a taboo subject or not, but it’s something that I’d like hunters and particularly folks who categorize themselves as trophy hunters, is that if we desire to have that kind of resource, then we have to be bought into the hole versus our, our what, what works for me. Because what I’m seeing, I i is, is that there are a lot of people who come here with those high points that have to leave with the deer. And what’s happening is we’re not seeing the type of deer that we want.
01:00:36:16 –> 01:01:52:24
And so we end up shooting 170 inch three point that is our future 200 inch, because of what, what the heck? I’m not ever gonna be back here, so why not shoot this deer? And, and what we’re ending up with and, and seeing a lot more of, particularly in some units more than others, is deer that a, a quote unquote trophy hunter would consider insignificant, which is a three point, you know, would be three on top or however you want to put it. But I think everybody knows what I’m talking about. And we’re seeing ancient old three by fours and three points that nobody will shoot ’cause they’re too proud. And so we’re harvesting our young up and comers and you know, we’re, we’re, we’re kind of working against ourselves as, as, as far as that goes, you know, and, and yeah, I don’t want to focus solely on trophy hunting, but because Gunnison is that high profile area, I do think these are real things that we should talk about and consider in, in, in the folks that do have this kind of trophy or quality deer preference, if that makes sense. Oh, I think it’s all, I think you make a valid point there. We, you can’t, I can’t even tell you how many guys we talk to that, you know, we’ll go and, but they have to bring home a buck the last day.
01:01:52:24 –> 01:03:03:17
They’re smashing something that they wouldn’t kill on the first, second, third day, and they have to bring home a deer. And, and your point is, hey, you know, maybe, maybe we eat tags. And by the way, I, I eat so many tags, I’m tired of eating tags, but you kind of, it’s okay to eat a tag, you know, if you didn’t see what you wanted to eat, you know, eat a tag versus taking home a gorgeous, you know, four point with great genetics, that’s a, a one young, one 50 buck, you know? Is that kind of what where you were headed with that is guys are shooting, you know, trophy hunters are still shooting bucks. You know, guys, you know, older guys that have seen the heyday and they’re still, you know, have to take home a buck, but yet they’re trophy hunters and expecting trophies. Yep. And you know, the cool thing is here is that, you know, and I’ll speak to this, you know, the, the current herd management plans were done by Brandon in his biologist days. And you know, I think the, and I, I think I, I’d really love this to be acknowledged, and it’s something that I perpetuate more in my conversations all the time, is that Brandon, and I’ll say this date, but this was a lot to do with Brandon.
01:03:04:00 –> 01:04:25:29
We want, he tried to hit a sweet spot with opportunity and quality and, and, you know, you guys spoke to it, you know, I mean, you can burn 21 points here or you can burn three, you know, and, and you can have both opportunity and quality experience. And, and normally those later seasons have less tags. And so the quality comes in the fact that there’s less hunters in the field. I would be my perception versus, you know, the, the opportunity for the bucks is there no matter what season. But, you know, weather, rutt, all that stuff obviously plays into it. But the thing to me, and the success that I’ll tout for Brandon, and, and, and I don’t think he would, so I will, is that we, he’s actually been able to maintain and outstanding balance of opportunity and quality. And so I think that’s the neat thing is, is that the, the Gunnison basin does cater a little bit too, and, and intentionally unintentionally to the trophy experience, but there’s also a lot of opportunity for folks out there that just want to go harvest for meat, or they’re not worried about antlers or that it’s important to have an opportunity to get young people in the field or to be able to conter continue multi-generational, traditional hunting with a, a child and a, you know, and and grandfather type of thing.
01:04:26:01 –> 01:05:47:16
And so, you know, I think that’s one thing that I would like to highlight to people. And, and speaking to the whole, because there is more than just trophy hunters or strictly meat hunters. There’s a, it’s a broad spectrum. And so, you know, that’s the one thing to me that is significant in the management of Gunnison that I think commonly gets over overlooked and underappreciated is that both exist and that is unique to very few places. And so, you know, I think the, the success over the years of, of, and, and I’ll say satisfaction of the whole is probably pretty good, you know, and there’s a few that have the high expectations and leave disappointed and really that, that, that’s just kind of to, you know, we all create our own expectations and our disappointment comes from our own perception. But, you know, that isn’t management’s fault. And I think that’s, that’s something that’s been a conflict for a lot of time, is to automatically point the finger at the managers for me not having the experience that I set the expectations for, you know, and, and, and, and that’s not fair. It doesn’t lead to any kind of constructive conversation. And so it really doesn’t get anybody anywhere, but it is a reality to some folks.
01:05:47:20 –> 01:07:18:09
But, you know, I think the, the biggest thing to me is people understanding management and what the objectives are and what, how success is truly measured from a management perspective versus a public hunting experience perspective. You know? So, you know, I, I, I think to me, in working with Brandon, working as a, as a wildlife group leader is, you know, it would be awesome to change the tone with folks in the greater hunting community to appreciate our managers and, and how hard management is, what aspects go into working against that and, and the success that is there, despite it not happening for everyone else, if that makes sense. Yeah. Well, I, I guess I have a unique perspective myself as having been in somebody like Brandon’s shoes as a wildlife biologist over here in Utah, and I haven’t been so for many years, you know, 15 or so now, but I, I, it’s, it’s a thankless job most of the time. There are the moments, there are the, you know, pat on the backs that come here and there, but it’s hard to do some, you can’t please everybody, but sometimes it feels like you can’t please anybody that I felt like that a lot of times, especially during tough times, whether it be drought, you know, we have that probably, we’re in southern Utah, so our drought years are super harsh on our deer herds, both from a population and obviously recruitment fawn perspective.
01:07:19:07 –> 01:08:36:06
And we can get blamed for stuff that Mother Nature has taken from us, you know, easily, which is more silently in drought than it is in a hard winter when you see deer stacked up like cordwood over there in draws. And it’s just obvious to everybody, wow, this winter was out of everybody’s control and it crushed us. So yeah, I’ve, I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum and I’m obviously a very avid hunter and sportsman and, you know, over here, Jason, I, and all of our crew here at Epic Outdoors are, and we try to maintain that perspective. And I think one thing that maybe helps us a little bit is we do deal with individuals like yourselves in all these Western states, and everybody has their own challenges, and it, it’s, there’s not a one size fits all approach, but as we get maybe into the latter phase of this podcast to try to help people maybe understand a little bit bit more of what an expectation should be, because a lot of people still have never even set foot in GU and never hunted it, and it’s still a destination. They’ve heard about it or, you know, they still hear a podcast like this about it and are intrigued by it. But we’ve talked a lot about be realistic with expectations. These aren’t the glory days.
01:08:36:06 –> 01:09:48:05
And I guess, so maybe in these last roughly 10 years that we are now kind of under the, maybe we’ll call it the new normal of how deer herds are being there managed in the Gunnison Basin in terms of a little bit lower thresholds for Buck to do ratio, and, you know, managing a little bit more in mind for the next big winner so that we don’t just waste a bunch of resource that we’ve built for and put on the shelf and it got taken away from us. Brandon, or, or Cody, whoever wants to dive into this first, you know, we’re, we’re talking mainly, you know, about units 54, 55, 66, 67, 5 51, and I, I know you all, you both know a lot about all of those units, and I don’t know how we wanna, whether we really need to go unit by unit, probably not, but, but what are differences between some of those, what are current things, trends looking like in those units? What are you seeing both from a biological standpoint and a, you know, eye test standpoint right now? Yeah. Why does, why does the quality differ a bit? Well, so I can get us started. Maybe, maybe just a general point too, before we get, get too deep into that.
01:09:49:02 –> 01:11:00:20
It’s interesting talking about the Henry’s and when I, I’m always learning about different places and different management strategies across the west, but you know, the reality in Gunnison is that we are a, we’re sort of in a boom and bust system here in terms of our Deere. And it oftentimes when we increase licenses, it leads to a lot of scrutiny and questions and contention. And, but you know, fundamentally during those times when we can offer more licenses, it indicates that we’re in a boom or an increasing phase. And really it’s, it’s cause for celebration that we have the ability at that time to issue a few more licenses, give a few more folks time in the field, you know, and our deer herds are performing well. So it’s, it’s, it’s not a bad thing if we increase licenses, it does come with some different perceptions and expectations and scrutiny, but, you know, we have to, in our environment and, you know, drought situations, I would imagine that when you have a super droughty phase, your managers are reducing licenses or taking action as necessary, but, you know, kind of enjoy it while it lasts sort of philosophy and celebrate when our deer herds are doing well. I just wanted to make that point.
01:11:00:25 –> 01:12:29:18
And then, you know, also to sort of intertwine into our next conversation, you know, I think there’s management from a manager’s standpoint, and I, I had gone through the evolution from where we had like the big briefcase cell phone plugged into our truck, you know, to where we didn’t have smartphones or we didn’t, even the brick, the brick, we barely had, we barely had emails when I started my career, you know, so it was a whole different environment out there on the landscape where there were secrets, there were secret hunting spots, you know, you couldn’t get the information that you have here now. Technology was different. And I bring this stuff up because I know you’ve, you both, you guys are talking about this on your podcast, and it’s something important we should be talking about because in totality, you know, management of these big game resources now, especially if you’re talking about maintaining older animals in the population, older males, it is incredibly challenging now compared to what it was even 10 years ago in 20, 30 years ago, was an entirely different world. And so our ability to sort of maintain and keep up with hunter’s expectations is getting harder by the year, because we can’t grow these animals as quickly as hunters have the ability to, to muck ’em out. And this is a conversation that spans across the west, probably across the whole country.
01:12:30:10 –> 01:13:41:11
But you know, what it takes to grow 6-year-old mule deer bucks, it’s a very special thing, and it takes a lot of luck and a lot of intention and, you know, it, it is getting more challenging to maintain those across the landscape. And Cody, Cody hit it even, you know, I have spent who knows how much time in a helicopter in the Gunnison basin and literally have individually classified tens of thousands of deer. And even pre oh 7, 0 8, you know, you would fly and I would, I would classify animals till my throat was dry and I couldn’t hardly talk anymore. And, you know, out of a whole day in the, in the, in the helicopter, you know, you’d remember two or three bucks that were like, dang, look at that one. You know? And you know, they’re really, they’re not behind every bush by any stretch. And you guys know this better than anybody, but any, anything recent, any anything recent come to mind? Well, unfor, unfortunately, now that I’m more of a death jockey, I don’t get that opportunity. All right. You saved yourself. But I, I see the hunters, you know, I see the smile on hunter’s faces when they, when they take ’em out of the woods. Yeah. No, but yeah, I mean, growing what it takes to grow those animals and put ’em on the landscape.
01:13:41:13 –> 01:14:58:10
And it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about 400 inch bulls in Utah, or, you know, 200 inch bucks in Colorado. I mean, it, it is hard to maintain ’em. And with our technology and our information, if a big deer or a big bull is visible, he’s found and he’s in trouble, people are better hunters may not, yeah. People are better hunters too, more dedicated, the gear, the equipment dedicated. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, co one of the things we talk about a lot in the Gunnison Basin is quote unquote crowding. And I think crowding is different to everybody. And, and that translates into the quality of their hunt. But, you know, and I was telling Cody last, last night, I was just reviewing some of my DAU, my herd management plans just for, to kind of refresh my memory. And in 2007, as an example, in, in unit 54, we issued 770 buck tags, and there was also 250, 300 DOE licenses at that time. So we would, we would’ve had a thousand deer hunters in the woods in oh seven last year with a license increase that we did. We had 580 total deer hunters in the woods. And last year probably was one of the, I heard about crowding a lot in unit 54 in different places.
01:14:59:01 –> 01:16:15:27
And it’s a sign of the times with all the information, you know, people know where to go, they can get that information from friends or consultants or internet, and you have sort of disproportionate hunter distribution across the landscape. You know, you pair that with side-by-sides and optics and, you know, lots of commitment, long range guns, all that sort of stuff. And it’s, it is a whole different management environment. And the reason I’m even bringing all this up, and I’d love to talk to you guys more about it, you know, is just that it does influence what a hunter can expect out there when they draw a license. And, you know, those 20 preference point licenses, there is no equation that, you know, goes from 20 points to inches of antler, as you well know. And I know you guys probably talk about this daily, weekly, monthly, yearly all the time, but hunters, hunters are just bombarded these days with pictures of big deer and big antlers, and it, it gives this impression that that’s what you can expect when you get out there. And obviously that’s just not the case. So I don’t know how we recalibrate our expectations, but it definitely, there’s a management implication there that’s very real. And we’ve dealt with it for a long time here in the Gunnison basin and watched the evolution of it.
01:16:16:27 –> 01:17:31:23
So that that didn’t answer your, your preliminary question at all about the different units, but, well, I think, think it’s, it tees it up though a little bit in terms of your, and I don’t know how all the other four units compare, but you’ve got from 15 years ago, you have half the deer hunters that you had this last year versus twenties in 2007, but yet maybe heard of more crowding issues than you have, because the 500 and something deer tags that you had last year has been on a general increase as, like you’ve alluded earlier, deer numbers have been doing well, you’ve had light winners or moderate winners, and you’re adding tags because you have the deer there to do it. But that’s not without a consequence, you know, people are noticing, Hey, I, I drew this tag with two points, it’s none, but man, there’s, I saw a lot of orange, I’m just, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed. You know, and that’s, I think, I think it’s one of the most significant points of the podcast is everything you brought up, 6-year-old bucks and a boomer bust herd, you know, let alone everyth. You know, being able to use everything, have unlimited time and resources, feels like people are allocating more time and resources, you know, to these hunts. They know Exactly. It’s a, it’s a information age. They know exactly where to go.
01:17:31:29 –> 01:18:21:16
They’re prepared, they do a lot of study at home, phone calling, whatnot, consultants. The game has totally changed. You know, there’s, you know, it’s just, I don’t know, I’m just, you just want to go back to, you know, no pressure draw often, use all the technology I want and kill giants every time. And it’s just not, not possible. It’s not possible. You know, the social media does make feel, guys feel like that one, everybody’s few, everybody, yeah, everybody’s doing it. But me, I’m one of the few and only and, and the reposts and the different angles and, you know, it’s just, it’s nauseating to a degree and, and it’s not reality. And, and then, and then Brandon, we wanna put your, your head on the chopping block and wonder why, why, why things are different. Why, why did I have a bad experience? You know what I mean? Well, Cody, Cody made that point. Exactly. And it’s, it’s, you know, and it is what it is.
01:18:22:00 –> 01:19:33:27
You know, we, we, we take our licks and we, we try to maintain our relationships and friendships and which again, is more important than ever between state management agencies and, and sports people, because we’re all, we, we’re all we got these days, and there’s a lot of other forces out there that are not necessarily in our best interest, but you know, it, it’s, if you don’t have the experience you think you should have had, then it’s automatically a flaw with management and that that immediately starts us off on the wrong track. Well, we’ve gotta blame somebody, Brandon. We’ve gotta blame somebody. Well, right, and that’s why, like, my co thank with Cody’s help, and there’s a lot of other good folks that are engaged with the Gunnison Wildlife Association and just folks here in the Gunnison Valley, you know, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve been working really hard on just educating, educating one another and sort of basing our, our conversations at least on the facts to start, because we can all get in a room and throw our opinions at each other and, and des describe the world. But at the end of the day, you know, in, in my role and, and the staff here, and we have a great staff that really has tremendous investment and passion in all this as well.
01:19:34:00 –> 01:20:39:25
You know, we, we have to make decisions and we have to be accountable for those decisions and base those decisions on the best science and, and information that we have. And that’s, that’s where we start, you know, and we’re, when we’re doing the best we can with all the competing interests out there on the landscape, but if, if we can have fact driven and science driven conversations, it gets us a lot further because at least we can understand each other on a level, level playing field, all, all good stuff. And it, and it does, it does. Those are great sideboards for you to bring up, Brandon, because that, those are reality things. Those are pressures, those are, those are things that are going on in the background all, all while we’re now at the point we’re filling out applications before April 5th and, and we wanna know where to put in, where we make our hopes and dreams come true. We have all those other pressures, all those I wanna go to, dear heaven, I want to go to dear Heaven. That’s right. And but maybe to the extent possible then to try to, try to maybe give our listeners and something to give, you know, something to chew on, ruminate on between now and April 5th.
01:20:40:29 –> 01:21:49:28
Let’s maybe discuss a little bit of, I guess, trends, gut feel, actual, you know, trends, whatever in terms of the, the units in the Gunnison Basin, you know, compared to, you know, the recent past, we’ll just, we’ll just talk about it within the recent past, but where we, where are we right now? I know you guys are not to the point you’re setting permit numbers for this year yet, so we’re not really get trying to get that specific, but unit by unit or what units you think are on the upwards trend and, and, and where the challenges might lie. Yes, that’s right. I’ll go ahead and take that from kind of the hunter guide perspective, field perspective and, and, and just kind of having our finger on the pulse and, you know, working for Steve with Lazy Fbar, we hunt multiple units and then of course, just our network of folks that we interact with. We, you know, we, we’ve got a general finger on the pulse of, of what’s going on throughout the basin. And so I’ll, I’ll do my best to speak to that, to kind of give folks kind of that overview of, of, of what I perceive is going on based on my own experience and then inter interacting with other folks.
01:21:50:04 –> 01:23:12:18
So I’ll start out by saying, you know, I think through the last several years, even post oh seven or even oh oh oh 7, 0 8 to present, I think the south units came out of the winter better and have had a better rebound and sustain sustaining herd health versus the north units. Now can you define the, for, can you define it for everybody? What, I mean, I’m assuming you’re talking 66, 67, 5 51 is the south and 54, 55 is the north, is that what you’re talking about? Yeah, I would, you know, if 5 51 is kind of unique because it’s, it, it’s split by Highway 50. And so it’s actually has got some of both a good portion of country on bo both sides. So it would be the hybrid that falls into both and it feels like its own animal and it not fall. It feels like it’s its own, it’s the forgotten stepchild over. It really is. It’s unique and it, it’s outstanding country. But there is some different dynamics. Obviously there’s a little bit of trade that happens through the migration from the neighboring units, I think most of 55 and 5 51 exchange through the migration.
01:23:12:26 –> 01:24:22:13
And you know, and I think that one of the things that’s, and I’ll be careful to say this, but one of the things with the new season dates is, is folks have been observing different population dynamics with those later dates on where, where the deer are, when and and how many there are in each unit based on that. And we have that dy dynamic throughout the basin, you know, in, in between 66 and 67 and then 54, 55, and then on into 5 51 where they, you know, one deer will actually be potentially in every one of those units during an a, a, a, just a period of a hunting season. You know, so, you know, each unit doesn’t have its own exclusive deer because of the migration, but there obviously are residents and, and Deere that stay there. So, you know, that’s one unique thing that we have here that you can’t really pin down because they not only migrate off of the summer range, but then throughout the winter based on a lot of the collar data, which there’s a lot of, now more than ever would say that they exchange throughout the winter as well.
01:24:22:15 –> 01:25:55:19
So it’s really quite interesting and that’s kind of a whole nother topic that, that really, you know, I think the more data gets out there is gonna give off folks an opportunity to see that, but going to just observe field stuff and, and harvest trends, that type of thing. You know, I think the deer numbers are the most apparent and, and bountiful in sixty six, sixty seven, I’ll call that the south units. And so good deer numbers. I think one thing that has happened down there is that has continued to be kind of the highest profile areas, particularly 66 for a long time. And, and that’s shifted throughout the years a little bit. But, you know, that’s one area that I feel like I’ve seen a, a lot of these Deere, because of the number of points that are going into it a lot are a lot of the hunters who are harvesting these deer that are, are the future. You know, there is, it seems to be an observed prevalence of three point type genetics in 66 and 67 that people speak to and are dissatisfied with. And so, you know, I it’s hard to say if that’s hunter created, you know, can we really, you know, create genetic prominence like that? I I think we can, but to scientifically quantify that, I, I don’t think it’s possible or is something that managers focus on, but regardless, I think those are some of the tendencies down south.
01:25:55:22 –> 01:27:15:22
So what folks are seeing down there is more, more Deere numbers, good buck to do ratios, but not the number of more mature deer with the antler genetics that they desire. If that makes sense. Yeah. And like, and like you said, the hunter feel, the feel from the hunter is, is that 66 was the best Yep. Oh, for a number of years, Adam, like decade 15, 20 years, 66 was always looked at as that. And then somewhat disappointing results, but disappointing meaning I’ve talked to guys that surveyed 280 bucks, you know, in the course of five or six days. Third. Yeah. And, and they’re just, we, and they say it, they say it, you know, we, we have it on paper, this is what we saw, and the biggest one was 180 8 or, or whatever. But, but a good portion of, of, you know, four point type bucks. Very nice bucks. Bronson, you’ve been there recently. Yeah. I mean you can even speak to that too. Lots of deer, lots of bucks. Yep. Did not do, I’m not seeing quite as many of those. Yeah. Like you, you said the elite bucks that are taking 20 plus points that people are hoping to find there. And that wasn’t my expectation there. Right. But yeah, I still didn’t see ’em. And maybe the same could be said with 67 kinda lumping those two together. I think so, yeah.
01:27:16:01 –> 01:28:35:17
But then, but there’s a lot of bucks coming on that are alive right now. And then I think that’s what you’re saying to a degree, Cody, there’s a good condition, good numbers. Yep. Another your age, something’s gonna give age another your age, you know, who knows? And it’s been hard to, it seems like the, the hot unit in Gunnison the last five years, nothing’s been the same, more than like a year or two in a row. Yeah. And then it’s, now we’re talking about 55 and then now it’s, now it’s 54. It’s just kind of moving, chasing that. Yeah. Moving goalpost, you know? Yeah. I think that’s accurate. You know, and I think it, I don’t think that’s, I think it’s just a happenstance. It’s not really by design, by management, it’s just that’s what nature has provided. You know, the one thing that I can speak to, you know, for the south units and probably 55 too in the north, is that accessibility. You know, I can speak to just 66, I’ve spent a lot of time guiding down there, and it used to be, you know, that country from the lake south to the highway was not as desirable for some folks. And you could go and there were trails that had maybe one set of tracks on ’em by the end of third season. And now by the middle of second season, every road and trail is powder.
01:28:36:02 –> 01:29:50:07
You know, guys are hammering it and you’re, we’re going into some of these spots and I interact with some people and a lot of times I don’t, but, you know, I can’t help but wonder how some of these people know what they know. And, you know, it’s just like, what are you doing here? You know, what brought you here? And oftentimes it’s, you know, tapping into the network of being a part of a hunting consultant or that type of publication. And so, you know, I want to go back to brand. I wanna, I wanna go back to blaming Brandon. I don’t wanna blame, I don’t wanna blame the consultant, I don’t wanna blame the consultants. Totally. Okay. Yeah. This is our po this is our podcast. This is our podcast here, Chris. Cut this. No, you know, I mean, it, it’s a beautiful thing though again, and, and I’ll, and I’ll just use this to death, but it’s that double-edged sword thing, you know? So it’s getting guys where they need to be and some guys are successful, but your odds go down when we’re, we’re hunting country like that, and we’re all hunting the same stuff. You know, you, the, the, the odds just start to stack against you when we’re all hunting the same places that have been traditional. Yeah, I agree. You know, areas that have produced.
01:29:50:10 –> 01:31:10:04
And so, you know, that’s the one thing that I feel like that 66, 67 and 55 have, have seen, and parts of 54 and 5 51 is kind of that anomaly that doesn’t, I think, fit into the mold as much as kind of the four primary units that most people are aware of and desire to hunt for that matter. But it’s, it’s our impacts and how we hunt, you know, the deer still frequent those areas, but it’s less, there’s less concentrations. We’re observing less deer numbers during those times of the year. And, and we got guys that, you know, there’s, there’s places that you could sit on a point for days and never see another person. Now guys are like stacking up multiples and then sorting out through the day where, you know, there, there’s just, the country is being pounded. And, and that’s exactly what we intend to do when we go out there is, is pounded. I mean, we’re hunting hard. You’re, you’re doing, and we’re all union. You’re, you’re doing your job. And, and even guys that are going self-guided are working as hard as they can work, you know? Yep. Armed with knowledge and resources. Yep. And, and yeah. And so I, we’re, we’re kind of our own worst enemy, you know, we’re working against ourselves trying to achieve the same goals.
01:31:10:08 –> 01:32:19:27
And so, you know, I think that is changing the dynamic of the experience and you know, I mean, it’s one thing to sit on a spot all day and glass and not see what you wanna see. It’s another to share it with a half a different guy, half a dozen different guys throughout the day, and then have them driving or walking through the country that you’re glassing and, you know, so I think those are the type of things that shift our perception of the quality of experience that we’re having. And I think that doesn’t, you know, obviously doesn’t have anything to do with management that falls back onto us. And as much as I hate to say it, you know, I’ve had to come to grips and humble myself that I’m one of those guys too. You’re part of the problem. We’re part of the problem. Brandon’s part the problem for sure. Yeah. Totally closely. I’m, I’m sensing a theme here, boy. Well, I, what I like about some of these units are easier to hunt and it feels like there’s no escapement and then there’s places, and, you know, in 54, I, I’ve hunted it and, and I like 54, but there’s a lot more, there’s a bit more escapement. There’s, as you know, there’s a lot of, you know, high elevation, thick trees, you know, less roads and parts of it, rougher country.
01:32:20:08 –> 01:33:35:22
Some guys can go to 10,000 feet, still find deer, some guys can hunt near town, find deer. There’s just a, you know, and so there’s some escapement and at time that will lend itself to a 6-year-old plus deer as well as other units. So there’s private and 66 harbor’s, 6-year-old plus dear as well as Yep. You know, other tougher to get to areas. And so, you know, in, in, when you have go 5, 6, 7, 8 years without a a heavy winner, you’re starting to see some good bucks. And I feel like we’re, we’re seeing some of that. Yep, totally. And I think that’s it. We are, you know, the, the cool thing about Gunnison, and I’m, I’m careful to tout this, but I can’t not, and especially in light of, of, of kind of your guys’ focus and, and and all that. And the reality of it is, is that Gunnison will always produce big deer. You know, the one thing we have is abundant summer range genetics are one thing, but genetics are everywhere. But you, you’ve gotta have the habitat feed and conditions to foster that. You know, I think our big winners help with natural selection, only the strong survive. So there’s an element of that. And so that’s the cool thing about Gunnison, and that’s what probably has landed us the reputation that we have and we’ll sustain that, is that we will always grow big deer, you know?
01:33:35:25 –> 01:35:02:00
And so I think, you know, anybody can expect that anytime as, as, as a reality that they do exist here. Now finding ’em, killing ’em, that type of thing is a totally different deal. But where we’re at now, I don’t think we’re in any kind of necessary big buck. Boom. We’re in a, we’re in a deer boom, which naturally by percentage offers, you know, more bucks. But we also have more tags. And so I think some of the harvest that happened this year was not, not that we had more, more big bucks on the landscape. We simply had more hunters hunting them, you know, and then, you know, teamed with the technology information that the success was solid. And so I think we can probably expect that in the future. But going to, you know, I’ll, I’ll go back to, I, I couldn’t make this point enough, but of what I said earlier about coming to Gunnison, in my experience of hunting days upon days, upon days in the field over the years, basically the past two decades, that, you know, to have an expectation to see more than one deer over 180 inches is, is, is about as much as you could hope for and not even completely expect. And so you see better than that than you had what I would consider a a experience. Experience. Good experience. Yeah. Yeah.
01:35:02:13 –> 01:36:23:10
And so, you know, I think that’s what you can quote unquote expect when you come to Gunnison is hope to see 180 inch deer. And he may be 180 1 or he may be 2 10, 2 30. You never know. I mean, we, we, those here 2 30, 30, whoa, two 30 did make a front cover. Alright, keep going. Well, so, so 54 I think definitely seen a harvest this year. A a probably stronger percentage harvest, which, you know, is funny. I think it, it may allure more guys to it, but from a personal standpoint, I, I think that’s just kind of the, kind of the fool’s errand stuff just happened. You think because they harvested a bunch that there’s gonna be that many there again and they’re, they’re kind of, they’re kind of dead Cody, they’re kind of dead now. Yeah, I mean there’s a, there’s a few left, we’re not gonna lie. But, but, but same point, you know, that was last year’s results, so Yeah. And so, you know, I think the one thing that seemed to be missing to me in 54 is the up and comer population that you wanna see where the south units have a little bit more of that 55 is seeing that same thing, 5 51 again, I’m just gonna call it the, the black sheep because it really doesn’t, I don’t even want, I don’t even really wanna talk about 5 51.
01:36:23:18 –> 01:37:37:21
Yeah, let’s just pretend it’s, when was the last two 30 buck taken out? 5 51. It’s got an extra digit in it’s number. It’s like, doesn’t even, it’s got three. It’s like we’re not used to that. So Brandon kill ’em all over there. Just teasing. Just teasing. The reality is that’s a, and and like all these units, it is a, it, it’s, there can be, it’s a hunter’s hunt. It’s, it is wonderful country, it’s awesome to hunt, but the, the deer numbers aren’t there and, and there are more big deer coming out of there than I think people know. But I think that’s also relative to kind of the type of guys that hunt that because it is an anomaly. Guys go out there that are not outspoken and they go and they continue to have an experience and, and like kind of what I feel like you guys are promoting in some of these less desirable areas that guys are putting in this different commitment and coming up with good deer that are not to be expected out of those areas. And you know, and I, I don’t, I don’t think that it’s getting the hype just because of the dynamic of the hunter and that, and that’s just a subjective opinion. Yeah. But yeah, I think there’s a reality to that. So, you know, speaking to 54, you know, I think there was definitely a good harvest.
01:37:38:03 –> 01:38:36:21
I don’t see there’s a as good a succession in up and coming bucks as there are in some of the other units. I think 55 was expected to do a little better this year and, and, and just didn’t produce what people thought even though there was some good deer that came out of there, you know, that is one, one unit that I feel like gets a lot of pressure in the country that had traditionally produced big deer that those deer and, and I’ll say particularly I think, and, and this is just my, my my opinion, but I think the do the old do are getting tired of getting hammered on by all this traffic and they’re just stepping into the trees a little bit more. And so our box, our do are there, we’re just not seeing them as much and, and guys aren’t getting out as much because, you know, I think we can consistently kill ’em with by, you know, using glass spot in stock.
01:38:36:25 –> 01:39:46:16
But the, the dynamics of of, of our hunters and and how they hunt these days is, has kind of gravitated away from that traditional go out, get in the field and go hunting to sit behind glass, which I think is great and, and is personally my preference, but I’m learning too that, you know, we may not be able to continue to bank on that if we really want to have it go out and harvest the deer. Now if we just love sitting behind our scope, which I do and I’m fine with and not seeing big bucks all day, but for the guys that are super hungry, I think it, it’s, it’s going to be in people’s interest to get out there and, and, and go find them where they live and, and, and be hunters and track deer and, and use our traditional methods versus just relying on our technology and, and that type of thing. And so, you know, I mean, to each their own, but I do believe that’s something that is necessary in order to continue to have the opportunity to harvest and two, to help our distribution. You know, I mean I think if we get out there and stir ’em up a little bit, it’s gonna make a difference too, you know? Yeah. It’s all speculation. Oh, there’s a lot of watching it, there’s a lot of intangibles.
01:39:46:17 –> 01:41:12:29
Just like you’re saying, a lot of, a lot of, a lot of changes and, and things that are affected that you wouldn’t think about per se. Yep. One thing I wanted to ask Brandon, we’re good friends. I feel like we’re really good friends now. So Brandon, I just want to ask, because this is on people’s minds, the date change and everybody thought it was gonna be an absolute slaughter cut tags, everybody be care, you know, game and fish should be careful at the end of the day. We’ve been through a season. Just tell us your opinion on that a little bit. Obviously there’s high success rates in a lot of these November rifle seasons anyway, but kind of, you know, what’s your perspective on that and in relation to tag numbers, managing for quality and having the, the date shift? Sure. Yeah, and I’ll get right back to that. Jason, I just wanna circle back real quick to a comment you just made because I think it’s really important for all of your listeners and everybody to digest on you, you throughout the term security and I think security areas for these animals and, and those are essentially places where they’re, you know, le less vulnerable to human disturbance. I guess we could define it that way. I think that’s a really important point because that also contributes greatly to the quality of animal you may encounter within a, a hunting unit.
01:41:13:20 –> 01:42:28:27
And you know, a lot of folks tend to bow up immediately when, you know, a federal agency starts talking about travel management restrictions and things like that. But I would encourage all of us and your listeners to really think about what that means because if, if our desire is to maintain critters on public lands and, and quality animals on public lands, we have got to take travel management planning seriously. And the notion that we can have motorized access to all nooks and crannies across the geographic area, I think is, is not in the best interest of those objectives. So I just wanted to circle back and make that point because, you know, these days, again, with our technology, everybody’s rolling into town with one or more OHVs and, and you can buzz around country all day long and it is impacting management, it’s impacting animal distribution and there’s a lot of things going on there that are important. So I I really, I really appreciate you bringing that up. And we, we tend to agree the, I think the hunter, the general hunting population out there, we’ve seen wildernesses pop up in places we maybe, maybe weren’t suited for it per se. And so you feel like, and, and, and these areas are now really not accessible.
01:42:28:27 –> 01:43:41:27
We have, there’s a country that’s, you know, 15 miles each way to, of walking in, you know, desert area, arid environments that, you know, and there there’s just things, I think there’s some apprehension about travel management plans, so to speak, from the hunting public. And, but, but what you’re saying is constructive plans that make sense, not just, you know, we’re gonna take this entire unit and you’re all gonna walk from one end to the other, you know what I mean? And so we’ve seen right, there’s been some of that happen and not, not from you guys, just, there’s been some of that happen BLM over in parts of our country and it makes us a little apprehensive to do that, but it’s needed in parts of, of the country for sure. Right? And travel, travel management planning is always controversial no matter where you are. And there, there is such a thing as reasonable access, but I think now more than ever for the hunting community, we’ve gotta be looking 10, 20, 50 years down the road because, you know, Colorado, I grew up here, I’ve seen the change, you know, in 20 more years, what is it gonna look like here and how many people are gonna be on the landscape and where all these people are recreating and doing their thing on public lands is gonna impact our management ability.
01:43:41:27 –> 01:44:51:01
And at the end of the day, the number of licenses and hunting opportunity we can provide. So just before you get too bowed up, you know, think about that in the short and the long term and, and what that means to the animals that are out there that we all cherish. So, and then to circle back to your, your question on the season date. So we’re in year, this will be year three of our five year season structure. And the dates this year, again, are awful late compared to what they’ve traditionally been, you know, the decision was made by our commission to set the season dates the way they were. And so, you know, in, in, on one hand it’s, it’s water under the bridge. I I think at the next five year season structure planning process, which will probably kick off in the next year or so for the public, but I don’t anticipate us having as late a dates again, at least in the southwest part of the state that I’m most familiar with, with and have spent my career in, you know, the dates are late and they present again, it’s sort of the, the, the two sides of the coin.
01:44:51:18 –> 01:46:09:22
On one hand, you know, I look at it from a management perspective and I knew as soon as those dates were were set, you know, that there was going to be a lot of discussion about mule deer management and mature buck vulnerability and all of those things that you’ve talked about and probably had hundreds of conversations with, with your, with your folks and clients. And then as far as elk management goes, we’re also, we talk a lot about that as well because, you know, the northwest part of the state in many places is still an elk factory. They can grow a lot of elk and they’re still over objective is my understanding in some units. Whereas in the southwest part of Colorado, you know, the general trend has been declining cap cal ratios. We’ve intentionally reduced our elk herds over the last 20 years. You know, we’re at, or in some cases below management objective. And so the later season dates for the, in the season structure definitely increase elk vulnerability too to harvest depending on the conditions, at least that potential’s there. And we’re, we’re sort of an environment where we don’t need to kill more elk. We’re trying to maintain mature bucks in many places. And so these late season dates certainly add a layer of complexity to our management that we’re trying to navigate through.
01:46:09:25 –> 01:47:24:12
And the way I’ve approached it, you know, whether we agree on it or not, you know, it is what it is and we just have to talk factually about what the management implications are and sort of proceed forward. It’s not gonna be forever. It’s not gonna be the end of deer and elk in in the state, you know, we’ll regroup on the next five years season structure and adapt, adapt that to what we’ve learned here in the last few years and, and move forward. But it is, you know, weather, weather potential, especially in the Gunnison Basin, that’s sort of where the rubber meets the road. And the later those season dates push out, the more potential we have for legitimate storm events. And you know, over my career, the, the bottom line is, you know, weather cold and snow is what makes mature bucks vulnerable. Yeah. And certainly tips the scales in a hunter’s favor. And so, you know, if we get those years we’re gonna, we’re gonna kill a lot of deer. We’ll probably kill, continue to kill mature bucks perhaps at a little bit, you know, greater proportion than we have previously. But we’ll see, you know, last year the weather just didn’t shape up the way it could have.
01:47:25:28 –> 01:48:35:24
And so some of the earlier seasons were some of the better hunting, honestly, because the weather dried out and it got hot and warm again and the deer went in the trees and that was that. But if we get prolonged cold starting in October and deep snow, you know, but you can also look at that from a, through a hunter’s lens, you know, for a guy that has a tag in their pocket, that’s what you want, you know, you know, there’s a lot of potential there to, to have a great hunt. And so it, it, it’s been interesting to watch it, especially last year because everybody knew those season dates were what they were and they were gonna be late. And there was a lot of concern expressed about it, but a lot of people were vying for those tags and wanted to get in on that at the same time. Yeah, yeah. Right. So it’s, it’s interesting and it, it has been, it’s led to a lot of additional conversations, but again, you know, we’ll, we’ll get through the next couple years and learn from it and adapt accordingly. I mean, for, from a manager’s perspective, we, we plan for very high success rates. So, you know, regardless our re well, even going into these dates, you know, we, we made some adjustments anticipating some high success, higher than average success rates.
01:48:35:25 –> 01:49:53:03
And here we have very high success rates anyway on, on any given year, but we were planning for high success. And so our license allocation and management prescriptions are very intentional. You know, there’s no, there’s no unknowns. You know, we, we put everything we have and all the information we have into those decisions, and if we don’t hit the mark, you know, if something goes a little askew, we’ll just adjust the, the next year and adjust those licenses accordingly and, and try to keep going on the path we’re, we’re, we’re headed on. And, and that is to achieve the management objectives prescribed in our management plans. Yeah. So that’s kind of where, where it’s all headed on any given year, is just to stay within the sideboard set in our management plan. Yeah. A couple of things you said, just to, just to, you can clarify if I’m wrong. One of them, Jason and I have said over and over that whether Trumps dates, every time we’ve hunted dates, third season, one year, very same unit the next year with five to six day later dates with calendar shifts and had worse hunt the second year just because we had no weather. So we totally agree with that. And, and the reason we say that a lot is, you’ve alluded to, to, to Brandon, is you can go there on a second season now you’ve almost had a 30 day layoff for deer hunters.
01:49:53:03 –> 01:51:06:28
At least there’s been some first season rifle elk hunting. But a 30 day layoff of no deer hunting since the end of September, the archery hunt ended. It’s an opening day, it’s a true opening day. And if you’ve had some weather bucks can be vulnerable, be there for the taking. And if you don’t get any new weather between the second or third or during the second, the third can just be a kind of regurgitation of same old weather patterns deer and the same elevational plane. And it’s tough. And the one other thing I wanted you, you know, we’ve had a lot of people question, what does Colorado think? And they’re gonna move the day, they’re gonna kill all their deer. Well, you’ve alluded to the fact that, and Colorado was very known for uniformity in their season structure throughout, we’ll just call it the western slope, you know, archery, muzzle loader. First season is an elk only second and third and fourth buck season where, where permitted, but this all came about, correct me if I’m wrong, because of increased managers in certain parts of the state, and you’ve alluded maybe to the northwestern part or maybe others too, to want to increase elk harvest. And that first rifle season is a five day rifle only for elk only. And historically, you only had a two day break before the second season, which is the first combined deer elk season started only a two day layoff.
01:51:07:01 –> 01:52:21:07
And to increase harvest or maybe get more elk off of private back onto public, that’s, that’s, they extended that weight, right. They added a whole week now, or nine days or whatever it is, in between the end of the first and the start of the second. And that’s what created this whole domino effect that shoved the second and third and fourth later. Am I correct? That’s correct. And I mean you can, you can certainly argue this season structure was designed to kill more elk. Yeah, yeah. It’s, and it’s to get ’em off the private, give those breaks, right. Well, yeah, and that, and that’s a whole conversation in of itself. But I mean, certainly those longer breaks between the season, the elk, you know, they, they go back to during, they’re not under pressure for that period and they get a little bit more, you know, vulnerable. And I, and, and I truly believe that, that actually it happens, you know, you can see it those first couple days of each of the seasons, you know, tend to be the busiest and the most, the most elk get killed because they let their guard down a little bit. But yeah, the, this season structure is intended to, to increase elk harvest. And whether that was completely intentional across the board when the decision was made, it may not have been, but that is certainly one of the end products of it.
01:52:22:14 –> 01:53:40:11
Well, we appreciate you guys being on the podcast. The one, the one thing I, I kinda like, I mean the positive side of all of this, and I think, Cody, you talked a lot about this Brandon, and you as well, you know, the positive side. Adam and I talked to hundreds of guys, little as well as you, you guys do too. And, and I’ve had a lot of positive, you know, there’s a lot, lot of guys out there willing to complain a little bit, but what we’re finding is they’ll never leave Colorado. They’ll never leave it. And we have guys, especially, you know, a lot of guys in the Gunnison that between them, their, their kids, you know, wife, whatever, friends, family, they, they won’t leave the Gunnison. And so that, and, and, and good bad or in between, there’s a lot of, you know, average years less than average years. There’s a few good years that speaks volumes in how well you guys are managing the Gunnison Basin. I think there’s a lot of positive there. You know, Cody, you talked about, you know, working with Brandon and, and the overall objective of, you know, maximizing tags, but maintaining quality and, and the fine lines, you know, within that and, and how that looks and, and is perceived and, and whatnot. And just what a, what a great job you guys are doing. I just, I gotta hand it to you.
01:53:40:12 –> 01:54:46:15
It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a destination for a reason. And it’s not, like you said, it’s, it’s very deliberate and, and here it is and it, and it’s awesome. And, and while there’s maybe not every decision’s perfect and, and there’s some decisions, I’m sure you’d say, well, if I could do that again, you know, I’d do something different. Of course, that’s every, everybody’s in that boat to a degree, but what a great job. I mean, I’ve had even guys from this last year, you know, tell me I didn’t see a great buck, but you know, I’ve discovered Gunnison and, and they, and they love it. So, so anyway, and not that gunnisons, I mean, I’ve, I’ve hunted a lot of different units and I keep learning new country, new new country for me. And, you know, the, the entire state we will be hunting Colorado till we die. Bronson well now we’re, we’re firm believers in just being in Colorado and collectively, you know, the genetics, the habitat are Well, and, and if you want to get real specific, the record books, I mean, they, they, Colorado owns it in terms of, you know, what is capable producing and Deer Factory. Yeah. Deer Factory. Great genetics.
01:54:46:16 –> 01:56:06:01
And you guys are under intense scrutiny just because of where you’re at, Brandon, maybe more so because you wear a agency hat, but overall, yeah, we appreciate your time, your passion, your commitment, your, you know, we’ve talked to you over the years, Brandon, you know, 15, 20, you know, over the up and down of, you know, the, what all we’ve talked about today and always have a great perspective and a lot of longevity there, you know, from college and not even an employee to now being an employee there for nearly 20 years. So, and Cody, just your experience there as a, as a passionate sportsman and, and guide outfitter, you know, shed, hunter, all of the above. We appreciate you allowing us to tap into both your knowledge today and just really break down Gunnison and, and a and a place that I think hopefully a lot of people learn a little bit more about and what goes into and the dynamics of, and the current status of Deere there. So appreciate it. Yeah, thank you guys for the airtime, you know, I know. I’m happy to talk about any issues that come up with you down the road and look forward to that. And, you know, appreciate Cody’s willingness. He kind of orchestrated this whole event, so thanks for that. And yeah, good luck in the draw this, this spring. Sounds good. Well, we’ll do it again sometime.
01:56:06:03 –> 01:56:52:20
We’ll see how all this year goes and, but yeah, we’ll be back in touch again, I’m sure. Sure. Again, and wish you guys all luck as well. Just keep in mind, we wanna draw often, we want to use all the technology and we want to kill giants. Make it happen. Perfect. We, we appreciate No problem. We appreciate you guys. Have a good, have a good weekend. Thanks a lot. Yeah, thanks guys. Appreciate it. At Epic Outdoors, we help you reach your hunting dreams, whether it’s helping you to develop a long-term application strategy, or finding the perfect outfitter for your next hunt. As a member of Epic Outdoors, you’ll also receive the Epic Outdoors Magazine and have access to the best hunting consultants in the industry, online tools, and more. To join Epic Outdoors, visit epic outdoors.com or call 4 3 5 2 6 3 0 7 7 7.