Colorado Elk Hunts - You're in For a Treat  By Chuck Ellisor
Colorado Elk Hunting. Does It Get Any Better?  By: Verlyn Ross
3 Things To Improve Your Mule Deer Spot & Stalk By: Fred Marinos
 Ensuring the Conservation of Mule Deer and their Habitat  By Todd Black
 My Awesome Colorado Hunt  By Rylee Dearen
 Big Bucks & Good Company  By Kevin Samz
 Bio: Mule Deer 
14-Year Old Boy Takes the Largest Buck in the Last 30 Years!  By Kyle Lopez
Colorado Elk Hunting Tips  By John Lindell
How To Hunt Elk In Colorado By Stevee Martin
 Elk On The Fringes How to find Colorado's Biggest over-the-counter Bulls  By Mark Kayser 

Colorado Elk Hunts - You're in For a Treat 
 By Chuck Ellisor 
Colorado Elk hunts are a dream for many a hunter and if you have never experienced an Elk hunting trip in Colorado,
you're in for a treat. 

Colorado has one of the largest Elk populations in the country. The Rocky Mountain Elk foundation estimates at 
least 292,000 elk in the state. There are three great public land areas available to Elk hunters.They are the 
White River National Forest, the San Juan National Forest and the Bear's Ear portion of the Routt National Forest. 
You can also make arrangements to hunt on private land in the state as well. 

The Elk hunting season in Colorado starts with archery season in late August through September, muzzle-loading 
season in September and rifle season from October through November.

Colorado offers some of the best Elk hunting guides and outfitters. When searching for an Elk guide make certain 
they are licensed in the state. Many of the professional outfitters in Colorado grew up in the state and have first 
hand knowledge and expertise when it comes to hunting Elk there. They know the terrain of the Colorado mountains 
and where the best places are to be successful at getting an Elk.

Colorado Elk hunts are like nothing you've ever experienced before. From Steamboat Springs south to Durango, 
you'll find excellent Elk hunting. Most of the Elk are in the Colorado high country so be prepared for the rugged 
mountains and high altitude.

High altitude requires you to be in good shape physically. Your physical health can make or break an Elk hunting
trip to Colorado so start early to get in shape. Being out of shape in high country will have you out of breath very 
quickly. Altitudes can be up to 10,000 feet.

Colorado Elk hunts can be trips of a lifetime so make sure you do your due diligence, plan ahead and then enjoy!
Ready to make that Elk hunting trip in Colorado a reality and not  just a dream? Imagine... what if you could have 
your very own Colorado Elk guide sharing all his insider tips and secrets with you on how to plan that once in a 
lifetime Elk hunting trip?

Colorado Elk Hunting. Does It Get Any Better?
By: Verlyn Ross 
According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, elk hunting in Colorado during 2008 across all seasons and methods of 
take produced an elk hunter success rate of 20%. A  total of 45,271 elk were harvested in Colorado in 2008. 
Traditionally success rates for elk hunting in Colorado have hovered around the 25% range, so 2008 was a somewhat 
less productive year compared to years past. 

Data regarding the 2008 hunting seasons are available. A review of  the data reveal a handful of gaming units that have 
enjoyed a higher  than average hunter success rate. Unit 61, a unit on the Western slope encompassing portions of the 
Uncompahgre National Forest, harvested a total of 677 elk in 2008 producing a hunter success rate of 49%. Hunter 
success rates were 50% in units 40 and 851. Unit 40, where 920 elk were harvested in 2008, is also on the Western slope 
adjacent to the Utah boarder in Mesa County. Unit 851, where 286 elk were harvested, runs along Colorado's southern 
border and is southwest of Trinidad. The highest noteworthy elk hunting success rate was 67%, found in unit 682. 
Unit 682 is in the south central portion of the state slightly northwest of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. 

Division of Wildlife data estimates the post 2008 elk hunting season statewide elk population to be approximately 283,210. 
DOW information relative to elk populations is examined with respect to herds that may traverse more than one gaming unit. 
With respect to the aforementioned hunting units, estimates from DOW suggest that approximately 21,430 elk are in or about 
unit 851. In addition, estimates show unit 61 with a herd of approximately 10,680 elk roaming through or about the area. 
Units 40 and 682 have markedly smaller herds, at 4400 and 300 elk respectively. 

As any elk hunter will concede, if you show up in the middle of a herd of elk you will have a much easier time harvesting an elk. 
Inasmuch as this is true, it is also true that many other aspects of elk hunting preparation produce success. Knowing where elk 
are abundant and success rates are high may assist in future elk hunting success, but any astute elk hunter should be wary 
of the difference between the correlation of data, and its causation. There may be other circumstances inherent in 
some gaming units that produce higher success rates than others. 


3 Things To Improve Your Mule Deer Spot & Stalk
By: Fred Marino


I start my scouting each year by checking the internet for new places to hunt, by using the map feature on the hunting channel online. Pull up 3D images of the areas I have researched through fish and game reports and pope and young entries. Then look for the structures and lanscape features known will hold deer. These are: Water holes, Saddles, Benches, Intersecting ridges,
Transition areas and Funels.

It is these primary areas that give me my first indication where to start scouting.
Methodically examine these areas in 3D mode of THC maps figuring out how they are all interconnected and how deer would use them. Afterward I create maps with GPS coordinates and notes to help me locate sign when its times to actually start infield scouting.

Taking my maps and corralate them with stuff like deer/car accident reports, look closely at time of year, time of day, deer ratio, frequency and location, then add this to my notes and guide map.
Once season draws near I will go to those areas picked out and begin looking for sign like: Droppings, Evidence of feeding,
Tracks, Rubs, Scrapes, Hair and anything else that might clue me into what is using the area.

Once I have determined deer are frequenting an area I will set up trail cameras to record as much deer activity as possible. That way I can pattern any bucks in the area. Some times I will just set up a blind and sit back and observe deer so Ii can get a first hand look at their behavior. Itis very important to learn how deer act and react to your intrusion, anyway this is another topic which we will cover another day.


Ensuring the Conservation of Mule Deer and their Habitat
By Todd Black


First, let me say I really enjoyed reading Dr. Charles Kay’s last article in MDF, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”. Hopefully the title didn’t scare too many of you off, because the article did an excellent job in demonstrating how both, man-caused management and natural processes, are important components to mule deer habitat and how they have changed things significantly over time.

In my last article I wrote about predation, but I left with the statement, “Habitat is the primary factor we need to concentrate on in maintaining good suitable populations of mule deer.” In the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of MDF, in another article on predation, Dr. Bruce J. Mincher (Idaho) stated, “Only in rare situations is predator control likely to benefit mule deer. The single most important thing we can do to benefit mule deer is to maintain as much quality habitat as possible.”

Alright, I’ll ask it…just what is mule deer habitat and, for this article, what is ‘quality’ mule deer habitat? To be honest, knowing what I know, I have a hard time paraphrasing what mule deer habitat is in twenty words or less so I asked good friend and hunting consultant, Adam Bronson of the Hunt’n Fool Magazine; a mule deer crazy junky, Ryan Hatch owner of MuleyCrazy Magazine; and former biologist/manager (now MDF CEO), Miles Moretti, to tell me, in twenty words or less, just what their definition of mule deer habitat is:
Adam: Diversity in vegetation types throughout summer and winter ranges with connectivity between the two is critical to sustaining mule deer populations.
Ryan: Any given terrain that holds enough of the major components (browse, water, cover) to healthfully sustain and perpetuate the dynamics of a deer herd.
Miles: A plant community which has sufficient food, water, and cover for fawning, allow survival of winter conditions, and escape predators ensuring mule deer sustain or increase their populations.
My own personal definition is: Anywhere where you have mule deer that have persisted over time and will continue to persist but the area must include water, browse (the higher the protein the better), and herbaceous matter (flowers/forbs—again with high protein levels), at key times of the year.

As you can see, there are some pretty major differences in what mule deer habitat is, even from the experts. I’m sure that if you asked mule deer hunters from the Sonoran desert what their definition was, they would tell you something completely different than someone from the Panhandle of Idaho, or the Badlands of Montana/North Dakota, or the Sandhills of Nebraska, or the Wasatch Front of Utah. The truth is, these are all areas where mule deer live, but they all have very different habitats. So, how is it that a species, which seems to be in trouble from a habitat standpoint, can live in these ecologically different areas?
Mule deer in general are a very adaptable species. After all, in their distribution across the West, we can find them in 18 different states, four Canadian provinces, and in Mexico. The habitat they use spans over seven different eco-regions (no other big game species does that). They have been documented as to eating hundreds of different plants and plant parts from cactus, bark, fruit, vegetables, grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees, and likely, even some human food. They can find thermal and escape cover in grasslands, sagebrush, rocks, thickets, brush, trees, and even in back yards. Yet, we find them in this day and age being out-competed and displaced by man, elk, and even white-tailed deer—all of which, the experts tell me, can be tied back to some sort of habitat issues.

On an almost daily occurrence, I hear about loss of habitat, protection of habitat, degradation of habitat, improving habitat, habitat projects, fragmentation of habitat, and conservation of habitat…habitat, habitat, habitat. Yet, I still find it difficult to find one person who can show me a picture, take me to a place, or even paint me a picture of quality mule deer habitat. I have yet to find one mule deer that will say, “Todd, this is what I need to survive and propagate to my fullest potential…will you make it for me?” So is it fact, (we have crappy mule deer habitat all over), or is it fiction, (mule deer habitat is fine, something else is the problem). Is it all gone? Is there any left? What does it look like and why do we hear about it all the time. Why? If mule deer are so adaptable, why are they struggling so much—what is wrong with their habitat?

This we do know, mule deer habitat must consist of three important components: food, water, and cover/shelter. Based just on that definition, I can think of many places where there ought to be mule deer, but there are not. So, it must be a little more complex than just those three things. The truth is, mule deer habitat is complex and varies across the range of mule deer. How the food, water, and cover is arranged on the landscape, what is adjacent to it, how far away are they from each other, and what condition each of the three are in, are all equally important.

As I look at these facts, I scratch my head and think which is the most important, and which is the most critical component of mule deer habitat? Obviously, one would say food, and it is. We know that mule deer can make it without water for a few days; much of their water can be gleaned from the food they eat. We know that cover can be a wide open field if needed. What then, constitutes mule deer food or groceries? Why is it the limiting factor? Is there one magical snickers bar that can satisfy all mule deer?
I’ve always maintained that if I was king, I would plant forty acres of alfalfa hay for every section of ground in mule deer habitat.

But again, it’s likely not as simple as that. What groceries deer learn to eat, when they eat them, and what groceries are important from place to place and season to season, are critical to know. Generally speaking though, (and it has been demonstrated through studies), mule deer need and do best with groceries that are high in protein, easily digestible, and readily available. Again, this varies from place to place but most of these groceries can be considered, or are found, in areas where plant communities are in an early successional stage (see Here, we typically find a lot of green groceries, (grasses and forbs) that are high in nutrients, (including protein), easy to digest, very accessible and perfect for what mule deer key in on and need. They are a much-needed resource for does with fawns, and for bucks to grow antlers. The problem that I believe much of the West has lies in the balance between ‘quality habitat’ and available cover. Too many of our vegetative communities have reach climax stage (overgrown, no regeneration, and/or decadent). Once our vegetative communities reach climax stage, they are not very good for mule deer other than from a cover standpoint. Additionally, they become vulnerable to a catastrophic fire (not that fire is bad) where large tracks of land are burned and in many cases unavailable and gone for many years due to invasive species such as cheatgrass.

As Dr. Kay pointed out in the last issue MDF, rangeland managers must recognize that there is a problem. We can’t continue status quo with our mule deer habitat. It’s not good for mule deer for so much of our habitat to reach climax stage; there needs to be diversity and many different successional stages found across the landscape. We as sportsmen and conservationists need to realize and understand that these things take time and money. We must work closely with our land mangers and start slowly to identify issues, define goals, objectives, and implement actions and strategies to make changes. We need to realize that these changes will take time…and even longer periods of time will be needed to see changes in mule deer numbers.

So here’s the take home message…the next time you are out in your neck of the woods, ask yourself what is missing from this particular mule deer habitat, what was once there in abundance that is not there now? What are the causes of this change and what can be done to improve the situation? Only by understanding what the needs are and what can be done from a practical standpoint can we work to really improve, restore, and conserve mule deer habitat.

The Western Mule Deer Working Group (WMDWG) has gone to great efforts to identify mule deer habitat, threats, actions and strategies by eco-region across the western U.S. and Canada. To learn more, review the publication “Mule Deer Changing Landscapes Changing Perspectives,” found at and/or visit to view the completed mule deer habitat by eco-regions.


My Awesome Colorado Hunt
By Rylee Dearen


My story begins on a warm Saturday (November 1st) afternoon. It was the first day of my first Colorado deer hunt and my father, Kenny Dearen, was taking me hunting. Also accompanying us was my Uncle Donnie and his father-in law, Mr. Catalano. At first we went up on a ridge to check on some previously located bucks. Well, when my hunting party and I got up on the ridge we located a couple of decent bucks and one shooter, with a bunch of does off to the south. We were busted right off the start and couldn't get on the shooter buck, so we decided to go check on another place and let these deer calm down. This didn't work out too well, so we decided to go back to where we saw that shooter buck earlier in the day.

On our way back to the ridge we saw some other people going up there, so we decided to wait and see what happened. Thankfully, a short time later we saw the other people coming back off the ridge and decided that since it was just the first afternoon, and we had the whole hunt to spend looking other places, we would go back up on the ridge and wait until dark, and hopefully the big buck would show himself once again.

When we got on top of that lucky ridge, we were so thankful that the by passers had not spooked the deer, but merely moved them a little farther away from us than before. We didn't see the big buck we had seen before, but off to the north the buck of my dreams walked out of the trees. We moved into position and struggled forever to get into a comfortable shooting position. Then it was here, finally the moment had come and I had the buck in my scope…so I shot. I really thought that he would be down, but my dad said, "Baby you missed him clean", and then I realized that I, a Dearen, had missed. After the first shot, the buck started to trot farther and farther away from me. My dad stopped him in his tracks with a call. I knew then, this was going to be the moment of truth, the moment that I was going to get this buck. As I took a deep breath and leaned into my rest, my dad whispered, "If you're not 100% comfortable, then don't shoot, it'll be okay." Then my uncle whispered, "You got this Rylee, no problem". I told my dad, "I got him". He told me to take the safety off and hit him right behind the shoulder.

When the gun went off, I knew that my shot was fatal to that buck. I looked up to see that monster muley drop like a stone. I screamed and jumped up and down with joy as we ran to see the monster of a buck. When I got to him I almost cried, as I couldn't believe the size of his antlers. He was a 29-1⁄2 inch wide four by four and the buck of my dreams. He gross scores around 192 and nets a little over 181.

I would like to give a special thanks to my dad, my uncle D and a huge thanks to Mr. Catalano. I never knew the feelings that hunting can bring. It was an awesome experience.


Big Bucks & Good Company
Written by Kevin Samz


They say male bonding isn't cheap, but one could never put a price on this experience. For years now, I have been going out west to hunt elk and mule deer. It's not so much a hunting trip, but more of a reunion with my brothers and nephews.

This particular season, Colorado's second combined rifle season, I headed out to Colorado from my North Carolina home. I am an active duty Marine, and after spending 10 months in the Persian Gulf, this was a welcome respite.

We hunt in an area southeast of Silt, Colorado in the oak brush country. This terrain is very steep and choked with aspens, oaks, and occasional pockets of spruce. At times, one's vision is totally obstructed, so naturally this thick covered, steep country is a haven for elk and deer.

My brother, Dean, a native of Kiowa, Colorado is physically and mentally well suited for this terrain. His long strides and huge lung capacity makes it hard for and easterner to keep up. He is always faithful to have a comfortable camp set up with plenty of food and firewood.

My brother Mike, a native of Green River, Wyoming and his son's, Levi and Tyler, come down to camp and to see their eastern Uncle. They are usually done hunting because Wyoming's elk and deer season is earlier in the year. This makes for great conversations about previous Wyoming hunts and of course, my "Sea Stories".
It was a great camp with a dusting of snow, anticipation and expectations were high. On opening day however, a huge west wind set in and the only relief for a man or beast were the south and east facing slopes. We tried our best, but only a few does, fawns and one cow elk were seen.

On the second day, a long climbing stalk with Dean and my oldest nephew, Levi, enabled us to see one small buck and a dozen does. Tim, a friend of Dean's from Denver, owner of "Never Summer Snowboards", scored on a decent 2x3 muley, and also had a decent legal bull walk within 40 feet. No tag however!

The third day started with a lot of snow. Dean and I decided to hunt high, along a ridge above camp. We drove his jeep to a logging outfit camp, parked, and walked along the top of the ridge together.

We instantly saw a doe in her bed. It seemed a lot of deer were moving about half way down the ridge, so we decided to split up.
I remained in the middle and Dean would push the bottom and the pockets of spruce. Going was tough through blown down aspens and knee-deep snow. Several does and fawns later, Dean, somehow ended up a few hundred yards ahead of me and called on the radio to find out where I was. Before I could respond, a shot rang out below. I called Dean asking, "What did you get?" He responded, "A big old' muley!"

The sight I saw when I got to him was unbelievable. The buck was lying on his belly next to a blow down; his antlers were visible 300 yards away!

Another camp member, Butch, had left camp on foot that morning and came across the same ridge, but in the opposite direction. We believe that this action had confused the bedded buck. In an attempt to elude Butch, the buck headed straight towards Dean and I.

With his 7mm Remington, Dean made an excellent 150 yard shot. In over 30 years of deer hunting by all of us, including my father, this was the biggest buck my family has ever killed.
The next morning was more snow, and Dean and I were on the same ridge we hunted in the wind on opening morning. We headed up a steep cattle trail, and as we stopped to catch our breath, we looked down over a snow covered plain. Dean was mentioning how this would be a good place to sit in the evening. Just as that came out of his mouth, we spotted a deer standing broadside at about 300 yards. His rack could be seen with the naked eye and Dean said, "Good buck brother".
I got down in a good kneeling position, 18 years in the Marine Corps. taught me this, and Dean, like a good range coach said, "Breath brother, I got your back".

I placed the crosshairs on the front shoulder and squeezed away a shot. The buck jumped on impact and nose-dived into the snow. It was my best shot in my life!

All in all, it was another fantastic hunt, especially having taken two great bucks. Dean's buck is 30 inches wide, 20 inches tall, and heavy. My buck measured 24 inches wide and 19 inches tall.

Big bucks and good company, in a beautiful, free country---you can't put a price tag on that!


Bio: Mule Deer
Mule Deer: Odocoileus Hemionus


Mule Deer are closely related to its lowland cousin the Whitetail Deer. Mule Deer are a dark gray-brown in color and have a small white patch on its rump and a black-tipped tail. They get their names from their large mule-like ears that can be turned to assist in hearing.

Mule Deer antlers are distinguished from Whitetail Deer antlers by the forks. Whitetails points come off the main beam compared to a Mule Deer antler that forks off in two equal forks.

A Mule Deer stands about 36 inches high at the shoulder. A mature male can weigh up to 330 pounds and have antlers that spread over 30 inches wide at the widest point.

All Mule Deer are opportunistic feeders and will feed on a wide variety of plants. Their preferred foods are fresh green leaves, twigs, lower branches of trees, and various grasses.

Mule Deer have stomachs that are divided into several areas where they can store food. They can easily regurgitate the food they eat and process it again, this is called chewing its “cud”. While they rest they can frequently be seen lying down and chewing their cud in the afternoon and early evening. They are generally seen grazing during the early morning and later in the evening.

Deer are not especially vocal, although young fawns bleat on occasion. Injured deer utter a startlingly loud "blatt" or bawl.

The life span of a healthy Mule Deer in the wild is 10 years. November and December are the months that Mule Deer breed. As with other cervidaes, the bucks fight each other for the right to breed the female who is in estrus. After the breeding season the bucks continue their solitary lifestyle and the does return to the family groups until winter returns to the high country. During the harshest part of the winter Mule Deer travel together in large groups.

The bucks shed their antlers before April. They start to grow them again in the spring.
Mule Deer does will give birth to usually two fawns around May after about 200 day of pregnancy. The fawns weigh about 6 pounds and are camouflaged to blend into their habitat by their reddish color mixed with white spots. Mule Deer fawns also have little or no scent which further protects them from predators. A Mule Deer doe will care for its fawns until her next offspring are born.

Mule Deer can be found throughout the western United States and Canada. Mule Deer can be found anywhere from lower desert areas and lower mountain slopes to the very top of mountains above treeline. They tend to enjoy areas where they can see safely and recognize danger well before actually being threatened. Typically a Mule Deer will quietly sneak out of an area with out being seen.