If you’re dreams are filled with 200″ mule deer, you want to hunt in big buck country as often as possible. After all, the more time you can spend in the bedroom of a big deer, the better your odds of seeing or killing him.
As DIY hunter’s we’re often left with two options — purchase a landowner tag, or acquire a tag through the public draw/OTC purchase. In this article we’ll look at the cost and potential of each state in regards to finding big muley bucks in easy to draw areas in the Rocky Mountains states.
Colorado has the country, management, and potential to produce whopper bucks in a lot of units — many of which can be drawn with 0-3 preference points. If you do your homework and work hard you can hunt Colorado every year as a non-resident in units where big bucks are killed every year. The availability of landowner tags makes Colorado a possibility if you struck out in the draws as well. Although it’s likely going to cost you $1600 plus to get a decent unit. For these reasons, Colorado hits the top of our list.
Cost: Habitat Stamp – $10, Deer License – $361
Wyoming comes second on our list. Although it can be hard to pull a great tag every year in Wyoming, you can find good hunts on leftover units, or in units that can be hunted every other year. Western Wyoming is getting harder to draw, but there are good Mule Deer all over the state. Decent tags (even region wide tags) can be had with 0-3 preference points.
Cost: Conservation Stamp -$12.50, Deer License – $312, Deer Special Price – $552
Utah’s famous Henry Mountains are a pipe dream for most of us, so we’re looking at other units in the beehive state. Most limited entry units in Utah will take 5+ years to draw, so I’m counting them out. That being said, most of the state is split into “general units” that can be drawn with very few points. The hunts can be crowded, but don’t underestimate Utah as being a state with some great Mule Deer. They pump out some incredible bucks on their general hunts every year.
Cost: Hunting License – $65 Deer License – $268 (general) $469 Limited Entry, Premium LE $568
Sometimes Idaho gets kept to Idahoans. Which is great for them. Idaho has incredible country and a good opportunity to take a great mule deer buck. Rumor has it that herds are down and management has been a bit liberal in tag printing — that being said, there are still a lot of great deer in Idaho.
Cost: Deer Tag: 301.75 License – $154.75
Nevada has some great muley hunting and opportunities — but if you’re looking to hunt every 2-3 years, you’ll need to choose a short range weapon like archery or muzzleloader hunts. (Same goes for nearly every other state as well).
Cost: License: $142.00 Deer Tag: $300
When you think of Arizona, you think of the Strip — the narrow strip of AZ real estate north of the Grand Canyon. The best units are very difficult to draw. However, Arizona has some very good opportunities that can be purchased over the counter to hunt desert bucks. It’s not an easy hunt by any means, but the tags are easy to get, and the big ones are out there!
Cost: Deer tag: $315 Combo license: $160
#6 Montana: Montana is sort of a sleeper state as far as Muleys go. They do have some good ones, and some pretty good opportunity, especially since they’ve raised prices to the point of pushing a decent number of non-residents out. Montana can be a great hunt, especially for an elk/deer combo, but expect to pay a little more for the chance.
Cost: Deer license: $580
These prices don’t include application fees, and if you’re already applying for elk, sheep, or another species in a state, you don’t have to purchase an additional hunting license, only the deer tag/license.
Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list of Mule Deer states. There are mule deer hunts in California, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Alaska, The Dakotas, and Kansas (I’m sure I missed a state in there too). Each of these states has good, huntable populations of Mule Deer, and a chance at harvesting a wall hanger.
ALWAYS hunt your home state! If you’re fortunate to live in a mule deer state and you don’t have a better hunt somewhere else during the same time period, then hunt your state. You can typically hunt your resident state 6-10 times before you reach the cost of a non-resident hunt. That doesn’t include gas, which is nearly always a bigger expense than the tag price for an out of state hunt.
And, by the way…every state that has muleys, has big bucks. Pinch your pennies and hunt them as often as you can. The more you can live in big buck country, the higher your chance of coming across one. Good luck this year!
This article was originally published in EARNED – The DIY Journal. Written by Brad Carter – founder of HuntAddicts.com