Second Target: Colorado Mule Deer
9/22/08 - 9/28/08 First ever deer camp. Briefing:
Long before we settled on the hog hunt location, we knew what we were going after here in our home state. There is just nothing quite like a western Mule Deer. Mule Deer have large ears that move constantly and independently. This is why they have their name, "Mule" or "Burro Deer." They do not run as other deer do. They use a peculiar and distinctive bounding leap, covering distances up to 8 yards, with all 4 feet coming down together. Because of this, they can reach speeds of 45 m.p.h. for short periods of time.
This stocky deer with sturdy legs is 4 to 6-1/2 feet in length and 3 to 3-1/2 feet high at the shoulder. During the summer, the coat on its upper body is yellow- or reddish-brown, while in winter colors give way to grayer tones. The throat patch, rump patch, inside ears and inside legs are white with lower portions running from cream to tan. A dark V-shaped mark, extending from a point between the eyes upward and laterally, is a characteristic shared by all Mule Deer, but is more conspicuous in males.
Males are larger than females. The bucks' antlers, which start to grow in the spring, are shed around December each year. They run high and branch forward, forking equally into 2 tines with a spread up to 4 feet.
The Mule Deer is slower and less colorful than the White-tailed Deer, but its pastel, gray-buff color provides a physical adaptation to the desert environment which disguises it from predators like the Cougar, Coyote, and the Eagle who will swoop down on a fawn.
Mule Deer have no canine teeth and, like the cow, have a multi-part stomach. The first two chambers act as temporary storage bins. Food stored there can be digested later when the deer chews its cud.
Another physical adaptation, its larger feet, allow the Mule Deer to claw out water as much as two feet deep, which it detects with its keen sense of smell.
The mating season for Mule Deer reaches its peak in November and December, as antlered stags round up females and fight for their possession. Antlers are shed after the breeding season, from mid-January to about mid-April. Most mature bucks in good condition have lost theirs by the end of February; immature bucks generally lose them a little later. Males and females mix freely while traveling together in groups during winter months, often down to the desert floor.
Dominance is largely a function of size. The largest males, who possess the largest antlers, garner most of the success. A buck will find a suitable doe and they will often play chase games at breakneck speeds before mating. They will remain together for several days.
When antlers start growing again in the spring, the group breaks up. The females go off by themselves and eventually give birth and nurse their young; the males wander in friendly twosomes or small bands throughout the summer months as antlers grow.
From April through June, after about a 200-day gestation period, the doe delivers 1 to 4 young (normally 2). Fawns are born in late May or early June. A doe will usually produce a single fawn the first year she gives birth and then produce twins in following years. The fawn, colored reddish with white spots, weighs about 6 pounds at birth. It must nurse within the first hour and stand within the first 12 hours. During early weeks of life, the fawn sees its mother only at mealtimes for feeding. Spots begin to fade by the end of the first month. They are further protected by having little or no scent. Fawns usually stay with the doe for the first full year.
Their life span in the wild is generally 10 years, but Mule Deer have lived up to 25 years in captivity .
All federal, state, and provincial land and wildlife management agencies recognize the fundamental need to maintain Mule Deer ranges and keep them habitable. To counter the trend of agricultural development, rangeland conversion, mining, road and highway construction, and the development of housing tracts, many states and provinces have purchased critical areas, especially winter ranges, to maintain the various habitats of Mule Deer. But, due to political opposition to government acquisition of privately owned lands, plus a scarcity of funds for this purpose, only a small fraction of Mule Deer ranges has been acquired by the government.
I hope to keep a running, daily journal here. Similar in disposition to our Hog Hunt, but more timely. Ultimately, I would like to compile all of these writings into one big story, and get it bound and in print for Cheri and the kids to look back on and remember the good times we have now. Sadly... at 37 my body is giving out on me; 10 years before it was supposed to I'm afraid.
I want every one who takes to the time to read this to feel free to comment. I want your words to be included in the book too, to serve as a reminder to them of how the hunting community took us in and held us as one of their own. I want them to look upon the people in our lives now, and those to come in the future, as the finest, most noble and honest example of our sport they could ever associate themselves with. I want them to continue the traditions we've all been gifted with for generation after generation. Most of all, I want them to see that because of the type of people in our community, they were able to experience both the thrill and excitement before, during, after the hunt; but now also carry the responsibility each and every one of us takes on regarding conservation, management, and responsibility to not only the animals, but the land they live in.
Last edited by Colorado Rick; 09-15-2008 at 02:28 PM.