By: Blayne St. James, Owner/Broker
Licensed in: CO, KS, UT & NM

One of the requests we frequently receive is from prospective ranch buyers wanting properties with trophy caliber mule deer. If this is you, you’ll want a skilled ranch broker that understands big bucks, ranches, and how the landowner tags work. Has a good grasp of the availability of permits and the likelihood; you’ll be able to obtain them. Certain regions have the genetics, age class, and habitat to consistently produce big bucks while other areas are managed primarily for opportunity hunts. Another consideration is season dates. There are specific seasons that are typically better than others. And no, late rut hunts are not always the best choice! You need a plan!

Before we can formulate a game plan, you must answer a few crucial questions. Clients must be honest with themselves. Sure, everyone wants to harvest big bucks, but is it truly your primary objective? The paragraphs below will hopefully provoke some deep thought and help you determine what it is you’re genuinely looking for.

Ask yourself these four questions…

  1. What’s your idea of a trophy mule deer? The intent of this question is not to start a debate. No one will ever agree with what the universal baseline is for a big buck; instead, ask what your baseline is? My idea of a big buck shouldn’t be the same as my 12-year-old son’s and so forth. Once we establish the standard, the work begins!

  1. Do you want a ranch you can entertain multiple guests, or are you looking only to host one-two hunters per year? This answer is important to identify right away. Some areas hold world-class deer; however, the densities are relatively low.  If you want to entertain a lot of hunters and your ranch doesn’t qualify for very many tags, we may need to look elsewhere. Again, this may or may not be an issue depending on how you answer the question. Side note, another alternative is to find a trophy mule deer property that has other species such as elk for your guests to hunt. This alternative is relatively easy to accomplish.
  1. What weapon do you prefer to hunt with, bow, muzzleloader, or rifle? Some archery areas have long season dates and offer hunters a tremendous amount of flexibility with their schedules. Typically, the bucks are easier to pattern and have received very little hunting pressure. The CO Eastern Plains consistently churn out massive deer and have a three-month-long season…. lots of flexibility. Your rifle seasons generally last one to two weeks and can be outstanding or extremely frustrating if you’re hunting the wrong area.

  1. What time of year do you prefer to hunt? Do you enjoy the early season with the change of leaves or chasing rutting bucks in the snow? Some ranches are going to be excellent earlier season properties, and others won’t produce big bucks until later in the fall. Ideally, we’ll locate a tract such as Ridgeview Ranch near Trinidad, CO (pages 23-24) that has high deer densities and quality bucks year-round. Everyday life is another consideration. Sometimes family obligations or work conflict with specific season dates, and we need hunts with greater flexibility or a particular season date. Whatever your needs are, we can help you navigate your best options!

Let’s face it; there’s a lot more to big bucks than wide antler spreads. Just as there are a lot more questions, we need to address to finetune your property search! If you’re in the market for a ranch with big mule deer, don’t hesitate to give us a call