Setting out to decide which four states are the best for archery mule deer hunting is a difficult task. 17 states and at least 5 Canadian provinces offer mule deer hunting in some kind of capacity or another. These selections were difficult to decide on, mostly because so many factors make up a “top” mule deer hunting state. Does the hunter value opportunity over trophy size or vice versa? Likewise, does the hunter want a public land or private land experience? As stated above it’s a difficult task, but we at Ehuntr set out to create a comprehensive list of the top four mule deer states for archery hunting.
We are sure that some of you will disagree and some of your favorite states will be left off the list. This is in no way meant to be a slight and we are sure you have had great hunts in your favorite states. Without further ado, the top four states for archery mule deer hunting in Ehuntr’s opinion are Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. These states are listed in no particular order and below we will give data behind our choice of each state. Likewise, we will give some information and tips about hunting each state.
Colorado is one of the most well-known states for hunting, especially as it relates to archery hunting. Many people come from all over the country to hunt Colorado. It is an opportunistic state that provides hunters many options on where and when they can hunt. Colorado also offers many species that can be hunted, and most of them can be hunted with a bow.
As stated in the introduction of this section, the opportunity is a great reason for hunters to come to Colorado. In the Colorado Big Game brochure, you can find the dates and details on many archery hunts available each year. Hunters are able to apply for draw units, which are the units that produce most of the bigger deer. However, there are many OTC tags available as well.
Although elk is a popular animal to hunt in Colorado, elk is not the only species that hunters are able to hunt with OTC tags. Hunters can also obtain OTC deer tags as well. Colorado is well known for its deer population. Most units within the state are capable of producing very large deer. Units that can be drawn with 0 to 1 point can produce 200″ mule deer. Colorado also has whitetail deer that can be hunted with archery equipment.
If you’re a hunter that looks forward to hunting each and every year, look no further than Colorado. The opportunities to not only hunt every year but to hunt big deer are plentiful in this amazing state.
If you follow social media pages, especially Youtube, you will see pictures and videos of amazing deer taken in Colorado. Large, mature deer can be very difficult to hunt, especially with a bow; however, Colorado gives hunters the ability to access these animals at the best times. As most hunters know, the best time to hunt mature animals is during the rut.
The table above lists the archery hunts and the dates on which those hunts are conducted. Deer usually rut in late November and December. Colorado has an awesome late-season archery hunt in the plains where you can hunt deer in the heart of the rut. Those hunts include both mule deer and whitetail.
If you’re looking for a 200″ mule deer, Colorado can give it to you. It will make you work for every inch, but those animals are here. Even hunting them during the rut, they’ll make you earn it.
If you’re not already sold on Colorado at this point, let’s touch on one last item. That item is variety. As you can surmise from above, there is so much opportunity in the state of Colorado because of the variety of different animals. Colorado is unique in its geography, which provides habitat for many different species of deer. Regardless of what you like to pursue with a bow, you’ll be able to find most of those animals in Colorado.
Colorado also provides a variety of scenic views as well. If you like high country scenic views pursuing mule deer, that is here. Regardless of what you enjoy, whether that’s the flat plains, thick pines, tall aspens, low sagebrush, or high desert, it can all be found in Colorado.
If Nevada isn’t on your radar for mule deer, it definitely should be now. That being said it’s definitely not a state that you can hunt good deer units every year. But you better be at least building up your points. If you are looking at hunting one of the upper units then it will take you quite a few years. Trophy potential in these units might be worth the wait, however. But don’t get discouraged, Nevada has some great mid-tier units that you can draw a tag on every couple of years.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife has some great resources on its website for all types of hunters. The one thing that I have found that is different from other states is that Nevada has a form for each individual unit that has a lot of good information that will help those trying out new units. Location of the unit, vegetation, elevation, terrain, hunter access, and even some suggested hunting areas as well.
Hunt resources Top Ten List
The Hunt Resource Page helps hunters find more information regarding hunting in Nevada. You can find that website by clicking the following link. http://www.ndow.org/Hunt/Resources/ This link discusses new changes in the regulations, bonus points, application deadlines and dates, hunt stats, and much more. The stats page will give you a good head start on which units the big animals are coming from and what the success rates are in each unit. This section should definitely be a part of your research for hunting mule deer in Nevada.
First Come First Serve Process
Nevada has a draw system for their hunts. As a non-resident in order to build up points, you will be required to purchase a hunting license. You can still put in the draw, and purchase a license if you are successful, but if you don’t draw the permit you do not accumulate a bonus point. Non-resident licenses in 2021 are $155. There is an initial application period that opens in March and ends in April. There is an initial big game draw in May and then a secondary draw in July. New this year to the portal is the First Come First Serve Process where you can get online and see if there are any leftover or returned tags. If there are available tags you can purchase them online.
So, what makes Utah a top state for archery mule deer hunting? Well, kind of like this whole article, it can be tricky. Mule deer hunting in Utah can be on opposite ends of the opportunity/trophy spectrum. In some units, you’ll have to wait 20+ years even with a bow. However, other units provide much more opportunity although usually, the trophy quality drops some with those units. Over the last decade, Utah has only trailed behind Colorado and Saskatchewan in record book mule deer entries. Admittedly, most of those entries have come from hard-to-draw limited-entry units. However, every year record book deer are taken on general season hunt units.
Utah has a wide variety of terrain to hunt mule deer in. The western part of the state provides hunters with the ability to hunt the high desert/ sagebrush steppe country. The central part of the state has typical rocky mountain hunting, these areas are dominated by aspens, oak brush, and pines. Hunters looking for a true high country experience can always apply to hunt mule deer in the Uinta’s in the northeastern part of the state. Likewise, the southeastern parts of the state offer hunting opportunities in the desert mesas and red rock country. Lastly, the Book Cliffs run along the border with Colorado. This area is a limited-entry draw unit with a large deer population. Whatever your archery hunting style is Utah is likely to have a unit to match it.
Utah’s two highest record producing units are the Henry Mountains and the Pansaguant. These two units are no secret and they will take you 20+ years to draw them, even if you apply for the archery permit. The state offers several other limited-entry units that can produce quality mule deer. Typical spot and stalk hunting is probably the most effective style used in Utah. However, ambush hunting over water or natural food sources has yielded hunters great success.
For more information about mule deer hunting in Utah, you can check out the Utah DWR’s page by clicking here. You can also use their Hunt Planner tool by clicking here.
Wyoming is known for mule deer. Whether it’s the stories of the Legends, Popeye and Morty, or the newly discovered 150 mile Mule Deer Migration. Outside of the Arizona Strip, Western Wyoming is known to produce some of the biggest mule deer in the country.
Unlike most states, Wyoming doesn’t have a designated Archery tag. You draw 1 tag and can hunt before the rifle season with the stick and string. Archery licenses are required on top of your tag purchase. The exception is for holders of Type 9 archery-only licenses. Persons holding Type 9 licenses do not need a separate archery license. The archery license does not allow a person to take an extra animal – it simply allows the archer to hunt in the special archery season. Typically the archery season starts on Sept 1 with a closing date that varies depending on the unit.
Mule deer occupy a large section of the Wyoming landscape. This means you might find deer in remote, high alpine basins. In these areas, mule deer browse on shrubs like mountain mahogany and willow. High country deer hunts are physically challenging. And while trophy potential is high, densities are low. Mule deer also frequent the low sage flats and desert basins.
From the Wyoming Game and Fish: The nation’s 10th largest (and least populated) state, Wyoming offers vast expanses of territory to roam. Nearly half (48%) is federal public land and the State of Wyoming (State) owns another 5.6%. With a little research and a basic understanding of Wyoming’s access laws, you can plan your trip armed with good information about accessible areas to hunt.
Permits and tags in Wyoming are similar to other states, some offer amazing trophy quality while others are geared towards more opportunity-type hunts. The state is broken up into numbered game hunt units. However, some hunt units are gathered together in general season mule deer hunt regions. Those regions are classified alphabetically. For example, you may be able to hunt units 96,97, and 98 with a region Q general permit. But you can not hunt in nearby unit 87 with a region Q general permit. To hunt that unit you would need to draw a permit for unit 87.
With its rich diversity of landscape and quality of tags, Wyoming should be on your radar when planning your next archery hunt in the west.
Archery mule deer hunting is an amazing experience and we recommend you give it a shot. As stated above we know we’ve left some states out, this article would be 10 times as long as it is if we had to cover them all. However, we hope you enjoyed our top four archery mule deer states!
The information in this article was gathered from four separate hunters that have spent extensive time in each of the four states. We hope you enjoyed the article.
If you love hunting mule deer be sure to check out our Ehuntr mule deer page by clicking here.