The perennial opening of the rifle deer season in Arizona has been late October and early November. This was often a family event where three, four or even more members of the family would all have mule deer tags in the same unit. Well, a lot has happened to the diminishing deer herd of Arizona since those glory days.
Believe it or not, there was a quality mule deer herd within a 15-mile radius of Payson, and Unit 22 offered 2,500 to 3,000 tags. In the year 2005, with the hunt just finished, 500 fortunate hunters took to the field. My candid opinion is that number may have been 300 too many tags for a mule deer population that is in trouble from an extended drought and heavy predation by the coyote population.
The 3-Bar study on the impact of coyote predation on the mule deer population has been an eye-opener. Within the enclosed study area, the deer population increased with no predators present, even during the time of the extreme drought. A logical conclusion may be some form of curbing the ever-increasing coyote population.
There was one lucky local youngster, Jason Lister, who was fortunate in the big game drawing. If you are a hunter, the big game drawing in July of every year might mean more than winning the lottery. His tag allowed for his dad to also enjoy the outdoor experience of a big game hunt. Everything that goes into a mule deer hunt -- scouting, camping, and glassing -- can all be a truly positive family experience. Jason had his tag in Unit 23 (which is east of Tonto Creek), so he and his father Tom took off for their favorite spot and spent a couple of days there.
At first light on the second day, they high pointed and started to glass the surrounding hillsides and canyons. It wasn't long before a herd of deer was spotted that contained three bucks. The single shot from his rifle at 200 yards made a clean hit and the hunt was almost over.
It is interesting to note that Jason has been hunting with his father since he was 10, which is the first year to legally hunt big game in Arizona, provided the hunter safety course has been passed. The Lister family are avid outdoors enthusiasts and hunters, and they enjoyed the mule deer tag Jason had in Unit 23. Jason mentioned twin brother Jeff was not with them during the hunt because of the family rule that only the child having the tag may miss school on opening day. Great decision, Mom and Dad, and congratulations Jason on a successful deer hunt.
If you want something fun to do, get on a high vantage point with a good pair of field glasses and enjoy looking at wildlife. Be patient, you will see it. This weekend, enjoy God's creation.