We’ve Ranked All Mule Deer Hunting States by Entries Per Square Mile of Total Land Mass
Data can be deceiving. That’s why oftentimes, the all-time records list you see aren’t the most accurate depictions of where big deer are truly coming from. That’s why we’ve compiled this list. It’s for those who still haven’t gone on that dream mule deer hunt and are still trying to decide where to go. It’s for those who want to know where conservation is a priority. It’s even for those who simply want to see how their state compares to others.
In this post, we’ve applied a simple equation to determine which states are the top producers. We took away the size advantage many states have and put them all on a level playing field by analyzing how many record bucks have been taken per square mile of total land mass. Here are how all of the mule deer states in the country rank when looking at only the data from the last decade (again . . . based on entries per square mile of total land mass):
Colorado | 217 entries | 0.00209 entries per square mile of total land mass
Utah | 69 entries | 0.00083 entries per square mile of total land mass
Idaho |54 entries | 0.00065 entries per square mile of total land mass
Wyoming | 55 entries | 0.00056 entries per square mile of total land mass
Nevada | 50 entries | 0.00045 entries per square mile of total land mass
Arizona | 41 entries | 0.00036 entries per square mile of total land mass
New Mexico | 42 entries | 0.00034 entries per square mile of total land mass
Washington | 17 entries | 0.00025 entries per square mile of total land mass
Kansas | 16 entries | 0.00019 entries per square mile of total land mass
Montana | 26 entries | 0.00017 entries per square mile of total land mass
Oregon | 13 entries | 0.00013 entries per square mile of total land mass
South Dakota | 9 entries | 0.00011 entries per square mile of total land mass
Nebraska | 5 entries | 0.00006 entries per square mile of total land mass
North Dakota | 3 entries | 0.00004 entries per square mile of total land mass
Texas | 10 entries | 0.00003 entries per square mile of total land mass
California | 3 entries | 0.00001 entries per square mile of total land mass
1. Colorado: Colorado is king no matter how you slice the data. It puts out the most and biggest record mule deer bucks of any state in the country. Looking at the last 10 years, for typicals, Eagle, Garfield and Archuleta Counties are the strongholds with 18, 16 and 11 entries respectively. Regarding non-typicals, Eagle, Garfield and Grand have six, five and four entries in the last decade.
2. Utah: Utah is No. 2 and is a giant producer for the biggest of the record mule deer. It has produced a lot of big deer since 2008. Kane, Garfield and Washington Counties are the top-producers for typicals with 10, nine and four entries. The most recent non-typicals have come from Cache, Garfield and Carbon Counties with three, three and two.
3. Idaho: There doesn’t seem to be a centralized hotbed for big mule deer like there is for whitetails (the Midwest). We’re jumping all around the western region as we move through the top states. Looking at typical entries, Adams, Booneville, Elmore, Gooding and Owyhee Counties are all tied for first with three apiece. On the non-typical side, Cassia, Bear Lake and Boise Counties take the top spots with three, two and one.
4. Wyoming: Wyoming is hard to beat for all-around big game hunting. It’s game-rich and offers plenty of opportunity. The Cowboy State’s top counties for typicals is Carbon (14), Lincoln (seven) and Campbell (two). The top destinations for non-typicals are Carbon (two), Park (two) and Sublette (two). Looks like Carbon County is the place to be.
5. Nevada: This place is serene in its own way. But if you go there for mule deer hunting, there’s a hotbed you need to focus on. Lincoln County has produced 17 of its typical records since 2008. Elko and White Pine finish in the top three with seven and five. Lincoln (six), Elko (four) and Lander (one) are the only three counties with non-typical entries.
6. Arizona: The land of the Navajo is beautiful state, in its own way. Looking at the big typicals, Mohave (17) and Coconino (nine) are the top two counties. Gila and the Hualapai Indian Reservation both have one entry apiece. In the non-typical category, Mohave and Coconino take the top spots again with seven and three entries, respectively. Apache, Navajo and Pima all have one each.
7. New Mexico: This is one of the first states people think about when it comes to elk, and even mule deer, but it only ranks 7th on the list. As for specific locations, Rio Arriba is the obvious hotbed with 24 typical entries. San Juan County follows with six entries. Six other counties have one each. Rio Arriba also has four non-typical entries. Sandoval and Union both have one entry as well.
8. Washington: Here’s a sleeper state. Who would have thought it would outperform states such as Montana, even Oregon for that matter? Looking at typical entries, Okanogan County has four entries, Chelan has three and Kittitas has two. In the non-typical category, both Okanogan and Yakima have two entries and Chelan and Grant have one.
9. Kansas: Kansas is prime when it comes to whitetails. But it doesn’t rank quite so high for mule deer. But there are good deer there. I’ve seen them. Looking at specific counties, Cheyenne and Scott both have one typical entry apiece. Six other counties have one, too. On the non-typical list, Gove County has two and four other counties have one entry to their name.
10. Montana: This is a state you’d expect to be higher on the list. Not so. It comes in at No. 10. Ravalli County is the top typical-producing county with nine entries in the last 10 years. Pondera and Rosebud have three and two. The non-typical front looks different. Lake, Park, Powder River, Rosebud and Sheridan all have one apiece.
The Rest: Oregon, South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas and California all harbor decent populations of mule deer. But they aren’t known for pumping out the biggest mulies like the other 10 states that precede them in the record books. That doesn’t mean you can’t find good deer hunting there, or the occasional Booner for that matter. You can find both. And it isn’t in all about big deer. In fact, it’s less about big deer and more about the hunt, the camaraderie and the overall experience. I know it is for me.
At the end of the day, we’d all be lying if we said we didn’t like big deer. And even if you never kill one, it’s still fun to dream about doing so. But for those who like to plan, we hope the information above is the first step in helping you decide where to live out that dream.