The Top Mule Deer Hunts and Facts to Know in Colorado

Mule Deer Hunting

In western areas, mule deer hunting has always been fun. You can easily spot them around in any season. Being small in size, they are easy to hunt. Beginners usually hunt mule deer after some guidance before going for any other species of deer. 

In addition, hunting mule deer in western locations is cost-effective. Having the right tools and training may help you become a successful mule deer hunter in these locations. Look for them in Idaho, Montana, and, most crucially, Colorado’s deserts, slopes, and woods.

Mule Deer

Mule deer are distinguished by their large ears, ranging in length from 12 to 20 inches. When mule deer detect danger, their ears are erect, assisting with auditory sensitivity. They are called “mule deer” because their ears resemble a mule.

In the summer, they have light brown skin with a white or black tail, while in the winter, they have brownish grey color. The skin on the forehead is blackish, whereas the rest of the face is light grey. Mule deer stand three and a half feet tall and weigh 130 to 280 pounds. They move about by pressing their feet into the ground, which allows them to move more quicker.

Mule deer are distinguished by antlers that originate from the pedicle of the head as a single bone and later separate into several branches, and a tiny tail, and are larger than other deer species.

mule deer antlers

Furthermore, mule deer and blacktail deer are primarily found in the western United States. They are also found in the Alaskan Islands, California, Northern Mexico, and Columbia. However, they develop diverse characteristics as they live in different regions.

Mule deer have 11 subspecies, one of which is the blacktail deer. The blacktail distinguishes it from whitetails, a particular type of deer. Unlike whitetail deer, they do not lift their tail when threatened.

License for a Mule Deer Hunt in Colorado

A license is required to hunt deer. The good news is that you don’t have to wait years to receive a permit to shoot mule deer after preference points. Preference points can be used, but obtaining a license is also simple.

License for a Mule Deer Hunt

Anyone may get an elk license at the counter in Colorado, but to hunt mule deer, you must enter the yearly large game draw. One of three systems, the lottery system, bonus points, or preference points, is used in the big yearly game. The preference point system is utilized in Colorado.

All the applicants have equal chances to get a license, and if they don’t earn a license, they can still get preference points or bonus points. Hunters who earn the most preference points are preferred for giving the license. Depending on the supply and demand of deer hunting in a certain year, you can easily find out when you will get a license. 

Mule Deer Hunting Seasons in Colorado

Archery and muzzleloader deer hunting season begins in September. After that, the rifle season starts and continues till late November. Hunting in each season has both merits and demerits. 

Hunting Seasons in Colorado

The weather is pleasant during the archery season, letting bow hunters enjoy hunting without any calamities. Also, getting some preference points is enough for bow hunters for great opportunities. 

Deer prefer to migrate from hills to nether regions during muzzleloader season and before winter. The weather and other factors of a certain place impact the situation of hunting seasons and hunters’ success.

After the muzzleloader season, rifle hunting begins in October and lasts till November. The autumn season during this period makes it incredibly fun to hunt. The rifle season is divided into four portions. The first rifle season begins in early October and is only for elk hunting, while the second is for mule deer hunting.

In mid and late October, it’s the rut season for deer, and they may not be found outside. So it is difficult to hunt during the rifle season but getting a ticket for hunting is easy because of low competition.  

While during the third season of rifle hunt in early November, the deer can be easily spotted outside and getting a tag for the hunt gets difficult but not impossible. You can earn some preference points and get a chance to draw a tag.

In the end, the fourth rifle season begins in mid-November. The deer are highly on the move during this season, and the hunters are most active. You can easily find deer but will need to wait for drawing a tag.

Where to Hunt Mule Deer in Colorado

Deer spend the summer in high-mountain places, but they migrate to lower-mountain areas when temperatures drop. To take advantage of exceptional prospects, you must evaluate the weather and where you will hunt.

But sometimes, deer do not move under the pressure of weather as they can bear the wind, snow, or rain. They may hide in their shelters in the storms, stay inside until the storm passes and stay in the same location despite the changing weather all around the year. So you cannot always rely on following the pattern of changing climate. 

The essential point is that deer like to live in hills, mountains, or other high areas. As a result, you should be able to identify hunting chances in such locations. Aside from that, choosing a spot to hunt is dependent on the licensing of areas you have. You can obtain a license for either public or private land.

Public Land Deer Hunting in Colorado

There are numerous public land hunting options in Colorado. After training, hunters can enjoy hunting in these areas and earn preference points for the specific area. You can search out the availability and situation of deer in each public land of your field and plan your hunting.

Private Land Deer Hunting in Colorado

Mule hunting on private land is legal in Colorado. Compared to other states in North America, it is regarded as the finest state for private hunting. Colorado’s agricultural lands are world-class, and many mule deer live there. With their fertile DNA, these deer create even more offspring.

Transport and Other Resources

The most important step in hunting is to prepare for the hunt. Consider the weather, select a bag that is easy to carry, keep it light in weight, and carry necessary tools and equipment such as hunting binoculars.

Besides these considerations, you need to choose transport for traveling, and carrying weapons, and meat after hunting. You should be able to move through the hilly areas or damaged rocky roads around the forests. Therefore, plan your transport keeping in mind the requirements of hunting. 

The Declining Population of Mule Deer

With years passing, there has been a decline noticed in the deer population in general and a decline in the mule deer population, specifically in the west. The same is the case in Colorado; wildlife researchers and keepers have tried to determine why this decline.

Mule Deer Population

According to the National Wildlife Federation, this decline is caused by an increase in the human population and drilling wells for oil and gas. Also, hunting deer for meat and domesticating them have contributed to this decline.   


Deer hunting in Colorado can be a great experience if you get a license and plan your hunting, keeping in mind the situation of a particular area. Once you get the license for hunting a species, you are ready to go for a hunt as soon as the season arrives. Hunting mule deer in the fourth rifle season can probably bring meat to your table.

Additional Common Questions

Which region of Colorado offers the best mule deer hunting experience?

If you’re looking for prime mule deer territory, Western Colorado is your best bet. The area boasts a rich and varied habitat that is ideal for mule deer, making it one of the best in the world. Here, across the high rocky basins sitting at over 10,000 feet and the gentler rolling sage foothills, you can find an abundance of these magnificent animals. Over the years, hunting in Colorado has yielded some spectacular experiences and game. The diverse range of landscapes and temperatures has created an ideal condition for mule deer to thrive in.

Can you tell me about the top 5 mule deer units in Colorado?

Absolutely, I’ve had the pleasure of hunting in most of Colorado’s game management units, and there are several that stand out for their bountiful mule deer populations. GMU 44, GMU 53, GMU 22, GMU 10, and GMU 54 consistently offer successful hunts, due in part to effective wildlife management, diverse habitats, and plentiful food sources attracting healthy mule deer herds. Hunting in these units often feels like a step back in time, a chance to experience the wilderness as our ancestors did. The thrill of the hunt, quiet hours spent in nature, and finally spotting your quarry – these are experiences hard to find elsewhere.

Which is the best trophy mule deer unit in Colorado?

Do you dream of bagging that once-in-a-lifetime trophy mule deer? Colorado Game Management Unit 55, GMU 54, GMU 551, GMU 67 and the Gunnison Basin are worth your attention. Over my many hunting seasons, these units have consistently provided opportunities to encounter and take down giant trophy mule deer. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife does a fantastic job of managing our hunting areas to maintain trophy quality. I have many fond memories of hunting in these units – spotting the silhouette of a large buck through my binoculars, the anticipation and surge of adrenaline as I moved into position, and the sense of accomplishment when a well-planned hunt culminates in success.

In which part of Colorado can I find the biggest mule deer?

Dolores County in Colorado holds a special place in the hearts of mule deer hunters. Home to the world record mule deer buck since 1972, this region continues to produce impressively large specimens. This reputation brings hunters from around the globe, infusing local economies with a much-needed boost during the fall hunting season. I remember my first hunt in Dolores County — a chilling early morning, the quiet anticipation, the rustle of a mule deer buck stirring from its slumber – it’s these moments that draw hunters to this place year after year.

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