New Study Finds Wyoming Mule Deer Migration Not Affected by Hunting Season

by Matthew Wilson
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Mule deer in Wyoming won’t let hunters and outdoorsmen change their ways of life. Apparently, they are stubborn creatures after-all. They won’t let a little fear of death or being mounted over a fireplace make them flee. Perhaps they got the steely resolve of a soldier? Or perhaps they don’t realize man with a gun equals bad news.

A recent study by The Wildlife Society finds that hunting season doesn’t affect mule deer migration in the state. Specifically, hunting season doesn’t cause the animal to prematurely begin their migration. Researchers have been studying hunting’s effect on deer species’ behavior for years. After-all, the old Dwarnism motto is “overcome and adapt to survive.”

Hunting does affect migration patterns within other species of the animal. Past studies have shown that it causes an early flight response before migration is supposed to naturally occur. For instance, elk seem to have flown the coop early due to hunting season in Wyoming. Likewise, for the red deer in Norway. But mule deer are as stubborn as, well, a mule.

Wyoming Researchers Study the Deer

Patrick Rodgers, an associate research scientist at the Wyoming Migration Initiative, has been studying the animal. Rodgers and his team studied the mule species to see if it had been affected as well. Partnering with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, they fastened GPS collars to several of the animals.

“We didn’t find that hunting triggered migration,” Rodgers said. “We find that that’s likely because deer had these roadless areas that they could move to that acted as security from this pulse of disturbance.”

While hunters may flock in droves to get their next buck, the mule deer still have plenty of areas to run to avoid being killed. For now, the species is down for the most extreme game of hide and seek they’ve ever played. Then after the hunting season and autumn, the animals follow their natural migration patterns.

“The bigger factors influencing migration were, for bucks in particular, the distance that they had to travel and then for bucks and does, snowfall and weather,” he said.

So far, the researchers believe Wyoming has done a great job at conservation and managing the population of mule deer. Come the later part of 2021, the hide and seek match between hunters and hunted will continue.

Outsider.com