Editor’s Note: Longtime, avid hunter Marshall Johnson of Bismarck, North Dakota, is the senior regional director for the Mule Deer Foundation https://muledeer.org/ that restores, improves and protects mule deer habitat, including land and easement acquisitions, and develops programs that help mule deer and black-tailed deer conservation. Mule deer and black-tailed deer live throughout western North America from the coastal islands of Alaska down the West Coast to southern Baja, Mexico, and from the northern border of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, up through the Great Plains to the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the southern Yukon Territory. Mule deer: are browsers with a majority of their diet weeds and leaves and twigs of woody shrubs; grow 3 to 3-1/2 feet tall and generally weigh 130-280 pounds; have a 310-degree view around themselves due to their eyes being located on the sides of their heads; can detect movement up to 1900+ feet away; and have a sense of smell 1,000 times stronger than a human’s.
I’m often asked what the Mule Deer Foundation does. The simple answer is that we raise money for the conservation of mule deer and their habitat. But actually, that’s an oversimplification about why the Mule Deer Foundation exists, and what it does. We’re very fortunate in our organization in that 88% of the funds we raise are used for our mission. We fund projects like native grass seedings, shrub seedings and plantings. We work with Game and Fish Departments and enforcement divisions helping to buy robotic decoys to catch poachers and fund mule deer studies to get GPS collars for mule deer to learn more about what mule deer do, where they do it, and when they do it. We also work with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to pull out old fencing on public lands, help in conifer reduction, conduct prescribed burns and do anything else we can to improve and increase habitat for mule deer. Whatever programs and organizations that the Mule Deer Foundation works with that helps mule deer also helps a wide variety of other wildlife.
We have a youth program, called M.U.L.E.Y https://muledeer.org/m-u-l-e-y/ that stands for Mindful, Understanding, Legal, Ethical Youth. This program actually was started here in Bismarck, North Dakota, and is now our national program. We use this program to help introduce young people to all the shooting sports, including shooting rifles, archery, shotguns, pellet guns and handguns. We have programs that teach children how to use compasses and how to track deer after the shot, using a blood trail. Since the compass is an old form of navigation, in the future, we’ll be teaching young people how to use hand-held GPS receivers and cell phones as GPS receivers. We help transition the young people with whom we work into 4-H https://4-h.org/ shooting programs and high school shooting programs. We also help fund 4-H shooting programs and Archery in the Schools https://www.naspschools.org/ programs.
However, most of our funds go toward improving the mule deer’s habitat. Here in North Dakota, we have been doing a tremendous amount of work removing old fences on public lands. Any time we can pull out old, dilapidated fencing, we’re helping all the wildlife that live on that public land.
To learn more about hunting mule deer, go to John E. Phillips’ book, “Mule Deer Hunters’ Bible,” available in Kindle and print versions and including information from 30+ mule deer hunters, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QHCLFYB.