Use a drone to catch more fish
FOREST FIRES INITIALLY LEAVE DEVASTATION IN THEIR WAKE. BUT FROM THE ASHES COMES REJUVENATION—AND BIG BUCKS
IT SEEMS TO HAPPEN each summer, and the aftermath is always unsettling—at least initially. Wildfires race across thousands, if not millions, of acres of the Western United States leaving nothing behind but burnt forest. The eventual benefit, however—highly nutritious food, clean water, and places to hide—comes months or years later. Out of the bleakness arrives abundance, and that’s precisely what big muley bucks need in order to grow into trophy animals. Lush regrowth doesn’t happen every time forests go ablaze, but old burns are productive often enough to merit a place in your hunt destination notebook.
Forested lands all across the intermountain West can hold big mule deer bucks, but you will need to begin narrowing your search by region, like the northern Rockies, which run from Yellowstone to Glacier national parks and west to northern Idaho. This area alone covers roughly 34 million acres of mountainous forests. Other fire-prone regions, like the southern Rockies, cover four states: Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. But it’s when, where, and how forest fires burn that can make the difference between wildlife wastelands and mule deer meccas.
Here’s how to use forest fires to help you put the crosshairs on a mountain monster this season.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
▪ FORESTS NEED time to recuperate, so the time between the last fire and the year you are hunting is critical. Fresh burns can be hit or miss, depending on the rate of rejuvenation. Forest fire zones that are 2 to 10 years old are the best places to target. Understanding a burn’s effects on hunting is difficult. Weather, fire intensity, and the size of the fire all impact how deer numbers respond.
“If a fire happens in July, don’t be there in October to hunt,” says Tom Henderson, owner and operator of Bitterroot Outfitters. Henderson, who has watched the impact of forest fires on mule deer in the Frank Church Wilderness of No Return
A big Montana muley feeds in a recent burn.