Use a drone to catch more fish

FOR­EST FIRES INI­TIALLY LEAVE DEV­AS­TA­TION IN THEIR WAKE. BUT FROM THE ASHES COMES RE­JU­VE­NA­TION—AND BIG BUCKS

Outdoor Life - - NEWS - BY TOBY WALRATH

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.

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