The most numerous, widespread and popular of Arizona’s big-game animals are deer. The state has two distinct species, mule deer and white-tailed deer. The most abundant deer in Arizona is the Rocky Mountain mule deer. Mule deer are not limited to any one type of terrain, being found from sparse, low deserts to high forested mountains.
The mule deer gets its name from its large ears. Coat color is reddish-brown in summer, turning to a blue-gray in winter. Its forehead is much darker than its face, while its throat, belly and inner leg are white. Mule deer have white rump patches and short, narrow, black-tipped white tails.
Typical mule deer antler configuration has each side branching equally into two main beams, each may fork into two tines. The size and number of ‘points’ is dependent on a combination of age, nutrition, and genetic background. The antlers grow under a layer of skin called velvet. The velvet supplies blood to the growing antlers, which are soft.
Despite a serious overpopulation of deer on the North Kaibab in the 1920s, deer numbers appeared to decline in the rest of the state. In 1929, the mule deer season was closed south of the Gila River, and even as recently as 1946, fewer than 5,000 mule deer (more than 80 percent of all deer killed) were harvested in Arizona. Then, for reasons that are still unclear, deer populations began to increase. As the populations rose, doe and “any-deer” hunts were authorized.
Deer permit numbers gradually increased after 1972, leveling off at around 70,000 per year between 1976 and 1982, when hunters took more than 12,000 mule deer, approximately 75 percent of the total deer harvest.
To conserve Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources and manage for safe, compatible outdoor recreation opportunities for current and future generations.
Rules and regulations for hunting in Arizona.
Regulations for spring hunts, fall hunts and pronghorn, elk hunts.