By Mark Heinz, public lands and wildlife reporter
Those looking for a way to help conserve mule deer and their habitat might be interested in “Mule Deer Palooza” events set to be hosted this week in Sheridan, Cheyenne and Casper.
“It used to be called ‘gun-a-palooza’ because of our gun raffles,” Shawn Blajszczak of Powell, the foundation’s Wyoming regional director, told Cowboy State Daily. “But with the rules on social media being what they are, you can’t use the term ‘gun’, so we changed the name this year.”
The events help the foundation raise money for various mule deer conservation projects around Wyoming, he said, and are being hosted in cooperation at Black Tooth Brewing Company locations. In-person raffles for several firearms will be part of the festivities.
This year will be the “launch party” for Black Tooth’s Mule Deer beer brand, Blajszczak said.
The fundraisers are scheduled to begin Tuesday at the Back Tooth location in Sheridan, followed by events in Cheyenne on Wednesday and Casper on Thursday. All events are set for 7-9 p.m.
Black Tooth Brewing is at 312 Broadway, Suite 3917 in Sheridan; 520 W. 19th St. in Cheyenne; and 322 S. David St., Suite A in Casper.
Some of the projects this year’s events will help fund include habitat preservation, fence repair, and research into mule deer migration corridors in the Cowboy State, he said.
Habitat fragmentation and disruption of mule deer migration routes between summer and winter ranges have been among the biggest challenges facing mule deer in Wyoming and across the West. Disease, particularly chronic wasting disease, has also been a factor in mule deer decline, said Blajszczak, who is also a wildlife biologist and former game warden.
Mule deer range across the Rocky Mountain and High Plains West, as well as parts of the Southwest. They are prized by hunters, wildlife photographers and others for their beauty and elusiveness.
Mule Deer Palooza will give whiskey aficionados a chance to pitch in by buying one of 65 bottles of Wyoming Whiskey’s “Morty” label edition, Blajszczak said. Last year, a similar run of “Popeye” was offered, and “Goliath” is anticipated for 2023 — all in cooperation with the Powell-based Eastmans’ Publishing company.
Those whiskey labels feature images of Popeye, Morty and Goliath — three exceptionally huge mule deer bucks that roamed Wyoming public lands in the 1990s. They were feverishly sought by hunters, but only Goliath was brought down. Morty and Popeye are thought to have died of old age.