What started out as an idea to spare some Wyoming mule deer after a brutal winter has blown up nationwide, the promoter of the “Let a Deer Walk” program said.
“It’s insane. I’ve been getting attention from outlets all over the country,” avid outdoorsman Zach Key of La Barge told Cowboy State Daily. “The response is overwhelmingly positive. Out of the couple thousand phone calls I’ve gotten, I’ve had maybe 10 that were negative.”
The concept is simple. Hunters who buy or draw a deer tags for the fall 2023 seasons can skip the hunt. Instead, they can mail in their tags by Aug. 1 as “entry tickets” for an Aug. 15 prize drawing.
Sitting out the deer season this year might be a good idea because herds have suffered devastating winterkill losses, Key said.
La Barge is near the base of the Wyoming Range, home to a world-renowned mule deer herd. It was also one of the hardest-hit areas this winter, Key said. It’s feared that the Wyoming Range mule might have been knocked down from 29,000 deer to 15,000.
Massive winterkill among deer and antelope prompted the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to slash hunting tags for this fall.
By buying deer tags, but not filling them – and instead entering the prize drawings – hunters can still help fund the Wyoming Game and Fish Department while giving deer a break this fall, Key said.
‘Redneck Survival Kit’
More than $100,000 worth of prizes have been donated by hunters and businesses across Wyoming and elsewhere, Key said.
Some of the juicier prizes include a custom truck build from Truck King in Colorado valued at $10,000, Key said. There also are several guided hunts, an ATV and a whole beef — cut and wrapped — from 307 Meats.
One of the more eye-catching items is a “redneck survival kit,” which includes an electric chainsaw, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Yeti cooler.
“I figured, why not have fun with it?” Key said. “I’m kind of being silly anyway, using the image of a buck chewing on a deer tag.”
He was talking about a promotional image of a mule deer buck munching on a photoshopped green Wyoming deer tag. The gag is a reference to a saying among hunters, “eat your tag.” Meaning, if you fail to bag a deer and put venison in the freezer, you end up having to eat your deer tag instead.
No ‘Shaming’ Allowed
Key said he has heard from a few people who worry that the “Let a Deer Walk” prize drawing might discourage hunting or lead to the “shaming” of people who might decide to go ahead and keep their tags and shoot deer this fall.
He said that’s not the case. Instead, he wants hunters to make up their own minds and respect the choices of others.
And kids should definitely get out and hunt, he added.
“I’m eating my tag this year, but I’m taking my son, Parker, out hunting. He’s never taken a mule deer. And if he ends up getting a nice buck, that will be great,” Key said.
And nobody should just sit home and mope, he said.
“Get out this fall,” he said. “Even if you don’t hunt deer, you can still hunt elk, hunt bears or hunt wolves.”
Enter To Win
Key said “Let a Deer Walk” is being facilitated through the La Barge Activities Committee, a local nonprofit. To enter, hunters can mail their deer tags to P.O. Box 147, La Barge, WY 83123.
Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com.