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Every deer hunter easing through the frost-jeweled covers of the Kaibab North National Forest in Arizona is comforted these mornings by a statistic?he has an eight-to-two chance to get a deer. If he gets a deer, it's better than 50-50 that it will be a buck. These are the odds established for the average hunter during last fall's open season. In New York, by way of contrast, only one hunter out of 18 gets his deer. But the Kaibab is unique, producing more record nontypical Rocky Mountain mule-deer trophies for the Boone and Crockett Club's discriminating judges than any other single deer range in the country.
The Kaibab offers better deer hunting this fall than ever before, in spite of the mounting hunting pressure which has risen from 500 hunting permits in 1946 to 12,000 allotted in 1954. Perversely enough, the more deer that have been shot off, the better the fawn crop. Last winter nine out of 10 does had a fawn trailing them.
Kaibab Mountain, forming the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, has long been recognized as the finest mule-deer hunting range in this country. The Paiute and Navajo Indians discovered it first, gathering there every fall for a hunting and trading session. Westward-traveling pioneers, seeing all this venison-gathering and buckskin-tanning activity, called the region "Buckskin Mountain." But the name didn't stick. Major John Wesley Powell, making the first official survey of this part of the country, called it "Kaibab," taking the word from the Paiute Indian tongue meaning "mountain lying down." It is an apt name for the flat-topped mass of land rising from desert levels to a subalpine elevation and having more than a million acres. Natural barriers, the Grand Canyon on the south and barren desert the rest of the way around, isolate the resident deer herd.
Teddy Roosevelt was the first big-game hunter of prominence to discover the fine deer hunting there. He saw some huge bucks on the mountain, and after he became President he set aside the Kaibab Mountain as the Grand Canyon National Game Preserve and defined its primary purpose as being for the production and preservation of its mule deer.
A DEER BEHIND EVERY BUSH
That was back in 1908. Predator control followed and hunting was prohibited on the national refuge. The deer population doubled and tripled. By the early 1920s there was, figuratively speaking, a deer behind every bush. More alarming, it was soon discovered the deer had eaten every leaf off those bushes as high as they could reach and were starving. One winter it was officially estimated that some 40,000 deer perished.
Hunters couldn't see any sense in that. They yelled for and got their first hunting on the Kaibab in 1924. But it wasn't until the 1940s that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission began to take an active interest in North America's finest mule-deer herd.
It is safe to say that it is the man with the rifle?the fellow who likes good deer hunting?who really brought a progressive deer-management program to the Kaibab. It is his money, paid in special-permit fees, that financed it. Already more than $100,000 of sportsmen's money has been spent on range improvement and deer studies. It has been a good investment, proved by reams of statistics issued annually by Arizona's professional game managers showing deer-population trends, hunter-success percentages and buck-doe-fawn ratios. This is dry reading until you boil it down to the basic information that four out of five hunters get venison if they hunt on the Kaibab.
The veteran trophy hunters of the Kaibab, perfectionists all, suffered a rude upset in 1948 when Dean Naylor of Phoenix, on his first deer-hunting trip to the Kaibab, chanced upon a big buck. Naylor thought so little of the head, which has a 38-inch spread, that he disposed of it to Jeff Sievers who now owns the trophy, rated fifth by the Boone and Crockett Club.
A STRATEGY FOR THE BIG BUCKS