For all of its impressive attributes – large acreage, 2 ½ miles of private fishing, water rights, hay production, and proximity to a commercial airport – one of Hardscrabble Mountain Ranch’s most remarkable features is its world-class trophy mule deer hunting. Ideally positioned in the northern portion of Game Management Unit (GMU) 44, the ranch is located in one of the most productive and well-known trophy mule deer areas in all of North America.
Unlike most of the nearby units, GMU 44 is strategically managed to produce large trophy mule deer, and therefore a very limited number of licenses are offered during the annual draw. The limited number of licenses makes it extremely difficult for the general public to obtain tags in GMU 44, but owners of Hardscrabble Mountain Ranch qualify for the Landowner Preference Program, which gives landowners priority in the license draw. Because of its 1,540 deeded acres, the future owners of Hardscrabble will be able to submit two mule deer applications to be awarded from an exclusive pool of licenses reserved for landowners.
For an idea of how difficult it can be for the general public to secure licenses, consider the following example: In 2014, during the third rifle season, the total quota for buck licenses was 15. There were 339 applications for those 15 licenses, making the odds of securing one a measly 4%! Yet thanks to the Landowner Preference Program and Hardscrabble’s large acreage, the ranch owners have been able to secure licenses every season.
While there is some public access in the southernmost region of GMU 44, the northern area – where Hardscrabble Mountain Ranch is located – is mostly private property with very limited access and relatively little hunting pressure. Hardscrabble provides ample opportunities for hunting on either adjoining public land (it shares 7 ¾ miles of border with BLM land) or on its own deeded land (an ideal mixture of forested hillsides and grassy meadows designated as summer and winter deer range).
It is also worth noting that Eagle County has produced the second most Boone and Crockett trophy mule deer in North America, surpassed only by Rio Arriba County, NM. With Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s focus on limited licenses and “quality over quantity,” GMU 44 is expected to continue its trend of producing massive mule deer far into the future.
For the committed outdoor adventurer, Hardscrabble Mountain Ranch provides the ultimate opportunity for Rocky Mountain recreation – miles of private fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and nearby whitewater, topped off with some of the most prized mule deer hunting in all of North America.