Over 20 years ago, the concept of giving something back to mule deer was a dream of Emmett Burroughs. As Emmett traveled around the country hunting and filming mule deer, he realized that many of us take this awesome species for granted.

Think about what the world was like in 1988. Mule deer had been extremely abundant right up until the winters of 1983-84. Across the West, the record snowfall lingered long into spring and early summer. Many mule deer and black-tailed deer perished, mostly starving for lack of food covered by snow and from cold temperatures.

A few years later Emmett observed that mule deer populations had not rebounded from this die-off. Many factors contributed to mule deer not coming back: loss of habitat, predators, poaching, highways crossing through the middle of transitional ranges, and subdivisions being built on winter ranges. State wildlife agencies were busy trying to grow elk populations and dealing with endangered species issues.

On top of that, funding to state wildlife agencies was in decline. Mule deer management, which had once been a staple of many fish and wildlife agencies, was taken for granted. It was as if mule deer, which were at one time “the” premier big game species, were no longer worthy of prominence.

Emmett gathered together a few of his close friends and acquaintances and asked them to think back on how much they had taken mule deer for granted. He challenged them with the famous words, “We must give something back to mule deer and black-tailed deer.”

In July 1988 the Mule Deer Foundation was incorporated as a 501(c)3 wildlife conservation organization. Founded in Redding, California, the original board of directors developed the mission statement of MDF: “The mission of the Mule Deer Foundation is to ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat.”

As we look back, the Mule Deer Foundation has grown from just a dream of Emmett Burroughs into one of the leading wildlife conservation groups in North America. MDF puts hundreds of thousands of dollars on the ground each year, which are directly helping mule deer.

What does the future hold for MDF as an organization and mule deer as a species?

MDF will last beyond those who created it, nurtured it, and endured it through good times and bad. In an ever-changing and complex world, MDF will continue to be a conservation voice for mule deer.

And, as a species, mule deer will be more secure in their habitat—more secure from impacts by increased civilization, more protected from highways, and, with MDF’s efforts, they will be stronger and once again restored to their preeminence as a truly magnificent animal, held in awe by both those who choose to hunt and those who do not.

Become a part of the dream and the solution: Join MDF today!