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MDF – Past, Present & Future

Emmett_with_deerOver twenty years ago, the concept of giving something back to mule deer was a dream of Emmett Burroughs (pictured). 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 more elk and dealing with endangered species issues.

On top of that, funding to state wildlife agencies was in decline. Mule deer management, which had been a staple of most 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 at 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, Calif., 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 with many wildlife conservation organizations, MDF started having banquet fundraising events to raise money for projects benefiting mule deer. During their first year, MDF raised money with a Founding Benefactor Program. The first fundraising banquet was held in Redding with 400 people in attendance, and with over $55,000 being raised. Emmett became the first Executive Director and Chairman of the Board – a position he held for two years before stepping down.