Anyone who has spent any length of time in the Prescott National Forest is well aware of the large population of whitetail deer who call it home. It seems they've been there forever.
But few locals and sportsmen are aware that the whitetail deer did not exist in the forest until the spring of 1915--a full half-century after the city was founded! There were automobiles in the forest before the white-tail deer ever showed-up! Their arrival came in large numbers and was a complete surprise.
Their entry was reported in the April 2nd issue of the Prescott Journal Miner. (Page 5 col. 1)* The headline: "WHITE TAIL DEER SWARMING COUNTRY": The story begins: "For the first time known in this section, the white tail deer has made its appearance." At the time, experts thought "the present influx is seeking a new home and whether they remain in this locality is problematical" (to ranchers, it was thought.) Today, they might be better known for damaging the shrubs and plants of residential landscaping now and then.
Before 1915, the Prescott forest was home to the blacktail deer, (pictured above,) but with the overzealousness of hunters and sportsmen of that day, those deer disappeared from the area. "The white tail and the black tail do not mingle in the same country," the paper pointed out and it seems that the whitetail finally discovered the void of blacktails in the Prescott forest.
The interesting history of Prescott Valley, Arizona's most iconic natural feature, Glassford Hill.
"That they come from Mexico...from the Sierra Madre range...is quite probable." And they "come in numbers sufficient to hold their ground at any cost!" Twenty-five bucks and does were spotted at Granite Mountain and a dozen more at Thumb Butte. "Other outside residents reported many bands of these animals as moving along toward the north," the paper said. By all accounts, the migration was big.
Why the deer chose this particular time to first appear here is a mystery. One clue may be that the winter months just prior were some of the wettest known in the area, ever. Piles upon piles of mountain snow already had an adverse effect on large wildlife.
RELATED: 1915: 6 Ft. Snow Drove Lions Onto Ranches--Hardly a Colt Survived
Citizens of Prescott, Arizona found out that some large predatory animals were still in the forest when deep snows forced them out of the mountains.
Today, any avid hiker/explorer with an eye for it would notice that deer trails absolutely honeycomb the Prescott National Forest. This author has had the pleasure of experiencing close encounters with whitetails on several occasions.
In retrospect, the hope that these animals might just be passing through was laughable. Instead, these century-old residents are now generally adored and the whitetail deer seem to adore the Prescott forest as well. Who could blame them?
Prescott's whitetail deer generally like to stay among the pine forests of the mountains. Early morning or dusk offers your best chance to see them.
CLICK HERE for the Prescott National Forest Website for more information, maps and many recreational opportunities including: hiking, camping, OTV trails and picnic areas as well as beautiful views if you rather just drive! Visit the main office at 344 S. Cortez St., Prescott. 928/443-8000
*Also recorded in Yavapai Magazine, May, 1915 pg. 9 col. 4