Where is Colorado's top trophy mule deer area? John Ellenberger, big-game manager for the Division of Wildlife, doesn't hesitate to name Middle Park. A cluster of six units amid Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby, the Middle Park area is mostly public land and produces some very good bucks. Hunter success is in the 40 percent range. Most trophy whitetails are found east of I-25. In the north, hunting should be excellent along the South Platte River outside Brush, and in the south along the Arkansas River from Rocky Ford to Lamar. Much of these regions include private land; tags are limited and issued by drawing. The 1999 season marked the first year Colorado went to a quota, draw-only deer season. And in the past two years, buck-to-doe ratios statewide have increased from an average of 15 bucks per 100 does to 25 per 100; hunter success jumped from 27 to 45 percent. Even though the number of deer harvested is still well below the numbers posted in the 1980s, hunters took nearly 38,000 deer last year, mostly muleys, up from a dismal 29,640 in 1999. Mule deer populations are on the rebound and hunting should be productive in the Meeker, Rifle and Craig areas. Don't overlook the southern portions of the state near Cortez and Durango, where deer herds are increasing as well.