What You Need to Know Before Your Hunt
Mule deer are icons of the American West and have become a highly sought-after big game species. In the outfitting industry, there has been a steady growth in the popularity and demand for mule deer hunts over the past 10 years.
There’s no mystery about it. Mule deer can weigh close to 300 pounds and reach antler measurements of over 200 inches. And with relatively low barriers for entry, mule deer offer one of the most accessible high-adventure hunts in the west.
Mule deer are highly adaptable animals. Their range extends from river bottoms and high plains to alpine environments above timberline. They can be found from the deserts of the southwest to coastal forests.
No matter the situation, hunting mature mule deer bucks requires patience and determination. We recently spoke with the mule deer hunting guides at SNS Outfitters in Wyoming. We asked for some of their tips on successfully hunting trophy mule deer. Here is what they had to say.
Among the guides we spoke to, there was one common theme when it comes to mule deer hunting: glass, glass and keep glassing. Most guides said they like to find a high position early in the morning under the cover of darkness. There, they set up behind their spotting scope and binoculars.
In many areas, mule deer like to feed and water throughout the night. This means that at first light, they can often be seen moving back to their bedding areas. Getting to a vantage point before daylight allows hunters to spot deer while they are still moving and plan a stalk.
Once mule deer bed down, they can be very difficult to spot, even in wide-open country. This can make hunting during warm weather tough, when deer are bedding earlier in the day. Mule deer have an uncanny ability to suddenly materialize (or vanish) in areas that appear devoid of cover. A hunter’s ability to spot them while they are moving is a major advantage.
There is one major caveat to glassing from elevated positions. It’s critical that you never skyline yourself. When moving and glassing in mule deer country, be sure to stay below a ridgeline, or use rocks, trees or brush to conceal your outline. Even against a dark sky, your silhouette can be a dead giveaway.
Mule deer often spend the middle of the day enjoying the shade. During these hours, patience and a quality spotting scope are your best tools. When you feel that you’ve covered the same hillsides a hundred times, stay patient and keep your eyes open.
When hunting mule deer, it’s important to stay alert and ready at all times. If you don’t see any action during the first few days of your hunt, it’s easy to let your guard down. Keeping your senses on full alert is critical, especially during a slow hunt. A quick opportunity might be your only opportunity.
Wherever you find yourself, always be aware of your shooting lanes, or how you’ll begin a stalk without getting pinned down. Act like every situation will be the big one.
When you do spot that shooter buck, remain patient. If the buck isn’t already in shooting range, you will need to take your time and plan a stalk. If the deer is still moving toward his bedding area, it may require you to stay put. If you can watch where a deer beds down, it will often give you a great opportunity to plan a careful stalk.
Mule deer hunting can be very physical. Once a buck is spotted, getting into position for a shot may not always be an easy task. On these hunts, hunters should be ready to cover several miles a day through rugged country. Mule deer guides will emphasize that the better shape you can be in, the better your chances are of taking a mature mule deer buck.