March 16, 2011
I'm from the East, and I'm thinking about a spot-and-stalk mule deer hunt. I take my bowhunting seriously but could use some advice on mule deer.
I'm from the East, and I'm think-ing about a spot-and-stalk mule deer hunt. I take my bowhunting seriously but could use some advice on mule deer. --R. Harris, via e-mail
First, a public service warning: Locating and stalking muley bucks can be extremely addicting! The challenge gets in your blood, and I've been addicted for decades.
You have two basic options -- to do it yourself, which puts the burden of research squarely on you, or to hire help. Start by assessing your goals. If you're happy with a low-cost hunt for decent mule deer, consider North and South Dakota, on the eastern fringe of mule deer country. Licenses are inexpensive and reasonably easy to obtain.
|MULE DEER HUNTING TIPS<br|
Once your hunt begins, remember these quick tips for spot-and-stalk mule deer hunting:
€¢Become proficient in your shooting out to at least 40 yards, and stay sharp by practicing throughout your hunt.
€¢Spend less time hiking and more time behind your optics. Stay off the horizon or you'll get picked off by sharp-eyed muleys.
€¢Wear silent clothing and stealthy boots. Consider kneepads and leather gloves to protect you from cactus.
€¢When planning a stalk, take note of all landmarks that'll help you relocate the buck you're after once you're close and the terrain looks different.
€¢Wind is both friend and enemy. It can help cover the sounds of your stalk, but be advised it will channel up or down a draw and betray you.
€¢Above all, be extremely patient. Don't rush your stalk, and once in bow range, don't force a buck to get up. Wait him out, no matter how long it takes, and the odds are good you'll be rewarded with a decent shot at a relaxed animal.
€¢Have fun and enjoy every stalk, shot opportunity or not.
If you're interested in high-scoring, mature bucks, a quick look at the Pope and Young records (see tables) reveals that Colorado dominates in both typical and nontypical all-time entries through 2008. Utah holds second place, and then the field levels off somewhat. Note that Oregon is a sleeper, ranking fifth and sixth respectively. Certainly, you can find pockets of excellent hunting wherever mule deer are found, but success depends on the intensity of your research.
Regardless of personal goals, your research must focus next on license acquisition. State regulations and application processes get more complex each year and require considerable study. Colorado, for example, offers over-the-counter tags for some good mule deer country, but the best areas require that you draw a tag. Depending on the state and hunting unit, drawing a tag can take anywhere from one to a dozen years.
Once you have a tag, your research must turn to pinning down specific hunt locations. The standard advice to contact state wildlife agencies still applies, but some states also provide harvest data on their websites. The Internet has changed the game because you have access to mountains of information and useful scouting technologies such as Google Earth.
The process isn't as intimidating as it sounds, but you could forgo the DIY approach and ask for help in three ways.
1. If you simply need help obtaining a tag, consider signing up for the Cabela's T.A.G.S. program (www.cabelas.com), a service I'm currently using. Tell them what you're looking for, and they'll enter your application for the right tags in the right places, and even front the tag fees for you.
READ: World Class Mule Deer Adventure
2. Enlist the services of a booking agency. A reputable agency has researched, and hunted with, all the outfitters it recommends, and it can advise you on how to acquire licenses and even what to pack for your hunt. I personally have used Bowhunting Safari Consultants (www.bowhuntingsafari.com). Cabela's Outdoor Adventures (www.cabelas.com) is another great option.
3. Hiring an outfitter can be an efficient option and save you years of DIY futility, but you'll still need to be diligent in your research. Check references and talk to former clients, both successful and unsuccessful. I've had good hunts with Atkinson Expeditions (www.atkinsonexpeditions.com) in Colorado, and in Alberta (outfitters are mandatory in Canada) I've had successful hunts with Willow Creek Outfitters (www.willowcreekoutfitters.com) and Big Sky Country Outfitting (www.bigskycountryoutfitting.com).
Good luck, and don't say I didn't warn you about that addiction thing!
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