By Matt Palmquist
Hunting mule deer should be near the top of any bowhunter’s to-do list. Tags are available across the plains and Western states, with ample amounts of public land throughout their range. While there are many tactics that can be used to kill mule deer, the primary method of hunting is spot and stalk. I have been blessed to hunt mule deer in multiple states and different terrains, and as such I’ve identified commonalities in my approach when locating and stalking my target buck.
Locating a buck to pursue is priority number one. Use the best optics you can afford in conjunction with a quality tripod, or a window mount if glassing from a vehicle. Whether you are overlooking an alpine basin in the mountains, or a sea of cropland, it is important to take advantage of high vantage points that allow you to evaluate an expansive area. Establish a plan when glassing, dissecting the area thoroughly and looking for parts of deer rather than an entire animal. You will locate more animals by sticking to a glassing strategy, especially animals that bed down in the cover of darkness.
When locating a buck that is still on his feet, evaluate the topography for places he may bed for the day. Even after bedding down, patience will be key as the buck will likely reposition himself to remain in a shaded area, or simply to stretch.
Once you are confident the buck has bedded for the day, note as many landmarks as possible to use as reference points during your stalk. When you begin your stalk, everything changes quickly, and landmarks are critical for relocating your target as you close the distance. Knowing a buck’s location, and that he is still there, provides confidence as you approach. Wearing a good camo pattern, like Mossy Oak’s Mountain Country, will also help you close to within bow range undetected.
There is a time to be aggressive in your movements, and a time to exhibit patience. This knowledge comes from observation andexperiencing failure and success while stalking. Every hunter develops a style over time that works best for them. For me, I always err on the side of aggression when stalking, and have experienced success more frequently when going for broke.
The final step is making the shot count, and once I am in bow range patience is key to the final play of the game. I will always allow the buck to stand on his own, rather than trying to force the issue. Hopefully, you’ll get an opportunity to loose an arrow on a mule deer somewhere this fall!