View Full Version : tips for finding deer above timberline

05-09-2012, 06:54 PM
Hi folks, im new to the forum. I drew my first archery deer tag in a part of the world that will find me over 11000 feet and im excited for the adventure. I was wondering if you guys have any special areas you start looking at or certain terrain features you hunt the most for high country mulies. Is there a certain forage they feed in more than others/ bedding cover they prefer etc. I have hunted and killed deer in PJ country but never up in the high stuff. Any details like starting on certain aspects/slopes high to low etc. Any trophy pics with a high country backdrop might help me find country that looks "bucky" and get the blood pumping

Bitterroot Bulls
05-09-2012, 08:02 PM
High willow-filled basins with krummholz and ribbon cliffs.

Kevin Root
05-09-2012, 08:22 PM
High willow-filled basins with krummholz and ribbon cliffs.

I had to look up krummholtz. I just don't recall hearing the term and I did not seem to retain much from my high school German language class. I seem to learn something new rather frequently on your posts Bitterroot Bulls :). Thank you.

Bitterroot Bulls
05-09-2012, 08:39 PM
I've learned more here than I've taught, friend. :)

05-09-2012, 08:52 PM
Hey nm, welcome to the forum. Have you read mike eastmans hunting high country mule deer? I think that would e a good place to start, we will all chime in of course but mike has chapters on this stuff. The last buck I killed was at 10k, though not a monster, the one thing I learned, they like their shade, I always start the day Glassing big basins then positioning myself to where I can see a ton of shady spots in that basin, readjust accordingly throughout throughout the day, they will get up and move into the shade once their spot has run out of it. Hope that helps, like I said, mike has chapters on this stuff

Bitterroot Bulls
05-09-2012, 09:17 PM
Here ya go, Kevin:


05-09-2012, 09:25 PM
Wow thats a self explanatory picture BB.

Kevin Root
05-09-2012, 09:38 PM
Here ya go, Kevin:


Bitterroot Bulls, that is a nice looking example of wind blown twisted, crooked wood at timberline, "krummholtz". Not a bad example of a nice buck either :). Well done.

05-09-2012, 10:25 PM
Thanks guys. The area im hunting has alot of summer traffic from moutain climbers and backpackers. Do you find that the deer get use to this and settle around it or avoid habitat with traffic no matter how nice.
also do these bucks use a pattern in early september or do they start going on their own.
about the book, I will get it soon.

Bitterroot Bulls
05-09-2012, 10:31 PM
High country deer get really used to backpackers. Sometimes I think the best camoflauge would be a bright blue The North Face outfit.

Usually the bucks in early September are near where they are in early August, so scouting can pay off big.

While I have and enjoy Mike Eastman's Hunting High Country Mule Deer, the best reference for this type of hunting, IMO, is David Long's Public Land Mulies: The Bottom Line.

Umpqua Hunter
05-10-2012, 12:44 AM
I think BB is right on there. Though I haven't read the book, David Long lives to hunt high country mule deer. Good referral.

Colorado Cowboy
05-10-2012, 06:03 AM
When I think high country, I think above the timberline. Usually not a lot of water there and lots of rocky slopes, very similiar to sheep areas. My experience is that the deer like to stay just above the tree line, especially near green areas. Green means water and some brouse. The trees also give them an escape area for more cover. During the summer, the higher up they go means cooler temps and fewer insects to bother them. Look in shady draws during the heat of the day. If you can do some scouting, do it with your spotting scope, look for well used game trails and available water and green areas on the rocky slopes. Above all be patient. Unless you can see a buck bedded down or feeding, he will probably see you before you can see him!

My favorite areas to hunt these critters is above the timberline. I have a couple of areas in California's High Sierras that I have killed some real nice bucks above the trees. Look at my albums for a few. Most were shot above 9,000'.

Kevin Root
05-10-2012, 07:35 AM
While I have and enjoy Mike Eastman's Hunting High Country Mule Deer, the best reference for this type of hunting, IMO, is David Long's Public Land Mulies: The Bottom Line.

I have both books. Both writers have some good information on this type of hunting, photo examples, and experiences. +1 for me on getting both books.

Both books have some sound advice. I like the parts in the books with picture references, similar to what Bitterroot Bulls posted noting routes they took and such. Pointing out things in the picture is most helpful as a teaching aid. A "picture is worth a thousand words" for me hold true.

Taking some time and going through some of the threads and posts on the forum could be most helpful too. There are advancements in equipment and technology that can be most helpful that the books have a hard time keeping up with depending on the edition. There's nothing wrong with the old but some of the new bring some more possible options to the table.

05-10-2012, 08:13 AM
well put Kevin...

05-10-2012, 03:27 PM
Your high country Muleys will typically end up in the basins they will summer in by the end of July, making scouting a key component of your success. Remember that 95% or the deer will use only 5% of the country, so some basins that look great may not carry. The snowpack this year is WELL below average, so the bucks are already transitioning and will be above 9-10k already.

If you are hunting true above timberline, you will most likely be hunting above 12,500 ft. where they bed in the cliffs or right below them in krumholtz patches aka (stunted pines above timber) You will want to focus on scouting first light to locate the bachelor groups before they bed up for the day. This will enable you to focus on key feeding and movement times to concentrate your efforts. Even thought the deer will bed out in the open, they are much tougher to locate once they bed, so that is why it is key to find them feeding in the graylight.

The deer will develop a routine that they will follow almost every day without fail even after they get bumped, they will most likely come back once or twice even if you do blow them out... Very much so creatures of habit unless they get too much pressure. There are usually a lot of hikers but the deer bed and feed fairly far away from human activity... If you have a trail going up into a basin through the bottom, the deer will most likely be bedded 1/2 mile away, high up on the ribbon cliffed basin walls above the trail anyway, so hikers rarely have any impact on the deer anyway... Hope this helps!

05-10-2012, 07:58 PM
I don't have any experience hunting high country mule deer but have read David Long's public land mulies and thought that it was an awesome book. I learned a tremendous amount of info and highlighted that book to death. Someday when I actually go on a hunt, ill be reading that book again.

In God We Trust
05-10-2012, 08:50 PM
If you get a chance to go scouting check as many basins as possible over a 4 or 5 day scouting trip. I am not saying that you should half-ass glass them but your first scouting trip should be about locating deer and learning the country. It is always good to have a back up buck and basin to hunt. I also would buy and read both books. I re-read both books the beginning of August just to reinforce things learned from past seasons plus I love reading about hunting timberline mulies. Good luck this season.

05-11-2012, 09:07 AM
one more question. Do you guys find that the deer avoid bighorn sheep or use the same basins. The area im hunting will have sheep hunters during the month of august but just a few i believe.

05-11-2012, 02:17 PM
The Sheep often use the same basins as the deer... You won't see them avoiding eachother at all...

Bitterroot Bulls
05-11-2012, 05:31 PM
There is an old saying...

"If you want to kill a big mulie, go sheep hunting."

In God We Trust
05-11-2012, 09:17 PM
Different species same steep, rugged, beautiful country! I have seen them in the same basins numerous times.

05-12-2012, 11:54 AM
NMBUGLER, Co does an airborne deer count during archery season. They see some monsters while flying along the continental Divide. One of the G&F guys that does the airborne count told me, You can't believe what we see up there." I hope that helps and I wish I could go, too.

05-29-2012, 09:25 PM
Going back to the second post on this thread, I have to ask, what's a "ribbon cliff?" Googled it and really didn't get a clear explanation. (Obvioulsy, I'm a flatlander)

Bitterroot Bulls
05-30-2012, 07:33 AM
Ribbon cliffs are bands of cliffs that ripple across the sides of the basins. They are often separated by vegetation. Many times there are several of them running parallel. Deer feel secure and comfortable in the cliffs and bed on them often.

Old Hunter
05-30-2012, 12:57 PM
Speaking of basins. This is the one i'll be hunting this year for elk. Should be plenty of bucks there too.


06-01-2012, 10:01 PM
Here's an example of a ribbon cliff and how the deer use them.3546]

06-02-2012, 02:33 PM
Thats a cool picture Dode