I'm planning to hunt early season high country mule deer either this year or next in Colorado. Being from the East, what is a typical shot length and angle of shot for a hunt like that?
Dan Pickar, cover author of EBJ 82 and EHJ staff member responds:
Bow hunting mule deer in the high country will throw many variables at you when it comes down to making the shot. This type of hunting is mostly going to be spot and stalk in open country and rough terrain. Be ready for windy conditions, longer shots, and steep shot angles.
The most important advice I can give you is to know your ability. For me, I won't take a shot further than 60 yards if conditions are right. What is the wind doing? What is the shot angle? What is the body language of the animal? That being said, Practice, Practice, Practice. I shoot out to 80 or 90 yards at the range. Shooting at these distances will prepare you well for a 50-60 yard shot in the field. Shoot when its windy. Shoot at different angles.
Also, a quality rangefinder with angle range compensation is your best friend. Shot angles can be very steep if you are shooting off cliffs or down avalanche chutes. Sometimes even straight down. Everything has to be perfect for it all to come together. You may only get one opportunity so be ready!
Thanks Dan! What tips would you offer for a first time mule deer hunter?
Thanks Scott and Dan.
One of these days I might get all my questions answered.
You bet! A high country mule deer hunt out west is a very tough hunt but also can be the most rewarding! I will be happy to answer any other questions you may have.
I am going to chime in from the rifle perspective.
I missed a 180 class mule deer in October of 2012 due a steep angle at 370 yards. My rifle caliber is .300 Weatherby Mag with 180 gr. Nosler partitions. The rifle is sighted in to center punch a target at 300 yards no problem.
I had a steady rest and was holding 3 inches high of center mass to compensate for the extra 70 yards. It was a clean miss that went right over his back.
The truth of the matter is that I did not compensate for declination and as a result I went over his back. I will echo what Dan said, get a rangefinder that compensates for angles, if I had that there would be another big buck hanging out in my office.
Not sure about the laws where you live so check into this before you do it- I have permission to shoot my bow from the private side fence line on an overpass in the country. It is pretty high and you can get the feel for those steep angle shots. I don't have many ways here in the super flat areas of eastern Nebraska to duplicate and practice this type of shot so this works for me.
Best tip I can offer a first time mule deer hunter is to bring great binoculars and use them frequently. You can find mule deer during the mid day in their beds if you are patient.
The steeper the incline, positive or negative, gravity has less effect on the bullet thereby requiring you to actually hold slightly under where you want to hit as the bullet has a flatter trajectory. So ScottR, when you have one in the scope this fall remember that Arrows are a little different ball game.
Eastmans' Hunting Journals
Another thing to consider when hunting / shooting in steep country is to make sure your third axis is set up correctly and pay attention to your sight level. It still amazes me as to how "out of level" I can hold my bow at full draw when standing on a steep slope.
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