Mule Deer Assistance

4XBOWHUNTER

New Member
Sep 26, 2018
38
12
Wisconsin
I really appreciate your approach to this. I was in the same boat for a lot of years. And then it clicked, and now I am able to harvest a quality buck every year. As JimP said, those big big bucks are very far and few between. But if expectations can be in the 160 + range, one can have a blast chasing those deer.
Here are my thoughts.... though “flat land” can hold bigger deer, remote scouting is about impossible. Been there done that. So therefore I would say it’s essential to move into the hills. I can pretty much look at any map and move into new country and find bigger deer. Step 2... you have to be in country that holds deer. Lots of deer. Reason I think lots of deer is because to harvest a mature deer, it’s going to take time. If you are not seeing any deer then you are more likely to pull the trigger once you see something decent. But if you are seeing decent deer on a daily basis it’s enough motivation to keep you going and keep your finger off of the trigger. Step 3... just touched base on it. Time. Including travel time, you really need 10 days when not hunting a home state. It goes by sooooo fast. Last. You have to enjoy the time and find value in the hunt itself. Be willing to eat the tag and still be satisfied.
im happy to visit over the phone too if you’d like.
Hello Montana, Thanks for that. Its because of a great group of people like yourself that are willing to teach/pass along some of what they have learned in years past. I understand that big bucks are hard to come by, but I am excited to see that some of you have been able to consistently see some mature deer once you figured out some of there areas and habits, some may laugh at me but that's alright, I typically don't measure the whitetail I have harvested, I can guess but our goal has always been a 3 yr old or older, we see what we feel is a mature deer and if we decide to take the shot and everything goes correctly it is over quickly and Thank the Lord for providing this opportunity and harvest. I am only guessing here but I am thinking that a mature mule deer like stated above to be 160+ would be considered a 5 year old or is that older yet? I do not know how fast the mule deer grow.

How did you learn your map reading skills, trial and error? Step 2 makes sense to me, I just need to do some more research and figure out the areas that hold a lot of deer. Step 3 my favorite, I absolutely love the experience and what I have been able to see while out West... I do get frustrated at times, but then you wake and go out and see how lucky we truly are in the USA.
"My favorite pic from this years Nebraska trip sunrise on the sandhills" I would appreciate being able to speak with you sometime, send me a PM and lets talk some day soon.
 

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4XBOWHUNTER

New Member
Sep 26, 2018
38
12
Wisconsin
4X, I would look farther west in NE, central NE is on the eastern edge of our mule deer range unless you are on the north side of the state. Bow hunting you should be able to find mature deer early in the season. Walk in hunt areas surrounded with private have some good bucks on them during early bow season, but it takes a lot of looking.

Preference points in the western states would be good, but it’s also a little different type of hunt that you will find in the flatter states.
 

4XBOWHUNTER

New Member
Sep 26, 2018
38
12
Wisconsin
Thanks for this, I believe from everything I have read that I definitely need to head further West and to start sending in preference points, as nice as it would be to do a rifle hunt I believe you are correct in at least with archery, the number of people should be down and so the deer should not be pressured as much. I have been in Nebraska with the muzzleloader so when we have gotten there they have been pushed for 3 weeks already by hunters with guns.
 

Colorado Cowboy

Veteran member
Jun 8, 2011
6,563
1,106
78
Dolores, Colorado
I've hunted mule deer since I was 12 ( I'm 78 now, do the math!) and have learned a lot about their habits. I only killed a couple over 180" because early on I was only interested in filling the freezer. If I found a large buck, so be it, but I never let a smaller 3 or 4 point go.

I firmly believe that a person should hunt productive areas year after year. You have to know where the bucks like to hang out and why they stay in certain areas. I have found areas that hold good mature bucks year after year and unless conditions change, they will continue to do that. There are areas that I found 50 years ago that still are on my list. I have also found some really great areas while I was hunting other species.

You need to scout off season. I know its hard to do for most of you as you work and have families to tend too. I retired and moved to SW Colorado 20 years ago and have found 4 or 5 spots that are my "go to" areas. The only problem is drawing a tag. I usually get to hunt one of them every other year. I really concentrated on units that are not considered blue chip units so I can get a tag sooner with less points. The areas that hold the good bucks may only be one or 2 small spots that most people overlook. That's why as JimP said....no substitute for boots on the ground.

There are a few pretty decent bucks in my albums I have posted in my "about me" sections. Good Luck!
 
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Montana

Veteran member
Nov 3, 2011
1,049
235
Bitterroot Valley, MT.
Hello Montana, Thanks for that. Its because of a great group of people like yourself that are willing to teach/pass along some of what they have learned in years past. I understand that big bucks are hard to come by, but I am excited to see that some of you have been able to consistently see some mature deer once you figured out some of there areas and habits, some may laugh at me but that's alright, I typically don't measure the whitetail I have harvested, I can guess but our goal has always been a 3 yr old or older, we see what we feel is a mature deer and if we decide to take the shot and everything goes correctly it is over quickly and Thank the Lord for providing this opportunity and harvest. I am only guessing here but I am thinking that a mature mule deer like stated above to be 160+ would be considered a 5 year old or is that older yet? I do not know how fast the mule deer grow.

How did you learn your map reading skills, trial and error? Step 2 makes sense to me, I just need to do some more research and figure out the areas that hold a lot of deer. Step 3 my favorite, I absolutely love the experience and what I have been able to see while out West... I do get frustrated at times, but then you wake and go out and see how lucky we truly are in the USA.
"My favorite pic from this years Nebraska trip sunrise on the sandhills" I would appreciate being able to speak with you sometime, send me a PM and lets talk some day soon.
In efforts to answer these questions...
160+ = 5 years... I think so, pretty darn close at least. Maybe even one hunting season sooner. So 4, 4 1/2 yr old. Of course depending on nutrition and genetics.
Map reading...I think after a few successful trips, you gain a few critical pieces that are mandatory. On scouting trips, I don’t look for animals so much as glassing points, then the animals follow.
Places that hold critters... this might be the easiest part. 3 steps here.Phone call to the biologist. Look up and call previous hunters from past years, every state has them :). And last,as you mentioned, a great resource right here. This forum has helped me A TON.

I sent you a message with my number. Fun to talk about all this stuff.
 
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CODAK

Active Member
Aug 8, 2016
358
186
Johnstown, CO
Just like I tell everyone who I talk to when they ask about our success with mature animals: doesn't matter what state, but "throw a dart" and back your choice. We know you are aiming for the bullseye, but everyone is. Be happy if you don't hit the bullseye on your first throw and do everything you can to hit it. Scout scout scout and scout some more. If that means hunting a low point unit for several years and getting to know it I would take that over spending a few pts and going in blind. Learning and "creeping" on deer to learn there habits is key, just like everyone said here. Find where hunters congregate. Research like hell. I will say the key to our success is believing the biggest deer (or any animal you are after) is in the unit you drew and do everything in your power to find him and never settle. If that's on the winter range, finding his sheds, trail cameras in the summer, august scouting, understanding transiton areas and staging areas, and where the secluded, low pressure rut pockets are, you can get on a good roll of success. You get out what you put in and it helps to have the obsession to find it (y)
 

Roundball

Member
May 15, 2015
96
3
Ohio unfortunatly
Hello, I am wondering if anyone would be wiling to discuss mature Mule deer habitat/terrain and characteristics?

We have hunted South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado and have had encounters with mule deer in all 3 states, but never any mature mule deer bucks, we went on a family vacation and of course we saw some mature bucks at that time but never in a hunting situation. We have hunted out in the sandhills and would glass and hike the entire day and when we think we are far enough away "2-5 miles from roads" and find small patches of timber or water source it seems that we only see whitetail or a group of Mule deer doe with young bucks mixed in. I am "Thankful" we have had success and harvested some nice whitetail bucks. I cant get the Mule deer out of my head, we see plenty of people with mature mule deer online from these states and I wonder what they are doing that we are not. I guess my first thought is "Research" so that's why I'm here asking for advise.


Are we not heading far enough West? "For the most part we have not been further West than Central Nebraska and S.D. I should say we were Elk hunting Colorado and the area we were in had minimal mule deer.

Should we be looking at more Mountainous regions for the mule deer? "As asked above I believe there are a lot of Mule deer in Nebraska and SD were just hunting the wrong areas?"

I don't believe we could change much in Nebraska as essentially its rolling sandhills and just repeats itself except for the pockets of timber/water.

I've read and talked with people that say just keep going through the sandhills and you will find them, do the mule deer consistently move throughout the hills or do they stay on a home range and only leave because of pressure or lack of food?

Should we be putting in for preference points for the Mountain region instead?

I have a thousand questions and am hopeful someone wants to discuss this topic. I may be going it alone as the guys I hunt with would like to stay in the area we are and have had success, I guess I'm looking for that next adventure and the opportunity to pursue something I have been unable to come close to.

Thanks for reading and any input is appreciated.
 

Roundball

Member
May 15, 2015
96
3
Ohio unfortunatly
I think that may be where we have missed some oppurtunities in the past, I look at the maps and pick out an area that I feel should hold deer and hike while glassing on our way to it, but moving at a fairly fast pace. I wonder how many deer I have blown right by that watched me from a distance? "Probably a ton" If I can learn to read a topo better and start to figure out where these mature deer typically would feed/bed then maybe I can get an opportunity at one, I understand why you say they are vulnerable during rut, but why early September? Is it because they have been undisturbed for a few months or do they transition elsewhere at this time?
Thanks!
Just look for good outfitters,I think most good outfitters are killing them on private property which unfortunately means $5000.-$8000. or more sometimes a 2 yr. wait.I think nowadays a buck over 170" on public ground is a good one-I blew 10 pts. this yr.in Co. I ran into a guy who showed me pictures of 2 good bucks that were killed very high 4th season in Co. but with landowner vouchers! Don't let people B.S.You! Co. public lands are overhunted and mismanaged; maybe too many predators also!
 

taskswap

Active Member
Jul 9, 2018
370
215
Colorado
Goals matter a LOT, too. I'm a meat hunter -- I don't care about antlers on the wall. I make knife handles out of those. What I want every year is meat in the freezer, so my goals may be totally different from yours. But I feel like we all know the "critical rules," right? 1. Get out there. The farther back, the better. 2. Research all you can. 3. Put in the time: don't you leave until 30mins after sundown on the closer. 4. Make sure you have "good boots, a good knife, good aim, and a tolerant wife" (sorry for the sexist line there, "tolerant husband" just doesn't rhyme so well...).
 

4XBOWHUNTER

New Member
Sep 26, 2018
38
12
Wisconsin
Just look for good outfitters,I think most good outfitters are killing them on private property which unfortunately means $5000.-$8000. or more sometimes a 2 yr. wait.I think nowadays a buck over 170" on public ground is a good one-I blew 10 pts. this yr.in Co. I ran into a guy who showed me pictures of 2 good bucks that were killed very high 4th season in Co. but with landowner vouchers! Don't let people B.S.You! Co. public lands are overhunted and mismanaged; maybe too many predators also!
Thanks for your advice.
 

4XBOWHUNTER

New Member
Sep 26, 2018
38
12
Wisconsin
Goals matter a LOT, too. I'm a meat hunter -- I don't care about antlers on the wall. I make knife handles out of those. What I want every year is meat in the freezer, so my goals may be totally different from yours. But I feel like we all know the "critical rules," right? 1. Get out there. The farther back, the better. 2. Research all you can. 3. Put in the time: don't you leave until 30mins after sundown on the closer. 4. Make sure you have "good boots, a good knife, good aim, and a tolerant wife" (sorry for the sexist line there, "tolerant husband" just doesn't rhyme so well...).
Thanks for the input. I hunt for meat as I believe we all do. We've been blessed to be able to hunt in the US and to have so much public land to pursue our passion. I came on this forum to look for help, ask questions and hopefully help others. Its nice to get others take on a piece of land or situation as I am not able to get out to the West to scout as much as I'd like to. We all know there is more than one way to hunt and is why I appreciate this forum so much. I have started to go through old posts and questions also in here and a "TON" of information which I probably already forgot, but I am hopeful I will retain enough information to get out and see some mature mule deer. Thanks again for your input as they all make sense to me.
 

alaska2go

Active Member
Oct 20, 2012
259
89
Canon City, CO
I think that may be where we have missed some oppurtunities in the past, I look at the maps and pick out an area that I feel should hold deer and hike while glassing on our way to it, but moving at a fairly fast pace. I wonder how many deer I have blown right by that watched me from a distance? "Probably a ton" If I can learn to read a topo better and start to figure out where these mature deer typically would feed/bed then maybe I can get an opportunity at one, I understand why you say they are vulnerable during rut, but why early September? Is it because they have been undisturbed for a few months or do they transition elsewhere at this time?
Thanks!
Yes they have been undisturbed but also they like more open areas for growing their antlers ..... Also mule deer eat very specific food and are looking for the highest nutrition for that time of year and high country grass & herbs are what they eat. Mule deer have a small ruman compared to elk and can digest an average of 30 plant species compared to an elk in which can digest 140 plant species.. Bucks bachelor up and the bigger bucks will do so with only a couple of buddies.. My experience is 180" will hang out with 2 or 3 other bucks most likely a little smaller than him. But once they start to shed/ rub off their velvet they go solitary again and will be harder to find..

Hunting the rut is a waiting game... I try to glass does and study them.. If one is coming into heat usually a smaller buck is nosing her butt and it just a matter of time when a bigger one will show up.. It is amazing how they can smell a doe in heat from so far away. Also if I find a herd of does and see smaller or average bucks in the area acting sneaky that tells me that there is a larger buck lurking around and will run them off.. Mule deer bucks the bigger ones that is have harems compared to whitetail that cruse looking for does..

Now, just because the rut has started doesn't mean you are going to see big bucks behind every tree unless you are hunting a private ranch.. What does happen is he has a herd of does close by and will still go off in the day by himself or with a doe or 2.. This will be 3rd season activity in western colorado. The front range is 4th season activity or later. Morning time is the best when the weather is warmer.... They are out all night and the bigger bucks will hang with does for another hour or 2 then move off into cover. They usually like to water in the morning because they are thirsty from running around in the dark from the night before.. When the weather is colder or snow, the will hang out more during the day.. Remember they have on a winter coat and heat up quickly if the weather is warm.... I have glassed up some really big bucks couple of days after season in -20 hanging out all day with the does but during season when it was warm never found them.

so in conclusion I mention strategy before.. Having a good strategy for what the conditions are will help you close the gap in getting that bigger mule deer buck.. They are hard to kill no doubt.. But if you embrace the challenge and are patient you kill one sooner or later.. Happy hunting !!!!
 

alaska2go

Active Member
Oct 20, 2012
259
89
Canon City, CO
Just look for good outfitters,I think most good outfitters are killing them on private property which unfortunately means $5000.-$8000. or more sometimes a 2 yr. wait.I think nowadays a buck over 170" on public ground is a good one-I blew 10 pts. this yr.in Co. I ran into a guy who showed me pictures of 2 good bucks that were killed very high 4th season in Co. but with landowner vouchers! Don't let people B.S.You! Co. public lands are overhunted and mismanaged; maybe too many predators also!
I really don't agree with that statement at least the over hunted part.. We kill good bucks on BLM land most years we get the tag and see a hand full of people..
 
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mallardsx2

Veteran member
Jul 8, 2015
2,391
886
I know a guy who hunts big mule deer and only big mule deer. He told me that the biggest bucks in the units are the last animals to leave the mountain. Even later to leave than the elk. He has seen it time and time again. For what its worth, the biggest deer he has on the wall were still very high and all alone when he killed them in the 4th season. He told me that the one deer had snow up to its back wading through it coming downhill on the last day of the season. It was well over 200 inches and I honest to god dont know how wide the thing was. But it was very big.

He told me that if you were seeing lots of hunters and lots of deer you were probably hunting too low if you really wanted to kill that next level buck during the 4th season.

He is now too old to hunt but the guy is a wealth of knowledge. I hope to test out his theory one day.
 

JimP

Veteran member
Mar 28, 2016
4,714
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Gypsum, Co
^^^^^^^^I'll attest to this right here^^^^^^^^^^^

I worked around Vail Mountain and the Beaver Creek ski resorts and you wouldn't believe the size of the bucks that I would see plodding through snow up to and above their bellies as they made their way down the hill to court the ladies. They were never with another buck but always alone
 

Gerald

New Member
Dec 8, 2017
27
20
Colorado
Lots of great wisdom and advice in this thread.. in my opinion though Colorado is really well managed with our point system and I wouldn't like it any other way. Just gotta understand how it works
 

nv-hunter

Veteran member
Feb 28, 2011
1,184
499
Reno
One thing to ask your self is DIY or are you willing to hire a guide? How long are you willing to wait for a tag? And what size animal will you be happy with?

Some states have an outfitter draw that costs more $ but speeds up drawing.
Some states may take a decade to draw that premium late season hunt.
Some states you have a chance at a 160ish type buck in just about every unit.
 

JimP

Veteran member
Mar 28, 2016
4,714
2,656
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Gypsum, Co
One thing to ask your self is DIY or are you willing to hire a guide? How long are you willing to wait for a tag? And what size animal will you be happy with?

Some states have an outfitter draw that costs more $ but speeds up drawing.
Some states may take two to three decades to draw that premium late season hunt.
Some states you have a chance at a 160ish type buck in just about every unit.
Fixed it for you, in the bold type.

The best units in Colorado for a mule deer tag will take 25+ years of points before you can even think of drawing it.
 
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