RokBlog

Robby covers techniques, gear, hot topics- everything you need to become a better mule deer hunter
Robby Denning was born in Idaho Falls in 1969. He comes from generations of hunters. His father, Doug, inspired him at a young age to hunt mule deer, especially big mule deer. Robby also operates a private land, fair chase outfitting business and a public land scouting service. He's hunted and scouted six western states for big mule deer and will hunt with any weapon that gives him a chance at a great buck. He's married to Jodi Denning and is the happy father of three children.

1-Arrow/Day, 7-Day, Cold Bow Challenge, sponsored by Black Ovis

1-Arrow/Day, 7-Day, Cold Bow Challenge, sponsored by Black Ovis

Hey all, since this blog is about making you a better buck hunter, I wanted to give you an opportunity to test your accuracy limits with a bow (and have a chance at a cool Benji to spend in the Black Ovis store).

As I've written many times, if you want to maximize your chance at killing big mule deer, you need to become a proficient archer.  Early archery seasons offer some prime opportunities for taking the best buck of you life.  However, the casual just-sighted-my-new-bow-last-week archer isn't likely going to pull off  the rare shot at a big buck.  You have to be proficient with your weapon, be able to shoot under pressure, know your shooting limits, and strive to stalk within them before launching an arrow.

 

With this in mind, I paired up with long-time Rokslide sponsor, Black Ovis, for our 1st Arrow Cold Bow 7-day Challenge.  Details are at the link to our archery forum below.

You can shoot with me and other Rokslide members any time between now and June 30th to be entered into the drawing for $100 Black Ovis gift certificate.  Even if you don't win, you'll become a better archer and be prepared for that shot of a lifetime that may come along sooner than you think.

Hope to see you in the challenge!

Rokslide 1st Arrow Cold Bow 7-Day Challenge

See how I prepare my weapons in my book Hunting Big Mule Deer

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Exactly Where to Hunt After Hard Winters

Exactly Where to Hunt After Hard Winters

Mule deer have been studied intensively the last 50 years. While we don't know as much about the species as we do whitetail deer, we do have a body of evidence to draw from that can help make us better hunters.

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Bucks I've Taken After Hard Winters

Bucks I've Taken After Hard Winters

Winterkill is one of the wildcards a mule deer hunter has to contend with.  You can't predict it nor can you ignore it.  It will affect you at some point...

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He Will Stand...

He Will Stand...

"I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on the earth."

Job 19:25

Happy Resurrection Day to all who make the Rok Blog possible

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What Really Happens to Big Bucks After Hard Winters

What Really Happens to Big Bucks After Hard Winters

I've been blogging on the winter's effects on mule deer since January.  With near-record snow totals in parts of the West, this was a timely subject.  Now that spring is taking hold and the worst should be behind us, I thought we'd move to the subject of what to expect come fall.  If you're just joining in, see these previous posts to understand where winter had the most impacts: Bad Winter? Now What? and Hard Winter—Spring Update (and podcasts!)

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Review: Schnee's Hunter II Pac Boot Rebuild

Review: Schnee's Hunter II Pac Boot Rebuild

I started hunting big mule deer without much more than a dream and a few extra dollars.  Dad had set me up pretty good with the essentials: a good rifle, a good truck, and a back built for working.  Beyond that, the rest was up to me.

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Hard Winter—Spring Update (and podcasts!)

Hard Winter—Spring Update (and podcasts!)

Back in January, I wrote about the current winter's impact to mule deer across the West here Bad Winter? Now What? I've also done a few podcasts with Avery Adventures (more on that below).

While conditions did somewhat improve shortly after that post, it may have been "too little, too late" for some mule deer. As a big buck hunter, you need to pay close attention to winterkill. I certainly do.  It can affect everything from big buck numbers, your ability to draw a license, and even where big bucks will show up in your unit come fall. 

Recent Comments
Nino Ripepi
Thanks for taking the time to summarize winterkill throughout the west and letting readers know what you found out from multiple s... Read More
Monday, 27 March 2017 11:36
Robby Denning
Nino, thanks for pointing that out. My blog was getting a little long, so I left out Colorado till next post. But since you brough... Read More
Monday, 27 March 2017 12:18
Zach Benedict
As always, great stuff Robby. Thanks for putting in the time and efforts to educate us.
Monday, 27 March 2017 11:59
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Kryptek Vellus & Anorak Cold Weather System Review

Kryptek Vellus & Anorak Cold Weather System Review

There's been some good news since my last post Bad Winter, Now What?.  The weather has moderated across a big swath of the western states.  We're not out of the danger zone yet.  Significant winterkill could still be a factor, but if we don't get any big cold storms between now and late March, we may skate over what could have been a very bad winter for mule deer. Stay close... 

Besides watching the weather, I've been putting together reviews on all the gear I used in 2016. 

Next up is my Kryptek Vellus & Anorak review. 

Kryptek married modern technology with fleece to bring about a system that I can recommend for western mule deer hunting.  If you need a warm, quiet, water/windproof system, give this review a read. Even if you can't or don't want to buy the entire system, each piece offers benefits as a stand-alone garment.  Just click the title below for more info...

Kryptek Vellus & Anorak Cold Weather System Review

Read about essential gear for the mule deer hunting in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer

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Bad Winter? Now What?

Bad Winter? Now What?

If you're a big buck hunter, you're probably a weather freak, too.  After all, terminal weather conditions usually have the biggest impact on your hunt.  Consider, too, that long-term weather patterns also affect your hunt even though it may be months away.  Drought, fire, and hard winters all can have a negative effect on your upcoming seasons. 

Recent Comments
Nate
Good article Robby. I'll be hunting a northern Utah unit this fall as it's home so hopefully the current feeding program helps a f... Read More
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 12:26
Robby Denning
Nate, yes, you and I are kinda in the bullseye right now of a hard winter. Glad to see Utah helping those struggling deer and I s... Read More
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 13:56
Mike Peterson
Robby we have taken a big hit up here also... I am sure the whitetail are struggling big time. The worst part this area up here ... Read More
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 15:57
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The Best Vortex I've Tried

The Best Vortex I've Tried

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know I've tried quite a few Vortex products.   From the Kaibab 15x56 to the Vulture 15x56 binoculars, to the Viper 3-9x40 to the Diamondback HP 3-12x42 riflescopes, I can say there is plenty of value per dollar spent with Vortex.

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Winners! Vortex Scope, Huntin' Fool, & Hunting Big Mule Deer Book

Winners! Vortex Scope, Huntin' Fool, & Hunting Big Mule Deer Book

 

Let's do this!

First, thank you for following this project to completion: A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer.  I truly hope you learned something that will help you take the best buck of your life.

Now let's giveaway the Vortex Viper 3-9x40mm, the 1-year membership to The Huntin' Fool, and a copy of my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer

I used Random.org's random number generator to draw from the qualified entries (including those of you who were blocked by the system but emailed me your entries.)

1st Place: Vortex Viper goes to Josh Weeks

2nd Place: Huntin' Fool Membership goes to Brian Bitter

3rd Place: Hunting Big Mule Deer Book goes to Gentry Distefano

I need each of you to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to claim your entry.  Feel free to post up in the comments below.

You have 10 days (January 21st) to claim your prize or I'll redraw from the qualified entries.

Thanks again.  I'll be posting this year on research, gear, and more information related to mule deer hunting.  If you've never done so, sign up for the Rok Blog upper right at "Rok Blog Sign-Up" to receive email notification when I post.

Thanks and God bless your hunting.

For more tips & tactics, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer

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Recent Comments
Josh Weeks
No way, I can't believe I won! I was thinking how I really need to upgrade from the $60 BSA scope I have been using for the last 6... Read More
Tuesday, 10 January 2017 13:52
Gibson Kuenzi
Glad to see this go to a guy who needs it! Congratulations!
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 17:50
Gentry Distefano
Awesome!! I am excited to receive the book so I can learn some new tips!! Thank you!
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 11:19
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part X

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part X

I had been home from the Idaho hunt a week and watching the weather closely in preparation for my upcoming Utah hunt. The high pressure ridge that had dogged me during the Idaho hunt had mostly just strengthened over the last 10 days.  This meant virtually no snow in the Intermountain West.  Buck hunters from Colorado to Montana had been handed their worst season in years due to the mild conditions, and it wasn't looking any better for me.

Recent Comments
Zach Benedict
Thanks for another great series Robby, but more importantly, thank you for sharing your mule deer hunting knowledge and feeding my... Read More
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 12:48
Clay Rector
Robby, very nice and insightful series! It was definitely a weird fall here in Utah, glad that you didn't eat 15 points! Thanks fo... Read More
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 12:49
Joe Batir
Thanks for the series, sounded like a rough but well played season for you. Looking forward to some more stories from you in the f... Read More
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 13:56
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part IX

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part IX

The next morning, I was in the big saddle by first light and again sat until close to noon without spotting the big buck.  My phone said there was important business waiting on my email, so I hiked out to the truck and fired up my laptop to put out the fires.  By the time I was done, it was after 3:00 PM and time to head back to the saddle.

Recent Comments
Will Ellison
Congrats Robby on a great buck!!
Thursday, 29 December 2016 08:27
Joe Batir
Great buck man! Congrats. I've had fun following your season, and looking forward to the rest of the posts.
Thursday, 29 December 2016 09:13
Shane
Great buck! congrats!
Thursday, 29 December 2016 10:17
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VIII

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VIII

I'd been glassing since first light with my SLC 15x56 binoculars backed up by my 25-50x80mm ATS spotter, both Swarovskis. This is a lot of glass to pack, but when I don't have to hike far, it's really the best combination for finding big mule deer.

Recent Comments
Adam Dixon
I'd like to know your thoughts on deer and elk living in harmony? The area we used to hunt always had large racked Muleys but ver... Read More
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 10:32
Robby Denning
Adam, without digging through my files for published research on the subject, I'll answer with I've gathered over the years in my ... Read More
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 12:03
Phil Evans
Robbie, Where in the area would the buck have been hiding? Any thoughts? Would it be too aggressive to have gone different places ... Read More
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 11:43
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VII

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VII

I've been an outfitter for about 15 years.  We operate almost exclusively on private land in an OTC unit.  Our bread 'n' butter is elk hunting but because we manage hunter numbers, every once in a while a big buck will show up.   My paid hunters have first shot at these bucks, but I often hunt them once everyone has gone home for the season.

Recent Comments
Will Ellison
Well this is getting exciting!!
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 11:52
Phil Evans
Robbie this is getting interesting. can't wait to see how big a buck you turned up.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 12:31
Shane
Love the posts Robby! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us year after year. I always learn a ton!
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 16:55
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VI

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part VI

I hit town late the night of the 13th.  I had elk hunters arriving the next day who'd need some help learning the country they'd be hunting the next week. 

Recent Comments
Ryan Brucker
Oi Robby, I am looking at getting a seek outside cimarron and was curious to hear your impressions of the shelter and if you woul... Read More
Thursday, 29 December 2016 08:55
Robby Denning
Hi Ryan, Not sure if you saw my videos on the Cimarron- https://youtu.be/_qDhYGGqK9M I've used it two seasons and about 12-14 nig... Read More
Thursday, 29 December 2016 09:34
Ryan Brucker
I had not checked out the videos, thank you for sharing the link. I will let you know how it plays out. Once again thank you for t... Read More
Thursday, 29 December 2016 09:40
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part V

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part V

The OTC units in much of Idaho open October 10th.  I was up and gone before the sun on the morning of the ninth. 

Recent Comments
Joe Batir
I'm getting excited for the last post Robby. Say, are you still sending email reminders, I haven't gotten an email since Part I. ... Read More
Thursday, 22 December 2016 10:52
Robby Denning
Joe! I'm so glad you said something. Admin has been working on the blog and they may have switched off the email notifications. ... Read More
Thursday, 22 December 2016 11:17
Brian
I received an e-mail today about this post so maybe that answers your question as to whether you fixed it or not. Anyways, I just... Read More
Thursday, 22 December 2016 15:17
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part IV

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part IV

My plan was to head for the giant buck's locale the next few days but when you're job entails leading 25 employees, there's always some drama.  Sure enough, I was delayed several days putting out fires back at work.

Recent Comments
Joe Batir
All this anticipation, I feel like something good is going to come up!
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 12:05
Scott Page
These updates are great Robby, keep them coming. Great way to get through the post-season blues.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 14:04
jim carr
Can't wait for as Paul Harvey would say the rest of the story.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 18:42
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part III

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part III

It had been 10 days since I found the giant Idaho buck.  Due the terrain he lived in, I knew killing him with a bow meant still-hunting through the timber hoping for a shot.  I probably have a better chance of orbiting the earth in my own homemade rocket. 

Recent Comments
Shane H
I am not perfect, However, I am amazed constantly by hunters who skyline themselves, Don't tape or or dull down the shiny parts... Read More
Sunday, 18 December 2016 11:47
Robby Denning
Hi Shane, I'm not perfect either and I goof up sometimes and stand on the skyline- only to regret it later. This duffus only care... Read More
Monday, 19 December 2016 11:32
Josh Richesin
It is amazing that people would want to cause another hunter to loose out on game just because they are jealous they did not get t... Read More
Sunday, 18 December 2016 17:25
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part II

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer, Part II

It was early August when I returned my Nevada tag (backstory here).  That still gave me the best month to scout an Idaho buck up.  I find by early August that the big bucks have settled into their summer core areas where I can expect to find them until heavy snow, hunting pressure, or the rut moves them (in desert areas, bucks can also move if the water sources change.)

Recent Comments
Landon
I think you have a picture of the big fella, you're just holding back to torture us...Well played. Can't wait for the rest.... Read More
Thursday, 15 December 2016 09:47
Robby Denning
Thursday, 15 December 2016 10:01
Gibson Kuenzi
Now you've got us on the edge of our seats!
Thursday, 15 December 2016 09:54
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule, Part I

A Season of Hunting Big Mule, Part I

The mule deer season really starts for me a year or more ahead of opening day.  To find good places to hunt big mule deer, you have to do plenty of research and even scout areas during the previous winter, if possible.

Recent Comments
Geoff
Yeah baby! I've been waiting all year for your 2016 recap. Thanks for putting this together Robby
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 10:19
Phil Evans
Robby, How many days and how much territory did you cover before deciding to give tag back. Thanks
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 11:31
Robby Denning
Hi Phil, I was in Nevada five days and scouted about five places in two units where I'd seen good bucks in past scouting trips.... Read More
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 11:39
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A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer

A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer

My favorite media to communicate through on Rokslide is this blog. While I love writing articles for our homepage, and our forums are downright fun and informative, it's the blog that is my own little space.  It's here that I can best share with anyone who's truly interested in becoming a better mule deer hunter, particularly for outsized top-of-the-heap bucks.

Recent Comments
Zach Benedict
Subscribed. Thanks Robby!
Sunday, 11 December 2016 11:15
Luke Kline
Always look forward to getting an email with an updated blog post!
Sunday, 11 December 2016 11:19
Joe Batir
I've been wondering why you haven't been posting as much Robby. Looking forward to hear about your hunts this year!
Sunday, 11 December 2016 11:19
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Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part IV

Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part IV

In Parts One, Two and Three, I covered gun/caliber, energy requirements, powder, and loading procedure/development using a Vortex Razor HD LH 1.5-8x32 scope on a Knight Mountaineer.  Besides load development, I showed the potential of that set-up out to 300 yards, plenty of range and energy for killing big mule deer.  See Part III for that demonstration.

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Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part III

Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part III

I covered selecting a gun/caliber, energy requirements, selecting a peep and bullets in Part I and Part II.

Recent Comments
Brock Cameron
Robby, What scope rings are you running? Are they quick detach Talley's? I can't tell. Thanks...
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 00:01
Robby Denning
Brock, they are Weaver rings, non-quick detach, but just a turn of a screwdriver to get them off. Kinda old, but going strong. I... Read More
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 11:34
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Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part II

Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, Part II

In Part I, Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, I covered both choosing a muzzleloader and the best caliber for hunting big mule deer.  In Part II, it's time to choose the best sight and bullet.

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Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader for Hunting Big Mule Deer

Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader for Hunting Big Mule Deer

I've been a fan of the smokin' single shot since my daddy left me in a tree over a bear bait as a young teenager.  He wasn't gone twenty minutes when a small bear (looked huge to me) poked his front end out from behind a Lodgepole Pine 80 yards up the hill.  I buried the big front blade of that Hawken .54 behind his front leg and lit the cap.  The next thing I saw was a somersaulting bear land flat on his back.  The 455 grain T/C Maxiball had hit him square in the heart.  While I know it was a lucky shot, my dad was as proud as a papa could be, and I was hooked on muzzleloading for life.

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A Big Bag of Swaro'

A Big Bag of Swaro'

I've been using some kind of optic since I was in my early teens- Tasco, Redfield, Bushnell, Sears (you read that right) Pentax, Leupold, Steiner, Nikon, Minox, Bushnell, Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski and surely at least a few others that I've long forgotten.  While I'm no optics expert, I do know what my eyes like. 

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Tim
I've got to try out that tree screw! Great idea!
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 20:30
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Trail Cameras for the Big Mule Deer Hunter

Trail Cameras for the Big Mule Deer Hunter

Trail cameras became widely used in the West in the mid-2000's.  Watching the forums, TV shows, and magazines, I'd say they've only picked up steam since then.  Seems everyone is a voyeur these days.  Since 2008, I've used trail cameras extensively from the desert to the foothills to the high-country of the West.  While I'm far from an expert compared to some hunters, I've learned a lot about them in that time and how they apply to hunting big mule deer.

There are a few questions that pop up when it comes to the use of trail cameras for mule deer that I'll do my best to answer in this post:

1) Are trail cameras necessary for the big mule deer hunter?

Yes, no, often, and not always are the answers. 

Yes- if you're hunting an area with limited water--say one or less water source per square mile--trail cameras can be a real asset (but they're also a liability.)  They can be an asset because in arid country with limited water, the cameras will eventually pick up most watering bucks so you can plan or cancel your hunt in that area depending on what you find. 

Bucks coming to water.  Most of the time I find the big bucks water at night, even when there is zero hunting pressure

They become a liability in the sense that low-life thieves posing as hunters can and will steal them.  I lock mine up to at least keep the honest guys honest, including the panel access so the bums can't view then erase my photos.  Cameras can be chained to trees, fenceposts (with a 6" lagbolt) and big rocks, but even then, they can be stolen.  Another option is to not set the camera directly on the water source, but on trails leading in, making them harder to detect. 

No- if you're scouting fairly open country that can be glassed from vantage points, a hunter can spend a few mornings and evenings glassing the area and likely see the same animals that the trail cameras will pick up.

 

A good buck I photographed as I approached a water source in open country.  Amazingly this buck never showed up on the multiple trail cameras I had set

Often- If it's brushy country and it's located close enough to home to allow you two visits before season, a trail camera often makes the most sense.  Find the water or the game trails and set at least a few cameras.  I've placed as many as four cameras per square mile in this type of country and could probably double that density if I had that many cameras.  Deer in this type of country usually have multiple water sources and trails so are harder to photograph.  The upside is some great bucks typically live in this zone and they'll be less competition from other camera scouters.

Here's a 2015 buck with potential that I caught on a trail a few hundred yards from a water source

Not always- If it's high country and a long ways from the truck, you might not want to hassle with cameras.  Most high country has more water than people realize (in the form of seeps and very small springs) so bucks are less predictable on water.  In these areas, I key in on trails and saddles with deer tracks.  I've set cameras as far back as seven miles into the high country.  I did catch bucks and bulls on them, but because of the distance, was only able to check them once in the summer which wasn't enough to plan my hunt.  If you're going to all that trouble, make sure you double your chances by being in the area at first and last light so you can also thoroughly glass and scout the country.  Putting all that effort just to be there outside of prime hours will reduce your efficiency.

2) When is the best time to use trail cameras?

Yesterday would have been good but being that you just found this blog post, you should start today.  Trail cameras take lots of time to prepare- you need ample practice in controlled conditions to make sure you understand settings, battery performance, and other little camera quirks that you don't want to discover in the field when time's of the essence. 

I recommend setting up your cameras (all of them) in your yard or a secure place for up to a week.  The first year I had mine, my wife was scared to go outside because she knew I was watching (hee hee) and I discovered just how many stray cats were peeing on our lawn furniture. But by the the end of that week, I understood much more about my cameras than the instructions and forums could ever teach me. 

As far as timing, I think you can use cameras anytime the bucks are where you expect them to be come hunting season.  In the really dry country, I start in late June when the water sources become more scarce and keep them out until just before the hunt starts.  Sometimes I have to move them as the water dries up.  In high country when bucks don't typically settle in until late July, I wait until then to place cameras. If I've I've settled on hunting a certain buck, I'll leave the cameras out during the season like I did here:

I don't use them in the winter, but some guys do and I'm not saying you shouldn't.  Winter use can show you the quality potential of the unit, but unless you have a winter range tag, you won't be hunting those bucks so I save my time and money for when trail cameras are most productive: right now and up into the hunt.

3) I don't live in the West, so what can I do?

A good glasser in fairly open country can find most of the bucks.  Your option is to only hunt units that have seasons open before October 15th (before migrations typically begin,) plan to be in the area at least two days early, and don't make the critical mistake of spooking bucks that close to the season.  Pull that last move and you just wasted all you efforts.

You can still place cameras out during the season.  Just remember that there more people in the woods then and the bucks are less predictable.  Make sure you're not wasting productive prime hunting time checking cameras unless it puts you in areas with a high potential for a buck encounter.  Most big bucks will water at night, especially once the season is open, so don't expect them to be on the cameras during shooting light.

Here's a video of a big buck I caught for a quick second chasing does during daylight hours- look left fast!

Camera Recommendations

I've only used one brand of cameras- SPYPOINT- so I'm certainly not the writer to offer advice on choices. I can however say that I've used the same four SPYPOINT IR-C cameras since 2008 with only one failure which was repaired in a timely manner for $50 by the factory.  Several of these cameras have literally spent years in the woods, so I know they must be pretty good.

For a more thorough discussion of choices in trail cameras, check out this thread on the Rokslide forums "Trail Cams...need a recommendation."

Coming up this month on the Rokblog, I'll be introducing the mighty Swarovski SLC 15x56 tripod-mounted binoculars and show you how to build a muzzleloader that will get you to 200 yards open-sighted and 300 with a scope.  Just subscribe by your preferred method at top of post so you don't miss the fun.

To learn about the gear and tactics I use for Hunting Big Mule Deer, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer

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Scouting Season

Scouting Season

As I've written over the years on this blog, scouting is the great equalizer.  While you can never count on drawing a great tag or the weather, you can count on your sightings of big mule deer in the preseason as the best way to up your odds at tagging him.

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Kryptek Dalibor II Soft Shell Jacket Review

Kryptek Dalibor II Soft Shell Jacket Review

I'm an early-season bowhunter, chasing muleys from the desert mountain ranges to the high country of the West.  These seasons typically run about mid-August through late September. Daytime temps can soar into the 90s in the desert but fall into the twenties in the high country. This 70-degree swing requires a lot from a clothing system.

Last fall, I was planning an early season bowhunt for mule deer, so I contacted co-owner Butch Whiting at Kryptek to see what clothing I could try.

To read the entire article, click Kryptek Dalibor Soft Shell Early Season Jacket

To learn about the gear and tactics I use for Hunting Big Mule Deer, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer

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Skinny Shaft Arrows- Do They Really Buck the Wind?

Skinny Shaft Arrows- Do They Really Buck the Wind?

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that I'm often NOT on the cutting edge when upgrading to new gear.  I want to know something works and works well before I abandon my tried-'n'-true (insert gear here).

Recent Comments
Bruce Cooper
Robby, I have been using GT Kinetics for the last few years and really do like them. Tim Gillingham from Gold Tip, and Hamskia Arc... Read More
Friday, 17 June 2016 16:52
Robby Denning
Hi Bruce, thanks and I checked out those vanes- nice. Hope to get to try them in the future. Good to know about the GT program f... Read More
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 12:25
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Hash Marks or Turrets? A Mule Deer Hunter's Perspective

Hash Marks or Turrets?  A Mule Deer Hunter's Perspective

Before rangefinders came along in the late '90s, most mule deer hunters were banking their long range shots on the power of the gun to produce a flat trajectory. For years, the 7mm Remington Magnum was near the top of the flat-trajectory heap. With a 150-160 grain bullet posting a ballistic coefficient over .500 and a sight-in of 3.25" high at 100 yards, you could expect that bullet to drop about 24-26" at 500 yards. That meant an on-body hold for big mule deer to about 450 yards. That math worked for decades but is also why so few big deer were killed beyond 450 yards; when you're forced to aim at air, it's just easier to miss.

You can read the entire article here Hash Marks or Turrets? A Mule Deer Hunter's Perspective

Christensen Arms Carbon Summit Titanium

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Read all about the weapon systems I prefer in my book: Hunting Big Mule Deer: How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life 

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The Empty Tomb...The Greatest Hope

The Empty Tomb...The Greatest Hope

"Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word."

Mathew 28: 1-10

May your hope be in Him who will never die, that you may live.  All the best to you and yours on this Resurrection Day.

 

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Bruce Cooper
He is risen indeed. Thank you Robby. Just a note unless you have not heard, we are starting up the Gem State Christian Bow Hunter... Read More
Sunday, 27 March 2016 11:59
Joel
Always interesting to remember that today is what Christmas is really about.
Sunday, 27 March 2016 12:08
Robby Denning
Bruce, let Rokslide know how we can get the word out on GSCB Joel, yip, without today, Christmas would have just faded into the p... Read More
Sunday, 27 March 2016 12:14
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Who Is Duwane Adams? Mule Deer DVD and Book Reviews

Who Is Duwane Adams? Mule Deer DVD and Book Reviews

If you've read my Vortex vs. Vortex 15x Binocular review earlier this year, you may have noticed the name "Duwane Adams".   Just who is this guide who seems to be nearly everywhere that big Arizona deer are spoken of?

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Let's Talk Research: Interview with Robert Hanneman of The Huntin' Fool

Let's Talk Research: Interview with Robert Hanneman of The Huntin' Fool

With so many new members joining Rokslide, it stands to reason that many of you were not around when we launched in early February, 2012.  Ryan Avery and David Long worked tirelessly night and day (that's no stretch) to build the platform we all enjoy now.  One of David's jobs was working with top notch hunters and writers to bring you many of the articles that are still read daily by members. 

One of those articles was written by Robert Hanneman: Bighorn Sheep Hunting Tips & Tactics and is still in the top ten articles we've ever published.  Besides bighorn sheep, Robert possessed a vast knowledge of western big game hunting.  So it was no surprise when the following year that Robert joined the staff of The Huntin' Fool- a company dedicated to helping hunters find good places to pursue their dream species. 

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Let's Talk Research...The True Value of Scouting

Let's Talk Research...The True Value of Scouting

So you've got all your spreadsheets filled out with every bit of statistical data you could glean from every source imaginable.  Good.  Now consider that thousands of other hunters are looking at that same information and if they're smart like you, will probably apply for the same units. Statistics usually lead us all to the same place and is why draw odds in many units are so dismal across the West.

While this is part of the research process, what will really help your bad case of "paralysis of analysis" is prescouting units you'd like to apply for.  If my research says a unit is really good and I've got the time to prescout it in the summer, I may apply without ever having scouted the unit. Still, I might be better off to wait a year like in the example below.  

Colorado Scouting

Rewind to 1995.  I'd researched a particular Colorado unit to apply for.  The stats said it was good, but depending on who I talked to, the hunting could be poor to fantastic.  The unit only took 0-1 points to draw and I had one, but I just couldn't make my mind up before the application deadline so I didn't apply.  Not wanting to be in the same boat the next year, I made a plan...

A few months later, after clearing my schedule, I hooked up the horse trailer one early July morning and drove 500 miles to the unit.  In three mornings of glassing and an afternoon or two of riding some country, I saw a few nice bucks but more importantly learned first-hand how to hunt the unit- from camp, to access, to local services- and I met a few locals who gave me some good intel. 

Nine months later, I felt good about spending my two points on a one-point unit and I applied and I drew.  That fall I had a chance at a GIANT buck which I muffed, and after two more hunts in the unit over the next five years, I killed a great buck going north of 200.  But,it all started with that July scouting trip way back when. 

So before you apply this year, look first at units and areas you'll have the ability to scout preseason.  Understand that there are two values to scouting:

1) Finding a particular buck

While this is the grand prize of scouting, I've learned it's not always possible or even necessary to find a particular buck to hunt.  However, if it's an early-season hunt (August/September,) bucks will usually be very close to where you've seen them in the summer.  So if you're scouting for these hunts, then finding a particular animal is fantastic and probably the number one predictor if you'll take a big buck or not.

If you can't find any big bucks in the summer, your chances of finding one when the season opens is even worse.  This is why I make sure I understand each state's policy regarding refund of points before I apply.  You can make more money, but not more years.  This policy needs to be part of your application strategy.  Every state is different.  

For example, Colorado offers a refund of points BUT you lose a point for that application year.  Be smart as losing just one point can knock you out of a preference point system where point creep is happening (and that's pretty much everywhere).  This is where a good research service is a value.  They are usually the first to know when and how these systems are changing.  For example, this year The Huntin' Fool announced that Colorado will still offer point refunds, but only up to 30 days before the hunt. That is a big change and will affect my application strategy that I could have missed had I not been a member.

2) Learn the unit's exact hunting areas

Many hunts in the West occur after mid-October.  Typically, by then, bucks are starting to move from where they've spent the summer, either because of snow-depth, the oncoming rut, hunting pressure, or just the traditional movement of of deer in that unit.  This can negate your summer scouting efforts if you're only scouting for bucks.  You need to learn plenty of country so when the season opens, you can move to familiar country if you're not finding bucks. 

If my research says a unit is weather or migratory dependent, I still try to prescout it to make sure I'm not wasting valuable hunting days once the season is open.  When scouting these type of hunts, I remember that only about 10-20% of a unit's area will hold big bucks.  Scouting is often just narrowing down where not to hunt. 

By visiting a unit and talking to locals, you can figure out exact places in the unit other hunters have been successful and how to best hunt those areas.  With practice, you can also learn how to identify likely buck country by the terrain itself.  Google Earth is an awesome tool, but still can't replace a hunter who "knows" what big buck country looks like.

So if you're experiencing "paralysis of analysis," maybe you should consider building points until you have the time to prescout units.  In every instance I have done this, it's paid off either in saved points, peace in applying, or punching my tag on a big mule deer.

Make sure you "Subscribe to blog" (Upper right under Fitness/Other) so you don't miss my next post on research.  I'll be interviewing Robert Hanneman, head of research at The Huntin' Fool.

Read all about how I research hunts in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life

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Lindse
I hadn't really thought about using my scouting as a tool for deciding on hunt location and point expenditure. That is actually s... Read More
Friday, 11 March 2016 13:19
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Let's Talk Research... Part I

Let's Talk Research... Part I

With the West's first mule deer application deadline of March 3rd around the corner, I thought it was time to talk about research and how I personally decide what hunts I'll apply for.  If you're looking for a blog post on units to apply for, this isn't it.  I'd rather teach you something that you can use for life.

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Follow Us at WHC Expo & Book Signing in Salt Lake

Follow Us at WHC Expo & Book Signing in Salt Lake

Wanted to let you all know that I, along with my Rokslide partner Ryan Avery, will be at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City starting Thursday 2/11 at 5:00 PM.

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Durability of Merino Wool: A 100-Day Test

Durability of Merino Wool: A 100-Day Test

When merino wool baselayers became mainstream for hunters not many years ago, true to form, I sat on the fence and let others go first.

If a piece of gear is working for me, I'm the slowest among the slow to adapt. I want to be convinced that I need to change.  While certainly influenced by budget, I think it goes deeper than that for me.  I was the kid in school who used the same pencil until it was about as long as my thumb.  At 46 years old, I'm still driving the same old Toyota truck to work that I bought when I was 19.  I have a hard time blowing with the wind.  However, I'm not a hoarder either.  When something truly better comes along, all sentimentality goes out the window and I adapt quickly.

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Joe Batir
Hey Robby, One quick question. I wear "tech" t-shirts 2-3 times a week, so I understand everything you are saying about durabili... Read More
Monday, 08 February 2016 11:41
Robby Denning
Joe, all around, merino performs better, much better, than the synthetics in odor control. Doesn't matter if its per day, per wee... Read More
Monday, 08 February 2016 12:00
R Hamlet
I live where carpet beetles are native, and have had them eat holes in my merino. I settled on the Rho LT line of polyester base ... Read More
Monday, 08 February 2016 12:11
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Book Review: Larry Benoit's Classic- How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life

Book Review: Larry Benoit's Classic- How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life

I’ve written before—both on this blog and in my new book—about the need to study other deer hunters if you want to be successful.  Deer have been hunted on all continents since Bible times (see Deuteronomy 12:22) and there is a wealth of accumulated knowledge that has been handed down through the centuries that can benefit the modern hunter.

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Vortex Kaibab HD 15x56 vs. Vulture HD 15x56 Review

Vortex Kaibab HD 15x56 vs. Vulture HD 15x56 Review

For those of you who might be thinking of getting into the high-powered tripod binoculars game, this review is for you.

It took me nearly two years to complete, accumulating around 50 days over six hunts and countless scouting trips. I'm relieved to finally hit the publish button on this one. 

See how Vortex's two high-powered tripod binoculars- the venerable Kaibab HD 15x56 and the the lower-priced Vulture HD 15x56- stack up against each other. I've had this question asked many times over the last year, and I hope this review answers it for you.

To read the review, click the title here Vortex's Kaibab HD 15x56 vs. Vortex Vulture HD 15x56

Don't miss any of my upcoming reviews and other tips on improving your mule deer game by "Subscribing to blog," upper right under Fitness/Other links

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 Read all about the gear and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life

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Winner Announcement: Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12x42

Winner Announcement: Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12x42

Merry CHRISTmas everyone.

As promised, it's time to announce the winner of the The Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12 x 42 with BDC Reticle

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Ben Wheelwright
Yee Haw!! Yippee! I can't believe it...Merry Christmas to me! Thanks Robby this has been a fantastic hunt and journey to follow ... Read More
Thursday, 24 December 2015 14:56
Robby Denning
Yee haw is right! Merry Christmas Benjamin. I've got your email so I'll get a shipping an address from you and get the scope out ... Read More
Thursday, 24 December 2015 16:45
Bruce Cooper
Merry Christ mas Benjamin Wheelwright, what a great win and gift from the Rok Blog and Vortex. Have a great year with it and show ... Read More
Friday, 25 December 2015 07:22
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9- continued

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9- continued

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(If you missed this mornings' post, you need to view it first here Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9 or this one might not make much sense)

To me, the most suspenseful moments in hunting are those between the shot and confirming a lethal hit.  Because big mule deer often live in broken brushy terrain, this task is harder than it might seem to the uninitiated.  After a shot, I always remember the old proverb "Fools rush in."

https://youtu.be/Cx5pNu4qa2s

 

Thanks for following this hunt to completion.  I truly hope you learned something that will help you Take the Best Buck of Your Life

I'll draw for The Vortex Diamondback 3-12 x 42 with BDC Reticle (shown below) on 12/22 according to the rules posted here.  Make sure you check your email as you'll only have 24 hours to respond to be entered in the final drawing.

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Read all about the research, gear, and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life

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Kurt Baus
Robby, love your hunts! Thanks for sharing and great buck!! Also just wondering, I really like your hat, who makes it?... Read More
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 17:20
Robby Denning
Kurt sorry I didn't see your question earlier. Hat is a Stetson Wool Crushable. Warm, water repellent, and durable. Worn em for ye... Read More
Wednesday, 23 December 2015 07:38
J Trevor Heaney
Excellent!
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 17:31
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9

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I camped as close to the area I wanted to hunt as possible, but I was still about 90 minutes from where most of the deer had showed up in the last few days.  That meant 90 minutes of riding a horse in subzero temps.  Riding a walking horse is a pretty sedentary activity.  About every 20 minutes, I'd have to dismount and walk to warm up.  Once in the deer country, I'd tie the horse and hike, so staying warm wasn't as tough; that is until I sat down to glass!  What I'm getting at is that while hunting in these conditions can be great, you're always in survival mode.

Today dawned cold and clear- perfect conditions for some Extreme Long Range Glassing (I wrote an entire chapter on this subject in my book).  Time for the big Vortex 15x56 Kaibab HD Tripod Binoculars along side my old favorite, the Swarovski CT 75 (I take a lot of ribbing on that scope but I still crown it the best spotter for the backcountry hunter.)

 Don't wait too long to get entered. Good luck and thanks for following.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Scope-HP-resized.jpg 

Read all about the research, gear, and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life

b2ap3_thumbnail_book.jpg

Recent Comments
Will Blackman
Robby, thanks for letting us live vicariously through you! I love these videos and look forward to watching a new one every day. G... Read More
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 10:40
Rory O'Connor
Jerk. Leave us hanging like that. Hope it's a dandy and the next post of meat hanging!
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 10:50
Coryell Koch
Good luck , shoot straight !
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 11:30
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 8

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 8

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Seems like no matter the time of year, there will be good hunting days and bad hunting days.  The difference often lies in the conditions.  Typically the colder winter weather makes for good and even great hunting (notice the game trails in the freshly fallen snow in the lead image of this post). Problem is, hunting in subzero temperatures (0 was the low, 14 degrees was the high this day) all day long is both mentally challenging and physically tiring.

The migration is in full swing and bucks are rutting hard.  If I can stay off the trigger, I might have a chance at a really good buck. Here is today's video.

Recent Comments
Cameron Madsen
I really enjoy following along on these hunts. I hope you get a good one!
Monday, 14 December 2015 09:49
Robby Denning
Glad you guys are following. Stay tuned, maybe we'll put the smack on a good buck!
Monday, 14 December 2015 09:53
Brian Drake
I'm hooked! Thanks for taking us along on the ride.
Monday, 14 December 2015 22:22
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 7

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 7

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Buck hunting is about logistics.  You can be the best hunter on the planet, but if you don't have the gear and a plan to be where the deer are, no hunting skill can make it up.  Today's video is a good example of logistics:

Recent Comments
Rory O'Connor
My Dad has always been my greatest hunting partner and taught me most of what I know. The buck I killed this year was one of the f... Read More
Sunday, 13 December 2015 10:30
Bruce Cooper
Keep safe up there.
Sunday, 13 December 2015 10:39
Robby Denning
Thanks for the heads up Chris. I'd seen those style of cots but ultimately went with the E-kot at this point due to it being less... Read More
Monday, 14 December 2015 07:36
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 6

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 6

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It's day six.  I was up at 4:45 to saddle the horse and grab a quick breakfast and coffee.  The weather report says a big storm is coming in less than 36 hours and could dump up to 10" of snow at the elevation I've been hunting.  With a solid foot on the ground now, I know this will be enough snow to push the deer out of here. Besides that, I might not be able to get camp out to the main road as even now I'm chained up on all fours and can barely get around.  

Recent Comments
Bruce Cooper
Robby, what do you use to get weather updates? I think I have seen you with a radio up there, is that what you use?
Saturday, 12 December 2015 22:41
Robby Denning
Bruce, the weather radio couldn't pick up a NOAA station up here so just using my iPhone for NOAA updates.
Sunday, 13 December 2015 08:47
MarkDavis
Good Luck and Thanks for the book I enjoyed the motivation
Sunday, 13 December 2015 07:30
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 5

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 5

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On migration hunts, you have to pay close attention to the conditions- snow depth and temperature (and in some units, the calendar)- on a daily basis. The deer are responding to those conditions and if you don't, you might end up where there are few deer, even if hundreds were in the area just days ago. That is why migration hunts can be frustrating to the unprepared.

Recent Comments
patrick Harrington
Love your blog and hunting stories, free scopes are cool too!
Friday, 11 December 2015 09:17
Tyler Denham
Love the videos that go along with your blogs! Keep it coming!
Friday, 11 December 2015 11:12
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 4

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 4

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With day 4 already here, I had hunted most of the immediate area on foot and by glassing from the truck.  I'd seen some good bucks, even one crowding the 180" mark.

Recent Comments
Garrett
Hope you find monster Robby! Good luck!
Thursday, 10 December 2015 10:19
Robby Denning
Michael, I don't post dates (or units), but this hunt started in mid-November
Thursday, 10 December 2015 13:07
Tyler Denham
Love all the tips! Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us! Keep up the good work!
Friday, 11 December 2015 11:09
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Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 3

Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 3

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I think one reason many people are drawn to mule deer is because glassing for them is fun.  I think in some cases we can actually spend too much time glassing but when the conditions are right, no other technique will show you more deer.

Recent Comments
Scot Semmens
Just curious, what bullet in the 7mm did you use the most over the years?
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 09:22
Robby Denning
Scot, my longest run was with a Speer 160 grain Boat tail. It was the most accurate bullet in my Weatherby for years- even after ... Read More
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 10:06
Jeff Mitchell
Good luck out there!
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 09:51
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