The more I’ve hunted for big mule deer, the more I’ve learned to focus my hunting days only where I’ve seen big bucks previously. Hunting anywhere else, even for a day, is usually a waste of time.
Big mule deer–those that are four years or older–are very deliberate animals. Outside of the migration, they don’t roam the landscape much. They usually stay in relatively small areas (less than a square mile) and only move if hunting pressure increases dramatically or feed or water sources are grossly interrupted. While there are exceptions, you can’t kill a big mule deer by banking on exceptions. You have to hunt exactly where you’ve seen them as much as physically possible if you’re ever going to kill one on purpose.
While this might seem obvious, I see hunters making the mistake of hunting all over a unit or a mountain range way too often. I used to do the same thing and I’m pretty sure I’ve never killed a big buck by hunting that way.
Most of my big bucks killed outside of the migration were taken by hunting relatively small areas day after day until the buck showed himself. Sometimes it was exact bucks I’d prescouted. Other times it was bucks I’d seen the first time, but I was hunting places with a good track record for big buck sightings in years (and even decades) prior. This is what I mean by “Hunt Small”.
The time to cover a lot of ground is actually right now. With bucks in their summer mode and more visible, you have a chance to look at more bucks which increases your chances of finding a big one. To do this, make sure you visit the deer country you know the best and even better, exact places where you’ve seen or killed big bucks in the past. Learn as much country as possible while the bucks are still most visible. This is what I mean by “Scout Big”.
To kill big mule deer, you have to focus and focus hard. Don’t let opening day catch you by surprise. It’ll be here before you know it.
Podcasts are all the latest in media. They’re a convenient way to listen and learn. I’ve been invited on a few lately that you mule deer hunters might be interested in. We talk big bucks and more. Here are the computer links, but they’re also available on the standard podcast formats like iTunes. Be sure and subscribe.
Avery Adventures Episode 22
Epic Outdoors Episode 33
Read more about all-things-mule-deer-hunting in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer