While I exclusively hunt mule deer at this point in my life, I’m a firm believer in studying all deer hunting that occurs in North America.  Every species and subspecies has it’s ardent followers and invariably, a few hunters rise to the top of each pursuit.  It’s these hunters that I want to learn from. Although they pursue different deer in different parts of the country, I find their techniques overlap with mule deer hunting in many ways.

Some examples are the mule deer that inhabit the thick forests of Northern Montana, Idaho, Washington, and  parts of British Columbia.  I find that hunting them requires some of the same skills that the “Big Woods” whitetail trackers of the Northeastern United States employ.  I could give other examples of overlap, but suffice it to say, I learn by studying all deer hunters, not just mule deer hunters.

So when our partner, Novagrade–maker of high-end digiscoping adapters– put out an offer that anyone buying one of their Double Gripper adapters would receive a complimentary copy of Scott Haugen’s 2009 classic “Trophy Blacktails: The Science of the Hunt,” I immediately contacted Novagrade and secured a copy.  I was not disappointed. Here is a quick review on the book (and a promo code to get it free.)


As “Science of the Hunt” is in the subtitle, consider that as a signal of what you’re about to read.  This is not a superficial study of Blacktails. The author, Scott Haugen, is a lifetime hunter of the species. Although he resides in Oregon, he’s hunted Blacktails almost everywhere they exist, including heavily hunted public ground. Add to that his master’s degree and a biology background, you’ll read deep into the science surrounding hunting and conserving the great Blacktail deer.

Haugen states that Blacktails are the ultimate skill-builder:

“Give me a person who was raised hunting the Columbia blacktail deer, and who can consistently take trophy bucks, and I’ll show you a person who is likely competent enough to hunt just about any big game animal on the planet.”

I emphatically agree with the author.  If you read my book, “Hunting Big Mule Deer“, you’ll know that I mention the skill set of hard-core blacktail hunters as nearly the same set needed for hunting big mule deer in the cover–one of the toughest pursuits in North America.

There are five chapters and for the most part, Scott breaks down scouting and hunting Blacktails according to the season at hand:

  1. Meet the Blacktails
  2. The Off Season
  3. The Early Season
  4. The Mid Season
  5. The Late Season

Each of these chapters include five to ten subchapters delving further into the main topic.

He classifies six different “faces” of blacktails according to where they live:

  1. Cascade Blacktails
  2. Foothill Blacktails
  3. Valley Floor Blacktails
  4. Coastal Blacktails
  5. Open Country Blacktails
  6. High Country California Blacktails

Scott lays out in detail how to hunt Blacktails in each of these habitats.  There is a parallel here for mule deer hunters as our bucks inhabit nearly the same number of habitats. Contrary to what has been written the last 15 years, big mule deer don’t just live in the alpine high country.

The Deets

Once the author frames the when and where of hunting Blacktails, he goes into almost innumerable tips and tactics for hunting them:

Shed hunting, map research, food plots, trail cameras, spot & stalk, tree stands, ground blinds, party drives, one-man drives, tracking, rattling & calling, scent use, decoy use, weather, migration, and much more.

I was intrigued by his knowledge of the Blacktails glandular system. He details how each of the different glands, from head to toe, influence behavior.

The Wrap

Scott makes my point for learning as he ends the book this way:

“I’m not an expert on the blacktails and never will be. There’s’ simply too much to learn, and I can’t accomplish it all in my lifetime…Due to the demand of producing television shows and magazine articles, I’m also under pressure to consistently find success. I do this through the only way I know how, and that’s hard work, keeping a positive attitude and an open mind. Once the learning stops, so does the success.”

Every Blacktail hunter should read this book and every serious mule deer hunter should too.  Scott’s dedication to Blacktail is the same dedication we need to be successful mule deer hunters.  Knowledge is king and if you read this book, it will open your mind to deer to a degree that no other book has done for me. While I can’t say what it is yet, there will be something from Scott Haugen’s “Trophy Blacktails: The Science of the Hunt” that will play into my success on my next big mule deer–I just know it!

How to get a Free Copy

If you want to up your digiscoping game with one of the best performing universal adapters out there, check out Novagrades’ Double Gripper here or see Sam Weaver’s review here

Novagrade Double Gripper Universal Digiscoping Adapter

Through the end of March 2021, or while supplies last, Novagrade is including “Trophy Blacktails” and “Cooking Big Game” both by Scott Haugen with every purchase!  Be sure and use PROMO CODE “bookdeal” at check out here and save $10 on the purchase.  That’s a sweet offer right there.

Read more about all-things-mule-deer-hunting in my book. Signed copies are available in the Rokslide store, or you can go Amazon for faster delivery.


Previous articleShed Hunting Ethics
Next articleArgali Col Knife Review
Robby Denning
Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator