First mule deer hunt expectations

bigeasygator

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Man, as if I haven't been amped up enough all of these posts about people hitting the woods and mountains is about to put me over the edge! I leave in less than a week for my first ever high country mule deer hunt (Unit 43 in Colorado for those interested). I plan on staying a week in the backcountry and I'll be going with another buddy who just purchased an elk tag.

I've got a number of things working against me no doubt. This will be my first mule deer hunt, first time hunting these elevations, first time stepping foot in the unit, etc. Of course I've read all the material I can and I've been researching areas and looking at maps until my eyes bleed. So, I've got a few areas picked out and some suggestions on where to look for bucks.

My question is for those that have done a similar thing, given all of the above, what's a reasonable expectation for the hunt? I'm really hoping to get the opportunity to put a few stalks on deer. I would be THRILLED with a buck that went over, say, 150" but I don't think I'll be holding out. I'm looking more to get some experience under my belt (fully understanding that I may be coming home with my tag!). With all that being said, what should I expect? What would your expectations be in my shoes (particularly those with more experience!)? What should I make sure I get out of this trip?
 

Nick Muche

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Stalk every buck you can... Shoot the first buck that offers you a good shot. But most of all, have fun!

What you should make sure you get out of this trip is the experience... You will learn something about yourself and you will also learn something about stalking mule deer, just enjoy it all! Take lots of pictures!
 

robby denning

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Nick Muche hits it all

and remember that bucks can be very difficult to spot beyond about a mile, so keep glassing bucky country even if you're not seeing them. Also, don't think that every basin should have bucks in it. Bucks are bached up right now and you might glass a lot of country before you find them. Not seeing them doesn't mean they aren't around. It's nothing for a buck to switch drainages overnight (they usually live at the heads of them and/or on the ridges between) and that can make you think there aren't bucks around.

Finally, don't ruin you own hunt by camping in the buck country.

God bless your hunt
 

2rocky

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Even Randy Ulmer has shot a fork horn so don't think you need to meet anybodies expectations but your own.

Nick said it well.

Pack plenty of arrows and get some grouse for some live practice shots.
 
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bigeasygator

bigeasygator

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That's all great advice! Thanks everyone!

Robby,
Your post did make me think of a question. You mention not to ruin my hunt by camping in buck country. All the research I've done says deer will be above timberline. My plan was to hunt high and I planned on being up high to have a good vantage point to glass from. My plan was to camp on those ridges and at the head of some of these basins to provide a good vantage point. Should I rethink my plan? Or is it more a matter of keeping my distance once I have them spotted and to try and keep a small footprint while I camp and then glass? Any help is appreciated! Thanks again!!
 

Rizzy

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The head of the basin or canyon provides a good vantage point, but your risking camping in buck country because the bucks like these areas for some of the same reasons you do. Good vantage points, taking advantage of the wind and thermals, less bugs, and multiple escape routes.

Some factors for camp location are: wind direction, vantage point, water, and potential dead fall. My optics and terrain dictate that I spot within a mile, so I put more emphasis on wind direction when looking for a vantage point or camp spot.
 
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bigeasygator

bigeasygator

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Thanks Rizzy, that's pretty much what I expected. I figured you need to pay attention to all of that and its about being cautious when picking a spot to camp.
 

robby denning

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bigeasy...
your question
I used to think "spot buck, then stalk" which means I'd be trying to glass from closer more convenient places for this to happen like the bucky ridges and basins.

Kirt Darner changed my thinking to

"find the bucks, then take time (1,2,3,4 days) to plan the stalk then make it. Much less likely to spook the bucks that way"

He's right.

That is the problem with Western Wyoming, the big deer are there, but everyone camps right in the buck country so by opening day, we've ruined our own hunting for the good bucks.

Some places I glass bucks, I'm so far away I can't stalk them until the next day. I spook less of them than I used to when I was right on top of them.
 

Nick Muche

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Robby... I love (and hate :) ) the reference to ol Kirt... I just read his book, Finding Giant Bucks or whatever it was called... However, before I read it I knew all about him and read about, well, everything that went on in his "career"... He gave several good points in that book and also several that I would never consider.... Then I also took into consideration that much of what he preached was likely just a lie anyhow, right? With that said, I love the idea to take the time, a few days if need be, to plan out the perfect stalk and make it happen.

I also caught several hints in his book that were directed towards the archery crowd and how it would be nearly impossible to ever take a giant Muley with a bow and arrow. That rubbed me the wrong way, but I am fine with it. As I said, I took every word on every page with a grain of salt... Man, that fool would make a great topic for another thread :)
 
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bigeasygator

bigeasygator

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Robby,

Thanks for adding to that. The biggest challenge for me is knowing whether or not I'm standing on a bucky ridge or in a bucky basin!! It's one thing to read David Long's book or Mike Eastman's or Dwight Shuh's...it's another thing to step foot for the first time in a unit and be able to apply it! I think I have a pretty good feel of what I'm looking when I get out there and I planned to let the Swaro ELs and spotter do most of the "walking" once I got in position. I have a few basins picked out. It's just a matter of knowing where exactly to set up at this point while ensuring I don't blow anything out of the neighborhood! The plan is to take it slow and limit my amount of movement as much as possible. It'll be a learning experience for sure!
 

muleman

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Robby,

Thanks for adding to that. The biggest challenge for me is knowing whether or not I'm standing on a bucky ridge or in a bucky basin!!...

Time afield (scouting) will help you know what deer prefer and what their habits are in a certain area. You are at a disadvantage being far from your hunting grounds and not having the opportunity to scout. So you will end up scouting with your weapon. I get a kick out watching people usually running late, going balls to the wall to be hunting blow right past animals standing in the open. Be up early, stay out till dark, slow down and be methodical.

Here are a couple of examples that hopefully will help with your camp site selection.
An area I frequently setup camp is right on a ridge and the only spot available for miles. It also happens that this camp site is in a saddle that deer use daily. In this instance the deer have become used to a camp being setup and will still use the saddle. I should mention that the deer using the saddle are not the deer I'm actively hunting. My point is keep a low profile, be quite, and blend as best you can with your surroundings and animals will adapt to you over time. While this is not ideal it can work.

I like to pre-scout areas I plan to camp for animal activity. Earlier this year when scouting a new camp area, I setup the tipi on a shelf with no obvious animal sign. I was woken up by the sound of hooves not far off and the peeked out from under the tipi to see a decent sized 4x4 silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky less than 50 yards away. Was I in buck country yep. Did I see that deer again on that scouting trip nope. I blew him out and he didn't use the shelf again while I was there. I kept on looking and ran across some of the best deer I've seen to date in this area.

I seriously think some of the best advice you can have is take your time and keep your spirits up. The west is often open terrain with pockets of cover. Glass closest to farthest and glass longer than you think necessary. Don't be surprised to see deer, rather expect to see them and keep looking until you do.

Good Luck and can't wait to see a picture of your first mulie!
 
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