Idaho Mulies

Mckinnon

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I have just decided that I would like to get up to Idaho and chase some mulies and/or elk up there in the next couple of years (2 would be the target range). From what I can see through my brief research I should be able to buy tags over the counter once I have bought a license. I was wondering if any of you guys have any suggestions or general information that would be helpful. Thanks in advance!
 

Outdoorsman3830

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There are some good opportunities throughout Idaho. Record book bucks have been taken everywhere throughout the State. Personally, I recommend going in with a bow so you can hunt both deer and elk at the same time. I plan on spending a week scouting for deer primarily and elk secondary at the end of this month. I'll try to get some photos to share.

I really like units 48, 49, and 52A for OTC opportunities, but that is because I grew up hunting in these areas. I think 48 has the best potential for mule deer out of those areas, but I have seen some real nice bucks come out of 49 and 52A. Elk can be found throughout all 3 units, but keep in mind that the wolves have pressured the elk into better cover in units 48 and 49.

Another area to keep in mind is unit 67. I don't know if I will make it over this year, but I fully intend to check out some of that backcountry. Unit 67 has an outstanding history of producing record book bucks. As for controlled tags, Unit 44 has great rifle tag for deer. Most of the big bucks harvested down in unit 45 migrated out of 44.

Good Luck & Hope that Helps,
 
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Mckinnon

Mckinnon

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Wow Outdoorsman, thank you so much for the detailed info! I was definitely leaning towards bow, but from your info about being able to hunt both elk and deer at the same time the decision is made. I would love to see some of those pictures if you get a chance. Do all of those units you listed hold both elk and deer?
 

robby denning

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The deer in the central Idaho units Outdoorsman mentioned are doing much better than those in the SE part of the state. 67, 66, 66A are in pretty tough shape due to winter kill (2007 and 2010) right now. All units mentioned have deer and elk available during archery season.

Apply for the controlled hunts mentioned, then fall back on general tag if not drawn.
 
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Mckinnon

Mckinnon

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Good idea on the controlled hunt applications first Robby, thank you. Are the controlled hunts for the same units just at different times?
 

Outdoorsman3830

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Units 48 and 49 are going to give you a much better shot at taking decent both decent bucks and bull, plus they offer great backcountry opportunities. During the archery season, hunters are usually focused on the elk leaving the high country bucks unpressured. If you focus most of your attention on high country mule deer, you will find that there is little competition if any at all. Like Cameron Hanes talks about in Backcountry Bowhunting, you will see no one and when you do, you can't help but tip your hat off to them for hunting that far and high. I'm sure many have experienced this phenomenon and love having the country to themselves. However, I will warn you that some of these less pressured areas are steep and rugged. I recommend preparing as much as you can, it could become a very physical hunt.

As for 52A, focus your attention near the alfalfa or corn fields. Water sources also play a small factor. There is some rugged country out there and the elk and deer do take advantage of it. Don't expect to find too many big bucks out here. There are the occasional bachelor group of bucks with a few real nice ones. Elk on the other hand are more promising. If you find elk herds, you should find at least one 300" bull. I have seen a number of 330"+ bulls over the years. The biggest bull tends to stay at the backside of the herds, while the next biggest is usually within a mile or so of the herd. The second largest bull is either a loner or with a cow or two. If you draw the rifle hunt, you could easily come out with a 330"+ bull. Weather plays a major factor, while other hunters hunt like renegades. Patience, time, knowledge of migration routes, and effective vantage points are your key to success when hunting the late season bulls here.

Hope that information helps with your options. I'm most familiar with 52A, since I grew up hunting elk out there with my family. 48 and 49 has come from my own desires to pursue mule deer with a bow. My goal is to take down a mature buck first and then a bull this September with a bow in the backcountry, even though I'm confident I could harvest a 300"+ bull in 52A with my bow. Hopefully scouting pays off at the end of the month and have pictures to backup the information I'm giving you.
 

Rizzy

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Some of the wilderness areas and even some non wilderness areas have overlapping general seasons with deer and elk. As a nonresident you can take a wolf, bear, or mtn lion with your deer or elk tag. So you can be covered for 5 species with both a deer and elk tag. However these areas like the sawtooth elk zone for example are not always the best places for deer. For deer the south central part of the state has the best soil, feed, and wintering ground.
 

robby denning

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Much of the country in central Idaho is almost untouched during the archery season. I've hunted the October rifle seasons over there several times and haven't seen a hunter once I get in the backcountry, although they are around. Rugged, steep, nasty, and the deer are scattered in pockets in the deer country. Some of it isn't even deer country, but Mountain Goat cliffy stuff. However, everywhere I've found green deer country with feed, I've found bucks. The genetics aren't as good as other areas of the state, but the age class is better. All things being equal, you probably can't find a place to shoot a 170 or better buck. 200"s are very very very rare, but a few show up once in awhile. Not out of the question to see wide bucks over there either.
 

Nick Muche

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I know you are looking into the early season, high country hunts, but don't rule out the late hunts either, they are some of the best seasons in the state. I shot this buck on the third day of my Idaho late season hunt last year. About 5 miles from where I parked. First time hunting Deer in Idaho, first year living in Idaho. I can't wait to get back there this year and get another one! We saw some awesome bucks on this hunt and they were rutting like the whitetails I am used to back east. This was a pretty physical hunt, not horrible, but just about right. Either way, it can be done with some proper preperation. I scouted plenty before this season opened. My buddy also shot a nice 4 point.

 

Outdoorsman3830

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Nice buck Nick. For your first time hunting in Idaho you couldn't ask for a better buck. Thanks for sharing the great picture. Get out there and bring home a bigger one this year.

Unit 52, a draw hunt, has many bucks like this one during the late season. Unit 52 also holds some monster bucks year round if you know where to look and draw the tag. 45 is more well known for producing big bucks, but keep 52 in mind if you are interested in a unit with better odds of drawing. Both 45 and 52 offer muzzleloader hunts, but I believe they alter every year. If you decide to take on 52, put forth some scouting efforts, talk to the locals, call up fishing game, and focus much of your glassing, scouting, and hunting near alfalfa/corn fields adjacent to rugged lavas. These bucks are very elusive, especially if spooked. They are very hard to track at times and blend in extremely well when bedded.

When scouting efforts fall through and the bucks seem to have disappeared, take advantage of the weather when it is pushing the deer through migration routes. The best bucks I have seen usually summer in the low country, but a few slip down from the higher country during their migration. I'll scan a picture of great buck that was poached some years back that was taken by a guy with a super tag who chose to shoot the buck with a rifle versus a muzzleloader. This particular buck is an awesome example of a buck that summered in the low country in 52. Zach Shetler is another example proving that there are some incredible bucks in some these more sage brushy and lava rocky deserts. Zach Shetler has been in Eastmans Hunting/Bowhunting Journal once or twice over the years and taken one of the states best bucks in unit 53 with a bow and 53 is not a trophy unit by any means.
 
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Nick Muche

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Thanks Outdoorsman! It was a blast. I shot a doe in Idaho back in September, but that was just a quick stalk after work one day in an area with plenty of deer. Also took a bear in the spring. Went back and bought another tag so I could hunt the late season, which turned out to be awesome. This year is shaping up well, doing "lots" of scouting from here in Afghanistan, LOL... Ordered some maps of the area I plan to hunt and been talking to other folks who know the region well. I can't wait!

If one is looking to hunt in unit 45, well, I hope you have a horseshoe or rabbits foot on your side, cause that isn't a likely tag to draw... You'd have a better chance at drawing 44 or putting in lots of scouting time in 39 for a big buck on a general hunt.

Zach Shetler is a beast and 53 is not by any means a trophy unit, not to mention it is a desert, sage filled area that one would have to scout scout scout to do what he has done, twice! I planned on hunting that unit this past season, but it went to an unlimited tag, so that would have been the only area I could have hunted, no thanks.. I like to keep my options open.
 

Nick Muche

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Also, if you go check out the shed antler thread on the Mule Deer forum... many of those that I posted are from 45... Some real nice bucks winter there as you can see.... Many of them come from 44 and 39 though... We found many more sheds, but I can't get the pics off my Iphone and onto this computer so I can post them. Some real good bucks!
 

Outdoorsman3830

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I haven't spent much time scouting mule deer in the end of June and early July. I just got back from scouting and I only jumped one buck at just over 9,000 feet. He was as wide as the ears and his rack was just beginning to grow upward. They appeared to have a slight angle outward, but he still looked like a relatively young buck. I have seen bucks with large racks down in the lower elevations around June 20th, so I'm not sure if the high country bucks start growing there racks later or not. Do any of you have more experience with this? I'm still confident he won't turn into a huge buck, but knowing a little more about his potential would be useful information.

The bulls I saw seemed to have almost finished growing there racks. I glassed a young 6X6, young 5X5, and small 3 or 4 point. They were hanging around at 8,000 feet in some green meadows full of wallows and small streams of water below where the buck was bedded.

Thank You,
 
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Mckinnon

Mckinnon

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Thank you so much guys! Great buck Nick! You have given me another thing consider with the later season hunt...
 
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