By July 1st, I’d estimate that a buck has achieved 80-90% of his antler growth.  When I flip the calendar to the seventh month, I know it’s time to start scouting.

In my experience, there is no better way to increase your odds of killing a great buck than by finding one preseason and focusing all your hunting efforts on that buck.  You may come up short—and I usually do—but your odds are far better than just showing up blind hoping your research pays off.


I wrote back in the blog post Thinking Too Big about narrowing down units to the best buck country.  While research is very important, nothing is better than actually scouting  your area.  You can’t afford to waste valuable season trying to figure out where to hunt—you just lose too much time and energy.  If you live too far from your unit to scout, then hunting it for several years is your next option.  I find very few hunters are willing to do that and look for greener pastures every year.

If I’ve found a good buck the previous season, I always start my scouting by looking for that buck.  Why go anywhere else?  I already have his home address and he might return to the same area.  More often than not I don’t find that buck again, but not all is lost.  Big bucks are attracted to certain types of habitat and terrain.  If one big buck has lived there, chances are great that another one will take up residence there, too.

If you’re new to the Rok Blog, you likely missed my 2013 Live Hunt for the buck I I dubbed Jalapeño.  You can review that entire Live Hunt here Idaho Archery Buck Hunt 


The buck called Jalapeño

Jalapeño is the best Idaho buck I’ve seen in years.  I first found him in September of 2012.  I’ve lab-aged all the big deer I’ve killed the last twenty years so I have a feel for a buck’s age.  I estimate that he was four-years old the first time I saw him and around 180″ gross.  There were two bigger deer in the area so I didn’t give him much attention.  

When I scouted in 2013, I never found those other two bucks (told you I often don’t) but that four-year old buck was back with a vengeance!  I estimated he was around 200″—putting on over 25 inches in one year.  It seems in good habitat that if a buck has the genetics, he’ll experience great growth between his fourth and fifth year as this buck demonstrated.  I could be wrong about his age, but either way, I think he could be even better this year. 

I’ve been to the area once so far.  I glassed a few hours but never saw a single deer.  By the tracks, I can tell the deer are just starting to show up. I staked out a few trails and saddles with my Spypoint cameras.


While I may not see Jalapeño again, I’d be crazy to look anywhere else until I know if he made it back or not.  And who knows, maybe another great buck will show up.  

Subscribe to the Rok Blog at the “Subscribe to blog” link above right, just under the Fitness/Other links to follow my scouting trips, hunts, and more this summer. Let us know in the comments section below if you’re scouting for mule deer this summer.  Best of luck if you are.

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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


  1. Awesome! This really gets me pumped up. I hope you do find Jalapeño this year! I won’t be out mule deer scouting until August or so because we just had our first baby a couple of days ago:)

  2. Hope you get some good TC pics! I’m on a 3 year buck hunt too, hopefully this our year 😀

  3. That is the kind of buck that dreams are made of. I am pulling for you Robby! I lived for the live hunts last year while I was deployed and will do the same again while not out chasing my own. Great luck to you!


  4. Great post! That bucks is a beaut. Good luck this year, and good “evidence” to stay put in a hunting area for a while.

  5. I’ve been contemplating going to new areas to scout because I haven’t punched a tag the last couple years despite seeing good bucks in those areas I’ve hunted. This is great advice Robby, stick to those “bucky” areas and learn them as well as those old bucks do. Can’t wait to get out and see if some of those old bucks are still around!!

  6. Jake, you’re almost there. Stick to it until you’re absolutely sure those bucks are gone or in your freezer! The turtle wins the race when it comes to big buck hunting.

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