Because the easy bucks are gone, you can’t employ the strategies of yesteryear if you want to put a big mule deer in your freezer and on your wall.  You can’t hunt like everyone else or you’ll get the same results they do, which is pretty dismal.  Most states post success rates on bucks around 10-20% for the tags we can count on.  If you did the math on big mule deer, I’d guess the success is closer to 1%, meaning 1% of hunters are intentionally (key word, think about it) killing big mule deer.  To join that 1%, you have to change your thinking.  I identified the first mistake a few weeks ago that many would-be big buck hunters make here: Focus

Big mule deer are a sub-set of the species and behave differently than the rest of the herd.  Consequently, they must be hunted differently. It took me many years to realize I was making some critical mistakes in my thinking.  I’ll give you some examples in my next few mule deer blog posts:

Big Mule Deer Live Far from Roads

Big mule deer are almost always older than most of the herd.  They’ve had years to learn their area, know where the threats come from, and the best places to hide from predators like you.  They are masters at finding areas where they can survive (part of why I’m personally drawn to them).  While on average, age class increases the farther you get from a road (as long as you’re still in mule deer country,) there are many places close to roads big mule deer live and thrive. 

I’ve killed two of my best Colorado bucks within a half mile of paved public roads—one on moderately hunted public land and another on moderately hunted private land.  One 210″ Idaho buck I hunted lived in an OTC unit less than a mile from a public road on public land his whole life. For whatever reason, hundreds of hunters drive by these areas every year without consideration.  

These and many other bucks I’ve hunted had found areas with enough cover, the right thermals, and visual advantage to detect 99% of hunters who might breach their safe zone.  I’ve also scouted countless other big bucks living close to civilization all over the West, so I know it’s a common behavior among big mule deer.  In this day and age where hunting far from roads is in vogue, some bucks spend their hunting seasons living surprisingly close to roads.   I’m not advocating road hunting, but to kill big mule deer you have to hunt a lot where they exist.  If you’re not willing to hunt all the mule deer country where big bucks live, you’re stacking the odds against yourself. 

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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. Hey Robby It was great getting to meet you at the Expo I really appreciate you taking time to visit with me. I look forward to the publication of your book in the future. Until then I will continue to read and apply your blog post. thanks for sharing.

  2. Good to meet you, too, Kyle. Like I said at the Expo, we can all learn from each other. Yes, the book is coming together now after nearly 20 years in the making. I’ll be able to further develop the themes I’ve presented on the Rok Blog but add much more concerning research and of course the stories behind the bucks.

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