Now that we’re on the subject of killing big mule deer, I thought I’d write a few posts on the mindset of a big mule deer hunter.  I’ve met hundreds of succesful big buck hunters over the decades including some who are considered the very best out there.  I notice a common thread among these hunters in how they think about big buck hunting.  They have an accurate perception of what modern day mule deer hunting is really like. Yet when I meet someone who just can’t seem to kill a big buck, I usually find they have all kinds of faulty thinking that is preventing them from succeeding (I used to think the same way.)  I’ll dedicate a few blog posts to developing the right mindset for big buck hunting.


Focus is probably the first place I see wannabe big bucks hunters lacking.  A big mule deer hunter has to be one of the most focused big game hunters on the continent to be successful.  Big mule deer are rare.  In my opinion, they are rarer than the best of all of our big game species.  If I want to kill a 340-inch gross bull elk, I could be hunting several areas with bulls like that as soon as this fall on OTC or easy-to-draw tags.  However, a 200” mule deer (to me, about the equivalent on the size scale) would be much harder.  I spend 60 days a year looking for big bucks and only see about one 200” or better buck every two or three years in units where I can get a tag.  

Twenty years ago, I’d try to hunt bucks, bulls, birds, and fish for big trout.  At the end of each season, it seemed that I was doing fine on everything but big mule deer.  That had to change.  

I first gave up elk hunting.  That gave me back a week plus.  As much as I love fishing for big trout and steelhead, I relinquished that pursuit save the trips that Jodi and me schedule with the kids.  That gave me back many weekends and of course gave me precious family times that beat any seven pound trout.  I quit hunting birds, too. 

The first year was tough, but come fall I was able to hunt 30 days for mule deer and killed my best buck the next year.  I also noticed my energy level was better.  It’s easy to dream all winter about hunting giant bucks for 10 days straight but in reality, you only have so much mental energy to put to the task (notice I didn’t say physical energy.)  All those other pursuits were competing for that energy.

Finally, big deer hunting is expensive.  The horses, the gear, the tags, the trucks, and the travel all drain the bank account.  While Jodi is pretty good with me, asking her to eat beans and rice six nights a week so I can afford to hunt big mule deer is probably of the question.  Only hunting bucks allows me to keep my finances in check.

By focusing exclusively on mule deer, I’m able to carve out enough days, energy, and finances to maximize my success.  If you really want to kill a big mule deer, you’re going to have to focus virtually all your free time and energy to the pursuit.  Most hunters who only dabble in the pursuit never kill a big buck. Don’t be those guys.  Focus!

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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


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