A Wyoming Mule Deer Buck

A Wyoming Mule Deer Buck“What do I do with all these preference points?  What is the ‘best’ unit to apply for at my bonus point level? Am I wasting my preference points?!”

That is just a little peek inside my Rokslide/Facebook/Intstagram inbox this time of year.

Those are great questions to ask–I ask myself the same ones frequently.  But there is a more important question:

“Where should I apply that makes the most sense for me?”


  • Time off work: can you dedicate the time it’s going to take to vastly improve your chances?  This could mean time for preseason prep/scouting, too.
  • Logistics: is it a backpack, road camp, or stock hunt?  Do you have the right gear/physical ability to be in the deer country when it counts?
  • Do you have a good familiarity with the unit?
  • Are you chasing units that grow giant deer, but you’d be happy with something less?

With those questions answered, knowing what to do with all those points will become clear, often crystal clear.  Spend those points where you can be efficient with your time and abilities.  For me, this is what that looks like:

  1. Units I’ve either scouted or hunted in previous years
  2. Units that allow me to hunt summer range so that my summer scouting is most productive
  3. If it is a migration/rut hunt, units I’ve scouted years prior when the deer are migrating/rutting
  4. Units where I have a very trusted friend who’s done #1-3 above, and is generous enough to share that intel.
  5. Units that give me a chance at a 180″+ buck
  6. Hiring a great outfitter (haven’t done that yet, but might someday)

Notice that I didn’t list “units that match my point level”.  With thousands of hunters sitting on the sidelines with millions of points, that strategy is becoming less and less predictable anyway (see Brady Miller’s article on Point Creep here).

I really only want to be in country that I know and at the times I need to be there.  My success rate has soared with that strategy.

It’s not that I won’t ever apply for a unit blindly.  I have plenty of points in some states with late application dates (like Arizona) so if I’ve drawn enough tags to fill my schedule, I may apply for a long shot that I haven’t scouted or hunted before.  Checking my track record though–even if I draw a tag like that–I’m more likely to kill a good buck elsewhere, somewhere that I know better.

Think all this through as you stare at that spreadsheet of accumulated preference points.  It might help you avoid “Points Paralysis”.

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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