Mule Deer Hunting Tips from Nick Mundt
There’s nothing that’s naturally easy about western deer hunting. The country is tough – it’s full of steep terrain and punishing hills. But for those who are willing to put the work in and log some miles, the rewards can be outstanding. Nick Mundt recently did some mule deer hunting out on the Navajo Nation. Here are some mule deer hunting tips if you’d like to follow in his footsteps and tag out on a giant muley!
Go Where the Mule Deer Are
If you’re going to be successful at mule deer hunting, you obviously need to go where there are mule deer. Start searching online for the best places to hunt trophy mule deer, which often includes states like Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona. You should also research the best time to hunt during each state’s respective mule deer hunting season.
Across this vast range, mule deer behave very differently. A mule deer that lives in the mountains eats different browse and travels differently than mule deer from desert areas, which are also different from mule deer that inhabit open grasslands. The body size and antler potential will also be different in each area. Mule deer hunts in New Mexico will have a different feel from Colorado mule deer hunting. So before you decide to set out on a given hunt, make sure you know how to hunt the deer and what caliber of deer live in the area you’re going. If you are a resident of one of the states above and routinely go western shed hunting, you might know the potential of your given area.
If you are a non-resident hunter who can only show up for a week, you could hunt with one of the best mule deer outfitters you can find or ask a local hunting buddy for advice on where to hunt. But if you’re mostly into DIY mule deer hunting, you might just have to trust what information you can find online. Of course, do this with a dose of good judgment. In Nick’s recent hunt, he was hunting free roaming mule deer with Team Yellowhorse Outfitters in Arizona. As with any hunting, being with other hunters who are knowledgeable about your location can be a critical part of your success. This is especially true with mule deer hunting since there is so much country to cover and trophy mule deer bucks can be hard to find.
Essential Mule Deer Hunting Gear
Depending on where you decide to hunt, your deer hunting gear may have to be tweaked. For example, if you’re hunting in the mountains in late fall/early winter, you’ll need lots of cold weather gear and clothing layers to help you stay warm. But if you are hunting the early season in New Mexico, you’ll need lots of performance clothing to help wick sweat and keep you cool. The camouflage pattern you use should also depend on where you hunt. Open scrub brush and sagebrush areas should contain lots of light colors and branching patterns, such as the Realtree® MAX-1 XT™ pattern. More forested areas should have denser and darker patterns, such as the Realtree® Edge™ camo pattern. Of course, navigating the rough western terrain is hard on your feet too, so make sure you have a high-quality pair of Old Dominion® boots. Do not forget to break them in well ahead of your hunt either or you might end up with lots of blisters.
Of course, good optics are a key piece of hunting mule deer in wide-open country. They save you hours of hiking and allow you to quickly make a plan to chase a specific deer. Nick relied on the Bushnell® Elite Tactical spotting scope to glass the surrounding area. As he closed the distance to his buck, he used the Bushnell® CONX 1-mile laser rangefinder, which can connect to your phone to calibrate for different ballistic curves. Mounted on top of his Remington® Model 700 rifle was the Bushnell® Engage™ 4-16x44mm riflescope with Deploy™ MOA reticle. From this rifle, he fired a Hornady® 180 grain SST® (super shock tip) cartridge to quickly drop his mule deer buck.
Mule Deer Hunting Tips
We already said it above, but it is worth repeating: your deer hunting approach will have to change depending on where you’re hunting. In some locations, you might be able to set up in an ambush spot and catch mule deer unaware. A few examples include setting up near a prime bedding area or near a watering hole in the hot early season. But in most cases, you’ll be doing a spot and stalk hunt or still hunting them.
Additionally, late-season bucks are very reclusive – they may stick tight to heavy cover and keep their heads down throughout the day as much as possible. Take time to glass your surroundings thoroughly, or you might glance right past a huge mule deer thinking it was a set of branches. Whether you choose to hike, take horseback, or ride an ATV, the name of the game when you are public land mule deer hunting should be to separate yourself from other hunters and find the most remote locations. Hunting pressure can quickly make big bucks nocturnal, so seek out less-pressured areas for the best chance of finding a good one.
The key to the success of Nick’s late season mule deer hunt involved putting in lots of miles and glassing thoroughly. They systematically worked through many miles of open country, stopping at strategic spots to glass distant ridges and valleys with spotting scopes. They observed hundreds of deer using this hunting approach, though the majority were does and young bucks. After glassing an area for a while, they would move onto the next vantage point. The few mature bucks they did see appeared to be pretty worn out from chasing does and fighting other bucks during the rut, or even the second rut at this point. Once they spotted a mature buck, they would slip in closer for a better look and hope to get a good shot. Finally, they noticed a large mule deer buck bedded under a dead pinyon pine tree (sticking close to shelter) and were able to sneak up within 300 yards of it before delivering the lethal shot.
If a mule deer hunting trip has been on your mind for a while, maybe it’s time you act on it. Make sure you have the right mule deer hunting gear and research your hunting destination ahead of time. It could result in a very nice buck to add to the wall!