Mule Deer hunting has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. When we first started making trips out west in search of bugling elk, mule deer were everywhere. We didn’t give them the time of day, and now, a big mule deer is a difficult and coveted trophy. The mule deer population has declined to a fraction of its former numbers, but things seemed to have stabilized and good hunting is certainly available. There are basically two types of mule deer hunting, the wilderness of the Rocky Mountain high country or the private ranches of the planes states and Canada.
The wilderness hunts of the lower 48 can typically be done successfully without a guide, but require time, energy and determination. Research an area before you commit to a trip, as some areas are pounded during the gun season and very few bucks survive to maturity. Serious trophy hunters play the lottery game with mule deer too, as the better public-land hunting is in the controlled (lottery) harvest management zones. A good outfitter will know which of the remote basins holds the most deer and provide comfortable accommodations while hunting them.
The mountains of western Canada hold good mule deer as well, but do-it yourself hunts for nonresidents of Canada are not possible, as a guide is required. Good outfitters are available in the Canadian Rockies, but we'd rather take our chances in the badlands of southern Alberta. This area is managed for mature deer and produces some of the biggest mule deer on the continent. Chuck Adams shot the world record with a bow in this area several years back. We offer a good hunt with an outfitter in the middle of the best areas, who does very well tagging bucks up to 200 inches.
The mulies of the planes states are certainly easier to get to, but require the rancher’s permission, and usually granted by trespass fees or booking a hunt with an outfitter. Good outfitters will have huge ranches tied up in multi-year leases, and offer good hunting. The best hunting will be in rugged areas adjacent to irrigated cereal crops and hay fields. Like whitetails, a good mule deer has to survive to his 4th or 5th season to reach their potential. A mature mule deer has some impressive headgear and most midwest whitetail hunters will need to be re-calibrated before a trip. A decent buck will sport a 20 inch (inside) rack with 10-12 inch tines – a monster will push 30 inches with long tines and mass to boot.
Mule deer dwell in large expanses and are usually hunted by classic spot and stalk. A typical day will start by climbing a good sized ridge in the dark and waiting on 1st light with binoculars and spotting scope. You’ll try to locate animals from long distance, and eventually, a good deer will become visible. You watch him until late morning when he’ll find his bed for the day. Carefully study the terrain for the best approach and landmarks to home in on his exact location before heading in for the stalk. Most stalks will end in failure, as it’s very difficult to get within good bow range of these big devils, but eventually one of your stalks will work, and you’ll have your opportunity. Don’t screw it up as they are hard to come by.
Field Judging Mule Deer
Mule deer by nature grow bigger racks than whitetails, which require a little more math to get them evaluated. Look for a high, wide and heavy set of antlers, which sounds easy, but can be anything but easy. A big mulie will have an ear tip to tip measurement of around 22 inches when alert. If his inside spread is outside the ears, and has mass and tine length – shoot! Another characteristic to look at is the depth of the forks. Look for deep, clearly defined forks.
Semi-Guided Mule Deer Archery Hunt
Classic spot and stalk mule deer bow hunt in the rolling sage / badlands in the Missouri Breaks / Milk River of northeastern Montana. These hunts are conducted primarily within the property lines of private ranches with modest hunting pressure, which translates into good hunting. There’s a good supply of nice mature bucks and our expectation is that nearly everyone will have an opportunity to stalk a good (24” 4x4) deer during their hunt. Top-end bucks will run close to 180 inches and you may find one to stalk, but if you are dead-set on a 180", we probably better talk. This is a semi-guided hunt where the outfitter will show you the ranch, including the boundaries and good places to glass. He’ll also give you some help to get started, basic hunting strategy or tips. Ultimately you spot, plan and stalk your trophy on your own, which is a lot of fun.
Accommodations are nice, comfortable cabins on the ranch near Glasgow, within 30 minutes of the hunting properties. This hunt combines well with whitetails (evenings) and / or antelope waterhole hunting during mid-day or decoy-aided spot & stalking.
Cost: $2,200 Deposit: $925
How to get the tag
A nonresident Deer "A" tag (either sex / either species) is available only through the drawing or leftover tags (if available) after the draw. Apply for the Big Bame Combo (Elk & Deer) then sell back the elk portion – 80% of the elk portion refunded – subject to change.
The other option is to apply for the deer only "A" license. Historically, the deer A license has been difficult to draw, but the last few years. We expect a stronger demand for the deer "A" only license, and do not expect 100% draw rates in the near future. Therefore, we recommend clients apply for the Big Game Combination License to ensure drawing a tag.
What is included in the hunt cost
What is not included