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Bowhunting Mule Deer: Tactics to Overcome One of Hunting’s Biggest Challenges

Bowhunting Mule Deer is something that many hunters dream of, but rarely becomes a reality. Mule deer inhabit a vast area of ​​the western half of North America characterized by arid deserts, rugged mountains, forests, and grasslands. Harvesting a mature deer with a bow is one of the most difficult things a hunter can do.

What is Mule Deer Bowhunting?

Mule deer bowhunting can mean different things to different people. Anyone who has spent much time in deer country can tell you how dumb a young deer can be. It wouldn’t be much of a challenge to drive down the road until you see a herd of immature deer, slide out of the vehicle and off the road and arrow a 1 or 2 year old deer. These deer don’t know any better and for someone who is truly passionate about deer hunting with a bow, this will not be considered an accomplishment.

For the serious deer bowhunter, a mature deer is what dreams are made of. A mature mule deer is in a different playing field than the young deer. Although a mule deer can successfully breed at 3 years of age, serious deer hunters usually refer to a mature deer of 4 years or older. This is the age when you start to see the growth potential of the antler and their ability to evade hunters. While antler size will continue to grow until at least age 6 depending on diet, most hunters (regardless of weapon) will agree that a four-year-old groom is a marksman and has developed the skills to keep himself alive even with rifle hunters everywhere. the place.

Unfortunately, there are not many mule deer that live more than three years, due to the fact that they are shot when they are young and dumb. In general hunting areas where there is no limit on the number of hunters, especially rifle hunters, to mature a buck deer is to beat the odds. If one is able to put up with a few years of hunting seasons then they have a sixth sense to outwit hunters and taking one with a bow is one of the most difficult challenges a hunter can face. In the remainder of this article, we will discuss the tactics that can make a hunter consistent in deer hunting.

Methods for hunting red deer

There are several methods that can be used to harvest a mature deer. The most common are blinds with spots and stems and trees.

Tree Stand and Ground Blinds

One of the (dare I say) easiest methods to take a big deer with archery gear is to use a tree stand or ground blind. While sitting there waiting for a dollar may not require a lot of energy, it does take a lot of patience. Patience is the easy part. The real work is finding a good spot where a mature mule deer will walk during daylight hours. This requires a lot of work with scouting, cameras and patterns so you have a good idea of ​​where they will be when the season arrives. It’s a lot harder than it sounds and takes a lot of time to be consistent year after year.

Of course, you can just put your tree or ground blind in any hole, food source, or other high deer traffic area and be successful with a mature deer, but that will take a lot of luck and possibly patience. Once you find a good area that produces big bucks, it’s reasonable to assume there will be more there in the years to come, so this type of hunting will become easier once you’ve established a good area.

Spot and Stem:

Although it requires a bit more energy than hunting out of a tree stand or blind, hunting with a stem bow is usually a faster way to hunt deer. The object is to spot a large mature deer and then look within bow range without being detected.

The number one thing to remember when stalking mule deer is to be patient. If the conditions are not suitable, then wait for them to improve. This may mean waiting for the boula to sleep in a better place where you can approach, or waiting for the wind to pick up or change direction to not only carry your scent away from you, but also to cover your noise. as soon as you get close.


Most of the deer bowhunters who consistently harvest big deer start their season long before the deer are even antlered. It’s important to have a good idea of ​​what the area holds for big bucks so you can develop a minimum size and range to focus on first.

Of course, size isn’t the only factor that determines whether a running back is a shooter or not. An experienced hunter can often judge the age of a deer by the body markings and conformation of the deer. In my eyes, a 6-year-old back with low-scoring horns is more of a trophy than a 4-year-old back with great future potential.

For point and stalk hunting, it is important to have several shooter bucks selected and in known general locations before the season begins. This is because it usually takes many stalks to succeed. After several years of spot and stem bowhunting, I have found that the average success ratio for stems is about 1/6. Of course, it might happen on the first try, or it might take 15 times. An inexperienced hunter can go several seasons without having a successful stock on a mature deer.

For Hunting standing up (tree or blind) it is not as important to locate many shooter bucks as it only takes one mature mule deer in the area and you can hunt them all season long. Of course, your chances are greatly increased if you can locate multiple shooters in an area. One thing you don’t want to do in preparation is disturb an area too much. You’ll run the risk of spooking the bucks before you have a chance to start chasing them.

Archery practice: One thing that cannot be ignored is shooting your bow. No matter how good a booth seat you have or if you’re the sneakiest person on the planet, if you can’t close the deal when it counts, then you might as well stay home. Of course, everyone who has hunted long enough has missed or taken a bad shot, but shooting year-round can increase your chances of hitting when you should. One good thing to do is to participate in 3D competitions where you will have the opportunity to shoot life-sized deer targets at different positions, angles and ranges.

During the season:

Once the season starts, you’ll obviously target the mule deer buck you like best. One thing to keep in mind is that with bowhunting mule deer you won’t always be able to get the number one buck on your list. Sometimes all you get is a chance, and if it doesn’t happen on the first move, you may never see that money the rest of the season. This is why it is important to know where other shooters are passing.

Stand BowHunting Mule Deer:

If you are sitting in a posture, you need to be patient. Just because the opening day didn’t bring in much doesn’t mean the big bucks won’t show up the next day right where you want them. I have an impatient friend who moved the base of his tree after opening day because the buck took a different route. He then took trail cam pictures of the buck the next day from the tree where he had been based just 12 hours earlier, while he was sitting in a tree a few hundred yards away. Had to stick it out!

Spot and Stalk BowHunting Mule Deer

You should have a good idea of ​​where you’re going to make money on opening morning if you’ve done a lot of preseason scouting. It’s best to be able to spot him from afar when that first ray of light begins to appear. Once you’ve found your intended target, you’ll want to assess the situation and determine if the conditions are right to immediately put on a stalk or watch and wait until conditions improve. This is where only experience and common sense can help you, as every point and situation is different. Knowing when to move on and when not to, and how to do so will vary greatly depending on how things fall into place.

The same factors that keep most deer from reaching maturity are the same factors that make them so difficult to get with a bow. Many of the areas they inhabit lack cover to escape rifle bullets that can shoot over 500 yards. This same fact is why it is difficult to get within bow range of a mature deer that has managed to sneak past rifle hunters. There just isn’t a lot of cover for a bowhunter to hide behind in order to get a good shot. In this case, you need to use the ground lay to get close enough for a bow shot.

Mule Deer Bowhunting Equipment:

Deer hunting with a bow can be made easier with the right equipment. In fact, some equipment is necessary to give bow hunters the upper hand. Below is a list of archery equipment you will want to purchase before you go deer hunting. Just remember you get what you pay for, so go with the best you can afford and then upgrade as much as you can.

  • Distance meter: Knowing the exact distance to your target is a huge benefit especially when aiming at long distances or hunting with a bow. There are certain specifications that you will want in a range meter, so be sure to check out the link below to make sure you have the right one.
  • Binoculars: Spot and stalk deer hunting requires you to find the deer. It’s amazing how many more deer you can find using binoculars that you wouldn’t see otherwise. They are also essential on the stalk, as you have to find the deer before they find you, which means using your binoculars to make out the tip of an antler or the movement of a tail.
  • Field of detection: Both are used to spot deer and then be able to judge them to make sure they deserve a stalk. Spotting scopes are also important for finding other deer and anything else that might compromise your stalk that is in your intended route. It’s very easy to get hit by an animal you didn’t know existed. Scope is essential for Spot and Stalk Hunting.
  • Boots: When stalking deer, it’s important to be as quiet as possible. I’ve taken off my boots and stalked my sock with success in the past, but with cacti and thistle taking over where I hunt, it just doesn’t happen. Therefore, I wear lightweight boots made for stalking to close the final distance within bow range. They have saved my legs and helped me to be much more stealthy.
  • Camouflage: With deer vision it’s not so important to match the background color, but more to break up your silhouette. Additionally, in typical spots and stems, the foliage may be dry and yellow on grasses or green on trees and shrubs. Therefore, it is important to have a camo pattern that is very versatile.
  • There is also other equipment which will give you an advantage you may want to take advantage of which we’ll talk about later.

Experience: Now go find out for yourself

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