Tips for a rookie mule deer hunter?

Six-GunSix-Gun Senior MemberPosts: 7,379 Senior Member
Well, boys, Nevada made up for last year's terrible draw quotas (driven by an erroneously forecasted bad winter that never materiailzed) by drastically increasing this year's available game tags. I was a benefactor of this tag allotment surge and got drawn for an antlered mule deer tag in units 161-164 Early season, which runs from October 5-20.

Unit Map:
http://www.ndow.org/hunt/maps/unitmap.shtm

My tag area is in some excellent wilderness/forest county, but 2011 hunter success was below 40% for the early season. If I had to make a guess as to why that is, I'd say that few people are willing to hike high enough to get to the good oconcentrations of deer that I would guess to be quite high during that warmer period.

The bottom line: I have no idea what I'm doing, but you have to try. If you were to teacha new guy where and how to find mule deer, would would you tell him? What gear is essential and which gear is frivilous? How would you go about camping for a week straight if that was an option?

Thanks for your help.
Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.

Replies

  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 11,006 Senior Member
    First off, you need a new gun:jester::devil:. Any gun. Preferrably something you do not already have.
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    CHIRO1989 wrote: »
    First off, you need a new gun:jester::devil:. Any gun. Preferrably something you do not already have.

    That already sort of happened with that Tikka .243 I bought with hopes of bagging a mulie last year. The state had other plans, but THIS year, I will hopefully get some blood on it!
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • gatorgator Senior Member Posts: 1,700 Senior Member
    That early in the fall the bucks will not be in the rut and will most likely be alone or in small bachelor herds apart from the does.

    I have seen bachelor herds of as many as 11 but they were bedded down in the cotton fields.Before season.

    We jumped a group of 5 a few years back in the shade in a wash and got 3 of them.

    But those are Az. desert Mulies.
    USMC 80-84
    -96 lbs
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    gator wrote: »
    That early in the fall the bucks will not be in the rut and will most likely be alone or in small bachelor herds apart from the does.

    +1...start scouting early, like this weekend. Do a fly-over w/ Bing/ Google Earth, get maps, the Toyabe NF & BLM 30X60's to start. Drive as much of the area as possible, watch the game trails for signs of movement, identify the water sources. The area your going to be hunting, it looks like the highest available water is going to be the key. The bucks will move down to water, then back up to a bedding area, generally a bench that offers shade & escape routes. Looking @ the area you're going to be hunting, w/ your plan of camping for a week, I'd consider a base camp, & I'd plan for being stuck "out" overnite w/ the minimals for being comfy. If you plan on camping in the backcountry for a week, I'd consider bringing in a cache of your consumables ahead of time, if possible. I'd try & pick a spot where I could get up to a good vantage point as soon as it was light enough to see, stillhunt & glass in a loop back to camp...
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 21,909 Senior Member
    Six-Gun wrote: »
    That already sort of happened with that Tikka .243 I bought with hopes of bagging a mulie last year. The state had other plans, but THIS year, I will hopefully get some blood on it!

    Are you sure that's enough gun? I mean, some enablers here will tell you that you will need a Stainless Steel .375 H&H Magnum with 30 inch barrel and 300 grain bullet for such quarry,

    :rotflmao::rotflmao::rotflmao:
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • 1965Jeff1965Jeff Senior Member Posts: 1,611 Senior Member
    A good pair of binocs will be very useful, if you see anything wider than 19 inches is a shooter. Good luck.
  • rapier5316rapier5316 Member Posts: 312 Member
    If they are not in the back yard, then glass the alfalfa on the south fence around late evening . In the afternoon glass the CRP between the fields, they regularly lay up in there. No one on this section????? go over to the well house for the pivot irrigator. The heads usually pop up from the run off stream bed when you close the door.

    You may need a 270 Win.
    "The power of the United States has peaked, oppression follows." Robert Prector, Socionomics.net
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    Thanks for the tips, guys. I have some new equipment that was mentioned here that will be put to good use. The Tikka T3 in .243 should be perfect for this hunt: fast, light, easy handling with good glass (Leupold VX-3 3.5-10x40mm with B&C reticle). I also bought a pair of Nikon Monarch X 10.5x binos earlier in the Spring. Awesome glass for the task at hand, though I need to get a tripod mount for them so I can still glass from a distance.

    Great info on the behavior at that time in the season. I have no idea what to expect and really need to get my hands dirty scouting, as has been stated. I'm going to order the US Geologic service topos and get a new Garmin with embedded electronic topo maps so I can start marking good points.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,509 Senior Member
    On the camping part, I do know that MRE's or the civilian version, A Pack meals, are great for a high altitude hunt. Cheap, easy, no refridgeration required, and an easy source of much needed calories. We ate the A Packs last time, they were actually not too bad. Instant oatmeal or the like is good for breakfast. Take PLENTY of water.
    A good cot, with a good sleeping pad is pretty important. Gets you off the ground, and the pad keeps the cold air off your back.

    Sounds like fun, good luck!
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 15,335 Senior Member
    wildgene wrote: »
    +1...start scouting early, like this weekend. Do a fly-over w/ Bing/ Google Earth, get maps, the Toyabe NF & BLM 30X60's to start.

    You are saying that to a guy that gets paid to ride in F-16's. Sixgun... Do a REAL flyover.:tooth:
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    Jermanator wrote: »
    You are saying that to a guy that gets paid to ride in F-16's. Sixgun... Do a REAL flyover.:tooth:

    There might not be a deer in the forest come opening weekend if I did a flyover in that thing!
    jbohio wrote: »
    On the camping part, I do know that MRE's or the civilian version, A Pack meals, are great for a high altitude hunt. Cheap, easy, no refridgeration required, and an easy source of much needed calories. We ate the A Packs last time, they were actually not too bad. Instant oatmeal or the like is good for breakfast. Take PLENTY of water.
    A good cot, with a good sleeping pad is pretty important. Gets you off the ground, and the pad keeps the cold air off your back.

    Sounds like fun, good luck!

    I thought about MREs, and while they are awesome (like you said, no fridge required) with plenty of calories for tough hikes, they are bulky and fairly heavy for packing in a weeks worth of them. I may go straight freeze dried/dried foods like jerky and dehydrated fruit. It's a bunch lighter a smaller packing. We have to budget the majority of our starting weight to water.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    Glass, glass, glass, glass and MORE GLASS!! Did I mention glass?

    Muleys blend into their surroundings near perfectly, and many times you won't notice them while walking until he pops up, looks at you for a split second and heads up hill. Almost always, they'll go up and over a hill to escape, in my experience.

    They will be most active the first 1 hour of light, and last few hours of light. I have always seen more big bucks in the later afternoon/evening. Get as high up as possible before dawn, bust out that spotting scope and tear apart every single inch of the hillsides you can. Look for the little things...antler tip, white spot in the sage, flickers of their ears. Shots may be a bit longer then for a white tail, as you'll be in fairly open country and they rely on their eyes as much as their ears for protection. I have normally seen most big bucks, alone or in groups, near the top of a ridge. If you divide a ridge into 4 levels, 1 at the bottom, 4 at top, I check level 3 the most. Gives them an easy out to go up and over behind them.

    After about 8 am and until about 3-4pm they are going to be bedded up where they can watch a large area around them. This can also be a productive time to hunt, but again, it counts on glassing the hillsides extremely closely. If you spot a good buck bedded up, make notes of the geography, and plan out a way to get to within shooting range, without being seen. He is likely not going to move unless spooked. You could go down and around and up behind him from the top and probably be pretty safe to not alert him to your presence but if you go down and up in his field of view, you'll see a grey streak vanish.

    Binos are nice, and essential, but for this type of hunting I'd use a more compact set for quick glassing, like checking out a ravine or hill as you are walking. But the majority of your glassing should be done with a high quality spotting scope. Just pick a good high vantage point, get comfy, and put hours in behind the eye piece.

    I'd have no problem with a 243. Personally I'd choose a bit bigger, but it'll do, since I know you were using TSX's in that (right?). I'd probably plan for a 250-350 yard shot, and hope for closer.

    Dang if that wasn't antelope season AND GABF week, I would have hopped on over the Divide to Vegas to go help out and visit the parents.
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    OH! And remember, for trophy quality, you'd want a buck whose INSIDE spread at least equal to, but preferably greater, then the span of his ears. Those ears will about 12", and at the angle they hold them the tips of both ears will be roughly 24-26" wide. True brutes start at 30". Heavy beams and deep forks are what rack up the inches on the score sheet.

    If you DO jump a buck in an open area and he starts bounding away, STILL get your gun up and ready on him if he looks like a shooter. Mule deer are almost STUPID animals. They won't just run full speed in the opposite direction, they will often go about 100 yards, stop, and turn back to look at you perfectly broadside. And if you shoot and miss, they'll often stop and look back to see what made the noise. Not the brightest creatures on god's green earth lol
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    info_buck.jpg

    That there, is a good, healthy, respectable buck worthy of any hunter. Big thick neck (must be in the rut) His spread is just outside his ears, which puts him about 26" BUT....spikes and beams are a bit skinny and the forks are on the smaller side. Still, unless you are in a known trophy unit, this would be a GREAT trophy for the wall.

    colorado-monster-muley.jpg
    image001.jpg

    These guys, are a different story lol. Big spread, heavy beams. Nevada is known for producing some big bucks, nothing like Utah or Colorado or small parts of AZ, but still some solid, big deer. Study pictures as much as possible, I can't stress that enough. You are used to white tails...mule deer will look gigantic in the binos, and a GIANT whitey rack will still only be about the upper end of average to lower end of fantastic for a mule deer rack. Much, much bigger antlers.
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    ...We have to budget the majority of our starting weight to water...

    ...main reason for my "cache" suggestion, a couple packs built around 5 gal collapsible water jugs would stretch your comfort/ security level. You can also stretch your budget & energy return by "building yer own". Packaged "side dishes", like the Knorr rice or noodles, skip the ones that require milk or pack a little instant, a few condiments, a foil pack of salmon, tuna, hamburger, some Hormel pre-cooked bacon in a ziplock, you can whip up a casserrole or carbonara that will give you a better weight:energy return then MRE's, you can make a pretty good trail mix for about $4/lb, & put in what you like, sprinkle a little on your oatmeal in the morning, substitute "fry bread" for pancakes to dispense w/ the need for eggs, etc., etc. Practice a little before the trip, see what you like/ need, can substitute. Spending $40 on a dehydrator now would probably pay for itself on the trip...

    ...one other item you might want to consider...

    http://www.leupold.com/hunting-and-shooting/products/spotting-scopes/golden-ring-spotting-scopes/golden-ring-10-20x40mm-compact/

    ...I generally use my rangefinder for checking things, but I use the spotting scope fer "looking". I'm old, tired, my eyes are going, but I don't have any problem using the spotting scope, don't pack a tripod, it's found me a lot of game, & saved me a bunch of walking. One thing about mule deer hunting, you'll see ears before you see anything else, butts next, horns, then "deer"...
  • gatorgator Senior Member Posts: 1,700 Senior Member
    I agree with Gene about seeing ears first,If while glassing you see something that looks like a ''T" keep looking till ya see the rest of the deer.

    As was said before they have an uncany way of blending that big body in with their surroundings.
    USMC 80-84
    -96 lbs
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    MHS -

    Awesome series of posts and great info! Thanks for taking the time and expect some email traffic and calls soon on this topic.

    Gene/gator -

    Great tips on the food and I do actually own a dehydrator (and a smoker, come to think of it). I can definitely get a lot of calories in with a lot less weight going that route. Also, I can get a pretty killer deal on one of those Leupold compact spotters and I have needed a good excuse to buy one for quite some time. Seems like now may be it. Great to know about the ears being that prominent, too. When I run a practice/scouting trip up to those mountains in a couple of weeks, I'm going to keep that in mind.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • rapier5316rapier5316 Member Posts: 312 Member
    Have you considered mules and horses?
    "The power of the United States has peaked, oppression follows." Robert Prector, Socionomics.net
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    rapier5316 wrote: »
    Have you considered mules and horses?

    I would love to use them, but I honestly wouldn't know the first thing about caring for them in the field. I did consider renting an ATV to at least get the gear as close as possible to my hunting area without blowing into the actual hunt zone.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • rapier5316rapier5316 Member Posts: 312 Member
    scouting time is a good time to start learning.
    Are there any rental units in the near vicinity of the hunt?

    Like boats, the best horses to use are some one elses. The outfitter and land use regs will let you know if you need Certified Feed. Hopefully there will be grass to graze also. Water, in that desert, may be the deal killer.
    "The power of the United States has peaked, oppression follows." Robert Prector, Socionomics.net
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    Actually, in these mountains a few hours north, not only is water (and grass) a good bit more plentiful, the state has put in a system of guzzlers that provide supplemental water for the native big game herds and would work just fine a pack mule. I'd be more afraid of a roped down mule that I'm on he hook for spooking or becoming mountain lion fodder when he's put up for the night.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • beartrackerbeartracker Senior Member Posts: 3,116 Senior Member
    Study pictures as much as possible, I can't stress that enough. You are used to white tails...mule deer will look gigantic in the binos, and a GIANT whitey rack will still only be about the upper end of average to lower end of fantastic for a mule deer rack. Much, much bigger antlers.

    AMEN!! If you are use to looking at whitetails a muley will look gigantic in binos.
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    Six-Gun wrote: »
    Actually, in these mountains a few hours north, not only is water (and grass) a good bit more plentiful, the state has put in a system of guzzlers that provide supplemental water for the native big game herds and would work just fine a pack mule. I'd be more afraid of a roped down mule that I'm on he hook for spooking or becoming mountain lion fodder when he's put up for the night.

    ...it would have to be a pretty stoopid or desperate mt. lion to try a mule, even a tied up mule. You might do some asking around about "drop camps", might be an outfitter in the area who will pack your stuff in to a specific point & drop it off...

    ...back to homework, contact the area biologist, pick his brain, ask if there's a map available showing the guzzlers, use a topo to find the most probable routes & bedding areas. You're gonna want to make the most efficient use of your time on the ground, having a good idea of where to start looking before you get there will save you a lot of time/ effort...
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 6,601 Senior Member
    Luis,

    I haven't read through all of the previous posts, so please excuse me if I post something that has already been posted.

    I grew up hunting Texas whitetails in parts of west Texas that was more like mule deer country than your typical whitetail county. For a day's hunt, though, I rarely packed any gear other than a rifle, ammo, knife, binoculars and maybe a canteen of water. It was rare that I was out all day long without at least a brief trip back to camp or a vehicle to 'fuel up'. For hunting mulies, though, I have found that I often stay out all day, so I either pack it with me or I don't have it. For that reason, I usually wear a day pack with a little food, emergency equipment such as fire starters, flashlight, rain gear, small tarp, first aid kit, etc. Over the years, I've probably used them all in one way or another. In other words, be prepared to be out all day, and maybe even over night. It also doesn't hurt to pack some water purification tablets. They don't take up much room, or weigh much, but may be the difference between having something to drink and not. A metal cup, or the type of metal cup you find with some army canteens is good to have, too, as you may need to boil water.

    As has already been mentioned, a good range finder and binoculars are extremely valuable. That 200 yard shot may become a 400 yard shot after you use your range finder, or vice versa. Knowing the exact range to your target is invaluable information.

    A good, but small, GPS is good to have. It's easy to get lost. And, if you have to leave one in the field over night, marking it with a GPS to get back to it makes life a lot easier. I killed a mulie buck about ten years ago and would still be looking for it if I had not used my GPS to mark it. I had to leave it overnight, and the next morning was very foggy. Nothing looked the same, but I was able to walk right to where I left it thanks to my GPS.

    One thing that has worked for me in the past is to find a good place to just sit and watch, especially for the first day of a multi-day hunt. Try to watch a large area, and stay put all day long. If you see anything moving, regardless of sex or species, note the time of day. Since wild animals seem to feed on a 6 hour cycle, that will give you a clue as to what time of day they will be moving for the remainder of the hunt. And, you just may get lucky and not need a second day.

    Good luck with your hunt. I'm sure you'll do well.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    ...more homework...

    ...mark out property ownership/ boundaries/ possible conflicts, all access/ egress in your area. Sucks to pack out a couple quarters a mile & a half, then find out a couple days later there was a rd. you coulda used a 1/4mi. away. Would also suck to shoot something on one side of the fence, have it get to the other side, & not know what your legal status regarding recovery of game. Best to be ahead of the game...
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    wildgene wrote: »
    ...more homework...

    ...mark out property ownership/ boundaries/ possible conflicts, all access/ egress in your area. Sucks to pack out a couple quarters a mile & a half, then find out a couple days later there was a rd. you coulda used a 1/4mi. away. Would also suck to shoot something on one side of the fence, have it get to the other side, & not know what your legal status regarding recovery of game. Best to be ahead of the game...

    That part will be fairly easy: 90%+ of this state is public (the virtual antithesis of Nebraska, which is 90%+ private). The big gotach is in 164, where the duckwater Indian Reservation covers the majority of the unit. You don't want to screw that up. Other than the few cabins in the foothills at the base of the major peaks, the rest is fair game. That said, there is no excuse for not checking just in case a during these scouting trips. That's probably what step 1 will be for me in the scouting process: get in there and figure out basic access to the major peaks.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 6,601 Senior Member
    Luis,

    I have one other thing to add.

    Don't think you have to go a million miles into the back country to find mule deer. I killed a 4x4 two years ago that was less than 1/4 mile from private land. The elk I killed last year was about 1 mile from private land.

    In some cases, deer and elk will hang right along the boundary between public and private land, especially if the private land is not hunted.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    JerryBobCo wrote: »
    Luis,

    I have one other thing to add.

    Don't think you have to go a million miles into the back country to find mule deer. I killed a 4x4 two years ago that was less than 1/4 mile from private land. The elk I killed last year was about 1 mile from private land.

    In some cases, deer and elk will hang right along the boundary between public and private land, especially if the private land is not hunted.

    That is a good point, though ith the number of tags given out in this region, I have a feeling I'll be forced to go deep once the pressure hits. This area apprently holds the second largest deer herd in the state (second only to the Ruby Mtns.), but it also has a big tag allotment to go along with it. Most of the online esearch I've done thus far says that having a deep country back-up plan is essential to being successful out here. Compounding my situational diffulty is that I do NOT know this area at all. It was recommended by a friend and I have exactly one weekend of coyote hunting in that region for reference. That has to change in a hurry. It's not how I prefer to select an area, but when you only have 1 year in a state, and this may be your only tag over a 4-year tour, it's how it's gonna be, so I have to make the best of it. I'll post an update as soon as I get my butt back in those hills.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • justin10mmjustin10mm Senior Member Posts: 688 Senior Member
    In '09 I hunted mule deer for the first time in far western Colorado. We made some mistakes but for the most part the trip was a success.

    Some stuff that helped make the trip more enjoyable and successful:

    a 1 pound propane lamp - puts out plenty light and lasts surprisingly long, much better than a generator and electric lights

    a propane dual burner Colman style stove - much quicker and safer than a campfire

    collapsible camp chairs and table - much better than sitting/eating on the ground

    quality handheld GPS - I wouldn't leave camp without it

    good binoculars - self explanatory, I didn't fully appreciate the need until I was there, my 8x36 binos worked but 10x40 binos would have been better

    sturdy set of collapsible shooting stix - indispensable for those long shots

    pack frame - makes retrieval of game much easier

    quality flashlight and small head light - don't trust a wally world special flashlight out in the boonies in lion country

    Find out all you can about the area you will be hunting well ahead of time - unfortunately for us the area we were in suffered a major winter kill the year before that we didn't know about until we got there. The deer we saw were all on the small side, it seemed most of the big boys didn't make it through the past winter.

    I managed to connect on a small buck the last afternoon, but he paled in comparison to the winter killed buck my hunting partner found.

    Scan5-3.jpg
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,379 Senior Member
    Justin -

    Congrats on making that hunt a success despite the tough break on that winter kill! I'd be more than happy just not getting skunked in my case because, like you, I'm a total newbie. Not only am I a newbie, I'm a newbie going on a DIY hunt for a species I've only laid eyes on a handful of times. I enjoy the challenge and have already been in contact with the wildlife biologists in the area I plan to hunt. They have been extremely helpful in getting me pointed the right way. The plan is, in two weeks, to camp at a military campsite near my area and roll into the mountains for the whole weekend. The spot I'm eyeing is a wilderness area, so vehicle access is restricted: a good thing, in my eyes.

    I will definitely look into a Coleman type stove as you mentioned, though my friend has one that runs on white gas. I like these portable stoves better because, as you said, they are faster and they are also a much lower risk to the create a forest fire if used properly. As for the handheld GPS, I am actually about to upgrade my now ancient Garmin eTrex Vista (LCD - no color, no topo maps from circa 2003) with a Garmin Oregon 550T (color, topo maps of the US included, WAY faster response - especially the compass - and signal sensitivity).

    Another excellent investment I made that will be a huge help: National Geographic TOPO! Nevada state software. Absolutely excellent program that allows you to create and print several different scales of US Geologic Service topographic maps of Nevada, complete with compass rose, distance scales, title, magnetic variation, etc. You can plot your routes with exact distances and upload it to your GPS. Did I mention that you get a free hunt unit overlay download with purchase of the software. At $50 retail, it costs as much a just 3-4 printed USGS maps and provides way more flexibility. Print up some maps on Tyvek "paper" with a LaserJet printer and you have any scale/position topo map you desire.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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