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Scouting for mule deer (or "a new kind of eye chart exam")

Six-GunSix-Gun Senior MemberPosts: 8,155 Senior Member
Ok -

So, I found out that mule deer really do exist in Nevada this past weekend. I did some scouting with a friend in the absolutely massive 161-164 game unit here in Nevada after being drawn for an early season mule deer buck tag. I know nothing about this area, so it was very important that I start asking questions and taking any opportunity, right now, to get my eyes on the game and where they call home.

We went out to a spot where my friend from work has seen many mule deer during the regular season. The viewing spot we chose sits just over 9,000 ft. elevation in an area that tops out around 10,000 ft. and bottoms out around 7,000. The closest "deery" looking area was a facing peak and it's adjoining foothills about 1 mile away. There were deer out there, but boy, was I in for a lesson in just how far our mule deer can be from your scouting point and the amount of ground you may have to cover out here just to get within shooting range. Keep in mind that this is all new to me, and for those of you who are not familiar with mule deer or their habitat, I have some fodder for your imagination.

The deer we saw were just barely visible with the naked eye. Below are some shots that I took using a 300mm telephoto lens. Still, despite the magnification, you can see just how tiny these deer look. If you don't have quality optics out here, consider yourself screwed.

This was the first deer of the morning. It heard us coming up the hill in the truck from incredibly far out and I got this shot of it bounding toward the top of a foothill...
Muledeeronthemountain2.jpg

...and then stopping for a look at us.

Muledeeronthemountain.jpg

Then, another group came in from the right on the face of the mountain across from us...

Morningmulies2.jpg

...and a couple more came to join them.

Morningmulies1.jpg

The rising sun actually made it even harder to see these deer as they fed across the mountian face, as the glare made it harder to see their coat against the ground.

Morningmulies3.jpg

This doe was the closest deer we saw all day, and she was still a good 350 or so yards away:

Lonemuliedoe.jpg

There is no way in hell that my 12x Nikon Monarch ATB binos - even on a tripod - can buy me the descrimination needed to reliably tell a doe from a buck at most distances we saw deer, let alone decipher the quality of a buck at that kind of distance. This scouting trip absolutely locked me in on buying a Leupold Gold Ring HD spotting scope. I found an excellent price on one and will have it with me on the next trip out. Regardless, if you've never done Western mule deer hunting or scouting, be warned - you'd better be in good shape! Odds are, you will, at some point, have a long walk ahead of you.
Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.

Replies

  • Wheelsman56Wheelsman56 Member Posts: 225 Member
    Some beautiful country thats for sure. I can even imagine hunting a place like that, good luck with the scouting. I am interested to see how your hunt turns out Luis, if you keep up your current success streak you will run out of wall space soon!
  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 8,238 Senior Member
    Six-Gun wrote: »
    Ok -


    This scouting trip absolutely locked me in on buying a Leupold Gold Ring HD spotting scope.

    Make sure you get a camera attachment for it..............
    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 13,436 Senior Member
    YOU got to go deer hunting today, albeit with a camera, but still, you are on the right path.
    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: 8,155 Senior Member
    Some beautiful country thats for sure. I can even imagine hunting a place like that, good luck with the scouting. I am interested to see how your hunt turns out Luis, if you keep up your current success streak you will run out of wall space soon!

    Tell me about it! When I looked at the map after I got drawn, I gulped hard. That area, to the eye, is roughly the size of the Nevada Test & Training range or 12,140 square kilometers... 2.9 million acres. However you prefer to view it, it's HUGE. Then, when you get out to see it in person, you realize that the distances to walk to even get a sensible shot at a deer you see might not start in yards, but possibly miles. I immediately started calling wilidfe biologists responsible for that area, ordering books on scouting/hunting mule deer, and contacting friends who have hunted and know the area for any lick of advice on where to start. I even made some posts on here and joined a few new forums specializing in this kind of hunting for tips. This is a tough season to hunt, with a success rate that didn't quite crack 40% last year. That said, it's a game to me now and I want to win. The guy who took me out this weekend has had multiple successful hunts in this unit and already gave me some places to start.

    If I don't get a deer out of this, it won't be for lack of effort.
    orchidman wrote: »
    Make sure you get a camera attachment for it..............

    I actually ordered the full kit [link below shows all of it] which comes with the tripod, the portable soft case, and the camera adapter at a very significant discount (several hundred dollars under retail).

    http://arealmansreviews.blogspot.com/2010/07/leupold-gold-ring-hd-spotting-scope-kit.html
    CHIRO1989 wrote: »
    YOU got to go deer hunting today, albeit with a camera, but still, you are on the right path.

    Hah! I said something to the same effect when we left for the mountain. I told my friend that the weapon of choice is a Canon EOS Rebel T2i with a telephoto lens. There was another incredible sight on the mountain - MUCH further up and just below the actual summit - that was simply too far away to photograph and completely invisible to the naked eye. It was the largest herd of Desert (Nelson's) Big Horn sheep I've ever seen. We only saw them through the binos after a few passes and soon realized there were more than just the 8 or I saw we initially counted.

    Shortly after we spotted them, we heard a thundering rumble from just below those first few sheep and saw several others fleeing down the mountain for their lives as, what appear at great distance to be, a very large ram (big enough that you could make out that his horns were significantly larger than any others on that slope) came barreling down the mountain, causing a rock slide. I couldn't believe we could hear those rocks from so incredibly far away. As the other sheep ran, this guy got up onto a rocky outlook just staring down the mountain at the mess he made. Shortly after things settled down, we notcied that ruckus forced about 30 more sheep from out of hiding in various trees and rocky hidy holes. We counted 39 total and believe there were more since they kept wandering in and out from beind the far trees. It's stuff like that that makes getting up at 3 AM with no gun in your hand just as cool as actually hunting sometimes.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,871 Senior Member
    :tooth:


    See, what did I tell ya? Near the upper 1/3 of a ridge, they vanish up and over said ridge (but will stop and look back at you almost 100% broadsided) and you're gonna need some serious glass. Oh, and be ready for a longer shot then you probably expected lol

    40% for a general season mule deer hunt is actually pretty dang high. Again, you aren't in the Midwest or South chasing whiteys that some people consider pests because they're so thick in population(hence the reason many members here can walk into the general store and buy half a dozen deer tags for multiple, months long seasons and we try our butts off for ONE tag every few years, if that). Out west, most general hunt animals seem to average in the 18-25% success rate, some are obviously higher, such as moose or sheep, because there might only be 10 tags in a unit and 80% success rates.
    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.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    :tooth:


    See, what did I tell ya? Near the upper 1/3 of a ridge, they vanish up and over said ridge (but will stop and look back at you almost 100% broadsided) and you're gonna need some serious glass. Oh, and be ready for a longer shot then you probably expected lol

    40% for a general season mule deer hunt is actually pretty dang high. Again, you aren't in the Midwest or South chasing whiteys that some people consider pests because they're so thick in population(hence the reason many members here can walk into the general store and buy half a dozen deer tags for multiple, months long seasons and we try our butts off for ONE tag every few years, if that). Out west, most general hunt animals seem to average in the 18-25% success rate, some are obviously higher, such as moose or sheep, because there might only be 10 tags in a unit and 80% success rates.

    Excuse me - WALK to a store? You're giving me too much credit. When I lived in Nebraska, the only "walk" involved in buying a deer tag involved walking to my computer, going to the Nebraska Game and Parks website, filling out an online form and pressing "PRINT." :tooth: This draw business is for the birds!

    But seriously, just by asking around, you can tell why so many people fail in this game. Many of the sucessful guys I have talked with describe about 75% of the opening day hunters as guys who just want to drive the roads grazing the foothills for a peek at a deer. Very few want to set up a base camp and hike anywhere, let alone cross multiple saddles. It goes without saying that the majority of bucks worth talking about are going to be well away from any roads or vehicles the second the first shot is fired. Not only that, but after seeing how tough it is to see these things sitting dead still with stationary optics, I garauntee a lot of them blaze right past deer right in front of their faces. Distance is how I plan to make my money in this hunt. My most successful hunts - for virtually any game - have always been the ones where I was willing to put in the up-front effort and seperate myself from the crowds. Seldom have I done a damned thing at the closest spot to the public land entrance gate. Similarly, the best pheasant hunts I've had took place well over a mile from the closest roads (where the edges and ditches had been picked clean of juvenille roosters too stupid to get far away from the truck noise.) The big boys always lurk where nobody wants to go, and it is my intention to go exactly there.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,871 Senior Member
    Something tells me you are going to do just fine ;)
    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.
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 22,197 Senior Member
    (hence the reason many members here can walk into the general store and buy half a dozen deer tags for multiple, months

    TAGS????? What are these "TAGS" of which you speak??
    Buy a hunting license and have a place to hunt. Kill 2 deer a day, only one of which can be a buck, and a max of 4 bucks a season. Does are limited to the 2 a day, from the start of bow season in mid Oct. to the end of gun season Jan 31. LEGALLY over 200 deer a season (If you bow and gun hunt, and get your two every day)
    :beer: :tooth:
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,871 Senior Member
    So just a hunting license eh? How much in a non-rez license?
    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.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Paul and I have been going over this one for a few years now. The non-res license is something like $175, cheaper than a single non-res TAG in Nebraska.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    knitepoet wrote: »
    Buy a hunting license and have a place to hunt.

    How hard and expensive is it to find a place to hunt?
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 22,197 Senior Member
    Depends, I have acces to wife's family's old home place which is 320 acres.

    There's some public land, but it's normally crowded with "bubbas". Hunting clubs have fees dependent on their size. There are quite a few state owned Wild Life Management Areas, but their gun schedule is limited and numbers of hunters is normally HIGH during their gun and ML hunts. The majority of the times the WMA are archery only

    edited to add: Though the only deer I killed this past season, I shot off my back deck
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


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