“The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is a deer indigenous to western North America; it is named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. There are believed to be several subspecies, including the black-tailed deer.
Unlike the related white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule deer are generally more associated with the land west of the Missouri River, and more specifically with the Rocky Mountain region of North America. Mule deer have also been introduced to Argentina.
The most noticeable differences between white-tailed and mule deer are the size of their ears, the color of their tails, and the configuration of their antlers. In many cases, body size is also a key difference”. – From wikipedia
They are hunted widely throughout the western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Here’s a buck that I have watched grow up over the last few years. I can only imagine what he may look like next year – should he survive another Colorado winter and a long hunting season. The light may not be very good, but as you can see, he is a good buck by any measure.
Unfortunately, this buck roams from private land to private land and my guess is that he never steps foot in a place where you could hunt him. But then again, perhaps he does.
There is a small piece of almost inaccessible public land that borders his normal range. I think I shall hunt him there, next year. Or should I say, I will try.
A man has to look forward to something, particularly through the long interval between seasons.
The infamous Arizona Strip is home to world class mule deer hunting, and I happened to be lucky enough to draw an archery tag. My wife and our thirteen-month-old daughter came with me and dropped me off so I could take a quick two-mile hike and meet up with them right at dark.
I had an hour and a half of light as I headed away from the road into a wilderness area with only my bow and radio. The area was nothing but thick pines and lots of fallen trees, with old two-acre spot burns every quarter mile. As I came to the last open area, I only had about forty-five minutes of shooting light left.
It was a large meadow with nothing but fallen trees and six-foot jack pines every so often. I could see a small mound directly in front of me about 20 yards away that would give me a view of the entire area, so I slowly walked to the top of it and began to scan the meadow.
As soon as I looked to my left I saw a doe staring right at me on the far side of the clearing. I froze every muscle in my body and watched her for five seconds before I saw a buck pick up its head while chewing some grass giving me the opportunity to see how big he was. I could tell he was a four-point with what looked like tall deep forks in the back. This was the buck that fits exactly what I wanted.
To his right, I then saw three or four other smaller bucks and all were still feeding. I could tell that the doe was the only one who knew I was there. I slowly grabbed my rangefinder and brought it up to my right eye.
I couldn’t get an accurate reading on her or the buck since the buck fever kicked in and I was shaking so bad. My rangefinder read 28, 238, 100, 15, 73. I took a deep breath and then ranged a big pine tree off to her left and it read 102 yards.
Since I was in full camouflage and had a very soft breeze blowing on my face, I knew the doe wasn’t too spooked as she didn’t know what I was. I stayed frozen for 10 minutes until she turned her head to the right and I slowly ducked down so that a big fallen tree hid me from her line of sight. I then belly crawled to my left about 5 feet to a tree to block myself from her view.
I could still see the bucks feeding and facing away from me. I crawled straight towards the doe making sure to keep the tree directly between us. After crawling as slow as I could for 15 minutes, I finally made it to the tree. I slowly stood up and took one step past the tree and a small buck looked up right at me.
I knew I couldn’t go any further. I grabbed my rangefinder and ranged the bigger buck, he was sixty-five yards from me. He was still feeding and stepped broadside. I attached my release and drew my bow, putting my seventy-yard pin just below the base of his belly.
At full draw, I realized that I had a six-inch gap between two small pine trees just forty yards away. I knew if I could get just the arrow between those trees the flight path to the buck would be clear. I looked back at the buck and a smaller buck had stepped out in front of him. I decided to wait at full draw to see if he would move out of the way.
After about 30 seconds he took several slow steps and he was out of the way but now the bigger buck was facing directly away from me. After roughly 5 seconds, he took one small step to his left giving me a steep quartering away shot. I moved my pins from his heart to about three-quarters of the way back on his body and I softly squeezed the trigger on my release and held my finish.
I then watched the glowing red knock fly perfectly through the six-inch window until the shaft of the arrow disappeared as it penetrated deep inside the deer’s innards only leaving the fletching of a twenty-eight-inch arrow sticking out of the buck. As he ran off the 6 smaller bucks followed.
I marked the location on my radio and then met up with my wife and daughter before it got too dark. Then after an hour wait, and a slow thirty-minute tracking, we found my buck only a few hundred yards from where I shot him. These moments are why I bow hunt, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outcome with my family.
January is the lean, mean month of the year in western Colorado, and it’s been mighty cold here too. Hopefully, this guy will suffer through the harsh realities of winter just fine, eager to see the bounties of high summer grass and the glory of another rocky mountain autumn once again.
May we all be so fortunate.
I would truly love to get a good, long look at him next year, preferably while camouflaged, and close, looking down the shaft of a razor-sharp arrow.
One can always hope, after all. It’s what hunter’s dreams, and long, blustery winters are all about…
Take a look at this short video of two mule deer bucks doing what young bucks do, although they are probably still new to the game and may not be completely sure exactly what makes them do it. The November rut is a ways off yet, but it helps to get some practice in beforehand. Just getting shed of some nervous energy, I suppose.
The clip is courtesy of Dave Massender of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dave recorded this little bit of fun from his office window, and the deer were sparring in his backyard. Clicking antlers is a sound not heard near often enough.
Many thanks to Dave. We should all be so lucky to have such an interesting backyard!