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Joined: 11/14/2006
Posts: 68
How to tell the difference?

I'm just curious what is the easiest way to tell the difference between a blacktail and a mule deer?

I know they look slight different but don't know the exact differences as I am new to hunting, what exactly should I be looking for? I have also heard that Mule usually do not have eyeguards, is this accurate and if so how accurate?

I'm hoping to hunt some blacktail next year and want to be sure I don't accidentally shoot the wrong one as I have a feeling that wouldn't go over too well.

If I saw them standing next to each other I am 100% confident that I could tell you which one is which, but somehow I don't think it's likely I'll just happen to find them standing next to each other when I'm hunting lol.

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Location: Antelope, Ore
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How to tell the difference?

Are you in Oregon? Here if you are west of a line up on the Cascades, they are all concidered blacktails, east of that line mule deer. Mule deer do at times have eye guards, I'm not sure about blacktails. For sure, once you get on the west side of the Cascades, it's blacktails. Best places are in the Willamett Valley and the coast range. Not many places that aren't private in the valley tho.
Coast range was always better when I was a kid tho so no problem.

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Location: Wa.
Joined: 03/31/2004
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How to tell the difference?

That's a good question.
There may be some Blacktail hunters that won't view this title under Anything Goes. You'll get more response if you post this thread under Blacktail Deer.
The Blacktail are found from the western slope of the Cascades to the Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico.
The Mule deer are found east of the Cascades.

B & C and P & Y will have a distinct discription of what they qualify as a Blacktail Deer or a Mule Deer.

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Location: Canada
Joined: 12/26/2006
Posts: 323
How to tell the difference?

OK........if no one else wants to brave this.

Blacktail weigh anywhere from 110 to 250 live weight, while mule deer will be between 180 and 400 pounds live weight. Blacktail deer on some of the coastal islands can be quite small as with the deer on the Queen Charlotte Islands. They are a reddish color during the summer and reddish/greyish brown during the winter with black accents, while mule deer are noticeably greyer. Blacktail have a tail that is 61/2 to 7 inches long that is brown on top but turns to black on the lower half to third, mulies have a tail about 7 1/2 inches long and it is rope like with a black tip plus it is surrounded by a white rump patch.

Antlers for both are dichotomous and the normal perfect typical antler will have an eye guard and then 4 points. The main beam forks past the eye guard and then forks again. Mule deer antlers are larger overall on average being taller, wider spreads and longer beam length. There are many areas however, where blacktail bucks do not grow very large antlers and mature bucks can just be fork horns or three points, with the typical 4 point being a rarity.

Blacktails are basically found from the summit of the Cascade and Coast Ranges west to the Pacific and on the off shore islands........from central California all the way to Alaska. There are two sub-species, the Columbian blacktail which is found in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia north to about Rivers Inlet. From there north into Alaska they are Sitka blacktail (same for the ones on Kodiak Is.)

Mule deer are found from the summit of these ranges east through the rockies and into the great plains. There is a fair amount of interbreeding between the two along the dividing line and deer there will often display mixed physical characteristics.

That is just the basics boys so please don't pick it apart to badly. Big smile

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Joined: 11/14/2006
Posts: 68
How to tell the difference?

Thanks for all of the replies so far. For those that asked I am in the Northern California area.

Makwa you mentioned the white rump on the mule tails. Is this unique to mulies or will some black tails also have this white rump as that would be a good way to distinguish them if it is specific to mulies.

The other thing that caught my attention was when you mentioned the colors. Is it safe to say basically that any "colorful" deer will be a blacktail while a grey deer would be a mulie.

And just out of curiousities sake, what would happen if I accidentally shot the wrong type of deer? Would they simply look the other way, would there be a fine etc...?

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Joined: 02/05/2007
Posts: 2
How to tell the difference?

cause one is about the size of minature poodle

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Location: Montana
Joined: 06/25/2006
Posts: 18
How to tell the difference?

what part of N. Cal are you at? that is the first question, I lived i Napa for something like 14 years and everything around there is blacktails. i would hunt Napa, Lake and Trinity counties for blacktails the latter county i hunted most. Talked to my buddys that still live down in that area and they killed a couple of real dandy bucks this year up in Lake county. In Ca. I-5 is the border line for blacktails all the way up to redding then it heads to the west on 299 then back north on highway3. that is according to B&C, we would hunt Trinity county the most cause we had a cabin up next to weaverville. there is some great hunting in the area around there. We (my dad, best friend, uncle and I) would allways kill atleast 2 bucks out of our cabin every year. That might not sound so good but look at the kill ratios around that zone and you will see we were WAY above the kill %. But i dont want to knock Napa or Lake county either they have produced some real nice bucks for us also. Blue ridge in Napa is a good place if your willin to do some foot work. Snow mountain in Lakecounty can be good too. My best buck just missed the book by 3 points and i will tell ya it was in one of those three places and probably not the one you would think. Thumbs up

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Location: Antelope, Ore
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How to tell the difference?

Welcome DEDDUX. I have an Aunt that live's in Weaverville. she'a been in that area most her life. Her husband worked for the forrest service out at Coffee Creek. I spent some time with them and it was beautiful there. Also used to haul lumber out of Hayfork. Really nice country up there. Lot's of bears!

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Joined: 02/25/2007
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How to tell the difference?

Just FYI, if you're looking to put a buck in the books, only those blacktails West of I-5 are considered Columbian Blacktails. Those east of the interstate are considered to be Mulies because of overlapping summer range and some mixing of mulies and blacktails, at least according to P&Y. I think the rule is too narrow a range for blacktails personally, but that's just my opinion.

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Location: Antelope, Ore
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How to tell the difference?

Welcome aboard solo hunter. I don't chase records so have not heard that discription. But there are no mule deer in Woodburn, Ore and it's east of I 5. Ever wonder how record keeping group's figure this out? Make's me wonder if you shot a huge buck in say Lyon's, Ore, well east of I 5 and said you killed it west of I 5, how would they know? It's all in the same unit for hunting purposes. Now if you shot one in Marion Forks, that is certainly a gray area for deer and my understanding is they do interbreed up there.

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Location: Wa.
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How to tell the difference?

Don
What he's saying is the same thing that I mentioned in an earlier post.
Blacktail hang out all through the west side of the Cascades but Pope and Young have determined that it is a Blacktail if it was taken west of I-5 and a Mulie if east.
I wasn't sure where they determined there borders. So, if you want to get a Blacktail in the books. It needs to be taken west of I-5.

This is something P&Y and possibly B&C determined for clarification.
eye roll I know???

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