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groundhog's picture
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Scouting Mule Deer

How do you scout for Mule Deer, I live at lease three hours from where I hunt mule Deer and find it hard to find the time for scouting. What you tactics when it comes to scouting?

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good question

I find mule deer scouting much more difficult than elk scouting.  Because they tend to be much more migratory, you have to scout where you think they will be in the season you will be hunting.  With elk, they won't be far from where you find them in the summer time, just slightly lower.  With deer, they could be 20 miles further down the drainage.  Most deer hunting is not a high altitude hunting situation, except some archery and early muzzleloader hunts out here.  In mountainous country, deer tend to leave their summer grounds by late October.  Since I normally hunt them in November, I have to find somewhere to intercept them on their way down.  I generally don't spend a lot of time scouting the high country, instead I focus on finding brushy areas where I think the deer will be using that are below classic high country mule deer habitat.  I try to stay within the drainages that have that high country and not go over a ridge or other barrier that seems less likely for them to end up in.  Then I try to take advantage of private crop lands or small sanctuaries that deer may be moving in and out of.  So basically it's a lot of map study, plus some aerial photo study. 

If I'm overly concerned or just curious about the trophy potential in the area, I might consider spending a little time in the high country in August to get an idea of what is out there

If you're going to be able to hunt them in their summer grounds, then it's much more straightforward.  Just head high and glass.

 

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The problem with mule deer is

The problem with mule deer is as Ex said they are where you find them.  Elk are more a creature of habit where a mule deer is like a kid in a store.  They just wander around and then when ever they get trigered to head off the hill down they come.  What I would do is find a long ridge that comes off of the high country and check that out real close.  They like easy walking and that will provide a path for them to head down to their winter ground.  Now what trigers them to come down, it depends on the heard there.  I have seen areas that after the first cold rain storm all the deer leave the high country and are almost to their winter grounds.  I have also seen where they stick around and play in a foot of snow.  It just all depends. 

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I live about 5 hrs from where

I live about 5 hrs from where i hunt, I try to make it over there a few times during the summer. but I've been hunting there for about 10 trs so I know the area pretty well. The elk are usally in the same holes every year. but like what everyone else said deer tend to move around more. I try to get up there a few days prior to hunting to scout the deer.

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Scouting Mule Deer

To me it has been a process over the years, all starting by just driving around on dirt roads looking when I first moved here. In the areas I saw them most, I started giving the same areas a closer look for sign on the ground, glassing, etc. Over the years I kept applying for the same locations that looked most promising in my explorations, as well as got to know those areas by repitition that way. A favorite practice for me was/is getting out right after a rain, driving the dirt roads very slowly looking for fresh tracks along the edge where they had crossed that morning. I'd walk in from there following the tracks, and glassing ahead, find more tracks, beds, etc. Since most areas I hunt deer are more desert-ish than forest, after a fresh rain they were easy to pick up.

I guess I'm saying you have to do the time, even if over a period of months/years to be fairly confident of getting on them, at least to me. That's why I like several back-up areas I've scouted/know within driving distance to my first choice of stops, to be more flexible. Sometimes a certain area has been great, other times dry...

Good luck.

 

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That's a lot of good

That's a lot of good information you have been given. One thing I would add is get some good maps. Look for the water and good feeding grounds. If your hunting late season their are a lot websites out there to get migration information from. Colorado has a good one. NDIS Map it! I believe is what it is called. It's linked on the CDOW website. Good luck.

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Thnx

Thanks for all the tips guy's!

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Scouting Mule Deer

You know, one thing I could add in about the glassing, besides just giving it some time, is to try and have a mental grid picture of the scene in front of you. Start in a spot or making a mental square to glass in, and try to identify everything you see... that's a stick, a leaf reflecting sun, a rock, etc. etc. Take an eye rest between squares, then start again. I think this slows you down a little in the process, gives good coverage, sort of keeping you from just passing over everything in a general sweep looking for obvious movement so to say that your eye/brain picks out the easiest. Many times doing this step by step I have caught a patch of white, or a stick that doesn't look quite right, and low and behold it will suddenly move just a bit... an ear flicker, the turning of a head you can partially see, etc.

Anyway, works for me pretty good with bedded game.

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Good tip Unit5A, glassing

Good tip Unit5A, glassing slowly can not be under rated especially if you haven't hd time to scout the area on a regular basis. You never know where those buggers are hiding.

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Good tip Unit5A, glassing

Thanks SOBLE. I've been caught with my pants down so many times by not giving a good look, it isn't funny... not at the time anyway, LOL.

Take care.

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That's a good point on the glassing

One other thing you should do is to look close then look far away.  Deer in direct sun within shooting range should be apparent, but use you binoculars to check out the shady areas first.  3 years ago in Nebraska, I totally blew it on public land on really nice mule deer buck by not heeding my own advice.  I had my eye on a little forkhorn whitetail and was watching him move up a hill, into the timber.  I just assumed that because I didn't see anything in the large clearing, that there was nothing there.  But as soon as I took a step out into the open, a mule deer buck that was standing in the shadows watching me glass the little deer and the surrounding country blasted out into the open heading for denser cover.  If I had just looked along the edges, I would have seen him looking at me and should have been able to shoot him.  Nice buck, real shame I screwed up.

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