The Western Hunter's blog

Expanding Your Options With Primitive Weapons

When I write about special hunts and draw odds, I’m usually focused on rifle hunts.  I vastly prefer to use my rifles over any other weapon as they are more interesting to me than archery and muzzleloading equipment, but in reality I use all three weapons.  However, I do not hunt with primitive weapons solely for the challenge, the only reason I’ll pick one up is to expand my hunting options. 

Moose Hunting Overview

For a little bit of a change of pace, let’s talk about moose hunting as a nonresident.  Because I’m trying to focus on DIY hunts, I’m going to ignore Canada’s opportunities and resident-only hunts in the US.  By limiting our scope to states that offer nonresident moose hunting we have just a handful of places to consider:  Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

Record Book Research: Utah, Arizona, Montana and Nevada Mule Deer

So, for the final installment on mule deer record book research, we’re going to take a look at Nevada, Arizona, Montana and Utah.   The order of recent submissions also seems to mirror the all time rankings of these four states, with Utah on top of Arizona, which is ahead of Montana, and Nevada bringing up the rear.  I know I’ll be leaving out California, Oregon and Washington, but mule deer aren’t even the most numerous deer species in those states.

Utah is one of those states that usually comes to mind when thinking about mule deer hunting, but if you’ve read many of my past articles, you’ll know that I’m not a huge fan of the state of Utah's deer hunting outside of the 2 main trophy areas: the Paunsaugunt and the Henry Mountains.

Record Book Research: Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico Mule Deer

In my last article on record book mule deer research, I really focused on Colorado, which is head and shoulders above the other Rocky Mountain States in terms of recent and historical mule deer entries. This time, I’d like to go into a little more depth on New Mexico, Wyoming, and Idaho, which are the next three highest entry states (but even combined wouldn’t reach Colorado’s total).  That’ll leave Arizona, Utah, Montana and Nevada for the next entry.  I’ll leave the three Pacific states out of this series, and maybe save them for a blacktail article down the road.  There’s so few mule deer entries from California, Oregon, Washington and Great Plains states like Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Texas and Oklahoma that you really can’t learn anything or find much for patterns that you didn’t already expect based on the species distribution.

Record Book Research: Colorado Mule Deer

I could just title this article, “why Colorado is the best overall state for mule deer hunting," but since that won’t apply to trophy research for elk in future articles, let’s just go with Record Book Research.  It had been a while since I last picked up a Boone and Crockett Record book, as my last edition was dated 1996 (Records of North American Elk and Mule Deer, 2nd edition).  I was obviously way overdue, and looking at 50 year old records from the heyday of mule deer hunting just doesn’t really apply any more.  Anyway, I did finally pick up the soon to be outdated 27th Big Game Awards book (2007-2009), which has the latest deer and elk entries, and wanted to share some of my findings and assumptions with you.

Mule Deer Rut Hunt Rundown

While writing my last entry on easy hunts, I felt that doing a late season or mule deer rut hunt was just too large of a topic to cover in a single paragraph. There are many aspects to mule deer rut hunting, especially as a trophy hunt, but here I wanted to focus on finding those mid to late November and early December hunts for an easier hunt.

Three aspects make these hunts a higher success opportunity. One is the seeking phase of the rut. Bucks will be more actively looking for does, and therefore on the move a little more, increasing their visibility. Two, they tend to congregate in areas of increased visibility during the rut, as winter ranges are not usually heavily timbered. Three, there are simply more deer in a smaller area.  All of these factors combine to typically increase success by 10 to 20% (sometimes much, much more) in a unit from say a mid October Colorado 2nd season hunt to a mid November 4th season hunt.

Easy Western Hunts

The last article on introducing new hunters to the sport got me to thinking about what makes for an easy hunt out west.  Very few general season units have success rates above 30%, and finding units where the general public can score at least 50% of the time is pretty rare.  My focus here isn’t going to just be meat hunts, but high success, good opportunity to get into game types of hunts.  Some of these will require advanced planning and preparation and/or a few preference points.

So let’s define “easy” here. I’m talking about hunts that can be pretty close to a sure thing with only a fair amount of physical effort as long as you aren’t too selective in your harvest criteria.  Though I mostly intended an article like this for new or inexperienced hunters, these are the kind of hunts that I consider “meat hunts," with or without toothpicks (antlers).

Introducing New Hunters to the Sport

Getting my girlfriend her first big game animal over the weekend brought up the need to set everything up properly for a newby’s first successful hunt.  While I do not have children, I have been taking a new person or two under my wing about every year for the past four or five years and do have some opinions on how to do it right.  I don’t want to focus just on children, as I believe inexperienced adults are even more important to the future of hunting.

For starters, I’m looking to create a pleasant experience for a new person.  A pleasant experience doesn’t mean a successful hunt.  It should be a low-anxiety, enjoyable day afield.  A new hunter will often fixate on an aspect of the hunt that you may not have expected, so the conditions surrounding that experience are important if they are to be able to relax and take in the situation. 

Unit Hopping

I’m an incessant unit hopper. I have a handful of places that I like to return to, but it seems like I’m adding at least one or two new units every year to the rotation.  This can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re after.  Some people like a known entity and stability, others are always after greener pastures. So what I’d like to address in this article is the possible rationale for staying put or pushing on. 

Very few people have always hunted the same place out west. Some people grow up going to an elk camp that only hunts a specific area, but the vast majority had an elk or deer camp that has moved around a few times in their lifetimes. I’ve talked to people who refuse to move on, either because they feel like they know the woods they hunt and don’t want to learn a new area, or because they doubt they could convince the rest of the camp that it’s time to find greener pastures.

Low Country Mule Deer Hunting

In trying to cover some of the things that I don’t think books and magazine have done a good enough job explaining how to hunt, I realized that mule deer hunting foothill and canyon type country seems to not get enough press.   Books like David Long’s “Public Land Mulies” are great, but have nothing to offer those who don’t draw a limited tag for early high country hunts, especially in Wyoming where a nonresident can’t even hunt a wilderness area without a guide. While that is a spectacular way to hunt, the tactics simply don’t apply to country that you can routinely hunt. Since it's early October, and many of you have rifle seasons that are about to start, I figured it was time to address some of the lower country options.

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