The author arrowed this mule deer after passing on several younger mule deer and blowing a stock on an even bigger buck as well
Bowhunting mule deer can mean different things to different people. Anybody that has spent much time in mule deer country can tell you how dumb a young mule deer can be. It would not be much of a challenge to drive around on the road until you see a herd of immature mule deer, slip out of the vehicle and off the road, and arrow a 1 or 2 year old mule deer dink. These deer do not know any better and for someone who is really passionate about bow hunting mule deer, this would not be considered an achievement.
For the serious mule deer bow hunter, a mature mule deer is what dreams are made of. A mature mule deer is on a different playing field than young mule deer. Although a mule deer can successfully breed at 3 years of age, serious mule deer bow hunters typically refer to a mature mule deer as 4 years old or more. This is the age when you start to see their antler growth potential and their ability to evade hunters. While antler size will continue to increase through at least their 6th year depending on nutrition, most hunters (regardless of weapon) will agree that a four year old buck is a shooter and has developed the skills to keep himself alive even with rifle hunters all over the place.
Unfortunately, not many mule deer live to be over three years of age due to the fact that they are shot when they are young and dumb. In general hunting areas where there is no limit on the amount of hunters, especially rifle hunters, for a mule deer buck to reach maturity is to overcome unreal odds. If one is able to make it through a few years of hunting seasons, then it has a sixth sense to overcome hunters and to take one with a bow is one of the hardest challenges a hunter can experience. In the rest of this article, we will discuss the tactics that can make a hunter consistent at bowhunting mule deer.
Methods for Bowhunting Mule Deer
There are several methods that can be employed to harvest a mature mule deer. The most common are Spot and Stalk and stand hunting.
Stand Hunting: Tree Stands and Ground Blinds
One of the (dare I say) easiest methods to take a big mule deer buck with archery equipment is using a tree stand or a ground blind. While sitting there waiting for a buck may not require a lot of energy, it does take a lot of patience. Patience is the easy part. The real work is finding a good spot that a mature mule deer will walk by in daylight hours. This takes a lot of work with preseason scouting, trail cameras, and patterning bucks so you will have a good idea of where they will be when the season arrives. It is much harder than it sounds and takes a lot of time to be consistent year to year.
Of course, you can just put your tree stand or ground blind at any waterhole, food source, or other high deer traffic area and be successful on a mature mule deer, but this will require a lot of luck and possibly patience. Once you do find a good area that produces large bucks, it is reasonable to assume there will be more there in the years to come, so this type of hunting does get easier once you have established a good area.
Spot and Stalk:
Though requiring a little bit more energy than hunting out of a tree stand or blind, spot and stalk bow hunting is usually a faster paced way of bowhunting mule deer. The object is to spot a big mature mule deer buck and then stalk to within bow range undetected.
The number one thing to remember when spot and stalk bowhunting mule deer is to be patient. If conditions are not right, then wait for them to improve. This might mean waiting for the buck to bed down in a better place where you will be able to get closer, or waiting for the wind to pick up or change direction to not only carry your scent away from the buck, but also to cover up your noise once you get close.
Most of the mule deer bow hunters that consistently harvest large mule deer begin their season well before the bucks are even done growing their antlers. It is important to have a good idea of what the area holds for big bucks so you can develop a minimum size and an order to which bucks you will focus on first.