Mule Deer Hunting Tips and Techniques for a Successful Hunt
Q. How important is it to get rid of human scent when you are hunting for bucks during the rut?
Hunter Plemmons – NC
A. Hunter, Very important! Out of the rut you generally have worry about a single deer catching your scent. In the rut often times a mature buck will be with does. The more deer, the more concern about your scent. I feel your scent, no matter what time of the year, should always be your number one concern.
Q. What are the best methods of hunting mule deer when you have a full moon plus warm weather?
David Marrou – CO
A. Dave, Warm weather and a full moon are, at best, horrible hunting conditions. One of my friends once gave me a book called Moon Struck. The book would tell you what days would be your best and worst hunting day. Much like an ocean fisherman lives by his tide books telling him the best days to fish. I wondered as I read the book if other hunters took the time while filling out applications to check the cycle of the moon, not likely. Nor does it matter, your favorite area has a set season. Mother Nature can make the worst and best hunting condition and there’s nothing we can do about it. I have found usually while hunting a warm full moon that deer seem to get in cover early, and feed out early in the evening. A fisherman has to fish to eat, and much like him a deer hunter has to put aside conditions. Just hunt hard and be aggressive no matter what the weather is doing.
Q. Is it true that when a buck is in its old age, the size of its antlers get smaller?
Matt Robison – UT
A. Matt, Yes it is true that bucks antler size will regress in the later years of he life. The antler size of deer is determined by genetics, feed, and general health of each buck. When a buck gets older say eight to ten, he will start to slowly lose his ability to forage productively. Basically the tooth wear and loss of teeth will reduce the animals intake of forbes needed to properly supply the antler growth he had as a younger buck. The degree of tooth wear changes in different regions due to different feed and soil conditions. A buck in the wild would rarely live more than twelve years old, and his antlers will be significantly smaller than in the productive years of four to eight years old.
Q. Can you tell how old a buck is just by looking at his antlers after you killed it?
Lorne – Sydney Mines, Cape Breton
A. Lorne, judging the age of a buck just from the antlers is difficult at best. However outside of the antlers there are a few different things you can look at to give you some idea of how old and mature a buck is. One of the main things I look at on a deer is his body. If the front chest area has a big “V” I know I am looking at a mature buck. You will start to see this prominent “V” at about five years of age and it will get bigger the older they get. Like a horse, a buck will develop a sway back when they reach eight to 10 years of age. Every big mature deer also acquires a big Roman nose with the hump two to three inches below the eyes. A mature deer is generally five years and older. A buck between the age of five and nine years of age will develop their best antlers. As of late I have noticed the best bucks are between seven and nine years of age. When it comes to just antlers you can look at the mass. The older the buck gets the more mass he will put on because the pedicles – base of the antler where it connects to the skull – get bigger every year. An older buck will have shorter tines and more mass, but in some areas these characteristics can also be found on younger deer because of genetics. That is why it is difficult to determine the age of a deer by just its antlers. Up to about four years old you can just see the youngness of the deer. I can take one quick look at a buck and know if he is a mature buck or not by quickly going over the characteristics of his body.
Q. How far do mule deer travel from where they are born? When you spot a deer, will you likely see the same deer within a canyon or two?
Kendall Allgaier – Lehi, Utah
Kendall, absolutely. Unless you are talking about desert deer, most deer are born in a transition area. Once born however, the mother will take its offspring back to the summer range. Wherever the mother takes that deer the very first year is where that deer will return year after year. Also, wherever the mother takes her offspring that first year to the winter range is engraven in the natural instinct of that deer and he will follow it the rest of its life. The mother determines where that deer will spend the rest of its life on the summer and winter ranges. After the first year, the deer follows its instincts, not its mother, back to that same area. Granted, after that first year the deer will grow up and start to herd up with bachelor groups, but it will still go back to the same general area. An average summer range for a deer usually covers two to three miles until the deer starts its migration to the winter range later in the year.