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Rules of Thumb for Field Judging
I'm not an experienced mule deer hunter, but I was wondering what to look for when trying to size up a mulie buck through my binocs. I would think you'd compare the rack to the ears - like 3 times the height of the ears or something like that? What do you guys look for?
I think its:
If its your first Mule deer buck, shoot!!!
Ears to the side is 22"-24"
If it looks like a small elk Shoot!!!
If its out to its ears, and its just as tall shoot!!!
If its got kickers! (anything off the main beams) Shoot!!!!
I could be wrong, but then just rely on you should just shoot!!!
When you're excited - shoot!
Depends on what you consider a trophy. Mule deer scores are not all about just the width. Look at the record books, and you'll see some huge deer that are 24-26" wide. To have a good scoring deer, the things you must have are deep forks, both front and back. That's probably the most important and easiest way to get a good idea of a good deer. You also have to have a 4x4 or better. A 3x3 or 4x3 lose you too many inches in your lost tines and extra mass measurements. If the deer is just out to the ears, look for height. That gives you an idea of length of main beam. Then of course, mass. If you get them all in one package, make the stalk. Or, if the setting is right, the air is crisp and the hunt has been a memory maker, make the stalk anyway.
Deep forks front and back is first.
One correction to Wyone. Mass wouldn't be effected by a 3 X 4 or 3 X 3 since there are always 4 circumference measurements. But, of course a 4 point or better is desirable.
Brow tines also help. They are not always present on mule deer.
Look for 4x4's for good deer. A 4x4 that is 150" with the same frame as a 3x3 turns into a 130" deer.
crab claws need not apply
If it excites you, it's big enough. After you look at a few deer, once you lay eyes on a big buck, you will know it!
If you're really looking for something that is going to score well, all of the above mentioned by Wyone is true.
And just one more thing.....never make your judgement on an animal from behind or on the skyline. Both perspectives will greatly skew what you think you are seeing. Trust me on that....been there!
According to Guy Eastman, 65% of the score is in the front forks. Mass isn't worth much in mule deer.
I look for something like this. My daughters 191".
Notice deep front forks on both sides. Good back forks on both sides. Width past the ears. Brow tines and a few extra stickers. Decent mass.
If you aren't focused on score, there are some areas with genes that produce some great 3x4 bucks.
They come in all different configurations.
Love that picture, Robb! Great buck!
Many times, when looking at mule deer the first thing I notice about a really big buck is the size of his body. Seems like the really big bodied deer carry the bigger racks.
Love trash and abnormal stuff with mule deer. Also love a super typical.
Over many years of chasing mule deer, I have gotten to where I love most all of them and particularly the really old ones.
Good luck and have fun!