In my experience, the most effective strategy is to glass right away in the morning and try to find a bachelor group of bucks and watch until they bed. Then try to put a stalk on them, preferably from above.
Don't pass up a good opportunity on a bedded buck even if you don't think he's a shooter, you can usually learn something from each stalk even if you don't loose an arrow.
In the middle of the day you might be able to pick out a bedded buck hiding in the shadows, but your time might be better served resting up and planning where you want to set up and glass the next morning.
Or if you're like me, 99%.
Good luck, Rick
Any other tips appreciated...
Yes, they get harder to hunt every day of the season.
Mule deer bucks will vacate a basin faster than elk and typically won't come back. Maybe not for several years.
The biggest thing to deal with is getting in as good of shape as you can. The elevation and steep country will be hard on you coming from low elevation.
Will shoot you a PM.
A lot of times I will glass deer several miles away. If I find a good one, I figure out a route that will close the distance and get to another vantage then make the stalk in the afternoon when I find them bedded.
A lot of the basins I hunt require dropping several thousand feet to cross and stay in cover then a long loop to get in position for the wind and get in close enough to make a shot.
Those sagebrush deer are fun, too. Here's one of your WY bucks.
Love hunting up there in WY - lots easier to breath!
Once you bugger a nice buck, do you give up on him if he goes over a ridge? Or do you follow him up there and try to see if you could get on him again in a day?
I still hunt North Park and down around Leadville for these guys but it's way easier on the legs around home, for sure! Love that you're after them with a stick... I lost central vision in my right eye and have to shoot lefty now... my effective range is about a foot and a half these days. Reduced depth perception and shooting left-handed really raises the bar but it's still fun!
Tim, it depends on the ridge! Where I hunt, there are some ridges that it is not worth going over and some that are on the divide for the unit boundary. Most of the time, I go looking for another buck group that is calm and give them some time to settle down. I may try coming in a different direction and find them again.
This year I've got 4 points in NV and CO and expect to get good draws. I'll commit 10 days to northern NV and about two weeks in central CO (I'll have an elk tag also). I'll be getting after them with my recurve. My effective range is about 35 yards so I have my work cut out for me. Can't wait!!!
As mentioned, and as I've mentioned... Pressure will be my major hurdle. I think keying in on several Aspen/timber areas that are transition areas between bedding and feeding will be key. Since I have put my feet on this ground, I have seen some of the deers tendencies for the area.
Also, my wife should draw along with me. I've been on her butt, about getting into shape. The better shape I tell her, the better hunt. :)
Look forward to bouncing more ideas as the hunt approaches and sharing stories with all of you.
Nice bucks above!
I think one of my major concerns will be what to do with the head/cape if we kill one early? Can someone touch on this?
I really wish I wasn't consumed with elk because it distracts me from what I personally consider a much harder animal to tag (mature muley via spot'n stalk).
Exact same deal for me YZF. I eat, sleep, and breath elk, but muleys are a blast too. They're dang tough IMO!
I have been pretty obsessed about bowhunting mule deer since I was in my teens. Made bowhunting trips to Colorado from Texas when I was in high school and college to chase big mule deer above treeline. When I dream about hunting, it is mostly about hunting mule deer in the high country to this day.
Kind of weird to me that most Colorado hunters are so obsessed with chasing elk and ignore the mule deer or just shoot one if it happens by. There is a good chance of finding a Boone and Crockett mule deer about anywhere in Colorado so Pope and Young class deer are even more available. A Pope and Young class elk is tough to get in Colorado and a Boone and Crockett bull is almost impossible even on private land in the best units in the state.
As for taking care of your cape and antlers, there are several options. If you can not get the head to the taxidermist within a day or so, you need to face out the cape and do some work on the antlers to save the velvet. You can get solutions to inject into the blood vessels on the velvet that will help preserve it, but typically, all you need to do is hang the rack upside down and cut the tips to drain the blood and rub borax into the velvet on the outside. If you know how to take care of the cape yourself (split the nose and lips, turn the ears, flesh, and salt) it really helps. If not, make sure to keep the cape in a cool area and treat it like you treat your meat.
You cut a lot of weight by boning your meat out, caping the face out and cutting just the skull cap out for the antlers. Early season mule deer bucks are usually really fat from the good grazing all summer. Getting the meat cooled quickly, keeping it clean, and then keeping it cool and dry will make for great eating! Make sure to get some good game bags to let the meat stay dry and keep the flies off.
This is consuming my thoughts now. A lot of planning and work to be done, but we are sure looking forward to it.
It might help you to visit a taxidermist and maybe get some pointers on how to take care of a cape. Here's a picture facing out a caribou. The salted, dry capes were just kept in the shed and the antlers drained and boraxed to save the velvet.
A salted, dry cape will weigh less than 1/2 the original weight. A mule deer head will weigh 5-8 pounds that you can get rid of.
Not sure if I can ever repay all the help!
my best, Paul
Plan is... To get up on the mountain 3 days prior to season and get acclimated. Then start glassing, looking over certain transition areas and formulate a game plan. Also, we plan on taking a pre-scout trip up there in July with my buddy Aaron Johnson.
This all contingent upon drawing the tag. :)
I love the pics, dead or alive. It gives me something to gauge off of.
AndyJ... You touched on something that I've been thinking about. The area I've been to and my tag is for, I have elk hunted. Never Mule deer hunted it. Up top, it seems to get some traffic. I think the only rifle season open during that period is for bighorn sheep tags. There are several elk hunters along this mountain range, that I do know. I did see several good mule deer in the meadows up high, early. Also, on ridges a good ways away. What I and others did notice, there were some really nice deer just below treeline that I called transition areas. I'm sure they've seen the occasional hiker, elk Hunter and passers by on the mountain road, from the basins up to tree line. These are the deer I will be after. Of course, I'll be glassing early in hopes of finding one I can put a stalk in too, at tree line.
Good stuff guys!
All of the above photos are in CO
While the trees and brush look short and one might be able to see through them to locate the deer, it turned out that the trees and brush were well over my head and thick. It ended up I did not find these bucks even after waiting a few hours in the area.
Good luck, Paul
If something is out of the ordinary (hiker with a dog, lion, guy trying to sneak up on them with a bow in his hand, etc) they are very likely to leave the basin over the top. Then you will probably see something like BOHNTR's pictures of them going over a high ridge and out of the basin to somewhere quieter and harder to find.
Sometimes they will be back in a day or two if they were not bumped too hard. Sometimes that is the last you will see of them.
They do get harder to get on as the season progresses, though. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.
1 - There are hunters out there trying to kill them. When they see those hunters moving around trying to get up on them or just bumbling along, they get more skittish and tend to drop into heavier cover. 2 - The frosts start burning back their food above treeline earlier and they start foraging on lower food sources. 3 - Their hormones start kicking in and they strip their velvet. It almost seems like they get sick or something right after that and they drop into the timber and don't move much at all during daylight hours until they show up down in the low country (below 8,000') to rut in November.
Colorado has ruined a number of great high country buck areas by implementing the early rifle seasons and then continuing to keep them year after year. The first couple of years, the majority of the big bucks get pounded out of the above timberline country and the younger ones start figuring out that it is probably better to just stay in the timber so they don't get shot. The numbers of mule deer that spend their summers above timberline in units that have the early rifle season are much lower than in units that do not.
In the units with the early rifle season, you will find bucks on the lower fringe country - around 8,000' living in the broken sage and aspen pockets. They are very, very difficult to get up on in that kind of country with a bow and different stratagies are needed to close the deal.
AndyJ, I've found that so long as it isn't too windy to shoot, it's easier to stalk in the wind. The only caveat is that a 30 yard shot might be too far if the wind is blasting you so hard you can't keep your bow on the target :^).
I'm not even in the same league as these other guys, but I figure if the wind is relatively steady, I can make it work regardless of how hard it is blowing. I'd rather have a 30 mph steady wind than a 5 mph shifty breeze.
Bucks will bed up tight in deep cover if it is really windy and it may be very difficult to find them. I know of several bedding areas where there are literally holes dug out under stunted pines that they will get into. Those holes are so deep that the only thing showing will be the tips of a buck's antlers. You can be within a few feet of one of those beds and never see that buck until he blows out. Different bucks have been using those beds for maybe hundreds of years. If you know where they are bedded, you can get really close. You just have to make sure you don't bump other bucks on the stalk.
If you have a storm with rain/sleet/snow come up in the afternoon, are on a stalk, and can keep from getting scared off the mountain by the lightning you can literally get in petting distance of a bedded mule deer buck. That is too close. Have made that mistake more than a few times.
It's better to get to a spot maybe 20 yards (10 if you shoot as bad as me!) from where that buck is bedded where you have a couple of good shot angles to cover potential spots where that buck may step out and sit tight.
Plan on sitting tight for several hours - till after dark if necessary.
Make sure you have water and food with you.
Stay patient and on full alert - ready to shoot.
Get your mind cleared and calm to set up for that buck to walk into one of your shooting lanes.
Don't lose your cool and move too soon. When you get to your spot, do not move unless you have blown the bucks out or it gets dark and you didn't get a shot.
Sneak out of there as quietly as possible in the dark with no flashlight if you don't get a shot so you don't blow the bucks out of there. Don't spook anything in that basin or you may never see those bucks again.
Kill that buck when he steps out.
Pack him out.
Share your pictures and experience on the Bowsite!
If these are in order:
You have made it in range of a great buck! Congratulations!
Focus on killing that buck, not screwing around! If you are throwing a rock or messing with a call, your hands are not on your bow and he is likely to see the movement and blow out of his bed with no shot opportunity and you probably will never see this buck again.
Tough stalk angle because he can see you and pick up motion through the grass. No shot that will get to the vitals. You are in range. Get ready. Watch his ears - if they flick quickly, he is getting ready to stand up.
If your camo is good, stay put as he is looking right at you. He probably caught you moving. If the wind is right and you stay perfectly still, there is a really good chance he will stare at you for a while and then turn around and drop right back into his bed. You might get a shot when he looks away and turns his body. Right now, it is not a good shot angle as he will most likely jump string. If you hit him, it will most likely be a bad hit.
You should have an arrow on your bow and ready to draw with minimal motion. Hopefully, your body is in position to shoot - I usually want both of my knees under me to be able to rise quickly and get a shot off. If you are shooting a compound it would be good to have it held up vertically with both knees under you with your bow hand on the bow and your release set. For longbow shooters, I have found it really works well to have my bow just off the ground and horizontal with pressure on the string to make a quick shot.
The wind must be right because he is still there. He is not really looking at you in the third picture, but listening for anything out of place and his nostrils are flared so he is trying to get any scent that is out of place as well.
You have to be 110% focused on making the shot and not get distracted when his head whips back your way. He might see you draw and turn his focus back at you in that third picture but he will give you a second to get drawn as he has already looked up your way and not seen anything to make him bolt out of there.
Put an arrow thru his lungs...
For the record... Thank you all for the conversation and additional info. Like I've told, Tavis, I am a sponge. It's only April...
Probably in a deep dished out bed under those pines.
Used the younger buck as his alarm system!
I have seen tunnels in the pine limbs that go back 10-15 ft to a hidden bed.
There is one other type of habitat that they really like above treeline - the willow patches. They will use the willows (alders) for a food source as well as a bedding area. Most of the time it is really damp around those willow patches and they will have a water source up there in those patches as well. When you see a high patch of willows on a really steep slope, look hard for a dark branch sticking up in the leaves - could be the antler of a big old buck...
Paul, Droptine and BOHNTR have some awesome photos!
My best, Paul
Thanks for the photos, everyone!
Good deer country.
I hope to be up there somewhere this late August.
my best, Paul
Rick and others, HAVE FUN.
On top of that, I had a huge number of irreplaceable pictures lost when I had a computer stolen last year.
Can you touch on the use of trad gear on these hunts. I am attempting this same hunt with the stickbow in August.
Do you feel its an advantage or disadvantge? minus the extened range?
For me, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages:
1. No sights, arrow rests, stabilizers, cables etc. to bump off. In order to get close on a stalk, you will spend time crawling, belly crawling, and sliding on your butt to stay low and out of sight. You also have to pack your bow in with your backpack or on a horse. A 2-piece take-down longbow is the easiest to manage for this kind of hunting with a 1-piece a close second. Over the last 30 years hunting and guiding, I have seen an unbelievable number of failures of compound bows on hunts. So far, I have only seen one failure of a traditional bow - a recurve delaminating due to having been smacked on the side when the hunter fell in the rocks. Longbows are the toughest type of bow and I have not seen any failures of longbows. Take one spare string that is tuned to your bow in your pack and you are good to go!
2. Lighter weight. Compounds have come a long way in the last 30 years as far as weight goes, but they are still a lot heavier than a longbow. My takedown bows tip the scales at 2 pounds with a quiver and my 1-piece bow is right at a pound. You spend about 99.9% of your time on a hunt hiking/packing your bow. Believe me, every ounce counts when you are pounding it hard climbing and covering the country looking for a critter to get an arrow into.
3. Quicker. You can get a shot off much quicker than a guy with a compound. When you are in close to an animal, things happen fast. It is a totally different timing for the shot than a compound shot. With experience getting really close to animals, you learn to anticipate their movement and can get an arrow off and into the lungs as they are turning and not focused on you. Less chance for a string jump.
4. Less movement for the shot. I want my bow arm extended toward my target, with an arrow nocked and my finger tips on my string when I am in range. There is minimal movement to come to full draw from that position. The worst thing is to be over bowed - have seen countless animals blow out when they see all the gyrations of a compound shooters that has to raise the bow over their head and crank it down to get it drawn.
5. Quieter at the shot. A longbow is the quietest at the shot. Many times, an animal won't know what is up when you shoot and you can get a follow up shot. Coues deer are probably the most wired critters in North America and I have had multiple follow up shots on Coues with a longbow that have resulted in a dead deer. Same with mule deer, elk, whitetails, and Dall Sheep. Recurves are much louder and you are less likely to get a follow up shot. Compounds are louder still and it is extremely rare for a compound shooter to get a follow up on an alert animal. Elk - possibly but Coues deer - never!
6. Ability to shoot from different angles and lower to the ground. Most of my shots are from one or two knees (good reason for knee pads...). Many times you have brush, rocks or other stuff in the way that keeps you from getting that bow straight up and down. I practice shooting from those positions a lot because they are much more effective at hiding the human form when you are close. It really helps to be able to shoot with your bow angled to miss the stuff in the way and still get a shot off and on target. Pretty rare to get a shot after stalking from the upright-squared up-feet shoulder width on level ground position.
7. Built-in monopod. I put a rubber protector on the lower nock of my bows to allow me to use them for glassing. Amazing how much steadier you can be that way. You will find more animals if you are glassing from a steadier position.
Here is an important fact about high country mule deer hunting in late August and early September that these photos do not tell.
THUNDERSTORMS AND DANGEROUS LIGHTING!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have been forced off the mountain numerous times by heavy storms that came rolling in that brought with them, rain, lighting, and even snow. One time I was holed up in a small cave until the storm passed by.
Then, sometime the next day, because of the moisture, the fog was so thick, I could not go hunting that day.
So be on alert for storms.
Following are a few more picture from the high country. Now, this does not mean that all of the mule deer are up high, but up here the scenery is surely grand.
Love that treeline country for sure. Will be spending lots of time up there in a couple of months when the snow melts back a little. Pretty sure the trout up there in the high lakes and creeks will be happy to see my flies and need to check up to see which bucks made it through the winter. Can't wait!
What prompted me to post again was the most frightened and fearful for my life was in that Colorado high country when a fast moving electrical storm hit... There was no place to go. Lightening bolts wider than houses hit all around... Never felt so small on earth as that day... Father and son hunters were killed by lightening the next ridge over during that storm I'll never forget...
Again, great thread and photos, thanks much for sharing folks...
4 trips up/down is a 1/2 mile. I did 5 trips today with 15 lb weights. The best thing about this is it's free, outdoors and close to my house. Time to burn. 220 lbs now... 190 by August 15th.
In mud season here and still getting snowed on. Putting in a few miles fishing and poking around for the bears, but can't wait for the high country to open up!
Whats you average shot distance been with the stickbow?
No hills where I lived on Lake Erie but there was a 30 ft embankment on the local golf course and that, like yours, served as my mountain training ground.
Yea, a backpack with two and then three gallons of water in it served me well for the challenge. Break in the boots you will be wearing.
my best, Paul
What has been your average shot distance ? Do you find it hard to get 25 yards and in??
I would expect after hunting a few days, the smell from your boots vs the rest of your body is marginal.
There are sprays and powers that can be applied inside of the boots to reduce smell. I like to use a liner sock to allow the foot to breath better and not sweat as much.
Shot distance with a compound bow? 30 yards and under. A recurve bow, 20 yards and under.
Embry, you might want to work yourself up to a 90 pound pack so that you know what it will do when you load it down with a deer. Keep working up gradually, though. Anything you can do to get in better shape will help you on the hunt!
Packing in, I will work hard to keep my pack at under 50 with food and gear. I have learned that you are best off to hunt with your pack on and not drop it (or your boots!) in your stalk. You may lose a full day or more looking for your pack or boots if you drop them somewhere on the hill in a stalk and in the process will probably blow out every deer in that basin. I will hunt with my big backpack on with only a little water and food for the day plus a 1st aid kit, knife and game bags. Cinch all the straps tight down and wrap the ends back in to keep it close to your back so it doesn't make noise or hang up on stuff and get in the way. Saves an additional trip back to camp and up the mountain just to get your pack to pack your animal out and may save you a full day of time.
I got some stuff called Fresh Fogger from Cabela's that really works for stinky boots (as well as stinky dog beds!) and I am sure there are some other products out there. Although it is tough to keep your scent down, it does help to keep the animals calmer in your hunting area.
When I am backpacking and camping, I try to be as clean as possible and not stink up the whole mountain. I will take those towels/wipes with me to rub down with and keep my body odor down. I also keep the scent around my camp down. I don't build camp fires as they really stink up everything and the scent soaks into your clothes.
Wool clothes really help hold your scent down as well - the merino wool stuff from First Lite is really good for early season high country hunting - not too heavy or warm but will keep you comfortable over a wider temp range as well as keeping you warmer when you get wet. Synthetic stuff really starts getting stinky after a day or two. An added advantage of wool is that it is really quiet when you rub up against brush or draw your bow which will let you get much closer in your stalk and possibly get off a shot at close range that you would not otherwise.
My wife and myself will be base camping and striking out from there. I think she, maybe myself as well, can get it done within a 1/2 mile of where we will be camped. She will be less picky. I don't have the gear at this point to bivy camp. I would love to although. There will be days that my wife will not feel like hunting, which will allow me to go further out in search.
I'm only 4 days in my climbing regimen and my legs feel SO much more stronger. I just hope and pray no physical ailments detour training.
Thanks for the tips Tavis!
this mule deer might have been 300 plus lbs
PS-- not mine
Really will help to do at least some workouts with your pack loaded to that range to see how or if it works. Have broken several backpacks trying to pack out an animal and that really stinks... Makes a hard job that much harder.
Does help to have someone along to take at least some of the load.
Lots less weight for packing than an elk, though!
P.S. Bomber buck, Paul! Even if it's not yours! That's what we all dream about and what keeps us climbing those hills:)
Thanks for the weight difference advice from all of you guys.
Joe... I'm going to take it slow. Workout in graduations. When I'm feeling sluggish, slow down a bit. I also have a problem with trying to go too hard and along with my calorie intake decreased, I need to be careful. My steps on the hill I have been very calculated with my foot planting. At times I've been known to work my right side harder than my left. Thinking about my steps and making them even has helped.
Tavis you've been a great help. I will definitely be going back through this thread and the emails we've exchanged to soak it in further. Especially my options on caping out the animal and removing skull and removing antlers with skull cap. Also preserving the velvet if it is in good shape.
Keep any advice coming...
Pack is up to 25 lbs, have been hitting the local hills with regularity. A mule deer is gonna die. :)
My wife said she would be fine with this buck. He was hanging out where we will be camping...
Yup I agree, most likely gonna be me... Or Rick, Who knows, but for sure one of us will break the record this year! :)
Lookin good Rick I'm stoked for the season the begin too. One more month and counting....