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Mule deer shot distance
Headed out west (hopefully) this fall for spot and stalk mule deer. Two part question here. How far is your typical shot and I assume mechanicals will do the job. Already got the outfitters opinion just checking out the pros on here. Thanks
Tater, I see you're from Ohio , I've never hunted there but I'm sure your shot distance in most cases are alot closer than spot n stalk muleys here. I have a feeling you're going to get a bunch of bickering back n forth about this ,so here's my spill. I've been hunting archery muleys for 22 years, my closest shot was 34 yards, furthest was 91, angle compensation told me hold at 88. Shoot a bunch starting at your max distance now and push and push out from there. When the time comes only you will be able to know if it's a good shot that you're presented with.
All my mule deer Spot and stalk have been within 40 yards. 20-49
Mule deer live in a lot of different country. Some is very open, some is thick. It will vary a lot based on the habitat you're hunting. I've killed bucks as close as a yard, and as far as 35 yards, but it could easily be further depending on the area.
So many questions for you; What time of fall, what state, what terrain, what outfitter, what eco system? open desert? Mid elevation mountain hunt? And very high elevation bucks are a completely different game all together in my opinion!
My closest was 7 yards, my farthest was a whole lot further, a ways past 60 that's for sure!!!!
Practice long, long, shots and the short ones are easier! A 400-500 gr arrow is plenty of of medicine... I prefer 60-70lb bows and heavier arrows for longer shots. Heavier arrows fly better and retain more energy!
Bow tuning is everything!!!
Last 10 P&Y muleys averaged 16.4 yds with recurve or longbow. It will seem opposite but if you are hunting the forest your shots will be longer and if you are hunting the prairie your shots will be closer. ....Mike (1 of these was treestand, all others spot and stalk)
I’ve taken mine (11) from 8-75 yards. Learn your maximum effective range and don’t go past it. Two things to note animals out west ( to me anyway) seem closer than the same distance back east, I’m sure it’s a cover thing. That being said my effective range increases when I’m out west..odd yes but true for me.
Secondly... you’ll find you will get amazingly close to bedded deer the hard part will be getting a shot because all you’ll see is horns. It’s a learning process. I’ve spent hours hiding in a clump of sage 20 yards away from a buck only to have an errant breeze bust him out... This all depends on the type of cover we are speaking of also Still was lots of fun
1 at 10 yards 2 at 70 yards
After 30 yrs of guiding mule deer bow hunts and a few dozen hunters I would say the typical distance that mule deer are killed at would be 30-60 yds. Any deer killed over 60 is for the lucky, risky, flukey or occasionally skilled.
I shoot traditional, so all my shots have been 10 - 25 yards. All but one were in open country. Gotta use terrain to your advantage to stay out of sight. Depressions, shrubs, high grass, etc. I recently started using a fawn call. It has helped in some instances, blown my cover in others. Most of my bow kills have been small bucks. I have taken a couple B&C bucks with a rifle. Those rifle shots have been 35 to 75 yards.
Be hunting Sandhills in Nebraska. My deal is I use a one pin slider. I know how that will work if I have one at 20 and jumps up and runs out to 40-50 and stops...not good...so trying to figure out if I can use this sight that I’m very accustomed to.
Tater... Which single pin are you using? I just slid a second fiber into my spot hogg single pin for a 20/30-30/40 etc. for my set up it’s a 10 yard jump off the marked distance.
Something you may wanna look at?
I shoot the apex one dot. Thinking about going with the two dot. I can get 65 yds on the one dot before it bottoms out. So if I set one dot at 30 maybe the second dot can get me out there. I shoot a 400 grain arrow at 60 lbs.
I would say most of ours are in the 30-50 yard range. Some much closer depending on where they are bedded.
What Stix says traditional archery . Wish i could help i dont know anything about compounds. Good place to get great advice though.
I hunt with recurve and Long bow. Did kill one small 3 point with a compound about 1983. My longest kill was about 35 yards. I have one at about 6 feet and another at 11 yards. Both were killed after they stood up out of their beds.
I have a ton of failed stalks that probably would have been successful with a compound if I was able to execute. Never gone on a guided hunt and was able to devote a lot of time which with trad gear is essential.
One of the difficult things to do is get your foot on the ground without making much noise. Use a cane/stick as a 3rd leg. Really works.
This is the 11 yard buck. My best.
That one pin may cost you some shots. Seems painful to make any kind of quick adjustments. Very difficult with a compound to make a moving shot.
Have shot a few really close - under 5 yards - but mostly right around 40. Even when I have stalked in super tight. I mostly hunt deer above treeline but have used similar tactics in the sagebrush and prairies as well.
The problem you might have with the single pin is sneaking in to 20 and having them get up and be at 40 and stopped before you can get drawn anchored and lined up for a good shot.
Expandable broadheads will work just fine for mule deer, if you don’t hit a shoulder or other heavy bone. They open a big hole and should put them down fast with a good blood trail. A heavier arrow with higher FOC can help stay on track better in the wind. A solid cut on contact broadhead can help you get better penetration when things aren’t perfect when the arrow hits.
That sand hill country can be windy. The wind actually can help you out a lot in a stalk and put the deer in good positions to get in close. Windy days are good days to kill a big buck!
I mostly call and decoy so my shots tend to be fairly close. Furthest is two killed at 38 yards (paced) with a recurve. Most longbow and recurve shots have been from 12-25. Since switching to a compound the last few years, my shots have been inside 30. You CAN take much farther shots on muleys, but they are one animal that allow closer shots if you are patient.
On my compound I keep my single pin slider set on 30, and know where to aim fron 0-40. I practice with it like that all summer and fall. Shooting for 55 years with instinctive-peripheral gap probably helps with that.
Great advice on the slider setup, Lou!
Jaquomo is spot on for those prairie mule deer.... Pretty sure he’s played that game a time or three ;-)
I would practice to a comfortable range and then not take a shot over that...mechanicals will do just fine! I shot a KS mule deer this fall with a SEVR Ti1.5. Hit was marginal, and the deer only made it 70 yards.
My 2 cents on a one or even 3 pin slider is that me and all my guides dislike/hate them, especially on a guided hunt and this is from side by side, 1 on 1 guiding for over 300 mule deer Bowhunters over the last 30 years. They absolutely screw up more shots than they help. BUT I will say that if you are totally used to using one and your instinctive bow shooting is part of the slider use then don’t change anywhere close to the hunt, stick with it, don’t change, that will be worse.
And I know some very successful DYI mule deer killers that love a 1 pin slider especially when they are doing 60+ yard shooting and rarely wounding. But for the average guy going on a mule deer hunt just use a 5 pin fixed sight, 20-60 yds, build your unconscious, instinctive shooting around that and forget about the 1 or 3 pin slider!
^^ “OUCH” said the guy with a three pin slider.
Mike, would you say the most common screw up is not putting the sight back to “zero” after adjusting for a previous opportunity?
Haha Ambush, sorry about that! It’s a mix of problems, certainly many more than picking the wrong pin out of your 5 fixed pins or disliking the “clutter” in your sight picture that the one pin slider guys point out as problems.
Yes, not getting your pin back to your “zero” is important and shooting with that zero, whether it’s 20 yds, 35, 40, at a variety of other distances is also important. But if you’ve moved your pin to a different distance than your zero now you also have to be familiar with how to shoot a wide range of distances with an oddball sight setting?!
Especially on a guided hunt where you can’t take advantage of the guide telling you the distance while you are at full draw and simply pick another pin, not have to let down and move a slider while a buck is staring at you.
I will always say though that a complete, 100% familiarity with almost any goofy setup can be made to work for you, even if it’s not recommended by an outfitter like me. One pin slider, hip quiver, back quiver, big stabilizer, back bar etc to name a few. BUT I can tell you what works for the average guy going on a muley hunt out west.
Don't stalk and my average shot distance 20 yds.
I use a 4 pin slider. I don’t ever slide the sight while hunting unless I have to take a follow up shot. 30, 40, 50, 60 yard pins. Don’t move the sight..but it’s a “slider.” Works well and has never let me down yet
Tried several sights over 20 years. The single pin is awesome for targets .... IMO.... Multi pin slider is most effective, I myself shoot 7 deadly pins.
One thing to mention, and this is coming from someone who has never hunted muleys, but you are not required to shoot. I know at times a single or double pin sight can be a hindrance, but they are what works best for me. Having a simplified sight picture is what works best for me. When I hunt elk, I set it to 30 and can shoot to 45 yards with little to no hold over/under. If a deer was to bounce out to 60 yards and I'm sitting at full draw with my pin set to 30, I just have to pass. I fully admit the limitations of my sight of choice, but I'll take my chances as having a pin guard full of pins is more difficult for me to negotiate more often than only having one or two pins.
Bowfreak, love the honesty! Most guys would say they can still do the on the fly math and hold over for a 60 yarder with a pin set at 30 yds. And maybe they would with a lot of money and or time and work invested in the hunt, any of that can cloud a person’s judgement.
My Colorado buck this year was shot with an iron will solid broad head 125grain at 63 yards
That’s what I’m struggling with. Over 40 + years of shooting.... few years recurve then compound no sight then recurve again then compound with every pin sight under the sun but there’s nothing I can get on and hold like a dot. Been shooting it for 4 years. I understand and appreciate everyone’s advice and input. I’ll have something figured out here shortly and shoot it all summer
I have a Seven Deadly Pins (SDP). On my back up bow that has slowly dwindled to Four Pretty Lethal pins. Too much confusion as I got older. Now with four it seems easy to keep them sorted out.
On my main hunting bow I use the three pin slider and that works for close up bears to high mountain hunting where shots may be longer but with more time to range and be exact.
I can see that spot and stalk in more open country where your target may be changing the range on you while your at full draw, a bottom pin set to your max range would be handy.
My shots have ranged from 3 to 60 yards. I dont shoot past 60. I mainly hunt high country. I was recurve and longbow guy from childhood until the past few years. Multi pin sights dont work for me, I seemed to always use the wrong pin in the moment of truth. Switched to hha single pin and it's a game changer for me personally. Cant tell you how many giant bucks I've let walk by at 70 to 90 yards and just couldn't get closer. I would strongly recommend practicing at long ranges and from every shooting position and angle that you can.
I'm there with tater and bowfreak. Because I shot trad for over 50 years before switching to a compound a few years ago, I struggled with a multi-pin because of the clutter at the moment of truth. Then I developed a bad habit of doing "drive-by" aiming, where I would slide the sight window from right to left to get on target, even though I was looking at the "spot". Something about only having half the sight picture screwed with my subconscious. Tony Peterson suggested I try a single vertical pin and it has changed my world. Now that dot comes right up on the spot, and I can execute the shot almost as quickly as with a trad bow, if needed.
If I had started out with a compound and multi-pin horizontal sights I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem. But this works for me, and I keep my shots under 45 yards anyway.
Honest question for Mike Ukrainetz: Roughly what percentage of the "average guys" you guide for open country muleys take shots that you would consider are beyond their true effective range?
I've shot a lot of mulies from 8 to about 45yds. I also shoot a single pin. I agree with Bowfreak. If it's pass 40yds and I don't have time to range and adjust my sight the animals walks.
I shoot a 5 pin set at 20-60. Only shot at 2 critters with the 60, a Bighorn & an Elk. Both died in sight. I've shot mule deer from 15 yards to 52 yards but never beyond that. I practice a lot at 60 but prefer to be closer if possible. Your setup depends mostly on what you're used to & more important what you're comfortable,effective range is? Remember, animals get most of us more excited then a target does! Good Luck & Take good photos!
Distance will very. Don't get hung up on a set distance. When the opportunity presents itself, be ready to make a great shot, and know when to pass. If a guy tells you how close or far to shoot, take it with a grain of salt and hunt however it is that makes you happy.......
I'm surprised to not see the best guide in the business have a response on this one.
Ask the outfitter about average shot distance, as he is most familiar with the terrain you are hunting and close the average guy gets in that situation. Base your distance most on what he says, because that is the most accurate info for YOUR hunt. As for the single pin, multi pin game, I never could get over the idea of using one pin. I'm a multi pin guy, more the merrier. You can also paint white dots on the pin shafts so that you know which pin they are. Heck you could paint them any which thing, just something to learn that the pin that looks like _____ is the pin for ____ distance. Practice until it's 2nd nature. As Mike U says, familiarity is key.
Thanks for the question Jaquomo! I watch most of our hunters shoot at a huge target we have, (huge so there should be low anxiety to miss it at long range) and some guys will shoot out to 80 or even 100 yds often keeping a less than 8 or 10 inch circle. Yet those same guys will completely miss a 30 or 40 yd shot on a deer so what’s their effective range? Often the most accurate shooters have a slow shot sequence that doesn’t work so well with a muley that just stood up out of his bed and is staring at them. And then some guys shoot even better on animals than targets because they don’t experience any target panic or don’t have the other hunters in camp watching them.
We often stalk deer bedded in a flat field with a 2 to 2 1/2 ft high crop and we prefer to get to exactly 40 yds, no closer, no further and it’s probably a 50/50 chance the hunter is going to kill it if he gets a shot no matter what their shooting looked like in camp.
Thanks for the honest reply, Mike. I was going to guess about the same. I haven't guided archery muley hunters (I love hunting them too much myself). But I've watched rifle hunters miss elk at 60-70 yards, and a moose hunter I was guiding missed a whole moose at about 50 yards with a .300 WinMag. "Effective range" has nothing to do with accuracy on targets.
To answer the whole original question too. I’m not set on mechanicals or fixed blade heads. If I was shooting at a long range in the wind I would prefer a mechanical so I can aim more middle of the body, have a bigger room for error, and still kill quickly on a gut shot. But if I didn’t want to ever have the horror of glancing down at my broadhead at full draw and realize that it’s flipped open or have it careen off into space assuming it must have come open in midair I would shoot a mechanical.
Either way make sure the dang thing is sharp! Lots of broadheads are not, even when brand new or when exposed to air for just a month or when constantly pushed back into your quiver. Don’t believe me, go check your own, most are nowhere near shaving sharp.
Wow mike 50/50 at 40 yards I have to imagine that would be depressing as an outfitter.
As far as the 1 or 3 pin slider discussion goes, I can see Both sides to Mike’s comment. I personally shoot a single pin slider, and have for years. I like only having one pin to concentrate on as opposed to 5 staring me in the face. But on the other hand, if the a deer moves out several yards, yes you will have either know how high to hold that pin or take the extra time to make the adjustment on the sight, which may cost you the shot...so it’s a personal preference and a something, like everything else, that you will need to practice practice practice with...
What's interesting is that Mike's goal is to get guys to 40 yards, which is right in the boiler room for the single-pin shooters. I wonder how many who miss get excited just throw a cluster of pins on the buck instead of picking a spot?
I had killed a whole bunch of open country muleys with trad bows before switching to a compound with a multi-pin sight, and that very thing happened to me. Hasn't occurred since I switched to single pin.
I am actually very impressed, Mike! With your guide’s abilities to get the clients to that kind of range and the clients’ abilities to close the deal!
No kidding, that is phenomenal.
Spent too many years of my misbegotten youth guiding hunters for elk and deer and do not believe my success in getting them to that range nor their success at execution of the shot was anywhere near 50/50.
As a stick bow guy, 40 yards means a lot more work to cut that in half or more to be in position when that buck stands up. The shot may not be at 10 yards, but hopefully I’m ready and can get an arrow down range and on target before he gets to 40!
I have shot a single pin slider for years and have not had it cost me a single opportunity. I would suggest learning your hold over and hold under for those quick opportunities. For example, my sight pin flares out down lower on the pin. Since I sent my bows up to shoot right around 290-295 fps, that flared part adds 15 yards to my sight. I have only had to use that once and it resulted in a 35 yard recovery of the buck.
I also use mechanical heads, 2.3" vanes in a four fletch and skinny arrows to better slice through the wind.
Start working now to improve your longer distances and it will pay off for you at ANY distance, that is, if you're practicing proper technique.
LOL, Lou.... Pins drove me nuts; I was unable to pick the right pin when they were still inside of recurve range, so I just gave up. Buddy at the club says I’m better from 20 to forty than 20 and in anyway... ;)
I've killed (5) Mule Deer in about 10 years of hunting in SD (Black Hills area).
Closest was about 7 yards, farthest was about 35 yards. Not Spot & Stalk, mostly stand hunting near rancher's fields.
Thanks Treeline! We do everything we can to have it so the buck is looking the other way or feeding in the crop at the time of the shot.
We wait for the buck to stand on his own while we stay hidden, the guide peaks through the crop and waits till the deer starts feeding and looking away and then tells the hidden hunter when to draw his bow. The hunter rises out of the crop at full draw and gets a final range finder reading from his guide and he shoots. That’s the goal and when it works, kill success is at least 50%, probably even higher. But other shot methods get a much lower kill success like forcing a buck to stand, pushes, longer shots and anything else we can figure out to get a shot!
Mike, do you ever call and/or decoy them in, or are you hunting too much before the rut?
On my first mule deer hunt last year, i had 2 shots. Shot over top at 43 yards on day one and connected at 52 yards on day 3. This was spot and stalk in South Dakota. As mainly a treestand whitetail hunter from the east, I practiced out to 60 for quite a while before this hunt. I am now hooked on this spot & stalk thing and have re-booked for this fall. My practice routine of shooting now consists of ranges out to 50-60. Although I really love those 10-15 yard treestand shots at whitetails at home!
Jaquomo, we only Bowhunt muleys Aug 25 to Sept 6 while they are in velvet. We do mess around with decoys some, but more as a cover to shoot from behind. Or we will use a deer hat to crawl through the crop on a non windy day. Some bucks will let us get within bow range and just shoot them! But often they will only allow it in taller crop and then the crop is too tall to shoot so we have to follow them around till they get in a drowned out low spot in the field or a bit of a hill where you can shoot from one side to the next. If they buy into it early it’s funny because they will be feeding while you follow them, mature bucks seem to find other deer as an irritation so they just keep moving away but you often can’t get a dang shot! And then when you do the hunter and guide are so rattled from all the hide and seek and crawling that the shot is often missed. Or the buck just has enough of it and bounds away across the field but he is usually found again the next day, even big ones. Fun, fun!!
I shoot a single pin slider, I’ve shot two mule deer spot and stalk with it.
30 yds and 39 yds, both times I had plenty of time to set the pin and settle into my shot.
30 yd shot was a slick trick magnum 39 yd shot was a sevr 1.5.
I’ve shot two antelope with the sevr too, I like them.
We never recommend a single pin sight for spot and stalk, We suggest in most cases having a 5 pin fixed with a slider if the shooter is capable. Our summer hunts shots are typically closer 15-40 and Winter rut hunts 30-65.
My only two archery mule deer were 63 and 61yds. Didn’t have to touch my slider. I really like my double pin spot Hogg fast eddie xl slider for elk and mule deer. Always keep the top pin at 50 which puts the 2nd around 62ish.
I put in a lot of practice holding under 12”. I know any arrow on animal between 8 & 45 yards will end up in a 6” kill zone. For elk I just put it on the bottom of the brisket. Very simple and less range finding.