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Nebraska Archery Mule Deer OTC
My wife and I are planning our first DIY mule Deer archery hunt around opening day of archery in Nebraska next year. Planning on hunting the Public land around the Imperial/ Wauneta areas. First time mule Deer hunting so it will definitely be a learning experience. If any of you have hunted these areas and have advice or experiences you could share I would appreciate it and I’m open to suggestions.
Just muleys? You might see more whitetails than muleys. Not a place to be holding out for a big deer and not huge public like many muley spots. Be friendly at the local diners and you could stumble on to some private land opportunities.
As with most plains deer hunting, look for AG preferably near creek bottoms. Bring good optics and plan to use them a bunch. Once you find a deer you want to kill, either watch him until he beds, then plan a stalk, or determine an ambush spot to kill him moving to and from the food source. Mulies aren't as pattern-able as whitetails, in my experience, They may be in the same general area each day, but rarely use the exact same routes and they hardly ever bed in the same spots 2 days in a row.
Also, search for some of Lou's (Jaquomo) semi-live Colorado plains deer hunt threads. They will give you an idea of what to expect. Plains deer hunting can be extraordinarily challenging, but it can be done with patience and persistence.
Goos stuff! Thank you Matt
Be prepared to be underwhelmed.
If Jaq’s Colorado threads were an indication of what to expect in Nebraska then my aunt would have balls and she’d actually be my uncle!
Steve and Nick, I'm curious how much plains deer hunting you guys have done? I haven't hunted around Imperial Nebraska, but it has very similar terrain and habitat to what I've hunted for 25 years. I do agree, Lou had permission on an exceptional private ranch, so his hunts may not be a good example of what the OP will experience, but I don't see a need to discourage him. I find plains hunting a unique and fun challenge, and I always see better bucks on the plains than I ever see in the mountains. So what do you guys know specifically about the area in question, if anything?
Matt, Comparing Eastern CO (draw), to western NE is pretty damn stupid. Does NE have deer? Yes. And the guys killing them with archery are very good at what they do. Never mind trophy quality.
I'll ask again, how much hunting have you done in eastern Colorado or western Nebraska? BTW, eastern Colorado is a fairly easy draw. I've only failed to draw 2 times in 25 years. The lack of public land and outfitting is probably the reasons for that.
I don't mean to get in a pissing match. I just find it odd that a guy from Alaska would speak so definitively (and rudely) about hunting in NE. Did you used to live there, or something?
There are guys like whipranger, Beav's family, and a couple of young superstars I know (who aren't on Bowsite) who kill good bucks on a regular basis in NE. But as Nick said, they are very good at what they do and know where to find them.
Plains hunting is plains hunting no matter where. This year on the CO plains I only saw one muley in 18 days of hunting that I would consider shooting in a normal year. I passed up a few dinks. The deer just weren't there (drought, no food crops to speak of, a little EHD) and although I lost my longtime spot, I gained permission on two contiguous ranches next to my former place that normally also have big bucks.
If it was my first time hunting the plains and I hunted these two big ranches, I would think plains hunting sucked. If I had paid $6000 for trespass fee vouchers on my former ranch, I would be really pissed because he didn't have deer this year either. If I was just 20 miles south where they had more rain, crops, and tons of deer this year - according to my WCO friend for the area, I would think I was in heaven. Lots of variables, but the only way to learn is to do it, be mobile, learn from mistakes, and stay positive.
"Plains hunting is plains hunting no matter where."
Thank you. That was my point, as well, until I was called "pretty damn stupid" by a plains hunting expert in Alaska.
There’s very good hunting for Muleys in that area. Lots of walk-in access and not to terribly difficult to get permission on most ranches. Stay away from the creek bottoms that’s where the whitetails hang out. Look in the rugged pasture draws and cuts. This was an off year but those areas hold decent numbers of deer and some monsters. I would take western Nebraska any day over eastern Colorado especially for the chance at a monster.
While pheasant hunting in the extreme NE corner of Colorado last weekend, I jumped 2 B&C caliber bucks on public access land. That's not far from Imperial Nebraska. It made me reconsider which unit to draw next year, and convinced me to buy an OTC tag for Nebraska.
I'm a 6th generation Nebraskan and have hunted in quite a few areas of Nebraska since the 70s. I bet if everyone that has posted on here hunted for 10 days on public land in Nebraska, not one of us J. included, would kill a mulie over 120". Nebraska gets pounded during gun season and thus the age structure is messed up and has been for decades.
Did you see many pheasants? It's been pretty hit and mostly miss for us this year. Birds seem to be way down in numbers.
They do absolutely wipe them out during the gun season, but they started managing it better for the Muleys a few years ago and it has made a huge difference. Now not every piece of private has what it takes to hold Muleys but I promise you anyone who has posted on this thread, that is willing to put some time in would have the opportunity to stalk a 150-170” buck.
I bet I could give some of you a million dollars cash and you would bitch about the denomination of the bills.
The worst part of hunting the plains is you can see what’s on the other side of the fence.
Quinn, we actually flushed a group of 40-50 birds out of the first corn corner we walked. Unfortunately, it was dead calm, and they flushed 200 yards out. They were there but are wild and spooky. I may go again this Friday.
Great advice from a couple of the best plains mule deer bowhunters alive above… Nothing more to add!
Thanks guys for the great input!
GG, you’re a must post moron.
GG is also a B&C Scorer! So good he measures them on the run.
There could be a half a dozen P&Y bucks in that last pic!!
I can see where today's rifles could make a severe impact on herds like that.
+1 Ambush. The ranch manager who gave me permission killed his buck last year at 861 yards. He has a 1000 yard target from the shooting bench on his deck. The December rifle season in the unit hunt is normally like stealing. Two weeks to hunt late-rut and post rut muleys in open country.
Have 2 carpenters brothers working for a while in the neighborhood, oldest went to NW Nebraska for mule deer ML season and the other went to Ten Sleep Wy doe elk tag. The oldest just had nothing but does around him and his brother had nothing but bull elk. The oldest shot a whitetail doe on the last day and the youngest did see nor got a shot on a doe elk, just got a laugh when they were telling me about their hunts, been in the same situation also.
Nebraska’s gun season is during the rut and it’s a slaughter. Hunting after is like being on the moon looking for deer
I occasionally hunt some public in NE for deer. Always went just before rifle and had fun hunts. Nothing big but enough action to have fun and sometimes bring a deer home. One year I went right after rifle and our description was the same. It was like hunting on the moon. 3 of us didn't see a deer except late at night crossing the road.
I did go right after Christmas to a private place a few years and had good hunts but it was always brutally cold.
Most of the public ground for mule deer in that area is bluff/canyon country. Agg. Fields next to river and up on top closer to imperial. It’s broken country where most of your public access will be. Not much flat ground there. There are a lot on private agg. fields but getting permission in that area is possible but NOT easy. They love their rifle deer hunting. It can be very busy in that area also!!! Maybe not mid September?
IIRC, Nebraska has a very generous archery season running from Sept 1 - Dec 31. The late gun season is only a week from Nov 13-21, but unfortunately that is smack in the middle of the rut.
Andrew, when were you planning on hunting? Late Oct or early Nov can be a really good time to hunt. Bucks will often still be in bachelor groups and are pattern-able. As they get closer to the rut, the bigger bucks will usually split from the bachelor groups first. They may or may not allow a smaller companion to join them. There's about a week period just before breeding starts when the bigger bucks seem to go into hiding. Then, almost like a light switch, they start appearing with the does. I actually prefer hunting them when they are still in bachelor groups.
That two weeks before the NE gun season is the prime time to call/rattle/decoy muley bucks into bow range. If you hunt then, think about the Ultimate Predator Stalker bow-mounted decoy.
One Bowsiter new to plains muley hunting tried my doe hat/rattling technique this year (skeptically), and killed an excellent buck right off the bat in early November.
I’ve never hunted around Imperial, I hunted north of there a bunch though. There are good deer on private, but on public it’s pretty hard to find any decent.
Where I was at the muleys stayed close to rougher broken country and rarely got close to the river bottoms. Lots of whitetails which are also stalkable.
It’s easy to stalk them there and covering ground is a breeze. For the most part I only hunted them after sitting for whitetail or if I had crappy winds for my stands.
PM me and I can pass on some general areas to hunt.
You WONT see herds of muley bucks like that in NW Nebraska. Ive seen them in SHeridan Wyoming and Eastern Colorado many times. I have hunted NW Nebraska since 2006. The muley hunting on public is exactly like Steve H said. (is that Steve Hanson?) Dont let anyone talk you into a public hunt in the pine ridge area for muleys. It gets hammered in Sept my NR's. Same with the public antelope on the Oglala grasslands. Even private was the worst ive seen due to EHD this past September. Private is all i hunt now but it borders a lot of public. Whitetail numbers were ridiculously terrible this year. I actually left NE after 4 days and went to South Dakota and hunted some land with a buddy. Like going to whitetail heaven compared to Nebraska this year in September. Normally private land whitetail are very plentiful.
KHNC: no man, Prussian, not a fish eater.
"KHNC: no man, Prussian, not a fish eater."
Roger that , I know a Steve Hansen that lives south of Valentine.
Amuth: one other thing that occurred to me that might not be obvious: state owned "school" lands in Nebraska are NOT available to general public access.
^yes, and that’s too bad because there are some good school lands out there!!
Many of the State Trust Lands in Colorado also have no public access because they are a revenue source thru leasing for private uses, like grazing for example. It is a shame. I have several trust lands near my place that have great habitat. They've become sanctuaries where the wild game know they are safe, and they rarely leave.
Best advice. Have quite a few backup plans and be prepared to move. Nebraska archery is getting crazy busy. One day you might have an area to yourself, the next day six trucks are in the area. Some days you can't get away from people.