The most important lessons I learned about hunting mature mule deer came at an early age growing up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A buck is very predictable throughout his lifespan. Mule deer have seasonal home ranges for summer, fall, the rut and winter. In my book Mule Deer Hunting Tactics I wrote about this strategy and its been the #1 key for hunting and harvesting a trophy buck.
Flash-forward to the 2012 hunting season and I was in my favorite mule deer country in southwest Wyoming. Setting up the spotting scope, I glassed a creek bottom that had a lot of sagebrush cover and a nearby butte above the creek with several aspen groves on its steep face. It didn’t take long that morning to locate a buck with high back forks feeding with several smaller bucks in the sagebrush not far from the aspen grove. Through the 60-power Zeiss spotting scope I could see good back tines and a 28-inch outside mainframe spread. In addition, on both of his back G-3 tines were two three-inch in-line points. However, I spotted a 190-plus buck the night before so I elected to pass on that buck.
Now, fast-forward to the fall of 2013. During the hunt I passed on several young bucks that had cheaters but were only in the 160 class. I know where they live and next year I will look for those bucks to check their antler growth.
On the evening of the last day of mule deer season I found a buck that I knew very well while glassing a creek bottom – you know, the same creek bottom where the fall before a 28-inch mainframe buck with the two in-line points called home. Like clockwork the buck stepped out of the bottom at dusk. The rack was still 28 inches wide but had longer main beams and several more inches on his G-4’s! The rest as they say, is history. I harvested a 180-class buck this last fall.
In conclusion, unless the buck was winter-killed or harvested, he will come back to the same fall range year after year. If you want to harvest an old mature buck understanding this behavior is the key strategy!
This hunt will air again at 9:00 pm on Eastmans Hunting TV on the Outdoor Channel September 23rd and September 30th 2014.