Western big game hunters love their mule deer, and for good reason. This wily member of the Cervidae family is plentiful in many western states and larger than its whitetail counterpart - meaning more venison in your freezer this winter.
Mule deer are also surprisingly smart and elusive. Those new to hunting them are (as always) advised to listen to the hunting tips and advice of experienced hunters to be successful.
Named for their large mule-like ears, they are found in nearly all western states. Their territories also include northern Mexico, Baja California, western Canada and Alaska. While they have many regional subspecies, nearly all are characterized by their large ears, black-tipped tails, forked antlers, and larger size than the country's more populous whitetail deer.
So, where should you go to hunt them?
The best states to bag your buck this fall
- Colorado - If it's a big rack you're after, Colorado is your state. In fact, more than three times as many trophy bucks were entered in Colorado between 2010 and 2016 than any other state. Colorado also holds the all-time record for a typical muley set back in 1972. Just remember, trophy bucks need to be tough to reach the status of "trophy-size" - and their meat follows suit. A good hunting tip is to pass on the big racks, and instead look for younger (i.e. more tender and lean) deer. While a spike may not look as nice above the mantle, you will thank yourself at the dinner table!
- Utah - While Utah may not produce as many trophy bucks as Colorado, it still has its share of the big boys for harvest. Plus, with a split rifle season recently enacted to reduce crowding, you have the option of hunting in the early season when muleys are most plentiful, or the late season, when there are fewer hunters.
- Idaho - With both the western forests and eastern deserts available for hunting, Idaho is a favorite western big game hunting destination for sportsmen everywhere. The state also holds the record for the 5th largest typical buck of all time, set back in 1961 out of Franklin County. Plus, mule deer are the most common big game animal in the state, which is helped along by Idaho's careful game management programs.
- Wyoming - Next up is Wyoming, where vast, unpopulated wilderness areas are ideal for hunting. In fact, the 3rd largest typical mule deer was harvested here back in 1925, and while the state may be more well known for its other big game species, mule deer are still plentiful here, with around two thirds as many muleys as humans in the state.
- Montana - Big skies and big bucks are two great reasons to visit Montana this fall, since this is the state of the plus-sized mountain muley, which often reach 325 pounds fully dressed. And, with many guides available to help you with regional hunting tips and tricks, your chances of filling your freezer for the winter from this beautiful state are excellent.
- California - For some, California may be a surprise entry here, although the variety of hunting regions in the state are impressive, and the muleys are plentiful. You can either choose the western coastal regions from Ventura County to the northern state border for small coastal Columbian Black-tails reside, or go east of I-5 for the larger Black-tail cross breeds or even Rocky Mountain Mule Deer in the Sierras.
Arm yourself with the right gear
Whether you prefer stand hunting or spotting-and-stocking, one of the best hunting tips we can offer you is to outfit yourself with quality hunting equipment. When it comes to hunting mule deer, you'll need some essential ALPS OutdoorZ Big Game Gear - check out all of your options below.
ALPS OutdoorZ is your go-to resource for all the gear you'll need. So make sure you're prepared!