Have you dreamed of hunting for mule deer miles away from the nearest road? Rumor has it that its not hunting sheep that is the greatest part of the trip, its where the bighorn sheep live. The same thing is true for true mule deer hunts. Mule deer thrive in some of the more enticing, uninhabited places around the world. Just visiting these beautiful animals and the area they live is worth the effort to get to them. We would like to offer you some tips to help make your first mule deer hunt a great one.
First, and most importantly, you have got to get yourself into shape! And I’m not just talking about walking to the mailbox every day or playing basketball each weekend. In order to honestly enjoy your mule deer hunt, you want to be in the greatest shape possible. Now, I realize, depending on your age, this may not be feasible, and if that’s the circumstance, shoot for the best shape you’ve been in during the past five years. The biggest thing here is to do everything that you can. My workout is taking a jog about three or four times every week. I start out by walking and then jogging three months before I go, and when it’s time for the trip, my intent is to be able to jog for at least an hour. I’ve found this is better than trying to give a specified distance. If you can establish a jogging pace for at least an hour, you should be ready to climb the mountains required on your mule deer hunt. Besides jogging, I also go hiking, jump rope, ride a bike, and walk with my 50 lb backpack . Any of these are good to build the muscles you will need on your mule deer hunt.
Second, practice shooting your gun. I recommend shooting the rifle on a weekly basis at ranges out to 300 yards. You’ll want to know where your gun will shoot at different distances. Start at 100 yards with a fixed mechanical rest. Test different types of ammo until you figure out what your particular gun prefers and stay with it. Personally, I prefer Winchester 130 grain Ballistic Silvertips in 270, but each hunting rifle shoots differently and you need to find out what works. Once you know how the hunting rifle shoots on the practice range, try using shooting sticks, prone position, over your pack as well as other positions that you’ll come across as you hunt in the field. You won’t be able to use a bench in the real hunt and even if you are a good bench shooter, that doesn’t automatically make you a great shooter in a hunting situation. You will also want to practice distances vs. angles. Generally shots at mule deer are down or uphill and hunters tend to shoot over deer. Work on some shots downhill and uphill. You’ll be surprised at the difference angles make. I also suggest you get a laser rangefinder and use it during your practice sessions. It can also be helpful as you learn to judge mule deer around the field. Videos by Mossback titled Mulies Gone Wild are a helpful tool for learning how to judge large bucks. They tell you the score after you watch footage of the bucks on the hoof.
Third, buy the best hunting supplies you can. There are some good quality products available today. Get the lightest, sturdiest material you can find for your backpacking and clothing items. I don’t want to go into detail with each item, but some that I would recommend are: light packable rain gear I use Frogg Toggs, an internal pack I use a North Face pack, but there are several on the market, wool socks I use Smartwool, and durable, stable, hiking boots – I use Lowa Sheephunter boots. If you are planning to hunt with an outfitter, request a list of equipment to bring and follow what it says. Get the best optical equipment you can afford! I personally like Brunton Epochs in 10.5×43 on account of their magnification and light weight, but there are many fine optics on the market. I’ll say it once again, buy the best hunting supplies you can.
Lastly, rent or buy some mule deer hunting videos. These will get your blood moving and get you excited about finding a big muley. They’ll get you motivated to get yourself into shape during the off season and find that deer you dream of after the season is open.