Spot and Stalk Mule Deer Hunting Tactics
The open country nature of western mule deer means you are often forced into careful stalking scenarios during both archery and rifle seasons. Spot and stalk mule deer hunting is extremely visual and will truly test your patience. The experience is thrilling, especially when you creep within range and create a shot opportunity.
Find and Observe
Glass, glass and glass some more. Before you start a stalk, find your deer. The first few hours of daylight and the last few hours of daylight are critical. Hit it hard early and late to find your deer. Once you locate a shooter, ignore your instinct to rush into a stalk. Spend some time observing and get a grip on the situation. You should look at where the deer is headed and how he is moving before starting a stalk.
Play the Wind and Terrain
Check the wind and position yourself safely to avoid detection. Then spend some time checking the terrain. Look for obstacles that will conceal your movements and provide cover. If the buck is moving, you will need to create an angle and stalk to a point where he is going rather than where you first see him. Ideally, you will wait until the buck beds down and stalk into the bed location.
Avoid the Does
Are there any does or other animals between you and the buck? Does will give you away in a heartbeat and blow the buck off his bed. Rabbits and other wildlife will also alert him to your presence. Look for a clear path where you can make a stalk while avoiding other wildlife in the area.
Stay Low and Go Slow
The best camo on the market won’t help if you rush. Get off the skyline and move extremely slowly. Some stalks can take hours. Remain low to the ground and take advantage of any cover available and creep forward. If you’re trying to get within bow range, wear soft clothes and quiet shoes. Some hunters will even wear socks while stalking to remain silent. I like basic athletic shoes that are flexible and have a rubber sole.
The closer you get, the more sensitive the situation. Slow down as much as possible as you approach shooting range. Rushing at this point will likely blow your cover. Look at the ground and plan every foot and hand placement to avoid crunching sticks and making noise. Look for soft dirt and take it one slow step at a time.