Trophy Mule Deer Hunting

Mule Deer


Trophy Mule DeerOVERVIEW   The Rocky Mountain Mule deer is the most numerous, widespread and popular deer in the central and western United States.  Mule deer are not limited to any one type of terrain, being found from sparse, low deserts to high forested mountains. Generally they prefer the more rugged country. They also have a range from 30 - 50 square miles.

Mule deer gets its name from its large ears.  Coat color is reddish-brown in summer, turning to a blue-gray in winter.  Its forehead is much darker than its face, while its throat, belly and inner leg surfaces are white.  Mule deer have white rump patches and short, narrow, black-tipped white tails. Adult bucks may weigh in excess of 200 pounds and stand up to 42 inches at the shoulders. They typically range 200-225 pounds.  A Rocky Mountain Mule deer doe will weigh between 110-125 pounds. 

Mule Deer Antler ConfigurationANTLER CONFIGURATION   Typical mule deer antler configuration has each side branching equally into two main beams, each may fork into two tines.  The size and number of points is dependent on a combination of age, nutrition, and genetic background.  The antlers grow under a layer of skin called velvet.  The velvet supplies blood to the growing antlers, which are soft.  When fully grown, the antlers harden, the velvet dries, and is rubbed off.  Antlers are composed of material similar to that of bone.  Each year in the spring, after the breeding season has passed, antlers are shed.  It is in preparation for the rut that mule deer grow antlers.  Bucks are polygamous and fight for a harem of does during the winter breeding season. 

GESTATION    The mule deer breeding period starts in November and generally runs through December.  After a gestation period of about 190 days, the does give birth to spotted fawns, often twins.  Fawns are dropped about mid summer, between the months of June and August.  At higher elevations the fawns are born early after the last spring storms to allow the young to grow large enough to withstand the winter storms.  At lower, drier elevations, birthing is synchronized more with summer rains that bring on new plant growth.  A fawn’s spots will disappear in about two months and the young will stay with their mother until the following spring.  They will become sexually mature in a year and a half and live to an average age of about ten years. 

MULE DEER FOOD    Mule deer feed on grasses and forbs in the spring and summer; however, they are primarily browsers.  They eat such items as twigs, bark, buds, leaves and nuts.  Important plants in a mule deer’s diet include mountain-mahogany, buckbrush, cliffrose, sagebrush, buckthorn, juniper and oak.  Other food preferences include weeds, palo verde, aspen, mushrooms, yucca flowers, mesquite beans, janusia, coffeeberry, cacti fruit and filaree in season.  Most feeding is done at dawn and dusk, although human activity may cause a shift to more feeding at night.

MULE DEER SENSES   One of the mule deer's primary defense characteristics to avoid danger is it ability to hear extremely faint sounds.  Mule deer's hearing is far superior to that of humans. When a mule deer hears a sound it will immediately face the sound, direct his ears towards the sound and try and locate the potential threat.  To help detect this threat, mule deer will utilize their nose to pick up the scent of the danger.  The nose of a mule deer is capable of detecting the slightest of odors up to several hundred yards away. This is why it is extremely important to hunt into the wind.  This will reduce your chances of being detected by bedded down deer.

Mule deer also have incredible eye sight. Their eyes are located on the sides of their head which allows them to have almost complete peripheral view of their surroundings.  The only area they lack is directly behind them. It is also determined that mule deer see colors at the lower levels of the color spectrum, thus they don't see bright colors like we humans do.  The advantage to mule deer's vision is their ability to see at night. Mule deer have more light detecting cells in their eyes than humans which makes them have the ability to see better at night.   



Coues Whitetail Deer Anatomy

Understanding the anatomy of the mule deer deer goes along way in shot placement. We as sportsman need to understand the proper kill zone when taking a shot at an animal. This is especially true for archers. Accuracy in our hunting equipment and our ability will limit the unnecessary wounded or lost animals in the field. Please take time in reviewing the animation to the right. We will further discuss "shot placement" at different angles in upcoming information to this site.

When viewing the diagram to the right, the critical areas to produce a lethal shot is in the vitals defined as the heart / Lung area. As the image rotates through, notice the "heart" (red) location in reference to the front legs. Then reference the location of the "Lungs" (pink). When hunting, especially when the deer might be moving or in a position which isn't exactly broad side, the best shot placement is right above the front legs concentrating on the center mass. This shot placement is lethal and reduces the chance of hitting a non vital area.