OVERVIEW 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.
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
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.