Cat & Mouse – Archery Hunting for Mule Deer

by Erik Schell
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As a former guide, outfitter, and now consultant at Worldwide Trophy Adventures, who specializes in Western hunting, it is conservative to say I am immersed each and every day with all things mule deer. A mature mule deer buck is an admirable quarry, specifically when hunted with archery or crossbow equipment. Although the task of taking a muley buck with these lesser weapons can seem daunting that is simply not the case when you are utilizing WTA’s superior outfitter network and properly prepare for the hunt.

Outfitter Selection/ Hunt Location

Outfitter selection/ hunt location on an archery mule deer hunt can be instrumental in the overall success and memory of a hunt. The deciding factors on outfitter selection/location for a hunt such as this are largely dependent on your desired trophy size, the landscape you wish to experience, and the budget you set for the hunt.  

For those of you looking to pursuit a solid, 4X4, representative of the species,  luck is on your side. These type of bucks are available in almost every western state and all habitat types. Furthermore, tags are easily obtained and typically come with an array of price points to fit anyone’s budget. Many of these hunts will also give you the outside chance of taking a very big buck. Every year we have WTA clients take bucks over 180 inches on hunts such as these. Here at WTA we will typically focus on outfitters/locations with strong overall buck populations which ensures opportunity is maximized and the hunt stays engaging.

WTA’s Top Picks For Great Archery Mule Deer Hunting Experiences

#1 Utah – Giant Private Ranch

#2 Southeastern Montana

#3 Central Wyoming

A big mule deer can pop up anywhere but outfitters that truly produce 170+ plus as the “norm” are few and far between. Regardless of any preconceived notions, a 170+ inch mule deer buck is a big deer. Hunters in search of a trophy type buck exceeding 170 inches are oftentimes limited by their ability to draw or obtain a tag. For this reason, outfitters that offer these hunts with easily drawn/purchased tags, typically book up fast. This will require the client to book two to three years out. These outfitters do charge a premium, but on a hunt such as this, you are better off to do it right the first time than attempt to cut corners in the name of savings. Hunts such as these routinely produce 170-190 bucks with the occasional 200 incher being harvested.

WTA’s Top Picks For Big-Archery Mule Deer

#1 Eastern Colorado

#2 Northeastern Utah

#3 Southeastern Wyoming

States That Allow Crossbow Use During Archery Seasons:

  • Wyoming            
  • Nebraska

States That Allow Crossbow Use During Archery Season Due To Medical Reasoning:

  • Colorado             
  • Utah                     
  • South Dakota
  • New Mexico 
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Nevada                   

Shooting Preparation

As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Practicing for a hunt like this should be done in a way that mimics the most common situations and conditions you are likely to experience while in the field. Although setting up a target and simply shooting is better than nothing it will not yield the same results that situational training can produce. The following situation is extremely common when archery mule deer hunting. I have included a brief synopsis of the practice drill I do to prepare for the situation. This drill is intended to show our strengths and weaknesses so they can be analyzed and improved upon.

Situation: You bed a buck down, crawl into shooting position and wait for the buck to stand up – Oftentimes a deer will stand up and allow for a clean shot, however;  it is not uncommon for a buck to stand and immediately spot you causing it to take a few large bounds before stopping to take another look, at this time you must shoot and shoot fast.

How To Prepare: Place a target at 30 yards directly in front of you and a second target 45 degrees left and/or right of the original target. Execute this drill from both standing and kneeling positions. Draw back aiming at the target directly in front of you. Once at full draw quickly adjust to the target at 45 degrees in either direction and shoot.  

What Is this Teaching You?

Through this drill you are gaining a better understanding of your ability to quickly acquire your target, settle into the shot, and accurately shoot under self-induced duress. Start slow and develop sound movements, do not rush yourself into bad habits/poor form. The speed side of things will come in due time. As you gain confidence continue to stretch the yardage out and constantly change your angles and what direction the wind is blowing in relation to where you are shooting.

Final Thoughts

It is all too often that I hear very serious and dedicated, archery whitetail hunters express apprehensions around traveling west in pursuit of mule deer with their bows. The apprehension is simply of the unknown. Do not let that alone hold you back from experiencing one of the finest hunts available in all of North America. If you would like to further discuss WTA’s world class offerings pertaining to archery mule deer hunts the U.S. and Canada do not hesitate to reach out by phone (800-346-8747) or submit an email request to have one of our expert consultants reach out to you. 

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