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Mule Deer hunting requires patience, skill, knowledge, and persistence.
Mule deer can be quite a challenge even for experienced hunters. If you're new to the sport, it's a good idea to know if there are beginner mistakes you're making so you can avoid them to become a better hunter.
Even the most proficient hunter makes mistakes from time to time. But, a mistake at the wrong time could cost you your shot, your kill, or your own personal safety.
Did you know that hunters in the U.S. spend an average of $2,000 annually on hunting-related expenses?
If you don't want that money to go to waste, follow our guide to avoid these common mule deer hunting mistakes from the go.
Not checking wind direction for the day is the most common mistake that people make while mule deer hunting. Avoiding this mistake is as simple as walking into the wind.
A mule deer's sense of smell is its best defense against predators and humans are smelly, smelly creatures. Unlike a human's nose, the mule deer can process several different smells at once. This makes it easy to pick out something unusual like the residue of beef jerky and gasoline that's wafting off of you.
A lot of hunting shops will offer "scent-masking" sprays and deodorants that claim to make you less detectable to a deer's nose but don't be fooled. If you're walking in the direction that the wind is blowing, a mule deer will smell you and run away long before you ever get close enough to put it in your crosshairs.
You may be a naturally good shot at the range every other weekend, but every experienced hunter knows that it takes more than natural skill to be a good hunter.
Tracking your mule deer might mean hiking for miles to find a good spot (after sacrificing a nice chunk of sleep to get there early). When you finally have eyes on your prey, it's common to experience a rush of adrenaline that could have your hands literally shaking.
This combination of exhaustion and adrenaline can toss all your "natural skill" right out the window. When you finally do target your mule deer, you can operate your weapon through muscle memory and instinct. And those skills can only come from practice.
We’ve already mentioned how powerful a mule deer’s sense of smell is. In fact, Mississippi State University researchers found that a deer’s sense of smell is anywhere from 500 to 1,000 times stronger than a human's, and they can detect you by scent alone from up to a half-mile away.
But that's not the only advantage that a mule deer has on you. They can see about five times farther than an average human, and they have a much wider field of vision, which makes it easier to see you in their periphery, but more difficult to see you when you're high up in a tree stand.
Their hearing is similar to a human's, but they can detect high-pitch noises with far more accuracy. While it's common sense to be as quiet as possible when you're mule deer hunting, you should also be aware of the loose bullets clinking in your front pocket, the keys jingling at your side, and any other high-pitch metallic “clinking” sound.
It may sound quiet to you, but to a deer, you may as well be banging pots and pans together while you stomp through the woods.
If you're planning on showing up on opening morning (especially during weekends and holidays) expect there to be crowds of other hunters who all had the same idea you did.
And when mule deer see the woods invaded by orange-vested, gun-toting hunters, they tend to leave the area as fast as possible.
If you're serious about success while mule deer hunting, then you might want to consider waking up at 3 A.M. and hiking a few miles away from the road to outdistance the other hunters. This will give you a good headstart on the hunters pulling up at 5 A.M. and could make all the difference in going home empty-handed for the season.
Be smart about it and do some pre-season scouting. You'll know exactly which spots you'll want to use and how long it takes to get there by first light.
Serious mule deer hunters will usually invest in a good pair of binoculars to increase their chances of encountering a good buck, and with good reason. They're not only useful for finding far-off mule deer while you're on the hunt, a good set of binoculars are indispensable in pre-season scouting.
You might find a clearing that has great open lines of sight, a rushing stream to draw in prey, and you might even see a few deer grazing around. But if you haven't scouted the area with a good set of optics, then how do you know if the area is home to trophy-class bucks or just small does?
Another aspect to consider about your environment is your proximity to roads. Mule deer do their best to avoid being near roads, as the sound of automobiles will usually be perceived as a danger.
If you're close enough to hear cars go by, then a mule deer can hear it too, which means it's unlikely you'll find them anywhere nearby.
Remember that success in mule deer hunting generally comes down to two things: patience and preparation.
If you try to charge in unprepared, seeking instant gratification, then you're already doomed to fail. Be ready to go home some days with an empty tag, but if you're persistent and smart about it, then you could end up filling your tag on the last hour of the last day, and the experience will be all that more rewarding for you.
Every person makes mistakes, and no hunter is perfect, but if you follow these tips to avoid some of the most common mistakes, then you'll be on your way to becoming a better hunter in no time!
Don't wait around! Pick up some targets, practice at the range, and get ready for hunting season today!