Are you having trouble hunting mule deer? Are you new to hunting mule deer? Are you looking for ways to easily attract these clever members of the deer species? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this article is for you!
Mule deer are indigenous to Western North America. According to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the estimated population of this species of deer is 4.2 million as of 2018. They are between 3 – 3 ½ feet tall and about 4 ½ to 7 feet long, with the does being smaller than the bucks. They can easily be identified by their mule-like ears and the black tip on their tails.
No matter where you are from, it is important to familiarize yourself with the local wildlife and the best hunting tactics for each one. I grew up in the North East and primarily hunted white-tail deer, so when my spouse was stationed in the North West, it was important for me to do research and ask around about the indigenous creatures and the most effective methods for hunting them.
Hunting is an art and all species of animals have tried and true methods of attraction and hunting, so for the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on rut-related attraction methods.
What You Will Need
- Real or faux deer antlers.
- Grunt calls (such as the Primos Power Mule Deer).
- Snort wheeze calls (such as the Proflex Snort-Wheeze)
- Doe in estrus scent (such as the Wildlife Research Center Golden Estrus Gel).
- Dominant buck lure (such as the Tink’s Trophy 100% Buck Urine).
- Human scent suppressants (such as the Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer).
- A hunting rifle with caliber suitable for mule deer hunting (such as .300 Remington Ultra Mag).
- High power binoculars or a spotting scope.
- A valid hunting license.
How to Attract Mule Deer
Rattling and Scraping Antlers
Rattling is a great method for attracting mule deer. Essentially, you rattle a set of 2 antlers together and it creates an illusion of 2 dominant bucks fighting.
This is great for drawing in other bucks that are looking to establish dominance and even does looking for a dominant buck.
Scraping antlers on trees can also be an effective method for hunting these deer, especially for drawing in a doe. The scraping creates the sound of a buck scraping his velvet off to draw in a doe and let her know that a buck is nearby.
Doe and Buck Calls
Grunt calls are useful during the rut because bucks grunt to show dominance over another buck or a doe.
It is important to create the proper grunt sounds depending on if you can see the deer, how far away they are, and what kind of deer you are trying to bring in, be it a buck or a doe.
Using snort wheeze calls to recreate the aggressive sound that a buck makes comes in handy and can be used along with other vocal attraction methods.
Grunts and snort wheezes are commonly used in conjunction but can also be used along with antler rattling.
Doe and Buck Scents
Doe in estrus scent – “estrus” is a term commonly used to define a doe in heat. It is the time in which a doe will allow a buck to mate with her.
Due to hormonal changes during this reproductive cycle, the scent of the does urine changes, letting bucks know and recognize when a doe is ready to breed.
A fantastic way to utilize this scent is by putting it on a tampon and tying it to a tree branch. This will allow the scent to carry so long as your own scent is not interfering.
The dominant buck lure scent is collected from a dominant buck’s urine. It is especially helpful during the rut because it signals to does that there is a dominant buck nearby and can also draw in other dominant bucks.
You can use this scent by creating a mock scrape in the ground where bucks frequently go and put the urine in the scrape.
Each of these methods to attract mule deer can be used individually or in conjunction with one another. I would recommend trying each one on their own first to test their effectiveness in your specific area and to create and better understand your preferences.
Helpful Tips for Beginners
- Mule deer have a highly advanced sense of smell, so ensure to mask your scent either with mule deer odor products or scent eliminating products and choose a hunting spot that is downwind of the deer.
- Mule deer have 310-degree vision around them and see better at night than during the day.
- Due to mule deer needing water every day, search for tracks near water sources such as creeks and springs.
- If you are in a place that gets snow during the winter months, it is helpful to look for tracts just after the snow has fallen to establish how close a mule deer is.
- Once startled, mule deer will jump nearly 15 feet in distance per leap in a fashion called “stotting,” so it is extremely important to remain calm, quiet, and relaxed once you have chosen your hunting spot.
- The rut (mating season) occurs during the winter months of November and December, so this is the best time of year to hunt mule deer.
- Mule deer prefer desert regions, mountain forests, and wooded hills so long as they contain plenty of vegetation to eat, hide, and sleep in.
- Mule deer are nocturnal, and they sleep in tall grass and thicket during the day and forage at night, making the first and last 2 hours of daylight the best times to hunt them.
- A male mule deer will rub the velvet from their antlers onto brush and saplings and make scrapes in the ground to let does know that there is a buck in that area, so searching for such markings will help you choose a vantage point.
- Testing scat and urine for warmth will allow you to know if any mule deer have recently been in the area.
Regardless of whether you are trophy hunting or hunting for food, these are some great ways to attract mule deer. They have worked for me and many others and I am happy to pass them on. I hope that you found these pro tips and attraction methods to be helpful and informative. Happy hunting!
References and Further Reading
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