Colorado mule deer tactics

Danger_Denver

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
40
Hey all,

I have my first mule deer tag and am a newish hunter (forums and YouTube have taught me everything). I hunted a unit for archery elk two years ago, and while there there were does that were in my camp most mornings when I got up, and would cruise into camp during lunch some times. They would walk through without being all jumpy, and were relatively indifferent to me. I thought this would be a great spot to invest for my deer tag (I would be happy with a doe or buck).

Welp, going back this year, I think they heard I got a tag haha. They were not in the areas I was while elk hunting. And they are super jumpy and spooky (even the does). I’ve found out I’m actually going to have to work for it.

I’ve found the general area they are in, and I see them transit through in the mornings and evening. Because they are in transit, I’m trying to “catch up” during my stalks. But once they hit the timberline they become ghosts and disappear. While still hunting in the thick timber every cracking stick from all the dead fall jumps them from a distance.

There was a nice buck I spotted transiting through a clearing, he went into the timber line. I had the wind in my face and walking through soft grass approaching the fringe, and he still spooked from a distance.

All that to ask, the main topography I’m hunting is timberline mixed with grass clearings. There aren’t really any knobs for glassing or enough elevation changes to spot and watch them bed because they go in and out of the fringes. Any tactics advice? I’m still hunting the timber mid-day to avoid spending all day at camp, but that feels like a waste of time, and so far everything has been so jumpy or quick to transit that catching them at twilight has been unsuccessful. Thanks y’all!

Below are pics as an example of terrain:
 

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Dsnow9

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Oct 29, 2019
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2,178
Location
Colorado
I take it your hunting archery? One thing about the timber is move very very slow. Glass as you walk, sometimes every couple steps if you know something is relatively close. If they are busting with good wind they are seeing you.

If you can pattern them you can get to one of the spots you see them coming out of the trees before sunrise and see if you can catch them on their way out.
 

Danger_Denver

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
40
I take it your hunting archery? One thing about the timber is move very very slow. Glass as you walk, sometimes every couple steps if you know something is relatively close. If they are busting with good wind they are seeing you.

If you can pattern them you can get to one of the spots you see them coming out of the trees before sunrise and see if you can catch them on their way out.
Yep, archery hunting. I haven’t had favorable wind with a lot of my encounters, I know that has been a contributing factor. I also think I am moving too quick/covering too much ground. I feel like covering more ground is more productive, but I know bumping everything isn’t working either. Thanks for the advice!
 

COrookie

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Joined
Aug 4, 2020
Messages
61
Location
Colorado
I just wrapped up my first mule deer hunt ever. I had a doe tag for muzzleloader season and did it solo. I showed up 4 days early to the area I was gonna hunt, glassed and found quite a few does. Then still hunted the forest around where I saw them. I mean really still hunted all day. 3 steps, pause for a minute, pause for two minutes, 3 steps pause for 5 minutes. I took yesterday morning off because my legs were killing me.

I had a shot opening morning and blew it, I think I shot four feet over its back No bs, I was shaking because I’ve never taken a big game animal. Then again on Sunday, I was reckless going in to a bedding area and got busted by three does, saw their white butts hopping far far away. Took Monday morning off and still hunted in the evening. Still hunted all day today and at about 630pm saw a doe working it’s way to a feeding area I had identified from my scouting. Stalk was crazy, I took one step a minute as I was walking up the draw parallel to it. It was walking at a slight angle towards me so from my lesson learned on opening morning I was patient and slowly paced it until I had great shot. At about 30 yards, I took many breaths to stop my legs from buckling and I punched it with my CVA 50 caliber. When I walked up to it I vomited because I’m a self taught hunter who started 11 years ago with small game and big game animals seemed almost unreachable (also a huge adrenaline dump). I then cried a little bit because the stalk felt like an intimate moment and the realization that it ended in a death was pretty deep.

Anyways, the tactics that were a huge game changer for me is get there early to scout. Be mentally and EMOTIONALLY willing to keep going (I wanted to quit after day two and seriously contemplated it). Be patient. Be quiet, Glass, slowly walk, be quiet, glass, slowly walk. Be more patient, including with your shot, take as many breaths as you need and if you lose the opportunity at least you won’t kick yourself in the ass for missing. Also a very important mental tactics, repeat in your head the saying “Good things happen to the hunter who keeps hunting.” I’m sure more experienced guys have better tactics but those are what worked for me this time.

Edit: just saw your pictures. Move near or in the timber. The vertical lines of the trees will break up your movement. I know it’s crunchy and I know you’re probably moving slowly but move even slower. So slow you feel like you’re about to fall over. take 3 steps, pause, then 2, pause, then 1. The point is to break up the bipedal sounds of a human walking. Depending on how much time you have, you can wait for high wind or rain to block out the sounds.
 
Last edited:

Danger_Denver

Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
40
I just wrapped up my first mule deer hunt ever. I had a doe tag for muzzleloader season and did it solo. I showed up 4 days early to the area I was gonna hunt, glassed and found quite a few does. Then still hunted the forest around where I saw them. I mean really still hunted all day. 3 steps, pause for a minute, pause for two minutes, 3 steps pause for 5 minutes. I took yesterday morning off because my legs were killing me.

I had a shot opening morning and blew it, I think I shot four feet over its back No bs, I was shaking because I’ve never taken a big game animal. Then again on Sunday, I was reckless going in to a bedding area and got busted by three does, saw their white butts hopping far far away. Took Monday morning off and still hunted in the evening. Still hunted all day today and at about 630pm saw a doe working it’s way to a feeding area I had identified from my scouting. Stalk was crazy, I took one step a minute as I was walking up the draw parallel to it. It was walking at a slight angle towards me so from my lesson learned on opening morning I was patient and slowly paced it until I had great shot. At about 30 yards, I took many breaths to stop my legs from buckling and I punched it with my CVA 50 caliber. When I walked up to it I vomited because I’m a self taught hunter who started 11 years ago with small game and big game animals seemed almost unreachable (also a huge adrenaline dump). I then cried a little bit because the stalk felt like an intimate moment and the realization that it ended in a death was pretty deep.

Anyways, the tactics that were a huge game changer for me is get there early to scout. Be mentally and EMOTIONALLY willing to keep going (I wanted to quit after day two and seriously contemplated it). Be patient. Be quiet, Glass, slowly walk, be quiet, glass, slowly walk. Be more patient, including with your shot, take as many breaths as you need and if you lose the opportunity at least you won’t kick yourself in the ass for missing. Also a very important mental tactics, repeat in your head the saying “Good things happen to the hunter who keeps hunting.” I’m sure more experienced guys have better tactics but those are what worked for me this time.

Edit: just saw your pictures. Move near or in the timber. The vertical lines of the trees will break up your movement. I know it’s crunchy and I know you’re probably moving slowly but move even slower. So slow you feel like you’re about to fall over. take 3 steps, pause, then 2, pause, then 1. The point is to break up the bipedal sounds of a human walking. Depending on how much time you have, you can wait for high wind or rain to block out the sounds.
Man that’s awesome, thanks for sharing all that. And congrats on the animal, I’m still waiting on that first big game animal.

What you said it what I will continue to adjust:

1. Take your time on the stalks. Slow down.
2. Slow WAY down when still hunting. I was increasing my encounters with deer from covering much more ground, but was bumping them before I ever had a chance.

At the latter part of this trip I began sitting by trails in a makeshift tree blind. I felt like I waisted some mornings and evenings, I saw a glimpse of the white butt of a doe while doing that, and that’s it. That tactic provided no close encounters or possible stalks.
 

COrookie

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2020
Messages
61
Location
Colorado
Man that’s awesome, thanks for sharing all that. And congrats on the animal, I’m still waiting on that first big game animal.

What you said it what I will continue to adjust:

1. Take your time on the stalks. Slow down.
2. Slow WAY down when still hunting. I was increasing my encounters with deer from covering much more ground, but was bumping them before I ever had a chance.

At the latter part of this trip I began sitting by trails in a makeshift tree blind. I felt like I waisted some mornings and evenings, I saw a glimpse of the white butt of a doe while doing that, and that’s it. That tactic provided no close encounters or possible stalks.
Also, YOU’RE GETTING INTO DEER. You’re doing a good job but probably just need to tweak a few things here and there. You’re doing better than a lot of others. I know we hunt western mule deer and the name of the game out here is to hunt hard everyday but if you have the time and need to wait for more favorable conditions (wind, rain) for a stalk then just hang back and wait. Taking that morning off to focus on what I’m doing wrong just taking my time to get after it again was a huge factor for me. If wind sucks, just sit down and wait for it to change.
 

Wallydeuce

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
1,353
Location
NV
Have your bow in one hand and your binoculars in the other. I use small pocket size binos. Hell, your range finder will work just fine.
Don't cross a meadow unless you have no other way. Get into the timber about 10 yards, take 2-3 steps, stop and glass ahead of you. I'm talking 50 or so yards ahead of you. Repeat.
Walk game trails. They do.
And remember, unless you scare the hell out of them, they'll be back to the same area tomorrow or the day after.
And last but first and foremost. Wind. Never ignore the wind.
 

DEhunter

New member
Joined
Feb 6, 2022
Messages
4
Location
Delaware
I had a similar experience during my first archery mule deer hunt in Colorado at the beginning of September. Quickly found out that mule deer are not everywhere, and they are not dumb, despite what some had said prior to the trip. Tried hunting big meadows, small meadows, alpine, near the road, away from the road, and beetle killed areas that had been recently timbered with old logging roads and skidder paths. The latter is where we had the most encounters with bucks, first thing in the morning and in the evening. The most productive areas were those near timberline, had drainages coming out of the alpine, and rock “barriers” at the top. Still, we did not see that many deer overall and did not kill. Great suggestions about having your bow ready and moving very slow. Had we done this opening morning, would have shot at (and hopefully killed) the quality buck that was staring down at us 33 yards away while our bows were tethered to our packs.
 
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