I am trying to plan a rifle mule deer hunt for some family (should be about 5 of us) for a week long hunt. What are some of the key terrain and habitat features that you look for when E-scouting for mule deer?
Shelves, Benches, Northwest facing slopes, possible springs or water holes. Much of this depends on time of year but Mule deer are very much creatures of habit and wonder within a specific area most of their lives unless something really pushes them out. Much of this also depend on the area in which you are hunting. In Washington it's mountains, valleys, draws and a lot of up and down unless you hunt the flats/rolling hills of eastern Washington. Areas of open sage brush are an entirely different deal and Mule deer find great refuge In what seem to be no where to hide conditions. Small draws, areas of tall sage and cliff bands.
It depends on what kind of buck your are looking for. If you are happy with any buck look no farther than an alfalfa field or public land close to the field if you can not get permission.
If you want one of the few bucks left that are worth putting on the wall. You need to look for places that have some feature that limits access like steep and rocky, far form a road or private land that blocks the easy ways in. Then I would look for security cover. Even in the most inaccessible places a good buck will have a hard time living more than a year or two if there is few places to hide. It also depends of the time of year you will be hunting. For instance if you are hunting the rut look for that alfalfa field and pray that you get a crack at that nice buck before the guys hunting the private land find him. A good buck that leaves the hills to rut with the does in the alfalfa will not last long on most ranches.