Throughout our lives, we encounter people that seem to have all the luck. We envy them, we’re jealous of them, we want to be like them, and we want to have their success. They may be a world-class athlete, businessman, classmate, coworker, family member, or the neighbour across the street. Maybe they’re somebody in the hunting industry. We see them over and over in magazines, TV shows, websites, or on social media. Every year, they are the guys that are grinning ear to ear behind a massive tangle of mule deer antlers. Over the years we watch their hair recede and the elements begin to take a toll on their weathered faces—deep wrinkles from all of that smiling over yet another monster mule deer.
As a young teenage hunter, my goal was to kill my first four-point buck. I wasn’t concerned with the scores. That wasn’t much of thing back then—scores. Even then, I recognized a pattern in most mule deer hunters. Once that first four-point was under your belt, you’d graduate to almost always killing a four-point. I also recognized the same guys in deer camp almost always killed the really big bucks.
Why do the same guys seem to kill the big bucks every year? Sure, you’ll always have the lucky draw that might put a hunter on the Paunsaugunt, the Arizona strip, or a fourth season tag in western Colorado. These are generally the hunters that only grace the pages of a hunting magazine once, maybe twice in a lifetime; these are generally not the hunters consistently harvesting mature bucks year after year.
In reality, that’s all most hunters can hope for—be lucky enough to draw a handful of good tags throughout a lifetime of mule deer hunting. Maybe that’s not good enough for you? Your passion is mule deer hunting and your goal is to hunt and harvest mature, trophy-class mule deer every year.
The fire and desire in you is burning, and its fuel is time and money. Without them, your mule deer dreams will become ashes before you can even warm your frozen toes.
For most of us, time and money seem to be in an endless tug of war. Those with money can try to turn the hands of time back through the purchasing of landowner tags, and applying in every mule deer state available. Quite often, those with money don’t have the time to be successful on a self-guided hunt due to demanding work schedules and limited time.
A balance of both is needed to put the odds in your favor, but both are critical and necessary. Lady luck may grant you one or two big mule deer if you don’t have the time or money to invest, but lady luck will bare all if you bring both time and money to the table.
If you want to join the proverbial “10 percenters,” mule deer hunting is going to have to become a priority. And with priorities, you’re going to have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. There is an opportunity to harvest mature mule deer yearly, but it’s not for the average hunter.
- Be willing to invest time and money.
- Be willing to sacrifice in other areas of your life.
- Be willing and able to hunt multiple states every year (two at minimum).
- Be up on up-and-coming units.
- Be focused on traditional trophy areas.
- Be willing to purchase landowner-type tags.
- Be willing to pay trespass fees and go guided if needed.
- Become proficient with multiple weapons.
- Be willing to pass on small bucks and eat tag soup.
- Befriend someone that shares your passion. Solo hunters don’t harvest most big muleys.
- Time is what hunters want the most, but what they use the worst.
It’s early August, and the summer has flown by. There are projects around the house that have needed attention all summer. Your wife wants to go to a movie. Your neighbours want to have a get-together. The kids want to go to the water park. Guess what? It’s early August. You only have a few short weeks until the velvet comes off. It’s time to go scouting.
Your wife’s sister is getting married for the third time, out of state, and wants you to bring the entire family. Flights, hotels, meals, etc. add up to what you could pick up a good landowner voucher for. It’s time to tell the family maybe next time and buy that voucher.
Now, these might not be the right choice for a lot of people and I get that, but if you want to be hunting mule deer every fall in good areas, you’re going to have to make some hard choices.
If you choose to spend Saturday night with your neighbours and take your family to an ill-fated wedding, don’t be the jealous guy that tears down the hunter that puts in his time and money and made a choice to be a “10 percenter.”
Successful mule deer hunters that are consistent in their actions will become consistent in their results.