Scouting for High Country Mule Deer
Scouting season is upon us and the opening season is just around the corner. It is time to dust off those trail cams and make sure they still work, and stock up on batteries (more than you expect!)
When scouting for a big mature mule deer you need time, patience, focus, and a good set of glass.
Let’s face it, trail cameras are just another fun hobby. I look forward to putting out trail cameras every year but I am not convinced that they will help you kill a mature buck. There are plenty of great trail cameras out there on the market. Honestly, I personally can’t choose one brand. Unless you are hunting private ground, my opinion is buy a camera that you can get a smoking deal on, that way when you place your camera on public ground you won't be stressing about your $400 trail camera you just put on a heavily used trail. Remember, when putting out trail cams, you alway risk getting your cameras messed with, broken, or even worse, stolen. For me, I can't beat the value of Stealth Cam, Bushnell trail cameras, or even the Wildgame Innovations and Cuddeback Trail cameras. If you are in the market for a higher end camera make sure to check out Spypoint and Covert trail cams. They definitely help on finding bucks and what size of bucks that are in the area. Unless you have the same buck on the same trail or same water hole consistently than it’s all just a crap shoot. Now personally, if I do find a good buck on one of my cameras I will than pull cameras from other areas that are not doing so good and flood the area with the good buck to try and find the bucks favorite path.
Alright, so you have placed your cameras and been able to pattern a few really nice mature bucks, now it is time for homework.You really have to do your homework on when you get the pictures back from your cameras. It will seem as if you are enrolled in law school for deer hunting. Check how often he is coming in and what times of day. Checking the times of day is so crucial, make sure you plan your hunt accordingly to when he is using what trails/watering holes. If legal in your state try and use a salt lick if you can in your state. I prefer the Trophy Rock brand. This will slow the buck down so you can get some good pictures of him, and also get him to keep using the same trail more frequently instead of using a trail that’s 20ft up or 20ft downhill from the trail you put your camera on.
This is so important! DO NOT check your trail cameras too often, or else you can leave so much human scent the bucks will vacate the area completely. Give the area at least 2 weeks (3 weeks is better) before you check on it. I know it’s really hard to wait, but if you can’t wait, than get a few more and spread them out in different areas at different days of the week so you are constantly checking different cameras to keep tabs on your deer.
Finding the right spotting scope and binoculars that fit your style is key. My recommendation is don’t go cheap. Get some decent glass that fits your budget or just right outside that budget. For the guy that can’t break the bank but wants something half way decent go with the Nikon Prostaff 5. Really awesome mid-range glass that is going to be super clear and not break the bank are all optics from Vortex, and for someone that is going for broke and wants to buy a once in a lifetime scope I would recommend the Swarovski hands down. The more you spend behind your optics the more deer you are going to find. That’s a fact.
Now as far as trying to kill a buck of your dreams or trying to find a good spot that has plenty of opportunities, than you need to strap on those boots and spend time in the hills. Not many guys will tell you where to go to find big bucks (actually probably no one will!) You will hike a lot, DO NOT go cheap on boots, buy quality boots that will last you years, not just a season or two. My top 3 brands are: Kenetrek Boots, Crispi Boots, or Lowa Boots.
Don’t focus all your time on one canyon until you have found that monster muley, or you have multiple shooters in the same area. Than try new angles, or hillsides to pick up bucks that you have never seen before. It’s all about getting out there and finding the perfect hill to glass from that has the best possible view of as much ground as you can cover. Hike to the tallest peak in that area and sit as long as you can. Mornings are key in glassing and patterning that illusive buck that you just can’t seem to find when you go in the evenings.
A lot of times I will take a picture of the scenery where I have seen a good buck that I want to pursue and sometime take notes on where you saw him come out of the trees or went in, or how many times you have seen him there in that area.