Locating Bucks During the Mule Deer Rut
By: Joseph von Benedikt
It’s a beautiful thing when testosterone kicks in and gnarly old mulie bucks quit thinking. Nocturnal monarchs strut around in broad daylight, thicket-loving old hermit bucks stand silhouetted on open ridges, and alpine-country cliff dwellers descend to mingle with does in less protected, more accessible habitat.
In most regions, you’re not allowed to hunt mule deer during the rut. All you can do is take a detour through areas high in doe numbers on your way to work, break out the spotting scope, drool all over the front of your business suit, and take some shaky iPhone photos through the ocular lens.
But if you really want to hunt bucks during the mule deer rut badly enough, there are ways. No, I’m not talking about poaching.
Several great mule deer states offer some sort of a late-fall rut hunt. Usually, it’s in a limited-draw area, and you’ll put in for half your life in the hopes of pulling a tag. However, there are exceptions. Frequently, those exceptions involve archery equipment and lots of cold weather, so you’ll have to be both adaptable and tough to capitalize on them.
Take my home state of Utah. Ask any local hunter if Utah offers a general-season mule deer rut hunt, and he’ll laugh ruefully in your face. Utah, like many Western states, manages for hunter opportunity, not hunter success.
But after a minute a light will go off in some cobwebbed recess of that local’s brain, and he’ll say something like, “Actually, if you’re willing to work your way through a labyrinth of suburban neighborhoods, park near city water tanks or whatnot, and climb near-vertical slopes into the Wasatch Mountains, there’s an extended-season archery unit ….” Hunters may pursue big old bucks until mid to late December on the west-facing, extremely steep slopes above Salt Lake City.
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