Accessing Trophy Mulies

Here are some details on what you can expect when your goal is to bowhunt and harvest a trophy mule deer, yet you are not sure where to go.

1) A Private Land/Outfitted Hunt
If your main goal is to try to harvest a trophy mule deer asquicklyandeasily as possible, then this is the route to go. Save your greenbacks (a lot) and book a hunt in a well established trophy producing area, preferably on property that is managed strictly for trophy bucks.

Personally, I’ve been on only one such hunt myself, by invite, for free. I saw numerous bucks in the 170-inch to 180-inch class, and a few larger. Being a do-it-yourselfer (one who hunts on a very blue-collar income), this class of hunt isn’t for me. It does however, offer the best chance for consistent access to top-end bucks.

Glass open areas early morning and late evening for feeding bucks and then plan stalks accordingly.

2) Private Land/Do-It-Yourself
This can be a very profitable route to go if you have access to good, private land that harbors quality bucks. In reality, however, few people have such an “in.” The rest of us are faced with trying to gain access through our own effort and few people have the ability to travel out West and seek out such access. One trick of mine, that has worked to a degree, revolves around fitting in time to knock on a few doors when I travel out West for work, trade shows, or pleasure trips (summer vacations, snow skiing, etc.).

3) Public Land/Outfitted Hunts
A few years ago, I personally spent time working as a guide for a western outfitter who supplied this class of hunt. Since then, I’ve not been a strong advocate of this type of outing. You pay a good price to hunt an area thateveryone has open access to. If your main goal is a quality outdoor experience, then this trip may be for you. Otherwise, get your own gear, get in shape, take plenty of time off work, and go do it yourself. You will either love it or hate it, and if you find the latter to be the case, then refer back to the aforementioned type of hunt.

4)Public Land/Limited Entry
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to gain access to top-end public land mulies revolves around searching out special drawing hunts that are managed to produce mature bucks. Most western game departments offer such opportunities. The drawing odds are long for these hunts, but the rewards can be great. Nowhere else on public land can you access the quality of resource that can rival the “big money” private land hunts, simply for the price of admission.

I’ve applied for some of these hunts for a number of years now. This past season I finally drew a tag for an excellent unit in southeastern Utah. Though I was unable to take a buck of the caliber that the area was renowned for, I nevertheless bow-killed a 160-class “second choice” buck — not a bad consolation prize!

5) Public Land/Do-It-Yourself
Finally, we’re down to the blue-collar, “average Joe” bowhunting world. This is my bread-and-butter hunt, and by far, the lion’s share of bow tags are sold to those who participate at this level.

Over the years, I’ve found many big bucks on our western national forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. Exhaust all possible sources of information available in search of potentially productive areas. Call state game biologists, get detailed harvest reports and concentrate on areas that have good genetics, habitat and are remote and/or overlooked. Also, from the earliest of seasons to the latest, try them all; you’ll eventually find a time and place that will produce.

Here’s the 160-inch mulie that the author took last August in southeastern Utah.

Nowadays, putting a big bow-killed mulie in the book is a very lofty goal. All our western states suffer from a lack of predator control, loss of habitat and increased hunting pressure. With these facts in place, the desire to harvest a trophy mulie has now evolved into one of bowhunting’s greatest challenges. Anyway you go, just go, because there may never be a better time than now!

Western mule deer hunting often lends itself toward long-range shooting opportunities. Familiarity with your archery equipment breeds confidence, so practice until your bow becomes an extension of yourself. Today, I shoot a Mathews MQ-1 set at 72 pounds. It is complimented by a Bodoodle Pro 500 rest, which acts as a launch pad for my Beman ICS 340 shafts, which are tipped with Rocky Mountain TI-100 broadheads. I carry my Scott release — and all other accessories — in a Badlands fanny pack.

For a fine assortment of Archery gear, click here.

Eddie Claypool provides weekly tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past dozen years, Claypool has harvested 23 Pope & Young recordbook whitetails. Six of the deer were taken on public ground, with the rest coming from private ground that he accessed through knocking on doors. He has not been guided on a hunt, or hunted on managed properties. He also has hunted many other species of game including elk and mule deer.

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