September’s Mule Deer

The turning of September is a time of transition for the bowhunter.

Most whitetail seasons aren’t yet open. The best waterhole hunting is waning. Bears aren’t prime. The hot antelope and elk action is still two weeks off. Caribou hunting is probably good, but so far, far away.

The turning of September is for one purpose in the minds of many bowhunters: the stalking of mule deer.

I’ve heard it said and have repeated it myself, that a good muley buck is the toughest trophy a bowhunter can seek. It doesn’t have an Achilles heel like most other big game. You can bait a bear. You can call an elk. You can decoy antelope and pattern whitetail. But the mule deer will not fall for any of that foolishness. All you can do is go after him — on his own terms.

The author hikes and glasses for mulies.

And here, on the edge of Wyoming’s Bighorns, his terms can be strict. Wide open and hard country, as tough to stalk as you can find.

We tent-camped on the edge of a pretty reservoir, waking well before each dawn to truck-crawl into the hills and begin glassing. The optics were our essential tools, binocs for spotting deer, scopes for closer looks, and rangefinders for accurate shooting at the open-country distances we would face. We went many hours between spotting bucks, a frustrating mystery till we got the answer one evening when a guide mentioned, “Yeah that group last week missed 19 shots!”

But those evenings were enjoyable with fine company and Cee Dub’s amazing Dutch oven cookery.

We kept at it, getting in one good stalk most days that would inevitably be blown by shifting breezes or the deer’s uncanny hearing or our own blunders. It was enchanting country, part of which was a “petrified forest” of ancient mineralized trunks that erosion had recently been exposed. We’d take a break in the heat of midday for some archery practice or trout fishing. Then as the shadows stretched across the bluffs, we’d get on the glasses again looking for bucks starting to move.

It was the fifth morning I believe when I caught a buck picking his way off a butte and bedding on the hillside below. I was off to the races!

I jogged for the first part of the stalk, probably a mile or two, circling around the backside of the butte. Then up over the summit, careful now, anxiously trying to see before being seen.

The author with his mulie buck.

Then there he was, still in his bed, surveying the immense dry valley below. The rangefinder told me he was 52-1/2 yards away. But the distance was mostly down and I struggled with how to aim, finally opting for the 30-yard pin on his back. I let fly, and watched the arrow seem to float interminably, looking sure to overshoot him, and then finally dropping in … perfectly!

So I challenged the mule deer on his terms, and paid my dues, and am privileged to have gotten my buck at the turning of September.

For a fine selection of Archery gear, click here.

Mike Strandlund is editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame.

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