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Mule Deer Behavior and Patterns

hi74 md pkendall 01Mule deer hunters typically face three very different hunting periods in the fall, with each offering its own unique pros and cons. Generally the first period runs from mid August to mid September. The second runs from mid September to the end of October, with the third running the month of November. You may be hunting the same deer, but bucks seem to have different personalities to match these three unique time periods.

Weather is the biggest game changer as it affects feed, cover, hunter access, deer movement, and a myriad of other factors that will affect hunter success. Deer behavior, especially that of mature bucks changes drastically with each of the three time periods. Even non migratory deer will change their habits and behaviors throughout the fall. Understanding each period and adapting your hunting to match the season will help you harvest more mature bucks.

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The Graduation Buck

The Buck of a Lifetime

As the last semester of my senior year was getting started in mid-January, it was time to get inventory ready and the booth loaded up for the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. I was running my company’s (AntlerKingz) booth. My parents drove down for the day to check out the show and talk to our hunting buddies; the afternoon auction had just started, so I stopped in to talk to them and get away from the booth for a minute. The auction was well under way, but my parents said they were going to leave and head back home. Before they left, my dad told me to stay at the auction and buy myself a tag as a graduation present. The tag was for a well-known, limited-entry unit in southern Utah—the PAUNSAUGUNT! I was sitting at a table with good friend, boss, and outfitter, Doyle Moss of MossBack Guides and Outfitters. After I purchased the tag, we knew we had our work cut out for us, considering my past experience hunting the Paunsaugunt with a bow.

The rest of the school year passed and graduation came and went; summer came and went; before I knew it, August arrived and I was on the road heading south to help videotape a hunter as he harvested his once-in-a-lifetime archery mule deer, knowing that as soon as he was done, it would be my turn to chase big velvet-covered muley’s with stick and string. After hunting hard and spotting numerous bucks, on the fifth afternoon, Mark Heck was able to arrow an amazing 204-7/8” inch giant.

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Colorado Bruiser

Lifetime 220-inch Colorado Mule Deer


The 2014 hunting season had finally arrived. I was working in Dallas when my dad called and asked if I’d be able to fly out to a Colorado mule deer hunt in one week. My grandfather needed surgery and his operation was scheduled for the same time as the hunt. I understood my dad’s desire to be at my grandfather’s side for the surgery. Although also concerned about my grandfather’s wellbeing, I knew he would want me to go on the hunt. I was overwhelmed with excitement at the opportunity of going on a mule deer hunt, and booked my flight to Colorado. My dad’s been hunting mule deer in Colorado with Tri-State Outfitters for the past seven years, so I knew there’d be an opportunity to take a quality mule deer. Nevertheless, if someone had shown me a photo of the first mule deer I ever hunted, prior to the hunt, I never would have believed them.

In preparing for the hunt, I went to the range and made sure I could shoot out to at least 500 yards with my 300 ultra mag. My dad told me his average shot distance was close to 300 yards and that he had taken shots exceeding 500 yards. Over the years, I’ve seen the photos and mounts of incredible mule deer he has taken in Colorado, and I knew the shot I made would be crucial.

On the morning of November 5th, I departed the Dallas Fort Worth airport and picked up my rental vehicle after touching down in Colorado. I rendezvoused with my guide, Chip Beiner, at a local sporting goods store, picked up my mule deer tag, and followed him out to the hunting lodge. Chip guided my first antelope hunt in New Mexico back in August of 2010, so I knew he was an excellent guide. When we arrived at the lodge, Chip immediately told me to throw on my hunting clothes and be ready for action after lunch. We went into town to grab a meal and met with other hunters and guides. As it turned out, there were a lot of familiar faces and I had a good feeling about this hunt. After lunch, Chip and I hit the road.

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