A stalk on a mule deer buck starts with a brisk climb, followed by long bouts of complete stillness until the deer is spotted. Then it’s time to step up and close the distance.
Elevation is the stalking hunter’s best advantage over mule deer. A perch on a rise provides a crow’s nest view from which to scan the country with a binocular to look for a buck. Look to the east first thing in the morning, before the view is obscured by the rising sun. Then turn and glass to the west. With the sun at your back, deer stand out like lighted candles.
deer live in a variety of habitats. But wherever the deer dwell, they prefer the edges near a cover of forest or broken terrain, and openings with a mixture of shrubs and forbs. Concentrate your search along these ragged margins.
Once you catch sight of a buck, keep your seat and continue watching. If it’s meandering about feeding and the distance is short, there may be time to carry out a stalk. But if the deer is headed uphill, it’s moving toward a bed for the day. Watch it until it beds or disappears into cover.
Keep your elevation advantage in mind when planning the route of your stalk. Remaining high enables the day’s thermals to carry your scent above the deer. A binocular helps you spot folds in the ground that will hide your approach. Note prominent landmarks that will guide you to the buck’s location.
On your final approach, look a lot and move only a little. In high country and foothills, bucks bed with a boulder or tree at their backs to shield them from stalking mountain lions. That cover can screen the last leg of your stalk. If the footing is noisy, though, sit and wait. Deer commonly get up at midday to nibble a bit and pick another bed, and you’ll have your shot. Only then should you take the final steps, approaching your trophy. Then you can make all the noise you want.