Video: Hunting the Mule Deer Rut in Montana

Southeastern Montana is a special place in November

Southeastern Montana is a special place during the rut. The agricultural fields and river bottoms filled up with deer every morning and evening during the week I hunted there last November.

It was common to see more than 100 deer per day, and the coolest part was that we glassed a mix of whitetails and mule deer—as a bonus, we bumped into herds of antelope.

Throughout the week went, more and more bucks were lured out of the backcountry by does feeding in the fields. As a midwestern whitetail hunter, it was fun to put glass on a countless number of muley bucks as they postured for dominance and breeding rights.

A couple caveats about the trip: I was hunting mostly private ground with Powder River Outfitters, though we did see plenty of deer on public land, too. And, we spent most of the hunt glassing from a suburban. Typically, I hate hunting from a truck, but on this hunt it was the best way to see deer. The truck only gets you so far, in the end you still have to make the stalk and the shot.

It’s always nice shooting a buck, but the real experience on this hunt was getting to see so many rutting deer day after day.

montana mule deer hunt
This is one of the coulees we made a short hike through. During midday, mule deer bucks would bed down in the fingers of these coulees and disappear from view—except for their antler tips.Rafe Nielsen
browning rifle
I hunted with the Browning X-Bolt Pro in 6.5 Creedmoor. This is the dressed up version of the X-Bolt with a carbon-fiber wrapped stock. Browning is utilizing carbon fiber because it is super rigid, which the company says helps promote better accuracy—it doesn't hurt that it looks pretty cool, too. The rifle was topped with a Leupold scope and fed Browning BXR ammo.Alex Robinson
montana mule deer
We spotted these bucks squaring off on a ridge. Each of the smaller deer would take turns half-heartedly challenging the bigger buck before eventually chickening out and backing down. The mature bucks we saw weren’t messing around with young bucks though. They were either cruising on their own or guarding a herd of does.Alex Robinson
montana mule deer hunt
On the last morning we spotted this buck on a field edge. He wasn’t the biggest deer we had seen all week (if you watch the video above, you can see me miss a really good one) but he was in a position for us to put on a really great stalk and get out of the truck and hunt on our own two feet as God intended. I hit the deer through the lungs and he leapt a fence and made a death run for a few hundred yards. We found the buck piled up at the far end of the field. It was the perfect end to an action-packed week of hunting.Rafe Nielsen