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Let’s face it, everyone can get lucky on occasion. It seems like every fall we hear a similar story of how some lucky hunter just happened to be in the right spot at the right time and was fortunate enough to put his/her tag on the buck of a lifetime. While this is great and nothing should be taken away from the hunter on this great accomplishment, often times, that same hunter will never put his/her tag on another trophy buck the rest of their life.

On the other hand, you have the hunter that consistently puts their tag on a quality buck. They just seem to get it done year in and year out.

What is the difference between these two types of hunters? While luck may get you a good buck, it’s going to take more than that to do it on a consistent basis. In my honest opinion, what sets today’s successful trophy mule deer hunter apart from the rest of the crowd, is the following:

  • They spend great amounts of time in the field
  • They have proficient glassing skills and techniques
  • They have behavioral knowledge of the animal they are hunting
  • They have the ability to read mule deer country
  • They have the proper equipment
  • They are physically fit
  • They have true grit

Be honest with yourself….how would you rank yourself in each of these seven categories? I’m not saying you need to be ranked high in every single one of these categories to consistently take big bucks, but I will say, the more of them that you are proficient in, the more success you will enjoy!

The premise of this eight-part series is to provide you with information that will help you improve yourself in each of these categories in order to give you an edge over other hunters. Part 1 will be a short summary of these categories, while Parts 2-8 will delve into the details of each individual subject.

Part 2 – Time in the Field

This one is relatively straight forward. The more time you spend out in the field hunting the more you can sway the odds in your favor. Think about it, even if you rank poorly in all of the other categories listed above, your odds of taking a good buck are increased simply because you are in the field more often. As the old saying goes, “you can’t kill ‘em sitting at home on the couch.” Ok, to be honest, I’m not really sure if that’s an old saying or not but it is definitely applicable.

Part 3 – Proficient Glassing Skills

I can’t stress enough the importance of good glassing skills. I feel this is the number one advantage you can have over your quarry when hunting the high country so it is critical you take full advantage of it. The high country is relatively open and because of topography, it is set up perfectly to where you can cover a lot of ground from a single vantage point with your optics. Often times you can glass numerous drainages from the same vantage point. I will break down my Four-Phase glassing method that I have used with great success in detail. It is a very simple concept that works! The main point I will try to drive home is to have a structured glassing method rather than simply glassing with no rhyme or reason to your process.

Part 4 – Behavioral Knowledge of Mule Deer

This is the category that is often overlooked and the majority of people rank the lowest in. For some reason, hunters seem to underestimate the value of understanding behavioral patterns and habits of their quarry. To me, I find it fascinating. I love to read everything I can get my hands on regarding mule deer. I can’t get enough. I am a sponge when it comes to absorbing any and all information regarding mule deer. You should be as well!


Part 5 – Ability to Read Mule Deer Country

Early in most people’s hunting career, this is normally one of their main weaknesses. I was no different. I spent a lot of time hunting low density deer areas that were very pleasing to the eye, but lacked in the necessary habitat needed to hold a good number of bucks. Had I known then what I know now, I would surely have a few more big bucks hanging on my wall as a result. We will look and compare several types of high country terrain and discuss why bucks don’t utilize certain terrain as well as why they use other types. Hunting the right type of terrain during the right time of year is critical.


Part 6 – Proper Equipment

I still remember when I began hunting as a teenager and the inadequate equipment I used. Simply put, I was clueless. I had cheap optics that always fogged up, wore denim jeans and cotton long johns and never carried a day pack or any extra gear or food. It was a recipe for failure, but luckily, I made it through those years and eventually began to incorporate quality gear into my arsenal. Nowadays, I only use top quality clothing such as SKRE, and I evaluate every single piece of hunting gear at the beginning of each year and make any necessary changes. If you want to be serious about pursuing high country mule deer, you will need to have quality gear – period. Having quality gear is not a luxury, it is a necessity!


Part 7 – Physically Fit

The modern-day mule deer hunter is an athlete. They work out on a regular basis and maintain an above-average level of fitness. You can have the best equipment money can buy, along with all of the mule deer knowledge in the world, but if you can’t get to where the bucks live and have the fitness to hunt it hard over the course multiple days, it does you absolutely no good. I am not saying you need to run marathons to be successful, but you will need to maintain some level of fitness.


Part 8 – True Grit

Last but not least, we have true grit! This my friend, may be the most important of them all. This is something that I can’t teach you. It is an attitude. It is typically defined as a trait based on one’s ability to persevere despite meeting many challenges and setbacks while attempting to achieve a set goal. In other words, it is the trait that tells you to stay positive and keep busting your ass even at times when it looks like failure is imminent or Mother Nature is throwing a curveball at you. The mountain doesn’t care how hard you have worked, it is very unforgiving and offers many challenges. Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: how bad do you want it?

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