Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) live in the mountains, prairies, and deserts of the western U.S. and Canada. They like the open spaces more than their cousin the whitetail. It is larger bodied and carries generally larger antlers. A full grown buck can stand 42 inches at the shoulder and almost 6 and a half feet long. An average adult male will weigh from 175 to 250 pounds. with big bucks weighing 350 to 400 pounds. The blacktail deer is a relative and bears the same scientific name. It is smaller and inhabits the Pacific coastal forests. The mule deer gets it’s name from it’s exceptionally large ears, which are 8 to 9 inches long and can be 6 inches wide. The mule deer’s tail is round and has white hairs on top down to the 2-inch black tip.
The mule deer is distributed throughout the western United States and Canada. They travel between winter and summer ranges but do not range as far as elk. Their range is generally more in a vertical pattern, varying elevations with the season. The big bucks tend to be loners and will find isolated locations to spend the summer and early fall. Quite often a big, old “mossy back” can be found in a back canyon perched among the rocks or trees in a spot that gives hive a grand view of the likely approaches. When bedded in the shade and motionless these old trophies can be virtually impossible to spot. Hunting these bucks requires knowledge, patience and a good spotting scope. Scouting may indicate which slopes the old buck will be holding up on. By positioning the spotting scope to get the best view of these slopes and waiting until the buck gets up to get a drink you can locate him. You then have to get yourself into range. Quite often this involves a cross canyon shot and long range. It can be nearly impossible to sneak up on one of these fellows.
Open country long range cartridges are generally what is needed for mule deer. Cartridges like the 243 Winchester, the 25-06, 270 Winchester, and the 7mm Remington Magnum are all good choices. Shots across distances of 300, 400 and even 500 yards are not uncommon and are makeable. You have to have a rifle that you are confident with and you have to know the ballistics in case the range requires a holdover. In these cases it is imperative that you get the absolute best rested position that you can. Take your time and do it right. Mule deer are not difficult to put down with well placed shots to the chest. An old 30 plus inch mule deer buck can be one of the finest, and rarest of trophies.