Affectionately called "mulies" by many, the mule deer is a challenging quarry to hunt, provides a good amount of meat for a hunter's table, and shows itself to be an outstanding and beautiful game animal, very worthy of the chase.
Bucks grow antlers, not horns. (Antlers are shed and re-grown each year, while horns are permanent.)
Dew claws: two small hoof-like protuberances at the rear of each foot.
Mule deer color varies from gray to brown. Their antlers grow differently from those of a whitetail, and normally will fork where a whitetail's will not. Their bodies are more stocky than those of the whitetail.
Their large ears are often on the move, and provide excellent protection against a noisy predator. Together with sharp eyes and a keen sense of smell, this provides the mule deer with excellent defenses against predation.
Mule deer migrate moreso than the whitetail, often living in different areas depending on the season of the year. This makes mulies more vulnerable to changes in their range than less-mobile species such as the whitetail.
Like the whitetail, they generally feed in the morning and evening hours, though they may be found filling their bellies at almost any time. Mulies often bed down near their food source during the mid-day hours, passing the time by staying alive until their next meal.
Yearling mule deer will have reached sexual maturity, and a doe's first fawn (usually only one will result from her first pregnancy) is likely to be born when she is about two and a half years old. Twins are the rule thereafter, though she may drop as many as four.
Gestation takes about seven months, ensuring that most fawns will be born during the milder spring months.
With today's wildlife-aware mindset, particularly among hunters and wildlife managers, it's entirely possible that we will soon find better ways of stabilizing herds of migratory animals on a continent that continues to be more cluttered by humanity with each passing day.
Mule deer hunting methods differ from what us whitetail hunters are used to, probably due to the different terrain in which mule deer are typically hunted. It's tough to use a tree stand where there are no trees! And some of this difference may be more due to locally-held opinions than cold hard facts. Many's the time I have read or heard of (or experienced) calling of whitetail deer by hunters, but not so much with mule deer. But I have seen proof that mulies can be called.
Not so long ago, the notion of calling a whitetail deer was revolutionary at best, and just plain weird at worst. But it is a hunting method that has caught on, because it often works. Perhaps, in time, we will begin to see more mule deer calls offered to hunters, more discussion of mulie communication among hunters and researchers, and the face of hunting will change once again.
- Russ Chastain