The key to hunting mule deer is being able to cover a lot of ground, especially with your eyes. In other words, be prepared to do a lot of glassing. This doesn’t mean you won’t wear a hole in the soles of your boots, because you might. We’re just saying that in order to save yourself the trouble of blisters and bumping too many mule deer, follow the western hunters’ credo, “Let your eyes do the walking.” Or something along those lines.

The Optics You Carry

You’re hunting in the big, wide-open country so you need the highest magnification binocular, right? Not necessarily. While, yes, mule deer country is vast and open, an 8x or 10x binocular with a really wide field of view is much more efficient while a 12x, which will allow you to see a bit further, is a lot heavier. Again, considering the country you’ll be hunting, neither an 8x nor a 10x will reveal much about antler formation from long distances anyway. But, at the end of the day, using a lighter binocular - either 8x or 10x, rather than a 12x or heavier - with a wide field of view to spot deer before switching to high-power spotting scope or your riflescope will save your arms and eyes from a lot of stress.

Look, then Look Some More

Be patient. Often times, mule deer hunters tend to give a distant hillside just a few swipes with the binocular before getting up and moving on to other areas. Lean back against your pack and get comfortable. Rest your elbows on your knees to give yourself a steadier rest. Sometimes, it’s the full body of a deer ambling along that you’ll see first though more than likely, it’s the gleam of a rack or the flicker of a tail that initially catches your attention.

Get There Early

Start walking your eyes as soon as you can make out shapes through your binocular. This is why using optics that transmit light even at dawn and dusk is super important. Big mulie bucks, especially in the warm early season, are heading for the shadows at first light after feeding in the predawn hours. Check and re-check every crevice, creek, ditch and dark spot.

Closing the Distance

Remain quiet at all times. A mule deer’s huge ears allow them to pick up sounds that other big-game species would typically miss. Barring a few feet of snow on the ground, don’t be afraid to stalk a buck you’ve previously spotted in socks or barefeet, especially if you happen to be hunting with a bow. Always wear extremely quiet clothing and never talk above a whisper.

As you’re planning your mule deer outing this fall, don’t skimp on your optics. Quality, lightweight binoculars and a riflescope that transmit light even in the early and late hours can be the difference between filling and burning a tag. Did we mention exude great patience?