By Zach Lazzari & Ryan McSparran
From the Red Desert to the Black Hills, and from the high Rockies to the sagebrush prairies, Wyoming’s rugged landscapes provide the backdrop for some incredible mule deer hunting.
The state has populations that migrate across long, historic routes. Wyoming is also home to resident populations occupying a home territory for their entire lives. From the high alpine to the wide open praries, Wyoming is a great place to hunt mature bucks living in these wild and rugged western landscapes.
Here are a few things to consider as you plan a Wyoming mule deer hunt:
1. Private Land vs Public
Wyoming is rich in both private and public land hunting opportunities. Many blocks of public land hold deer throughout the season. You can spend the season exploring this big country in search of that one special animal. Public lands do see a fair amount of hunting pressure. Hunters often need to get off the roads or hike away from pressured areas to find better success.
Be aware that many blocks of public land in Wyoming can be “landlocked” by private with no public access. Some mule deer units have little to no accessible public land at all. Wyoming Game and Fish marks these with an asterisk. Look for the “*Area with difficult public access” warning before you apply. Otherwise, you could end up with a license and nowhere to hunt.
Unlike many states, Wyoming still has many large private ranches that haven’t been subdivided or broken into smaller parcels. These intact blocks of wild country offer refuge and excellent big game habitat. Here at Table Mountain Outfitters, we are proud to partner with some of these historic ranches to provide some of the best fair-chase (not high fenced) big game hunting in the west.
We utilize these no-pressure hunting zones to target big mule deer bucks. As a result, our private land hunts achieve success rates of nearly 100 percent.
2. Wyoming Mule Deer Habitat
Mule deer occupy a large section of the Wyoming landscape. This means you might find deer in remote, high alpine basins. In these areas, mule deer browse on shrubs like mountain mahogany and willow. High country deer hunts are physically challenging. And while trophy potential is high, densities are low. This means covering a lot of country and a lot of glassing.
From the high peaks, mule deer can be found all the way into Wyoming’s desert basins and sage brush flats. Some of the best mule deer habitat exists in transition zones where mountain slopes meet foothills, prairies, and riparian river bottoms. And unlike the the high mountain deer which are forced to migrate from their summer range to winter range, these transition areas often hold year-round resident deer populations.
3. Mule Deer Hunting Strategies
Depending on the time of year, or the type of terrain you’re hunting, start by glassing for deer in likely areas that are close to good browse, water sources, and cover. Just know that “cover” for a mule deer might be much less than you think. Sometimes a shady, undercut bank in an otherwise open sea of sage brush is all they need. In many parts of Wyoming, deer will be scattered at varying elevations, occupying a combination of mixed timber and sagebrush habitat.
If you’re not having success locating deer, keep moving. As you do so, rely heavily on your optics. Hunting mule deer can be a test of patience, requiring hours behind the glass. Especially early in the season or when weather is warm, begin glassing as soon as it’s light. And continue glassing until you can no longer see. These early and late hours are the best times to catch mule deer on the move.
Once you spot them from a distance, you can make a plan. Plan your stalk carefully, considering both wind and lines of sight. Even if you spot deer just before dark, there’s a good chance you can pick them back up the following day. Unless they are pressured, mule deer will often repeat similar patterns from one day to the next.
Hunting near water sources is also a great strategy early in the fall, or anytime moisture from the spring melt is long gone. Deer will use historic springs and remaining water sources daily. Sitting in ground blinds over water can be productive for archery hunters. Additionally, both bow and rifle hunters can do well by setting up on travel routes between water and bedding cover.
Hunting With Table Mountain Outfitters
To learn more about guided mule deer hunts in Wyoming with Table Mountain Outfitters, please have a look at our deer hunting page. If you’d like to speak with us about availability or any details, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 307-632-6352 or send us a message.
Zach Lazzari is a writer, fishing guide, and hunting enthusiast. Follow Zach at bustedoarlock.com. Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, hunting and fishing guide, and proud to be a part of the team at Table Mountain Outfitters.