Mule Deer Behavior Month-By-Month

Aug 9, 2021 | Mule Deer Hunting | 0 comments

The summer heat is at its peak out West. Morning and evening, hunters are reminded by a cool breeze that the opener isn’t far off. In many states, the first archery seasons for mule deer are soon approaching and now is the time where summer scouting pays huge dividends.

Scouting for mule deer can be difficult because your search is largely based on the tag obtained and the season dates thereof. Heat, snow, pressure and the rut are all factors that will move mule deer up and down a mountain and you must know where the bucks will be during each transition phase.

Below we go through the habitat where you can find mule deer bucks for each month of the season in Western states. We discuss the behavior of bucks during these months as well as how you should craft your hunt plan to fit the season and buck behavior.

August – Early September

Whitetail Food Plot Step 1

BaseMap users Nick Mundt and Michael Waddell of Bone Collector posing with a big Utah velvet buck that Nick put an arrow through in late August.

The mountain mornings may be cool, but the days will still be hot. These months consist of mostly archery hunts and offer a great opportunity to see large bucks out in the open for those that snag a tag. Hunters usually associate mule deer with being grey ghosts that blend into brush and mountainous terrain, but such isn’t the case this time of year. Most bucks have their red Summer coats and will still be wearing velvet on their antlers.

Early mornings should be dedicated to glassing high and open grassy hillsides. High mountain, green grasses will offer the nutrition to help the final stages of antler growth. Another benefit of this time period is the likelihood of seeing multiple bucks in one place. This time of year, bucks will still be seen in bachelor groups, away from any does.

Another advantage to hunting this time of year is that bucks will often repeat the same type of behavior day-after-day making them patternable. Bucks like to take the same routes, drink in the same water sources, eat in the same area, and bed in largely the same beds. As these hot summer days press on, pay close attention to bucks as they will leave their feeding areas and seek shade, or some other form of refuge from the summer heat. Bucks may move several times during the day as they follow the shade in the moving sun, or seek out water.

Mid September – Early October

Whitetail Food Plot Step 2
Just like the seasons and weather, bucks are beginning to transition also. Antlers are solidifying, velvet is being rubbed off, and bucks may start parting ways with their bachelor groups.

Large bucks will start making their way into brush and thick timber and their coats may even start changing for winter, which will transition to grey/brown to blend in. As the days begin to shorten, deer will start spending less time on their hoof. You may be lucky enough to spot some bucks working on trees to rub off their velvet, or even light sparring with each other as they build up neck muscles for the upcoming rut. Time is starting to run out this time of year. You still have the chance to see bucks, but bit by bit they begin to fade into our imaginations.

Whitetail Food Plot Step 3

This time of year bucks rarely wander into the open, and if they do, it’s not for very long. Use BaseMap’s XDR Navigation Mode to help you quickly and efficiently plan your stalk on a buck. Know his range and the range of landmarks around him instantly with a quick, double-tap and point.

Killing a buck in early October is a true feat, the more boots on the ground days you have in the field the luckier you will be. The only real chance you have at a big buck this time of year is hoping they make a mistake and come out of their deep, dark hidey holes.

Mid October- Late October

BaseMap editor Aaron Van Woerkom sitting behind a big buck that he shot in late October that came out of the dark pines to check some does.

This season starts out at peak difficulty. Bucks are absent this time of year, earning their nickname, “Grey Ghosts”. It’s no wonder why most states allocate the majority of their deer tags for this time of year! If you haven’t done any scouting in the previous months, your chances of getting on a high-country buck are at an all time low.

Days are getting shorter, bucks are reclusive as they have now split from their bachelor groups, and their daily range has shrunk. The one advantage you may have, is that mature deer still need high quality feed as they prepare for the rut. Deer cannot afford to not eat as the single most arduous time of the year is just on the horizon. Besides feed, the cooling mountain weather will keep deer in their beds longer, as they do not need the shade to save them from the hot sun.

The middle of the month will likely be slow for seeing a mature mountain buck, but as time edges toward Halloween bucks will slowly become interested in the same ladies they didn’t even bat an eye at a month prior. At the end of October, bucks will start seeing daylight again as they check on wandering does, every day creeping closer to the heat of the rut that is often mid-November.

One key tip for this time of year is finding “transition” areas, or areas where bucks are moving from their summer grounds to their wintering/rutting grounds. To do this you need to know where they summer and winter and then find the canyons they move through inbetween.

Whitetail Food Plot Step 4

Find Mule Deer Wintering grounds with ease by simply following the steps above on BaseMap PRO. Take this information alongside summering ground information and connect the dots to find mule deer transition areas.

Although hunting October bucks can be extremely frustrating, keep at it, all it takes is one hot doe to bring a monster mule deer buck out of the woodwork.


Whitetail Food Plot Step 5
It’s on! Early November should have you seeing bucks on the hoof in daylight hours. The difficulties of this time of year come with the joys. You should be seeing a lot of bucks on the move, noses down looking for hot does, but bucks will not be staying in one place for long.

The name of the game at the beginning of the month is finding a herd of does and waiting for a buck to show up. As time goes on, however, the amount of time you see a buck lessens as they find receptive females and pull them away from the herd. Another challenge during this time of year is dealing with ten times the amount of eyes than before when stalking a buck with his harem.

If you have the ability, it’s important to be out every day. BIG bucks will still stay relatively reclusive this time of year and will acquire only a handful of does while staying hidden and safe. This may be the only time of year you see the bruiser of your dreams make his one and only stage appearance.

E-Scout + Boots on the Ground

There’s no substitute for preseason scouting and knowing what bucks will be doing and where they will be doing it. Boots on the ground is the preferred method to find a preseason buck, but when time is tight, BaseMap is there. Make sure and get your e-scouting in this year and start monitoring the mountain terrain you will be spending your time in this hunting season. You owe it to yourself to make this hunting season one of the most memorable.


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