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I have paid my dues in the cold months of November / December watching deer with a bow in hand. I have picked the brains from some of Idaho's finest archery deer hunters. I have listened to the podcasts and I have watched all the films I can think of but most of all I have covered the ground day in and day out within the units that offer a late archery mule deer hunt in Central Idaho.  

I'll start off by providing tips for the type of terrain I like to hunt during this season in which provide me the best opportunities during the rut.


 I will also provide you with the different styles for hunting Mule Deer in these exact locations as well as what to look for.  


  1. Find topography you can maneuver around efficiently and effectively without being spotted. This may include;
  • Lots of deviations in the topography, big rocks, ravines, cliffs, timber pockets, tall scrubs with lots game trails.  
  • This does not include big open flat hillsides or steep terrain that you cannot maneuver well or quickly. Trying to close the gap on deer with steep faces are not only noisy but it takes a lot of time to maneuver effectively.  

  1. Locate the deer wintering rang and find migration routes down to them. Start on GOOGLE EARTH and look for the trails and mountain slopes that funnel to these areas. (Figure below)

  • If you are unfamiliar with the wintering range(s), call up Fish and Game and ask for help and check your hunting regulations to make sure the area you want to hunt is not closed off or restricted for a Draw Only Unit. 
  • Look for fresh sign on the trails you have physically found and sit just off the trails in bow rang (Make sure to play the wind correctly). It takes a lot of patience but if you time it right, you see plenty of deer traveling on these trails. (See pictures below). 


Now that you have the location narrowed down, here are tips for getting into the area and setting up for a shot.  

 1. Always know what the wind is doing during the time you are walking in.

  • If its a morning hunt, it is best to come in from the bottom while thermals are pulling down. 
  • If it is a midday hunt, it's best to come in from the top and work down because the thermals are pulling up. 

2. Always pick the least likely route (approach) that you will run into deer, even if it looks longer.  Being undetected walking in is key and I will share why.  

3. Stick to the bottom deep ravines when walking in, you are less visible and sounds from your foot steps will not travel as far. 

  • Please do not take the easy ridge-lines, your outline is a dead giveaway for deer to see and warn other deer a mile away that there is danger in the area. You are not only ruining your own hunt but also for the guys who took the long way in and work hard to get into the area without being detected. You are sure to blow deer out of the area miles away if you take ridge-lines. These deer will spread the word to others miles away, so please do the same. 



    1. Pick camouflage patterns that match the area you are hunting. If the area is dry, low land sage, find clothing that can match it. If its dark timber forests, find broken camouflage that matches it. If your wearing dark camo in low land dessert you will stick out like a black bear, movement of any kind is a dead giveaway for these deer. 

    2. Move slow, glass often, and assess the situation. Just because you see a good deer right off the bat doesn't mean you need to rush the the process. Most likely you will find more and see more if you take your time. 

    • Deer are constantly on the move during this time. As deer may be moving out, more are funneling in and around the area. Bucks are typically up running around and constantly giving you the advantage to move accordingly. 





    • Hunt areas with less numbers of deer, I know it sounds counter productive but I promise stalking deer with only a few eye and few ears to pin you is easier than stalking a dozen deer with a twice as many eyes and ears. 
    • Hunt areas that are less appealing to most hunters. The areas that are remote and hard to get too, with less hunters means less hunting pressure. Less pressure mean less pressured deer. Its easier for deer to make a mistake when they are not already on high alert from weekend hunting pressure. 
    • Hunt an areas where you know the landscape. This means jumping on a map, using google earth or OnX so you know the best routes to take for a stalk or set-up. 
    • Take a picture of where the deer is bedded and or pin it on your OnX. That way when your going in for a stalk you know exactly where you last saw them. This helps with long stalks and for closing the last gap for that perfect stalk route.
      • It helps tremendously to know exactly where the bedded deer is especially if you have something (picture or pin) to reference from.   
    • Use a hunting buddy to help drive the deer to you. If thermals are blowing up, set up above them and get on a game trail the deer will likely take / predict the escape route the deer might us if someone came from below.
      • Typically its the easiest route of of there, most deer do not want to work hard to escape from you so they take the easy route as well. If your set up there, your hunting buddy will push them right to you. 
      • You can also play off other hunters this way. Lets face it, most of us cant get it done on the first stalk, so if find someone else going after deer you can pay off their mistakes. 
    • Be patient, and then be even more patient. I managed to sit above a game trail for 4 hours, it was the longest I have ever sat for deer to move through. I ended up with the 4 point in this cover picture and my biggest archery buck, patience paid off.  
    • Choosing harsh weather conditions will play in your favor. If its raining the ground will be soft to stalk in and the rain will muffle your sound. 
      • If its snowing it will cause the ground to be quite and soft especially if it warms up after. Typically the ground is warm enough for it to melt just enough for great stalking conditions. Snow also helps get the deer moving whether thats to feed or migrate. 
      • If its windy you can use that to your advantage to stalk in quietly and go unscented. 
      • Fog can also help you travel without being spotted and dampen your noise. (see cover picture). 




    I'll start off by saying I am by no means an expert or a veteran late deer hunter. I do not have a ton of trophies to show for (only a small few) but I have picked the brains of some of Idaho's best and currently successful archery mule deer hunters. Here are a few of them:




    June 16, 2020 by William Meyers

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