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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let me preface with this - This year I will be in the best shape I've been since High School. I do a lot of trail running and hiking each week. Just completed a grueling 25 mile day trip trail running into Red Castle lake in the Uintas to experience the scenery and of course catch some nice tiger trout (where'd the cutthroats go by the way?!!).
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I was hoping to take advantage of that conditioning and endurance this yr during the Wasatch Rifle Deer hunt late October. I'm quite familiar with several parts of the unit, I understand this is a very popular hunt, So I'm not greedy or looking for a trophy, more looking for an experience coupled with some opportunities for success. I am seeking general advice on hunting high country mule deer in the Wasatch West unit. I plan to hunt high elevation and cover a lot of ground. My questions are these:

1. Do the high country bucks (10k+ ft elevation ridges) stay that high through the late October rifle hunts? So if I went scouting the peaks and see bucks in September, I should expect them to stick around for the rifle hunt in October?
2. I've never understood how they survive up so high, presumably without much in the way of water sources up there?

3. Do you suggest moving around a lot or sitting high mountain peaks with great views and waiting for pressure down lower to bring them up?

I understand getting away from hunting pressure and do that more than most - but deer hunting to me has been harder than elk hunting - I usually have success each year with elk - to me they are more predictable. I would welcome any suggestions you have. Any PM will be responded to - and I will report back after a successful hunt (fingers crossed 馃 :).
 

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It has been my experience hunting high country mule deer is to be prepared to move down if you don't seen anything.

I hunted them in Colorado for a number of years above 10,000' and usually by the time that the general season starts most have moved down and a lot of times once they start moving they may go all the way to their winter area.

No matter what the pressure is down low it won't push the bucks back up once they are down

Deer can get all the water that they really need just off of the moisture and dew off of their food. They will drink when water is available but don't depend on them doing it.

I have also come to the realization that those 10,000' hunts are for the earlier seasons.

But if I was to hunt the Wasatch for a buck that is still up high I would head up Provo Peak
 

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1 and 2. I have only done one rifle hunt, but i would say that the bucks come down below tree line for the rifle hunt. And i honestly couldn't say about the water, the one hunt i did was all below 8'600 but we were unsuccessful.

3. No, what i would suggest is just get off roads, and CHECK EVERYWHERE. Another thing to consider is keep a lookout for does, at this point the bucks will be trying to get harems together and dont consider a doe to be the only thing there. If you see one, don't let it see you and wait until it goes or a buck steps out.
 

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If you see one, don't let it see you and wait until it goes or a buck steps out.
You could be camped out for 3 weeks or more until that happens, and with it being only a 9 day hunt, I鈥檓 not sure that鈥檚 the best strategy.

as far as the water question goes, deer aren鈥檛 like elk where they need to water every day. And temperatures will dictate how much a deer needs to water, as well as the moisture contents of the plants they are eating. Some deer might not need to water more than once every couple weeks if they are in the right conditions. Big deer will typically stay higher, longer. I鈥檝e seen multiple big bucks killed on the rifle hunts at 9000鈥+. If the conditions allow them to live there and they feel safe, they will stay as high as they can. Side note, I鈥檝e picked up sheds off several different 200鈥 class deer at elevations over 9500鈥. They don鈥檛 all migrate down to the low country. I鈥檇 start high and go low until you find what you鈥檙e after.
 

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...deer aren鈥檛 like elk where they need to water every day.
Often stated about about elk. Generally true, but not explicitly true. Example. If elk are in a high pressure area, but they have a good hiding spot and they aren鈥檛 getting pressure, they won鈥檛 water every day.

Suspect they aren鈥檛 watering every day? Move them mid day and they will water, they have no choice.
 

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Often stated about about elk. Generally true, but not explicitly true. Example. If elk are in a high pressure area, but they have a good hiding spot and they aren鈥檛 getting pressure, they won鈥檛 water every day.

Suspect they aren鈥檛 watering every day? Move them mid day and they will water, they have no choice.
When temps are hitting 100 degrees every day, elk need water. Even if they spend 90% of it in the shade. They might do it in the middle of the night, but they need it. Especially nursing cows.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks @Critter , @MooseMeat , @Frank M , and @SaltyWalty - for taking the time to respond.

My takeaway - How high they are depends on location, weather, and timing. So they may go lower if weather or safety pushes them. Based on your suggestions, I like the idea of starting high with less concern for water sources and more concern for cover and where there will likely be less hunting pressure/access.

Follow up questions:
1. In an area like the Wasatch West, it seems as though there is so much access that sometimes, instead of looking up high, it could be best to look deep into a canyon that only has access from above. Would that be a fair assumption?
2. I've read on this forum that deer typically avoid the pines and prefer aspen stands. Is that really true? Probably half the experiences I have had with deer during the hunt have been in pines.
3. Will deer came back to the same area when spooked?

Again, I ask these questions coming from elk hunting perspective where for some reason I have had more success predicting Elk behavior... I am never good at predicting where bucks will be. Perfect example of this was on the deer hunt several years ago I hunted hard away from roads for several days without seeing any bucks only to be driving home mid day and to see several large bucks in town just hanging out next to somebody's house.
 

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First off, town bucks don鈥檛 count. They do what they want and they know they are safe in town. That鈥檚 why they are there.

as far as being spooked and not coming back to an area, if it鈥檚 a place they like for whatever reason, they will come back if the pressure isn鈥檛 constant, and even then they might still come back, just won鈥檛 move during the day. Here鈥檚 a personal experience on that. 5 years ago scouting for the archery hunt I found a big heavy 4x4 in a spot I hunt a lot and know well. Archery hunt started and he would come back day after day, even if he was blown out. He stripped velvet and disappeared. Didn鈥檛 see him the rest of the hunt. Muzzy hunt started, and again, couldn鈥檛 find him. By a random chance, one morning in this canyon I was glassing that he liked, I spotted the white fork of a deer shed, just a few feet from a trail cam I had in this canyon. I don鈥檛 know how missed it for several years, but I did. Anyways I figured since I was down there I鈥檇 check the cam. Sure enough, that buck was still there but only moving at night. Infact he had been in that canyon 30 minutes before glassing light that day. So the next 3 days I sat at the top and glassed the whole thing countless times, determined to find him. On day 4, I caught an ear flick in the thick aspen patch just a hundred yards below where my camera was. It was him. I snuck in within 100 yards and shot him in his bed at 1 in the afternoon. He had no idea I was there.

don鈥檛 over look the little out of the way places or even the places everyone else thinks are too easy to access or that everyone else has checked already. I鈥檝e seen several big bucks shot just a 5 minute walk from a popular road or trail that everyone else walks right on by because it鈥檚 too close to the road. Big bucks aren鈥檛 always where you fantasize about them being. They are where you find them. So check everywhere. And once you done that, check everywhere again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
...as far as being spooked and not coming back to an area, if it鈥檚 a place they like for whatever reason, they will come back if the pressure isn鈥檛 constant, and even then they might still come back, just won鈥檛 move during the day. Here鈥檚 a personal experience on that. 5 years ago scouting for the archery hunt I found a big heavy 4x4 in a spot I hunt a lot and know well. Archery hunt started and he would come back day after day, even if he was blown out. He stripped velvet and disappeared. Didn鈥檛 see him the rest of the hunt. Muzzy hunt started, and again, couldn鈥檛 find him. By a random chance, one morning in this canyon I was glassing that he liked, I spotted the white fork of a deer shed, just a few feet from a trail cam I had in this canyon. I don鈥檛 know how missed it for several years, but I did. Anyways I figured since I was down there I鈥檇 check the cam. Sure enough, that buck was still there but only moving at night. Infact he had been in that canyon 30 minutes before glassing light that day. So the next 3 days I sat at the top and glassed the whole thing countless times, determined to find him. On day 4, I caught an ear flick in the thick aspen patch just a hundred yards below where my camera was. It was him. I snuck in within 100 yards and shot him in his bed at 1 in the afternoon. He had no idea I was there.

don鈥檛 over look the little out of the way places or even the places everyone else thinks are too easy to access or that everyone else has checked already. I鈥檝e seen several big bucks shot just a 5 minute walk from a popular road or trail that everyone else walks right on by because it鈥檚 too close to the road. Big bucks aren鈥檛 always where you fantasize about them being. They are where you find them. So check everywhere. And once you done that, check everywhere again.
Wow! That's amazing @MooseMeat . Such a cool story because you stuck with it and were determined to find him... thanks for the advice. Really makes me rethink everything about my hunting style of being on the move so much.
 

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I noticed this morning that the bucks in my area are staring to herd up. I ran across several this morning between 8500 and 10k. The largest was likely just a night time feeding group that was still together but I don't typically see that many deer together this early in the fall. I counted 8 bucks and another dozen doe out of that group. The smaller groups at lower elevations had one buck to a few doe.

As for hunting them later in the month, the deer I see take off when a couple feet hit the ground or their preferred food becomes unavailable or less palatable. That said, there are always some stragglers that stick out well past when any sane deer has moved on. I've seen bucks above 11k in late December and I have no clue why.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Reporting back that my hunting partner who is crazy enough to join my on some high mtn peak hunts ran a 100 miler the week before the hunt and was unable to join me due to the long recovery that is involved with that. So I wasn't able to hunt the high country this year like I'd hoped - I didn't feel comfortable climbing up there in teh snow all by myself...

But I'm please to report I did have success both on the spike elk hunt and the deer hunt. I was able to share in the adventure with my son for the deer hunt too. I just posted the success stories in another post in the big game section.

Thanks for all the advice and I will work towards staying in shape for a high country mule deer hunt up on the peaks next yr.
 
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