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»Know Your Game - Mule Deer

Mule Deer

HOME RANGE: They are adaptable to a wide range of western habitat from prairie to alpine to semi-desert to desert, with a preference for open or semi-open country. Mule deer are found in most of western Canada, the western U.S. and into a large area of the desert regions of Mexico, including Baja.

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Mule Deer

Odocoileus hemionus hemionus

ANIMAL SUMMARY: Mature mule deer bucks (3 1/2 years old and older) vary in body weight dramatically, depending on their habitat (and, to a lesser extent, genetics). Generally these bucks can range from about 150 pounds up to well over 300 pounds. Females (does) are much smaller. Mule deer are rather heavily built, with a thickset body and legs. The ears are long and wide, resembling those of a mule. The antlers of a mature buck are large and widespread. The summer coat is thin and varies in color from tan to rusty-red. The rump, belly and inside of the legs are white. The face and throat are whitish, with a black patch on the forehead and a black bar around the chin. The tail is white with a black tip, and sometimes the base of the tail is brown. The underside tail hairs are not erectile and the tail is not used for signaling. The thick winter coat is brownish-gray.  

BEHAVIOR: Mule deer live in small family groups of does, yearlings and fawns. Bucks are usually solitary, or sometimes in very small bachelor groups. A group is likely to be spread out rather than in close association. The rut begins in October and lasts two months. Dominance fights between males are less competitive than in other deer species, being largely bluff. Fawns (usually two, sometimes three) are born May-June. Life expectancy is usually 8-12 years in the wild. This deer feeds mainly in early morning and evening, usually resting at midday and night. It is primarily a browser, but will graze on occasion. Mule deer are migratory in mountainous areas, summering as high as 8,000 feet, and retreating to lower elevations in winter to avoid deep snows. Migration distances may be 50 miles or more. Senses of smell and hearing are acute, with vision less so. They are able to run 35 mph for short distances, but unable to maintain speed for long. They bound away in a series of high leaps when disturbed and can cover 25 feet horizontally in a single leap. The mule deer is a very strong swimmer. Its main predators are coyotes, but also cougars.    

Super Ten®/Super Slam®: Information found here contains excerpts from the on-line and printed version of Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals and is used by permission. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.

Mule Deer Species Map

Mule Deer Range in North America: The map above is used by permission from the on-line Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.