So there I was standing with my rifle on a set of shooting sticks in the middle of a patch of cholla cactus with my friend and outfitter Hunter Ross a couple of steps behind me.
We were in Sonora Mexico hunting desert mule deer, and Hunter had been telling me about his unorthodox mule deer tactic for a couple of years, so I couldn’t wait to see how things might unfold. Hunter began blowing distress sounds on a fawn call that was originally designed for predator hunters. For a few moments nothing at all happened, but then he whispered, “Look 45 degrees to your right.”
I slowly turned my head and could see ghostly gray shapes moving through the thick and thorny desert scrub.
Eventually 7 mature does ended up about 50 yards from us, and they stayed for what seemed like forever looking for the source of the calling.
We moved to a different stand location, Hunter repeated his calling sequence, and within a minute we had a 160-class buck literally charge in to 30 paces. He ended up making a half circle around us until he eventually got our wind and vanished, but had I wanted to take him, he presented me with a dozen close range opportunities.
I saw this magic calling work numerous times on the trip, and eventually we had a doe come in to check out the call on the last afternoon, and an ancient old buck was right on her tail. He wasn’t the 200-inch trophy I had hoped for on the trip, but he was a 7 year-old with a sky high rack and heavy mass, and I was proud to take him home after I dropped him in his tracks with a 150-grain Winchester out of my .30-06.
Since that hunt, I have talked to avid mule deer hunters in Chihuahua, Sonora, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas who have all experienced fantastic results by calling to mulies. Some use mouth blown calls and where legal, some are using electronic callers. The common logic seems to be that does really respond to these fawn calls, and either 1) the bucks know this and come in to hopefully find does that are responding to the call, or 2) a hot estrus doe may come in looking for the fawn in distress and have a rutting buck following her like I experienced. No matter why it works, the fact is that it does work, and it is just one other great tactic to use when hunting mule deer.
Some of the hunters I know have taken this tactic out of the desert and tried distress calling in places like Colorado and South Dakota. They are finding that deer there will also come to the call, especially in or around the rut. Many of these places offer much more visibility, so hunters must conceal themselves well so as to not be picked off by mulies at a distance.
In the desert areas with lots of cover, most shots using this method tend to be close. I like using the old reliable .30-06 in these situations. It is a proven deer killer, and though the ’06 may be the most versatile round there is, you don’t have to have a super flat-shooting distance gun for these hunts. I really have had good results from Winchester’s 150-grain Deer Season XP, and with its combination of 3260 fps and 3539 ft lbs of energy, it is sure to do the job on close range mulies in a quick and efficient manner.
In more open country where shots can be longer on average, I love the 7mm. This is definitely a flat-shooter with plenty of horsepower upon impact, and my choice is the Winchester 150-grain PowerMax Bonded. Coupling its 3039 fps velocity and ballistic coefficient of .393, the load shoots like a laser and has great penetration and expansion that is key for cleanly taking big bodied, 300-pound mule deer bucks.
Try a little calling for mule deer the next time you get the chance. I can assure you there is no more fun way to hunt these majestic animals, and if you are like me, the closer the action is, the better. Calling can bring a whole new dimension to one of North America’s best hunts.