Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Alberta Mule Deer are a smoking hot topic for hunters from around the world. Mule Deer populations and genetics in Alberta continue to grow and evolve at the cutting edge of North American animal adaptability. One of the best-kept secrets in the Mule Deer hunting world is represented by the province of Alberta. Many hunters are surprised to find that Alberta holds the World Record for Non-Typical Mule Deer at 355 2/8 Boone & Crockett inches. This is a record that has stood for over 80 years, waiting patiently for a new heir to the historic title to arise. Here in Alberta you will find impressive numbers of Mule Deer roaming throughout all parts of the province. Even more impressive is the size and number of trophy bucks being harvested each year. These great ungulate have access to a virtual bread basket of pure, untainted food and water sources from Rocky Mountain-connected wilderness and agricultural properties that provide an unparalleled source of natural nutrition and enviromental support systems for the prolific Mule Deer. Furthermore, Alberta has placed almost all Mule Deer hunting in southern and central Alberta on a priority draw system for residents.

This has resulted in improved genetics that are putting big smiles on the faces of our Mule Deer hunters. Muleys in southern Alberta are putting large quantities of healthy, lean and protein-rich meat in the family deep freezers of more and more non-resident hunters every year.

Hunting Alberta's Mule Deer has far more advantages than ever before. First of all, resident hunting pressure is 18 Alberta's Professional Outfitter minimal due to the limited license draw system. The Province is broken up into some 180 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) with most having an allotted number of Mule Deer licenses available. This strictly limits the harvesting of animals from resident hunters.

Ever changing advancements in hunting technology, fish and wildlife policies, relationships with rural land owners and crown property hunting rights are just a few of the recent developments being experienced in Alberta Outfitting industry today. Combined with burgeoning animal populations and leading conservation models, Alberta Outfitters are fully enabled and supported in providing world class guiding for non-resident hunters at an extremely reasonable expense. This makes hunting Alberta an appealing destination for new and seasoned hunters alike. For more provincial information and statistics, visit us online at Here in Alberta, we understand how important good research is to successful hunting.

The Province of Alberta has the enviable reputation of being the destination of choice for hunters in search of a world class quality Mule Deer hunt. Since the inception of the Mule Deer draw system in the mid 90s throughout the Foothills and many years ago in the Prairies, we have seen a significant drop in the number of resident Mule Deer hunters and a corresponding increase in the number of large Mule Deer surviving the hunting season and thus propagating their incredible genetic characteristics. These two factors make Alberta arguably the world's best destination for hunting trophy Mule Deer. Thanks to these improved wildlife management policies and the recent string of mild winters, Alberta is widely recognized as North America's premier trophy Mule Deer destination. Mule Deer are a widely distributed big game animal in Alberta and biologists estimate their population at around 133,000 and climbing. They are found in impressive numbers from the Montana border North to the Peace River region and beyond, and tremendous trophy potential exists in all areas.

Alberta's Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) have the ability to produce monster (180 to 200+ inch) deer every year and many of them do. Several of Alberta's better

Outfitters are consistently taking deer in the 170-inch range or better and can boast very high yearly success rates near the 100 percent mark for both archery and rifle hunts. Alberta's Mule Deer also have some of the largest body weights found anywhere, averaging 250 lbs. and often surpassing the 300 lbs. mark with impressive antlers to match. Alberta's Mule deer antlers are most noted for their exceptional height, incredible mass and dark coloration. A large percentage of the antlers also sport non-typical points, and several bucks scoring in excess of 240 Boone and Crockett points have been taken in recent years. Both the quality and quantity of Mule Deer continues to increase in this resource rich region, as the Mule Deer species moves to mount dominant genetic claim to the land. Here in Alberta, the annual Mule Deer rut takes place primarily during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November.

With these healthy populations hunters are reportedly seeing more impressive bucks than ever before. The trophy books bear this out as well. Alberta has estab- Alberta's Mule Deer have some of the largest body weights found anywhere, averaging 250 lbs. Alberta's Professional Outfitter 19 lished its place alongside some of the famous Western states for producing large numbers of Boone and Crockett-typical Muleys. In fact, the provincial record for typical Mule Deer was set in 1996 and now stands at 206 points with multiple bucks surpassing the 200-inch mark each year.

The vast and diversified habitat in Alberta offers the traveling hunter a myriad of choices and preferences in hunting areas and techniques. The Southern Prairie zones (WMUs in the 100s) consist primarily of rolling hills with rivers breaks and deep coulees (draws). There are also the cottonwood river bottoms and mixed farmlands in this region. This type of open country is conducive to spotting large numbers of deer every day.

This does not mean, however, that these deer are always out in the open waiting for every eager hunter to launch another adrenalin filled spot & stalk. These deer have an uncanny ability to dissolve into the landscape, where even an upright coyote can be seen standing at a thousand yards. Make no mistake, a Mule Deer hunt in the Southern Alberta Prairie zones can prove as challenging and invigorating as any Big Horn Sheep or Elk pursuit in the mountainous regions. Often 4x4 vehicles and extensive walking are utilized for access and transport purposes. Ground blinds and open spot and stalk hunting may be employed to produce success. With open space such as this, the adult Mule Deer can see, smell and sense danger at great distances. Many a seasoned hunter has committed the humbling mistake of expecting an easy kill in the early hours of the hunt. A hard working hunter is likely to harvest an excellent quality Mule Deer in the highly productive Southern Prairie zones.

The central and northern areas of the province boast more wooded cover areas, broken up with rich, meadowed farmland that many Mule Deer find irresistible. Several major river valleys also provide excellent feeding areas where glassing open faced slopes often prove highly productive for spot and stalk or tree stand hunting techniques. In these parts of the province Muleys may be found feeding from the open areas in the late afternoon and returning to cover after sun-up. It is common for Mule Deer to bed right in their feeding areas, especially where resident pressure is more restricted. In these more heavily treed areas of the Parkland zones (WMUs in the 200s) and Northern Boreal zones (WMUs in the 500s), Mule Deer may be hunted from tree stands or ground blinds overlooking food sources and travel routes. This is similar to the way Whitetail Deer are hunted. Once again, spot and stalk is frequently productive in these areas.

The Foothills zones (WMUs in the 300s) contain a wonderful diversity of boreal ecosystems and an incredible variety of plant life, with forests of white spruce, black spruce, lodgepole pine, balsam and sub-alpine fir, aspen, birch, balsam poplar, mixed-wood forests, and wetland complexes. The Foothills provide important wildlife winter range because winters are warmer than in the adjacent Rocky Mountains, therefore increasing hunting appeal. Woodland Mule Deer, Whitetail, Grizzly bear and Wolverine roam widely in the relatively intact areas, and many migratory birds arrive from the tropics in the summer to raise their young. The foothills are similar to the mountain region, but are lower in elevation and generally drier. Forests of spruce, pine and poplar are often broken by tracts of grassland. This mosaic of vegetation provides good habitat for a variety of wildlife. Hunting in this area is always dynamic and stimulating, with glimpses of a range of diverse and unique wildlife. 4x4s are often employed by trail or through unbroken bush from base camps to explore ridgelines, stream basins, forested, thick-bushed or grassy hillocks and sometimes even hidden canyons of shale rock or secret, winding sandstone coulees.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Canadian Rocky Mountain zones (WMUS in the 400s) running up the western edge of the province. The habitat and hunting styles are not too different from those found in the mountainous regions of the western United States. A hard working hunter is likely to harvest an excellent quality Mule Deer in the highly productive Southern Prairie zones. 20 Alberta's Professional Outfitter Many of the more remote areas are accessed on horseback or by walking. Glassing and spot and stalk are the methods used to locate and hunt these big mountain Mule Deer.

Of course, the extended season length is an added bonus when considering an Alberta Mule Deer hunt north of the 49th parallel. In most parts of Alberta, Mule Deer hunting begins in early September for archery hunters and continues for several weeks before the rifle hunts begin. The primary season for rifle Mule Deer hunting is from the last week of October through to the end of November. In the Mountain and Northern Boreal zones the rifle season starts as early as September 24 and continues until the end of November. While big Mule Deer bucks are often more active during the rut, excellent action can be enjoyed during the entire season, and archery hunting is very productive during the earlier seasons. It is not uncommon to encounter bachelor herds of half dozen or more bucks during the archery season. Witnessing a group of big bucks traveling together is a sight not soon forgotten.

Another unique feature of hunting in Alberta is that the leasing of private land for exclusive hunting access is illegal. Everyone is on a level playing field here, so consideration and respect are often the most valuable tools needed for acquiring permission to some impressive hunting areas. This is why established Alberta Outfitters are invaluable for ensuring an excellent guided hunt. This system works in Alberta because of the vastness of the geography and the relatively low hunter population density of the Province, especially in rural areas. When hunters travel to Alberta from around the world, they can rely on their Alberta Outfitter to have already established these valuable landowner relationships that often take years to develop.

The weather can be as varied as the terrain the Mule Deer inhabit and the best advice is to "expect the unexpected." It is possible to encounter a snowstorm in late August in the high peaks of the rRockies and it's not uncommon to have shirt-sleeve days in late November on the prairies. The best advice is to dress in layers and have enough clothing on hand in case the mercury decides to dip down to minus 30. Alberta hunting guides are well experienced in their hunting areas, and are invaluable for assisting their hunting guests in all aspects of their Alberta big game hunt. There are no official blaze orange requirements in Alberta and most hunters opt for camouflage clothing. Snow camouflage can be a good choice for late-season hunts, but there are years (particularly in the Prairie zones) where there is no snow at all, even in late November.

Rifle hunters are advised to bring a flat-shooting rifle capable of shooting out to at least 300 yards. While Muleys are often taken at 100 yards or less, it can be very rewarding to have the correct equipment option should you encounter a big buck at a longer distance. Archery hunters will also help improve their chances if they are well practiced and confident up to fifty yards or greater. This is well within the capabilities of today's equipment.

With the recent trend of mild winters, coupled with improved management and genetics, the possibility of a trophy of a lifetime for a Mule Deer hunter in Alberta is greatly enhanced.

The demand for these high quality, high success Mule Deer hunts is spreading like a prairie wild fire. If you have never enjoyed the unique experience of hunting Mule Deer, or have never taken the opportunity to hunt the Alberta advantage, now is the time to look seriously at hunting Alberta. Many hunters will profess that it was the hunt of a lifetime, and return year after year for a multitude of new experiences and successes.

Alberta Top 3

Top 3 in Alberta: TYPICAL MULE DEER
Score Date Owner
206 1996 Chad Lyttle
205 3/8 2003 Dean Herron
201 3/4 1989 Dale Ophus
Score Date Owner
355 1/4 1926 Ed Broder
272 3/8 1960 Philip Pearman
262 3/8 unk Derold Erickson

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Mule Deer

Odocoileus hemionus
Hoofed Animals
Deer Family (Cervidae)


Size: 140-180 cm/90-110 cm at the shoulder
Weight: 90-115 kg


Our most common mountain deer, Mule Deer have a tawny coat with a light underside and rump. They usually have a light nose with a black tip. They are often confused with the Whitetail deer, but their large ears help to distinguish the two species. Also, despite the name, Whitetail deer actually have a brown tail (it is white underneath). Mule Deer, on the other hand, DO have a white tail, which is tipped with black. Their antlers are also very different. The antlers of Mule Deer begin with a single branch or tine. This will fork to create a y-junction. Each fork of the "y" may also branch to form an additional y-junction, and so on. Whitetail deer antlers begin with a single tine off of which numerous branches emerge.Mule Deer also have a bounding gait, with long leaps exceeding 6 m (20 feet) in length.


This western deer is found throughout the Canadian and American Rockies. It is the principal mountain deer, and is much more common in the high country


Mule Deer eat a wide variety of grasses, forbs and leaves. Near summers end, leaves form a principal food source, with the diet moving to twigs, buds and branches. Lichens may be eaten.

Mule Deer must be constantly vigilant for cougar, wolves, black and grizzly bears and even lynx (which may take newborn fawns). Their large mule-like ears act like parabolic microphones, enabling the deer to hear almost anything occurring in the immediate area.


The mating season takes place in the autumn, and the males begin to exhibit an increased interest in the does, and a matching distaste for the other bulls in the area. They will spar with the other males, often resorting to antler-linked shoving matches.

Successful bulls will mate with as many females as possible, determin- ing their reproductive state by smelling the ground where the females have urinated. After mating, they move onto the next doe. The fawns emerge in the spring, like other deer, and the spotted fawns are kept well hidden for a few days until they get their legs. The doe will hide them in the bushes, and wander nearby to feed, returning regularly to nurse