In late October I spent a week hunting mule deer in South Dakota. Though I didn’t fill my tag, I learned some valuable lessons. I made some poor assumptions about mule deer and South Dakota. This blog provides a few tips to help you plan a mule deer trip, and bring home a buck.
It’s hard to think of a tag that offers more opportunity than a South Dakota deer tag. Not only can you hunt anywhere in the state, you can shoot either a whitetail or a mule deer. The archery season lasts from October to January, and the tag can be bought over the counter at a local game fish and parks office. I should mention the tag costs $290, and other states possess greater quantities of trophy mule deer.
Do Your Research
My plan was to not have one. I had hunted antelope in Wyoming successfully without much prep time, and I have hunted whitetail for years. I thought I could pattern a mule deer within a few days and get the job done. I underestimated my opponent. Additionally, I had trouble taking advantage of public land. While some states may impress you with the total number of public acres available to hunt, accessible public land is another story. Privately held land borders the highway and blocks off many opportunities. I took a climbing trip in the spring to South Dakota and wish I had spent a day or two driving around planning my deer hunt. I ended up growing impatient and hunting subpar land because I had not allowed myself time to find the best areas.
Where to Find Deer
The best numbers of mule deer live along the Wyoming border. In the southwest, the Black Hills National Forest provides dense tree cover and rugged slopes. In the northwest holds good deer numbers, but you’ll have a challenge getting into range. The flat grasslands offer little cover to hide behind. Look for areas with cliffs and washouts. If you can get access, these will provide your best opportunities to spot and stalk. I used OnXmaps, but a lot of northwest South Dakota does not have cell reception, so remember to download offline maps. I also carried a Delorme Gazetter to identify the largest areas of BLM land as well as game production areas. If you take the time I am sure you can find quality areas for hunting mule deer. Just make sure to a lot some time for gaining access.