John's Journal...


Why Optics Play a Major Role in Taking Monster-Sized Mule Deer

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Last week I hunted with Chad Schearer of Central Montana Outfitters, a guide for 14 years to mule deer, antelope, elk, bear and fish. He also has an unusual talent of knowing how to get out-of-shape, overweight, middle-aged-plus hunters within range to take shots at the game they're hunting. This week Schearer, who has had his own outfitting business for 10 years, tells us the secrets of how to take those trophy mountain mule deer that so many hunters want to bag. Schearer serves on the pro staffs for CVA Muzzle Loaders, Mossy Oak Camouflage, Knight & Hale Game Calls, Trophy Rock Minerals, Buck Knives, Montana Decoys and Fred Bear Archery.

3) Let your eyes do the walking. One of the biggest mistakes most mule deer hunters make is invading the mule deer's bedding area. I've learned you're better off to let the bucks have their bedding area. Stay out of it and away from it. Instead attempt to take the bucks either as they leave the bedding region or as they come to it. I remain far enough away from the bedding area that the bucks can't see or smell me. I do my scouting out of my vehicle. I spend more Click to enlargetime in my vehicle and less time on my feet for two reasons. I can cover more ground in a day in my vehicle than I can on my feet. But just as importantly, the bucks are accustomed to seeing a rancher's vehicle on the roads all over the ranch. Therefore, vehicles don't spook deer nearly as bad as hunters on foot do.

The binoculars that I use are 10X42 Bushnell Elite, and I like a Bushnell Elite Spotting Scope also. My spotting scope is very important to me, because once I find a buck with my binoculars, then I can determine whether or not that buck is big enough and has wide and high enough antlers for me to want to hunt him. My spotting scope is a very-clear 80mm that gathers a lot of light, and it has a 20X to 60X zoom capability. Typically, I don't zoom the spotting scope out past 40X, because on warm days when you're scouting, when you zoom out past 40X, you'll see heat waves that can distort your image.

I'm often asked why I don't use an ATV to scout, to hunt from or to carry deer out once they have been harvested. The reason is quite simple. I believe that you should disturb the deer as little as possible until you're ready to take them. We drag all our deer out of the mountains just to prevent the deer from hearing, seeing, smelling an ATV. I've found that if you use ATVs to retrieve your deer and to pack them out, many times you'll spook the deer worse than if you drag them out. To keep quality deer on the property I hunt, I don't want to use any kind of equipment or any tactics that will cause the bucks to leave the area. I believe with Click to enlargeATVs you can run trophy deer out of a region.

4) Look for and hunt only quality deer. I've found that many people don't know what a quality mule deer is. When you say quality mule deer to most hunters, they think you're talking about a buck that has a 30-inch or more wide rack. But you'll see very few 30-inch rack bucks in the West today. However, what's more important than width is the length of the antlers and the depths in the forks of the antlers. For instance, if you take a buck that's 26-inches wide instead of 30-inches wide, your buck is only 4-inches less than the 30-inch buck. And, if you measure the length of each tine on your buck, and each one of those tines is 8-inches long as compared to a 30-inch buck that has tines only 4-inches long, you've actually gained 4 inches on each point. On a typical mule deer buck, you'll gain 16 inches on each side of his rack, which will give you 32 inches on the height of the rack. Then you'll have a far better scoring deer than a 30-inch wide buck with only 4-inch tines. When I'm judging bucks in the field, I'm far Click to enlargemore concerned with the length of each tine and the depth between the forks than I am the width of the rack.

Too, I also look at the mass of the deer. Most hunters prefer a heavy-antlered mule deer as opposed to a buck that has thin, skinny antlers. I want my hunters to go after mule deer bucks that will score 140 to 180 on the Boone & Crockett scale. I tell most of my hunters that they'll see a lot of mule deer buck that will score 140 to 160 points. If they'll look for bucks that will score 160 to 170 points on the B&C scale, they may pass up 20 or 30 bucks before they find a buck that big. If they're looking for a buck that will go 170 points or more, they'll have to keep their bullets in their pocket for a long time before they locate a buck that makes that grade. Where we hunt, you're not going to see very many bucks more than 180 points B&C, but you will consistently see bucks in the 140- to 160-range.

To learn more about hunting trophy mule deer, you can contact Chad Schearer at P.O. Box 6655, Great Falls, MT 59406; (406) 727-4478 (home); (406) 799-7984 (cell); email him;


Day 1 - Be Where the Deer Are
Day 2 - Why Optics Play a Major Role in Taking Monster-Sized Mule Deer
Day 3 - More Secrets for Trophy Mountain Mule Deer
Day 4 - Secrets No. 7 & 8 for Trophy Mule Deer
Day 5 - Secrets No. 9 & 10 for Bagging Trophy Mule Deer


Entry 275, Day 2