My second year to hunt outside Sanderson, TX on a 20 section ranch. The group is all friends that gather for this hunt once a year. The ranch owner cuts us loose on his place with instructions to look out for drug runners, mountain lions, kill any coyote seen, do not kill does and pick which ever buck you want.
This year I took a UTV as opposed to an ATV, I love it! We leave in the morning with rifle, and backpack laden with water. This country will suck the water out of you at rest! The UTV was more handy to carry some essentials than an ATV. After all there are some trails that lead more than 10 miles from the ranch house. I installed a rifle holder to the Ranger that allowed me to have the rifle ready to deploy if the need arose. I kept a 20 qt. Yeti in the bed all week, as well as had a place to stow my pack while driving.
Wear good boots. This country is all rock and incline and will beat down a cheap pair of boots, like it did mine.
Practice shooting from fixed objects at various heights. There are rocks everywhere that can help you hide and give a rifle rest.
Be vigilant always looking for a deer. They can blend into the terrain while staring right at you. The forward facing ears is what I looked for as well as any movement. The lack of trees to sway in the wind, means even when we had 15 mph south winds, virtually nothing on the terrain was in motion. I keep my head on a swivel while driving as well as walking. I did a great deal of both. It is not a hunt for a man that is out of shape. It is a hunt where you get out and search for deer. The closest I came to deer (that I saw) while driving the Ranger was 190 yards. I saw the does before the does saw me. I shut it down, grabbed the rifle, and got on foot behind a small mesquite. She got me, stared, ears forward, but froze as they often do. I had her in the rifle scope waiting on the buck I suspected was with her to show, and we stayed locked together for a good three minutes. She lost interest and headed south. I worked my way toward her direction to inspect for a buck. Sure enough he gave chase and only gave me a view of his body for a split second. They can disappear in the cedars and cactus like ghosts! I had the wind, but couldn't track them down in the brush.
Come with good glass, and the knowledge of how to use it. I used a serpentine pattern top down, right, up, right, down, and moved very slowly. Does and bucks are curious and will stare at you. I looked for anything that could be a deer, standing or laying down when the weather heated up, and it did! We had a tough time this year since the temps got to the lower 70's by 11 a.m. We saw no signs of rutting activity until Thursday.
A good range finder is a must! Living on flat land makes me terrible at judging distance while elevated. I'd look across a canyon to the other side thinking "that's 700 yards", range it with my Swarovski Laser Guide and it would tell me 450 yards. Very surprising. Which leads me to my next suggestion, be prepared for 500 yard shooting. I hoped for as close as I could get, and had every plan to get as close as I could, but there is plenty of potential for shots beyond 200 yards. Everyone in my party were competent to 400 yards, and most of us were competent beyond that. This is my kind of country! Bill killed a buck at 200 yards, Tim killed a buck at 350 yards, and Dustin killed a buck at 250 yards. All carrying rifles that delivered enough oomph to make an ethical kill. We tracked no deer all week.
Wear layers, and leave room in your pack to shed them into. I wore a fairly large pack with most the weight carrying water, and room for my coat to go into. It started in the 30's pre-dawn, and quickly climbed to the 70's by noon.
A compass is a must. GPS devices can die, know the direction to safety, even if it is only a public road. If any one of us got in a jam, and had to punt we knew which direction to go to be found. Use the GPS to waypoint your transportation, take off walking from it hunting for deer. Once you decide to get back to the machine, to move to a new location, you may need to waypoint on the GPS to find it. Carry a head lamp. Everything but the cedars has thorns on it, and the rocks are the perfect size to roll an ankle. Moon light is not enough to walk back to your machine if you are on foot at sundown. Tell your hunting partners the area you will be in. This is unforgiving country and it can kill the unprepared. We all have a healthy respect for the terrain and the fact that the land sucks water out of your body.
All you veteran hunters probably know all of this. I wanted to post this for the new guys, to give them some things to think about if they go off on a mule deer adventure.
I saw several bucks, but they deserved a pass to grow bigger. So I came home with an empty cooler, but a more clear head. Hopefully I'll get one next year, but if I don't I'll still enjoy the hunt in SW Texas where you can see for miles, and can hear nothing but nature.