Mule deer, so called because of their large, "mule-like" ears, are a species of deer predominantly found in the western portions of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Mule deer often have slightly larger bodies and racks than their more numerous whitetail deer cousins. Safari Club International recognizes two North American mule deer sub-species: Rocky Mountain and Desert mule deer. The organization may score both species as a typical or a non-typical mule deer entry. Below we've listed the most significant mule deer hunting accomplishments in each category.
SCI uses a scoring system similar to the one used by the Boone and Crockett Club. However, SCI does not deduct the score for non-typical points (on a typical deer) or differences in symmetry. Additionally, SCI does not measure the tip-to-tip spread or the greatest outside spread of a deer's antlers.
For these reasons, the SCI score for the biggest mule deer buck may differ significantly (higher or lower, depending on the animal) from the B&C score for the same animal. So if you're looking for the specific "world record mule deer," that's a debatable topic. We'll go by SCI's book for these purposes.
All photos courtesy of Safari Club International.
Typical Desert Mule Deer
The desert mule deer is very similar to the Rocky Mountain mule deer but is slightly smaller in the body. Desert mule deer usually weigh 150-200 pounds, though they are sometimes heavier. You can find desert mule deer in Southern California, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southwestern Texas, northern Sonora, northern Chihuahua, and northwestern Coahuila.
Rick Lamb hunted the current SCI No. 1 typical Desert Mule Deer with a rifle in Sonora, Mexico, in December of 2005. This beautiful buck was a 5x5 and had main beams that measured 26 7/8 inches and 25 7/8 inches, respectively. The buck had an inside spread of 24 inches and had a final score of 222 5/8 inches
Non-Typical Desert Mule Deer
Chad Roberts hunted the current No. 1 SCI non-typical desert mule deer with a rifle in Yuma County, Arizona, back in October of 2014. His massive buck had 24 points and his main beams measured over 24inches each. He had an inside spread of 25 7/8 inches and scored a whopping 294 4/8 inches to surpass the previous record killed by Frederic Decker by nearly 30 inches. To make this feat even more impressive, Mr. Roberts killed this massive buck without the assistance of a hunting outfitter or a guide.
Typical Rocky Mountain Mule Deer
The Rocky Mountain mule deer is the most common mule deer found across virtually all United States and Canada west of the Missouri River.
Their range includes but is not limited to the following states:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
In Canada, you can find Rocky Mountain mule deer in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
Rocky Mountain mule deer usually weigh 150-200 pounds, though they are sometimes known to weigh upwards of 300 pounds in some cases. The SCI No. 1 typical Rocky Mountain mule deer were hunted by Max Johnson with a rifle in San Juan County, Utah, in October of 1968.
This magnificent buck was a 5x5, and his main beams measured more than 27 inches and 29 inches, respectively. He had a massive inside spread of 36 4/8 inches and scored 228 5/8 inches. Like Mr. Roberts above, Mr. Johnson also killed this muley buck without the assistance of an outfitter. That, combined with the fact that this record has stood for over 45 years, makes this buck even more impressive.
Non-Typical Rocky Mountain
The current No. 1 SCI non-typical Rocky Mountain mule deer were hunted by Steven P. Smith with a rifle near Alton, Utah, in September of 2001. This big buck had an astounding 34 points, good for the most enormous mule deer rack in the SCI books! Additionally, his main beams measured over 25 inches and 24 inches, respectively, to go along with his 20 5/8-inch inside spread. Mr. Smith's whopper of a buck scored 317 4/8 inches, a record that will likely stand for a long time. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a photo of this gigantic deer anywhere. Therefore, the image shows the current No. 2 non-typical Rocky Mountain mule deer in the SCI record book.
Shot by Michael Benson in November 2009 in Oregon, this buck is still quite impressive in its own right, even though it's not the overall record. The buck had 32 points and scored 301 7/8 inches. This buck is also unique because not only did Mr. Benson take the buck on a self-guided hunt, but he shot it with a muzzleloader instead of a centerfire rifle.
These bucks are orders larger than most of us will ever encounter over our hunting careers. However, it's always good motivation to see photos of some big or more unique bucks in preparation for hunting season.