★ The muley bucks are standing at the head of a coulee when we see them through a spotting scope. When they disappear over the rim, Miles Fedinec grabs his bow and pack. “A mule deer is predictable in the midmorning,” says Fedinec, a Colorado outfitter who’s guided hunters on a thousand-plus mule deer stalks. “They’ll bed once, get up, reposition, and bed again. They’re trying to get out of the sun or get a better wind, or just get more comfortable. They might move a few feet or 50 yards. Regardless, if he moves to that second bed during your stalk, it can ruin the whole thing. So I don’t plan anything until I see them bed a second time.”
Fedinec and I slip to within 200 yards of the deer and watch them bed the first time. Sure enough, they stand up 30 minutes later, ease into a tiny grove of trees 40 yards away, and disappear.
Ultimately, that grove of trees keeps us from pinpointing exactly where the bucks are lying; we slip to within 50 yards of it, and when Fedinec gets his opportunity, it is a fleeting one at a buck that is about to bolt. His arrow sails just over the deer’s back.
“I never say anything happens 100 percent of the time when I’m talking hunting,” Fedinec says. “But a mule deer will make that second bed just about 100 percent of the time. That’s when you can slip in close and kill one. With a bow, especially, it doesn’t always work, but it almost did today.”
The Perfect Big-Game Arrow
★ Today’s big-game arrows barely resemble the clunky shafts I started with 40 years ago. Nearly extinct are the aluminum telephone poles that once sprouted from quivers, replaced by narrow-diameter carbon darning needles that look as if they’d barely survive a 3D target. But don’t be fooled. These slim beauties are supertough, and faster and more accurate than their predecessors. Here’s a look at one fine example: the Vap from Victory Archery (victoryarchery.com). —S.B.
Avoid that front shoulder, and a mechanical head will create large entry and exit wounds, resulting in better blood trails and quicker recovery.
Special outsert adapter (7075 aluminum standard; also available in stainless steel for more weight) accepts standard (8⁄32-inch) broadheads, eliminating the need for special heads for a micro-diameter shaft.
Our own tests show that micro-diameter shafts (this one is .166 inch) penetrate significantly better than standard shafts—perfect for pushing through large, tough animals.
4. Spine Alignment
Some shooters believe that fletching to spine results in better accuracy. The Vap is spine-tested and fletched accordingly at the factory.
With a mechanical head, Blazer-type vanes are durable and still provide plenty of stabilization in flight.
Machined aluminum nocks are tougher than plastic.
For big game, go with a comparatively heavy arrow, which retains more energy downrange and penetrates better. Between 8 and 11 grains per inch is best; this one is 8.7.
Written with help from Scott Bestul, Will Brantley, Bill Heavey, and David E. Petzal. Illustrations by Tim McDonagh. Photography: books by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller; girl with horse from the Evertt Collection; cheaper sheep by Don Despain/Alamy; pronghorn by Donald M. Jones; rifle strap by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller; mounts by Donald M. Jones; mule deer by Donald M. Jones; arrow by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller.