Most of us in this area hunt white-tailed deer. There are so few mule deer in central Kansas that we forget about them. We had a small herd of mule deer east and north of Hoisington for a long time, but I haven’t seen one for several years.
I never hunted them — it was just fun to see. The (Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks) separates tags — you have to have a mule deer permit to hunt them. The muley population increases as you go farther west. In the western states both species are present and they seem to hunt mule deer for horns and white-tails for meat. It’s not that way in Kansas! I have already seen some exceptional white-tail racks this year.
There has been a decline in mule deer populations for the past few years. I’m not sure what that is about.
One of the wonders of my personal outdoor world is the mule deer room at Cabelas in Kansas City. Some of the largest antlers are from many years ago. If you get a chance, go see that amazing display.
After you see that room, go to the World War One Memorial and pay your respects to the amazing men that saved our country in that war. It is so inspiring to see what they did with the equipment they had. It is a beautiful memorial across from Union Station. It will put a lump in your throat and a “thank you Lord for these guys” in your heart.
A couple of years ago I spooked a mule deer buck with one side of his rack missing that was hiding in the bar ditch brush just off the north side of the road about a mile east of headquarters at the Bottoms. That is the only mule deer I’ve ever seen at the Bottoms. He headed north toward Nebraska as fast as he could go. I just happened to have a camera and snapped a photo.
Another interesting buck was on the dike south of the main road about the same location. When you look carefully at his picture — he had obviously gotten into a barbed wire fence and has a piece of the wire wrapped tightly around the base of his horns and it has ruined his right eye. He seemed healthy otherwise — nice rack and was fully alert.
Maybe when he sheds his antlers the wire will dislodge. I don’t have much hope for that eye and can’t imagine how painful that would be. There is always some magical thing happening at the Bottoms—even when it’s dry. I sure do miss the birds.
One thing that has always struck me as funny is a definite distinguishing characteristic of these deer. Mule deer have a big white patch on their backside that is always visible. Their tail can’t cover it.
The white-tailed deer have a big white patch on the underside of their tail that is only visible when they are running or flashing their tail. When white-tails are scared they raise their tail. I think it may be a way to communicate with their friends when trouble is present. If they aren’t raising their tail, you can’t see the white on a white-tailed deer.
Mule deer have forked horns that divide and separate as they extend upwards. White-tail bucks have a main beam with the times extending upwards off that main beam.
Mule deer “bounce” when they run and white-tails run and leap forward much faster when they are alarmed. Mule deer will go for a distance and usually stop and look. White-tails want to go to Canada when they are startled — they hardly ever stop. And mule deer have those ears like a mule. Mule deer also have big eyes — I think Bambi was a muley.
I emailed the KDWP asking about tagging deer a couple of weeks ago and haven’t received an answer. I’ll let you know if they do.
Enjoy these deer of both species — they have entertained and fed us for centuries.
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.