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I'm impressed with a new product that I highly recommend to hunters. Called PhoneSkope, it's a way to attach your cell phone to your binoculars or spotting scope. I had the company make me a PhoneSkope that allows me to connect my Galaxy Note II to a unique spotting scope that I use, consisting of a Nikon Scope Adapter paired with a Nikkor 300mm F4 lens. Through it I can see and photograph or video tape bucks more than four miles from my house. It's unbelievable. To contact the company check out

Semi-guided or do-it-yourself mule deer hunts

If you want to hunt mule deer but can't afford a full-service guided hunt, sometimes a self- or semi-guided hunt is a good option. We have booked and enjoyed such hunts in most of the better mule deer states, including Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico, and our customers have taken some very nice deer.

But before you book a do-it-yourself or semi-guided hunt, you should consider several facts. No. 1 is that mature buck mule deer are notoriously difficult to hunt, especially in October, when most states schedule their hunting seasons. Once a mature buck loses his antler velvet and grows his heavy winter coat, he becomes almost entirely nocturnal until the rut gets under way. That means you hardly ever see a big buck in the open between late September and mid-November in most mule deer states, and that's precisely the time period when rifle seasons take place in most of the West. Nocturnal bucks spend almost all daylight hours in dense trees and brush until the desire to breed draws them into the open. The rut doesn't begin until early to mid-November in the northern Rockies and late November to early December in the Southwest, including Texas.

Even bucks as young as 2 1/2 years old become quite nocturnal during most rifle seasons. If you have the opportunity to scout a ranch in the summer, when the bucks are "still in the velvet," or during the peak of the rut, it's considerably easier to see what a ranch has to offer. Yet it's impractical for a do-it-yourselfer living hundreds of miles away to scout a ranch during prime buck-spotting periods. Plus many ranches allow no pre-season scouting. Also, keep in mind that many of the best hunting areas don't hold mule deer until after they've left the high country, and then the deer leave for even lower elevations after the season, so pre-season or post-season scouting does very little good at all.

Most hunters after a big muley have visions of driving around or glassing at long range, looking over lots of bucks and finally picking out the buck they want. This is hardly ever the case. If the quality of hunting on a ranch even approaches this fantasy, be assured that the ranch owner or lessee will insist that all hunters be fully guided, or the price of admittance will be more than most hunters' budgets would allow.

Self-guided hunts work best when a hunter is intimately familiar with a property. Usually it takes a couple of seasons before that happens. That's why we suggest that you book a guided or semi-guided hunt, if available, before you decide to hunt on your own. guided hunt unless they have extensive experience in hunting big muleys. When available, aA semi-guided hunt is a better choice than a self-guided hunt for some other reasons as well. Often the outfitter or guide will supply transportation and sometimes accommodations and/or meals. If you live close enough that it's convenient to drive your own four-wheel-drive and bring your own camper, trailer or tent and camping gear, that's no big deal, but this is a major consideration for hunters who want to fly from home to the nearest airport.

In most cases you must have a minimum of three hunters to book a semi-guided hunt. Typically the outfitter or rancher supplies one guide per three to 10 hunters. You can hunt on your own, but you'll have a guide or at least a camp chief to point you in the right direction, show you where and how to hunt the specific area, and in many cases to help you pack out your game.

Prices for do-it-yourself and semi-guided hunts vary widely, depending on the quality of the area and whether you'll be hunting a private ranch.

We offer the semi-guided hunt for two chief reasons: 1) to keep the cost down, and 2) because some hunters don't want to be "held by the hand" on a hunt, getting more satisfaction of hunting primarily on their own.

The pictures on this page are of deer taken on semi-guided and self-guided hunts on ranches that we have booked. We have very few self-guided hunts anymore because most ranches that provide good hunting require the hunters to be supervised.

If you don't need or don't want a guide by your side all the time and take pride in hunting on your own, a semi-guided hunt can work for you.

If you have a large group, six hunters or more, we can sometimes find a ranch that you can lease or an outfitter or packer who will pack you into a promising area. Call or email us with details on the size of your group, your budget, minimum trophy standards, desired accommodations, etc.

Note: You cannot buy a mansion for the price of a cottage, and you can't find an inexpensive trespass permit that offers high hunter success on 30-inch muleys. Semi-guided hunts vary in price, depending on the size and quality of the lease and what is provided. For details on semi-guided and self-guided muley hunting opportunities, call or email us. You can read about a few of those hunts by clicking on "mule deer" below our logo to the left, then clicking on the state in which you're interested.

Wyoming ranch hunt.

Burke Sorenson and Gabe Chadwick, western Colorado.

Hunting lease available for six to eight hunters

This 25,000-acre ranch is available for your group. The leaseholder reports that the property has a healthy population of mule deer and a few whitetails. Situated near Red Lodge, Montana, the ranch has no accommodations. Hunters stay in motels in Red Lodge. The price is $1,900 a person for 2009, which is a $600 reduction from the regular price. Hunter success was 100 percent on last year on bucks to 26 inches. Hunt MD4563MTDL

Southestern Utah ranch

Rich LaRocco of Hunts.Net, northern Utah ranch

Utah ranch hunt.

Southeastern Utah ranch, self-guided.

Utah September muzzleloader season