Some of my best mule deer hunts, where I had everything aligned; scouting, accuracy, and experience I fell flat and shot smaller bucks. The key, was being on the right ground, year after year that held bucks of that caliber. To accomplish this I often hired a outfitter, it was less about having someone hold my hand and more about the right tag, in the right area, with the scouting already done. 190+ bucks only exist consistently on a very small part of the western US. These bucks are a needle in a haystack.
We think anything over 185 inches is a big mule deer.
Every hunter wants to kill a big muley (I consider anything over 185 inches to be a true trophy, archery or rifle). I spend a lot of time counseling that deer of this caliber need to have advanced planning and you need to be ready to right a good sized check. Outfitters who can consistently produce bucks 170+ have a market average price in today’s hunting world of around $6000-$7000. Most of them are pushing into the $8,500 mark for 180+.
If you want to get into the next level of 190+ I’m seeing those hunts with a line of guys willing to pay $10,000-$15,000. These prices are based on guaranteed tags, because that is where the cost is. Some of these tags are being bought from landowners directly or through a lease, and are often 75% of the total cost to you.
Mule deer are in high demand.
So if your goal is to harvest a big muley and have a guaranteed tag and rely on more than luck you better be ready to write a big check. It is what it is. The outfitting world is a supply and demand business and big muleys are in high demand and by my experience less than 5% of the outfitters out there consistently kill 185+ deer. The key states on these guaranteed tag hunts are Utah, Idaho, and New Mexico.
Secondary states where landowner tags are available or have high draw odds due to private land are Colorado and Wyoming. You will have no choice but to participate in the long draw odds in states like Arizona, and a very few units in Montana.