Parrey Cremeans guides for elk, mule deer, blacktail deer, and other species in California, Mexico, and other areas with Just For Hunting, a full-service outfitter (visit www.justforhunting.com, or call 650-888-0808). If you plan to hunt in the far West, make your reservations now to hunt with this Mossy Oak Pro. If you can’t get in for this year’s hunting season, go ahead, and book for next year. 

Have you ever seen a blacktail deer? I’m not talking about a deer with a black tail, I mean a Western deer that most Easterners never have heard about or seen. Blacktails are different from Coues deer, mule deer, and whitetail deer and are extremely difficult to hunt. A blacktail deer’s antlers are more like a mule deer’s than whitetails.

Legend has it that blacktails came from a cross between a mule deer and a whitetail, but the blacktail is quite a bit smaller than the whitetail. A big blacktail deer weighs about 160 pounds, and a trophy-class blacktail is 135 inches on Boone & Crockett (B&C). Blacktails are bigger than Coues deer but not as big as whitetail or mule deer. In the areas where we hunt in California, we take blacktails scoring 150 to 160 B&C regularly.

I think one of the biggest differences in blacktails and whitetails is the amount of area they cover. You may be able to take a whitetail on 150 to 200 acres, but in the West, that blacktail buck may be roaming over 2,000 acres. They’re very susceptible to hunter pressure, so you have to be cautious. You’re not just hunting to take the blacktail, you’re also trying not to spook him. I hunted one blacktail buck for 22 days last season that was holding on 1,250 acres. I saw him twice during daylight hours. Even after all that effort, I wasn’t able to harvest that blacktail. He would have scored 140 to 143 inches on B&C.

We have numbers of people from the East who come to the West to hunt blacktails. I believe one reason is that blacktails are one of North America’s 29 biggame animals. They’re also very elusive. The blacktail usually holds in high Alpine areas or low-oak savannas. They also won’t get up from being bedded-down, until you’re almost stepping on them. My favorite camouflage for hunting blacktails is Mossy Oak Brush, since we have a lot of yellow grass out here. With Mossy Oak Brush, you can disappear. I’ve been sitting on a hillside and have had blacktails walk within 10 yards of me without seeing me. I’ve also been videoing and have had deer come in so close that I’ve had to zoom all the way back.

In our next article, Cremeans stays in California to take on Rio Grande Turkeys.

Image courtesy John E. Phillips

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