When it comes to big game hunting, there are no animals more popular than elk, antelope, whitetail, and mule deer. These four animals make up the bulk of hunting in North America. All of these animals are very different from one another, however, and hunting them can be a challenge if you are not aware of them. Here are some of the major differences between all four species!
For many hunters, especially those who do not live in the Rocky Mountains, a hunt for elk is a dream come true. Elk are among some of the largest game in North America and are easily the most vocal. There is nothing better than chasing around screaming bull elk during the rut in September! This is one of the biggest differences between elk and the other species. Not only are they very vocal animals, but they will rut during the warm month of September instead of the winter like deer do.
Elk are widely spread through their mountainous homes, and hunting them can be done with rifles and bows. They are generally a little more expensive to hunt compared to the other species, and tend to have some of the best noses out of all of them!
Right behind elk, you have mule deer as an iconic western species. Mule deer are much smaller than elk, but will still be larger than most whitetail. Mule deer differ from whitetail in physical appearance in size, as well as habits and characteristics. While whitetails seem to be more habitual, mule deer will roam around to find the best food and water sources and generally will not stay in one area for too long. Mule deer are one of the quietest species on our list, only in front of antelope.
Whitetail deer are by far the most popular big game species of the four. They are also the most widely spread. Whitetails tend to be a little smaller than mule deer, but they are able to grow some impressive antlers. They also tend to be much more cautious and hesitant than mule deer, as well as elk and antelope. They also tend to have the best noses out of the bunch, possibly only second to elk.
Last but not least, there are antelope. Antelope are not a deer species like the other three and have the best eyesight of any animal in North America. They mostly rely on this eyesight to keep them safe, so their sense of smell and hearing is not as good as the other three. Antelope are also the smallest of the four and prefer to live in flat, wide-open spaces that the other three species will tend to avoid.
Check out how to plan your first antelope hunt here.
As you can see, all four of these species are extremely different. They all present their own unique characteristics and challenges to hunters, making them worthy targets to pursue!
For more great ideas on how to fish and hunt from the experts, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Hunting & Fishing Blog for more great tips & tricks.