For lifelong mule deer hunters, there is always a thrill in seeing a big mule deer bull raise his head in a high mountain meadow. There is nothing that compares to that gut feeling you get when a big mule deer buck steps into the light on the edge of a large New Mexico sage flat. Hunting such creatures touches us in a more ancient and primitive way, going back to our hunting ancestry and eons of associating that image with the ultimate in success.
While much American mule deer hunting has stayed decent or even improved in many states, mule deer hunting opportunity has declined and in many western states, and New Mexico has not been immune in the struggle to maintain mule deer populations and hunt quality. There are many reasons why mule deer populations in New Mexico and other states have declined: habitat destruction, drought, lack of predator control, and over-hunting are among many reasons given. Your odds of even seeing, much less drawing, a tag and killing a trophy mule deer buck have become very slim across the west. A big mule deer remains one of the most elusive of North American trophies.
Luckily, this trend has been addressed by New Mexico wildlife managers and game scientists. With the help of nature, New Mexico mule deer have experienced considerable successes in resurgence of populations and the reappearance of the wide, heavy-horned mule deer bucks from the past, but this is far from universal across the west or even New Mexico. Many New Mexico hunt units remain in decline and, consequently, provided the ultimate challenge for New Mexico mule deer hunters.
In the northwest corner of New Mexico, in the area known as The Four Corners, mule deer populations have remained surprisingly strong. This is where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado all come together in a common point. These are legendary mule deer states, and that little corner of New Mexico plays a big part in that legend. You will find the record books well represented by New Mexico mule deer bucks taken here over the years.
Mature mule deer bucks are typically reclusive, nocturnal creatures. For most of the year, they are lounging away in the thickest, darkest cover available, and come out only after dark to feed and water. Normally, early snows in Colorado occur around the end of October, and trigger southward deer movement to their wintering areas in the sage country. The New Mexico mule deer rut begins in mid-November. As deer populations rise with the returning herds, the rut starts to engage as well, and there is no shortage of bigger mule deer bucks to spoil the dance.
New Mexico hunt dates start in late October and extend past mid November. The hunts in the latter part of November are the most prized and the most successful, because you're deeper into the rut and the migration of the mule deer.