Deer hunting in New Mexico?
April 3, 2008 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Deer hunting in New Mexico: your experiences or advice appreciated!

I'm putting in for a deer tag (for deer taken by rifle; it will probably be a mule deer) here in New Mexico. I don't have any experience with deer hunting, so I'd like to hear from others who've hunted deer in NM. In particular, what's a good unit to put in for, and good areas within the unit to try? Does anyone have a lead on private-land hunting that doesn't involve outfitters and/or paying the landowner a ton of cash? I live in Espanola, but I'm willing to travel pretty much anywhere in the state. I haven't done this before, so general muley hunting advice is also welcome!

I'm not looking for a trophy... I just want to fill my freezer with venison, so I am not all that particular. I mainly want to maximize my chances of getting a tag/landowner's permission, and then have a decent chance of getting a deer. Thanks for any tips you can give me!
posted by vorfeed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Extra info: I'm particularly considering Unit 34, Unit 32, and Unit 2B, but I'd like to hear about any unit. Also, I'm more than willing to scout, camp, and hike, but my primary transport will probably be a big & heavy old van, so places that don't require a lot of heavy 4WD-style off-roading to get within hiking distance would be good. Thanks!
posted by vorfeed at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2008

vorfeed, my dad hunted in NM for many years. I will ask him your questions tonight. I know he and his dad always went up around Ruidoso.
posted by sugarfish at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2008

Mule Deer are generally considered less intelligent than White Tails...from my experience they are just more curious, not dumb. Many times if you're driving and stop beside some muleys in a field by a road, instead of running they'll just check you out. They'll usually give you a good chance to shoot at them as well-they oftentimes turn to look back at you after you spook them. Muley bucks will be just as smart as White tails, though, and will generally outsmart you if you're chasing them. They run fast, jump high, and climb steep cliffs well.

I hunt in Western ND and have done well there, but my dad's from that part of the state and has taught me a lot. I guess I don't have a lot of advice for hunting in New Mexico, but generally I would suggest you:
1) Work out-you will want to be in really good shape in order to keep up with these critters. I suggest running stairs, walking fast, jogging, and lifting weights. You'll most likely be high up in the hills/bluffs/mountains depending on where you'll be, so the stairs will help you immensely. Lifting weights will get your body ready for carrying your gear and moving your deer, depending on where you shoot it in proximity to your vehicle you could have some dragging to do, if not quartering and packing out your deer. Concentrate on your legs and trunk, but don't neglect your upper body.
2) Make sure you have good boots. You'll want good ankle support as well as something easy and comfortable to walk all day in I'd suggest doing a lot of your working out in your boots, especially the stair climbing. Probably even do some with your pack on.
3) Network. After you find out where you'd like to hunt, or if you have time before you have to apply, head out there. If you can get out there before you apply, maybe you can get a better idea as to where you want to hunt. You can get a lay of the land, decide what will work best for you, and apply to the section that appeals to you. If you don't make it out before you apply, head out at least once to do some scouting and get to know landowners. They're the key to a good hunt. It's very possible to hunt solely on public land in many states, but I'm not sure about NM. Cruise around dirt roads during the day, and at night head into town and talk to people at the local bar. See if they have any tips for you, or maybe you'll catch a landowner and can talk to them directly. Be nice, be genuine, and good things should come your way. (that's how it is in ND, anyway.)

That's about all I have for general deer hunting, I hope someone from New Mexico comes with some help for you. I assume you've been to your NM Game and Fish Department's website, but if not check out the "helpful hints" and "private land" sections of this page, they seem to have good information for you.

Desert Mule Deer
A handy blog
posted by whiskey point at 3:56 PM on April 3, 2008

Monster Muleys too
posted by whiskey point at 4:04 PM on April 3, 2008

Okay, from my dad: "I remember hearing the Dark Canyon area in the Guadalupe Mountains used to have lots of deer. It's a very rugged area, though. There are even elk."

As far as other advice, he just suggested you get a good rifle. My daddy's a man of few words.
posted by sugarfish at 5:19 PM on April 3, 2008

Thanks for the advice, whiskey point. I hadn't thought of asking at the bar, that's a great idea! There's a ton of BLM land in NM, so hopefully it should be possible to hunt without a landowner's permission, but it would be nice to have a local's ear just the same. I'll check out your links as well.

Also thanks to sugarfish -- the Guadalupes are in unit 30, so I will switch unit 34 for that one. There's some public land that should be permissible for hunting near Dark Canyon in unit 30... plus, I forgot that unit 34 has Chronic Wasting Disease, ew. I'll take your father's advice on the rifle, too. :)

Anyone else have any tips?
posted by vorfeed at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2008

Do you have a rifle in mind? I've relied on my Weatherby 25/06 and I've cleanly and effectively taken down a few white tails of good size, many fast moving antelope, and 2 large Mule Deer bucks (as well as a couple of large does). You'll get people telling you you have to get a huge rifle, but that's not the case. My 25/06 is the flattest shooting gun that I can think of, meaning the arc of the bullet isn't very extreme-even at long distances. I'm assuming you may have to take some long shots across canyons, so you're going to want to go to a sporting goods outfitter and talk to them about your options-just think about what you may want to use it for down the line. If you'll be interested in elk hunting, you may want to go for a larger caliber, but if you're thinking about antelope hunting, something smaller (like the 25/06) would fit the bill. If you're interested in deer/elk/antelope, my suggestion would be a 30/06-my mom shot her ND elk, many deer, and some amazing antelope with hers. It's a good all around, popular caliber. Also, get some good binoculars, because I'm thinking you'll be doing a lot of glassing. Don't forget, mule deer can and will hide in really small patches of grass, so you'll want to make sure when walking to not overlook any of these spots. You should also read up on field dressing deer. You'll want to remove the entrails right away, and hang the deer for skinning as soon as possible, especially if it's warm out. We drive quite a long way away from home, so when one of us shoots a deer, we go get it hung up (we have rancher friends who let us use one of their buildings and use a rope/pully and gambrel system) and then return out hunting. Then at night, we go and skin the deer, and put the quarters, back straps, and tenderloins in coolers with ice (keep the ice in the bag, you don't want the melted ice to mingle with the meat, that's no good). MeFi mail me if you have anymore questions, I hope all of this makes sense-I'm just trying to rattle off everything that comes to mind when I think about our hunting trips-I want you to have a blast and be successful! I also expect to see some pictures when you get back!

One more link: deer -please do some more checking on all my links-Cabelas is a good outfitter but usually not the best deal. They do have a lot of selection though. The links I gave you are just starters-do some searching for other options-I know for sure that there's a lot more out there on field dressing. I'd say the Amazon link to the gambrel/pully system is a good price and it's all in one which is nice. Again, good luck! and have fun! And take lots of pictures!
posted by whiskey point at 12:04 PM on April 4, 2008

I'm not sure about a rifle yet. I have an old Soviet bolt action carbine in 7.62x54R, but I don't shoot well enough with it for hunting... I can't seem to get it to play well with the scope I got for it. I think an all-around rifle would be best, because there's elk hunting in NM as well, and I was actually considering a 30/06, so I will probably look for one of those. There's a pretty good gun store in Santa Fe, so I'll ask them what they recommend. I will look at binocs, too. Is 8x32 good enough?

I checked out all your links, thanks again! I also found some youtube videos on field dressing... some good looking ones are here and here.
posted by vorfeed at 9:42 PM on April 4, 2008

I'd ask the guy at your sporting goods store about binoculars, he should be able to help you out. I've used promotional binoculars from the Minnesota State Lottery to count points on deer, but that was just because that's all I had in my car, and I wasn't actively hunting. I've also used some aggressive $1000+ binocs a friend has, they're over a foot long and about 6in at the end opposite of the eye pieces-but I'd hate to carry those into the field. You're going to want to find your perfect balance of size and power to carry with you comfortably and glass for long periods of time. Hopefully the employee helping you will show you a few different models you can test out. Check into buying used gun/scope combos. Many times people sell them because they're out of cash, not because they don't work right. If you go that route, check on the return policy of the store. You can save some serious cash going this way, but if you're going to get into big game hunting, get yourself into a 30/06 rig with a quality scope.
posted by whiskey point at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2008

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