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Hunt for a New Mexico Desert Muley

November 29, 2010 by  
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Garrett Baker from Virginia made a road trip out to New Mexico with his family on a desert mule deer hunt. Rugged desert terrain and low deer numbers made for a very tough hunt, but Garrett stuck it out and tagged his buck. Congrats Garrett!

I knew better, applying for a public land, buck only, desert mule deer tag.  I was enticed by the hunt dates and DNR’s Public Relations Officer.  With prospects of a well managed herd, by day four, 100 man hours of hunting later, Dad and I had only observed 13 total deer.  A spike, 11 adult does and a fawn.  Hunting approximately 10-12 square miles, we only observed about one deer per square mile.  Not to good for my anticipation of wanting to look over at least 10 bucks over the course of the trip, with a goal of a 150 class or better.  Trying to wrap our heads around the situation, we concluded that reproduction must be down, buck harvest pressure is high and the DNR is allocating to many tags on this public ground.  Despite the numbers, the country was beautiful and the cook’n great.  Mom joined us on this trip and offered great company along with evenings of culinary delight.

On the final day, we woke to a crisp clear morning.  As we were gathering our gear in the morning dusk, this hunter’s perpetual
habit of looking to the horizon line, saved me.  I spotted the silhouette of a buck head and antlers on a distant high ridge.  After a quick double take, I quickly glassed to confirm and continued arranging my gear.  “Mom, there is buck on the ridge looking at us, don’t act like you see him”.  Quickly a plan was formulated and I was off on a stalk.  Mom and Dad remained and continued to glass.  I headed off up an adjacent drainage to come in behind the deer.  No sooner after I had left, the buck bedded.  An hour or so later, I was on the ridge above, looking back down to the canyon bottom, I could still see my folks hidden and glassing back my way.  So the buck must still be here.  I waited patiently ready, moving only when gusts of wind concealed any noise, ever ready to make a shot.  After long minutes pass, you question whether the buck is still there or has move on.  As the sun crest the ridge, wind became questionable.  I held tight, for I knew he could not tolerate the direct sun for long.  Back aching in a crouched position, he appear, walking the contour below me.  Remaining frozen, his posture read of slight alarm as he scanned the terrain ahead.  He began moving again, I shouldered the TC Pro Hunter slowly.  At 80 yards off handed, the crosshairs rotating this full chest, I took a slow breath, calming the nerves and bring the zero to a 6″ circle. The gun fired without thought taking out the heart for a clean quick finish.

In the end we only saw 2 bucks in 5 days, a hard earned desert muley for sure.  We aged him a 3.5 years old, fit and in good body condition.  The buck’s belly was full of shrub browse.  Not the biggest buck, but he will take a proud place on my wall and fill my plate for Sunday dinners to come.

Garrett

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