New Mexico Mule Deer

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, or at least it used to be.

The past three years Halloween has been forgotten as hunting has taken priority.  This fall was no exception, and I spent my Halloween in the alien capitol of the world, Roswell, New Mexico. 
Once I landed and no flying saucers, U.F.O’s, or aliens were sighted I headed to the ranch, where Billy the Kid once lived. Part of hunting all across the country is I get to see and learn a lot about different cultures and areas. It is so much more than just hunting.  It’s the people, the area, and the history that makes the trips. Although by looking at our daily schedule, I was reminded more time was dedicated to hunting than eating and sleeping combined.

I didn’t arrive to the ranch until almost midnight so I had to sleep FAST. We only had three days to complete this hunt so we hit it hard right from the start.

Morning came quickly, and it was time to walk and walk and walk. We made a big loop, seeing several nice bucks but nothing quite what we were looking for. 

A hunt like this is a true test of your camera gear and your own determination. This hunt was the first trip for our new EX cameras, which run on a chip, so no tapes to lug around. However, within minutes I realized I had forgot one important thing; a shoulder strap for the camera.  Too late now, so we walked and we walked. By the end of the day my wrists and forearms were shot, but this is a mistake I would not repeat. I quickly rigged up zip ties and the strap from binos to remedy the problem. 

The third and final day we walked more than ten miles. This isn’t flat walking either; it takes concentration and body awareness. The hillsides are covered in rocks, cholla, and snakes. One wrong step could lead to a painful and extremely long walk home. 

It seems everything in the desert either wants to bite, poke, or sting you. I try to film as much of the hunt as it happens so I was walking alongside Kayser with my eye in the viewfinder and WHAM…I ran straight into a big prickly Cholla. It’s nearly impossible to have your eye in the viewfinder and the other eye watching the ground.  

In fact my legs are living proof – they are covered in cuts, scratches & puncture wounds! It’s almost hard to believe anything can live in these conditions but we saw tons of game. I saw my first Aoudad (or Barbary sheep for you New Mexico folks), numerous coyotes, bobcats, and an abundance of quail. And the desert sure holds some trophy mule deer. 

The last hour of the last day we finally made it back to the truck. We had left the truck earlier just to look over a ridge…nine hours later we were out of water and happy to see the truck. After slugging down two waters and a quick Coke we were off to the races again. We spotted two different shooter bucks, so after assessing the situation we came up with a game plan and went after the buck that was on his feet feeding. 

Our plan entailed climbing a steep rock ledge, running through a deep ravine, and then finally creeping our way over a hill to land us within shooting distance. Out of breath, I got my tripod legs spread out and clicked the camera in place. I was still on the backside of the hill, out of sight and hopefully out of mind for these deer. Kayser crawled over the hill and got settled in on the buck.  I belly crawled into position then raised my sticks hoping not to grab the attention of the feeding deer.  

My initial instinct was, “Man, there are more deer here than I thought, what if I am on the wrong buck?” Things look small in a camera and I my worst fear is being on the wrong buck. After a play-by-play description of the buck’s movements from Mark I was confident we were on the same deer.  
Kayser squeezed off a shot and the buck tumbled. We had done it again! Last minute, yes, but we had completed another great show for North American Hunter. Mission Complete.

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