New Mexico Mule Deer Hunts - A Traveler's Guide | Great Days Outdoors

New Mexico Mule Deer Hunts – A Traveler’s Guide

New Mexico mule deer hunting can be a rewarding and challenging experience. The state is nationally recognized for its healthy population and its diverse habitats. In New Mexico, hunters can pursue trophy mule deer across the mountains, prairies, deserts, and forests. These environments are beautiful and exhilarating backdrops for the pursuit of game. 

In a way it’s the perfect introduction to western hunting for hunters who grew up hunting whitetails east of the Mississippi River. A mule deer is still a deer, after all, so there’s a certain sense of familiarity. Hunters used to scouting ahead of time and then posting up somewhere to ambush a buck as it goes about its daily routine can be successful using those tactics. But chasing them across the mountains and canyons also gives eastern hunters the chance to hone spot-and-stalk techniques that will be key to success as they continue to hunt western game animals. 

This guide will provide you with all the information you need to plan and execute a successful mule deer hunting trip in New Mexico. From seasons and draw dates, to outfitters and must-have gear, we will cover all the essential aspects of mule deer hunting in this beautiful southwestern state.

Mule Deer In New Mexico Facts

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are a species of deer native throughout western America, including New Mexico. They are medium-sized deer with large ears resembling those of a mule, giving them their name. Bucks typically weigh between 150 to 300 pounds, while does are somewhat smaller. Mule deer have a brownish-gray coat with a white patch on their rump, which is referred to as a “flag.” 

Mule deer in New Mexico inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, mountains, deserts, and shrublands. They are herbivores and primarily feed on vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, leaves, twigs, and forbs. Mule deer are known for their keen senses, particularly their exceptional hearing and vision. They are often cautious and alert, making them challenging to approach. 


New Mexico State Record Mule Deer

The largest mulie taken from New Mexico that is formally recognized by the Boone & Crockett organization was a 213 4/8” behemoth taken from Rio Aribba County. This incredible animal is the 9th largest mule deer ever recorded by the organization.

New Mexico Mule Deer Hunts

It is important to note that hunting regulations can change from season to season so it is important to refer to the State’s Wildlife Division to keep up to date with all current regulations. In New Mexico, you can find that information here.

Public Land Mule Deer Hunts

New Mexico provides ample opportunities for mulie hunting on public lands. State-owned properties, such as national forests, wildlife management areas, and BLM lands, offer access to diverse habitats and ample hunting opportunities. Hunters can apply for specific hunting units and seasons through the state’s draw system.

new mexico mule deer
New Mexico provides ample opportunities for mulie hunting on public lands.

Private Land Mule Deer Hunts

In addition to public land hunts, New Mexico offers limited private land hunting opportunities for mule deer. Private land hunts often require landowner permission, and hunters can either secure access on their own or through reputable outfitters.

New Mexico Trophy Mule Deer Hunts

New Mexico is well-known for its trophy mule deer hunting opportunities, with many hunters seeking to harvest a buck with exceptional size and quality. Some areas in New Mexico have a reputation for producing exceptional trophy mule deer. A guide or outfitter with experience in trophy antelope hunting can help you identify potential harvests and navigate the terrain. They may also have access to private land with high trophy potential. If you’re looking to narrow in on a particular part of the state known for producing quality bucks consistently, we’d advise investigating Rio Arriba county. Out of the top 10 mule deer recognized by Boone & Crockett, 9 came from this county.

Mule Deer Season In New Mexico

The mule deer hunting season in New Mexico typically runs from the first of September to the end of January, with specific dates varying by hunting unit and hunting method. It is important to carefully review the hunting regulations and season dates for the specific hunting zone and method you plan to use before your trip. Keep in mind that hunting season dates and regulations may be subject to change from year to year, so always check the most current information provided by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.


Draw Odds

The odds of getting drawn for a mule deer hunt in New Mexico can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the specific hunt unit, season, weapon type, and the number of applicants for that particular hunt. It’s also important to note that the draw odds are subject to change from year to year based on the number of available tags and the number of applicants.

mule deer
Make sure to get your New Mexico deer license to go along with your mule deer tag.

To get accurate and up-to-date draw odds for specific mule deer hunts in New Mexico, it’s recommended to consult the official website of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish or contact their customer service directly. They can provide the most current information regarding draw odds, tag availability, and any recent changes to the draw system or regulations.

License Cost

At the time of writing, an out-of-state New Mexico deer license, which covers mule deer, costs between $283-$386, depending on the specific license. This does not include additional expenses that may be incurred if a hunter desires to apply for a tag in a particular area. Be advised that regulations change from year to year, and that it is always strongly recommended to refer directly to state game agencies when deciding which licenses and tags you need for your particular hunt. 

New Mexico Mule Deer Outfitters

New Mexico offers a variety of outfitters that specialize in mule deer hunting. Mallard Bay is a great resource for finding outfitters to consider when planning your New Mexico mule deer hunting trip.

Mule Deer Hunting Gear

When hunting mulie in New Mexico, it’s important to have the right gear to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience. Here’s a list of essential gear you may need:

Hunting Rifle or Bow: Choose a reliable and accurate rifle or bow suited to your shooting ability and personal preference. Ensure you practice with your chosen weapon and become proficient before your hunt.

Ammunition or Arrows: Carry an appropriate amount of ammunition or arrows for your rifle or bow. It’s advisable to bring extra rounds or arrows in case of unexpected circumstances.

Optics: Invest in quality binoculars and/or a spotting scope to aid in glassing and identifying mule deer at a distance. Look for optics with good magnification and clarity.

Range Finder: A range finder helps you accurately determine the distance to your target, which is crucial for making ethical shots, particularly with a bow.

Clothing: Dress in layers to accommodate varying weather conditions. Consider lightweight and breathable baselayer tops and bottoms, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget to wear appropriate camouflage patterns that blend with the local terrain, which can vary depending on what part of New Mexico you go to.

Hunting Boots: Choose durable and comfortable boots suitable for rugged terrain. Look for boots with good ankle support, waterproofing, and insulation if hunting in colder conditions.

Backpack: Carry a backpack large enough to hold essential gear and supplies. Look for one with organizational compartments, a hydration system, and comfortable shoulder and waist straps. A good frame back with an expanding storage compartment to accommodate game quarters is recommended.

Game Bags: Carry lightweight and breathable game bags for field dressing and packing out your deer. These bags help protect the meat from dirt and insects while allowing airflow.

Field Dressing Kit: Pack a field dressing kit, including a sharp knife or knives, bone saw, gutting gloves, and other necessary tools for field dressing and processing the animal.

Personal Safety Equipment: Consider carrying a reliable headlamp or flashlight, a whistle, a compass or GPS device, and a first aid kit to ensure your safety while navigating the wilderness.

Food and Water: Carry ample food and water to sustain yourself during the hunt, particularly if planning for long days in the field.

Survival Gear: Pack essential survival gear, including fire-starting tools, emergency shelter, a signaling device, and a multi-tool.

License and Tags: Ensure you have the appropriate hunting license and mule deer tags required for New Mexico Keep these documents easily accessible.

Personal Items: Bring personal items such as sunscreen, insect repellent, a map or GPS device, a camera, binocular harness, and any medication or personal necessities.

Best Caliber For Species

The nice thing about hunting mulies is that if you already hunt whitetail deer, you have a gun that is capable of harvesting them. Popular calibers for general deer hunting include .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, and .30-06 Springfield. If you have several deer guns, bring whichever one is set up for making longer distance shots, since mule deer frequently inhabit more open areas than their eastern cousin. 

new mexico mule deer
There is a lot of varied, beautiful terrain to hunt in New Mexico.

Final Thoughts

New Mexico is one of the top states for mule deer hunting in North America. As with most types of Western hunting, there are a lot of details to consider. From obtaining the necessary licenses and permits to scouting locations and selecting the right gear and outfitters, this guide has covered all the essential aspects of mule deer hunting in New Mexico. If you’re heading out after big ole “mulies” this season, remember to get your body in good condition well before your hunt and spend a lot of time at the range! If you put in the effort, you will be rewarded!

Full Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links. There’s no extra charge to our readers for using these.

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