NEW MEXICO

Deer Forecast 2004 -- WEST

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Wildlife officials don't expect any changes in the upcoming season, indicating it should be the same as last year. Barry Hill, deer program manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, says the state is still in a long-term drought, which hurts habitat. Consequently, deer numbers aren't what biologists would like them to be. The southern areas have been hit hardest by the drought. Besides mule deer, New Mexico also has Coues deer in the southwest and Texas whitetails along its eastern border.

Hill says the best mule-deer hunting should be in the north-central and northwestern areas. There is plenty of public land there on national forests and BLM property, offering great hunting opportunities. He also says regulations such as season dates and quotas will remain the same this season but may change next year. It's possible that the entire state could be limited entry, which is what other Western states have done recently.

Deer seasons in New Mexico are "stratified" and are shorter than most in the West, with two-, three-, five- and seven-day hunts, depending on the unit. Rifle seasons typically run from late September to late November.