Due to warmer temps, Southwestern deer rut later than their cousins farther north. This presents a prime opportunity to catch trophy bucks off-guard, as well as an excellent chance to get out of the snow and cold of the north and head to the borderlands, where sunshine predominates. Special archery-only seasons kick off in late December in Arizona and run through the end of January. You can buy a tag over the counter upon arrival. New Mexico requires more advanced planning (the deadline is in early April), but you’ll be a shoo-in to draw a late archery tag in all but a few areas.
Desert muleys are common throughout southern New Mexico and Arizona; New Mexico’s Sacramento and Capitan mountains and the southern Gila region are real hot spots. Arizona’s borderlands and Cave Creek vicinity are known for big bucks. The small mountain ranges of the southern Gila region of New Mexico and the southeastern Arizona ranges produce big Coues deer.
Bowhunters succeed by relying on quality binoculars and spotting scopes to pare vast territory down to size. Find a vantage with a commanding view of promising habitat and carefully nibble away with 8- or 10-power glass, being careful to watch for subtle clues or eye-grabbing movements that reveal a deer’s location. After you’ve found the deer you’re looking for, plan a sensible approach, noting key landmarks that will allow you to stop along the way to keep track of your animal, and proceed on careful, quiet feet.
Southwestern archers already know about these late seasons, but this is also an opportunity for those in the snowbound north to travel to more temperate climates and find a true trophy buck with its brains addled by hormones.
Contact: Arizona Game and Fish (602-942-3000, arizonahunt .com); New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (800-862-9310, gmfsh.nm.us).