Okay, I didn't have very high expectations going into this hunt and turns out they were still a little too high! ;-)
This was a 3rd choice hunt on my application and the drawing odds have historically been in the 75 - 80% range. Not a high demand unit at all. I had hunted some of the units around it though and felt like with some extra effort and some planning I might be able to get away from the crowds and have a decent chance at a nice buck.
I was wrong.
I can probably take a little bit of the blame as I just didn't put my full effort into it from the start. I did do some internet scouting and talked with a few different people, but not a tremendous amount of time spent on it. The unit is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house so from the start I just planned on doing a weekend hunt of it and not even hunting the full 5 day season.
Set my alarm for 4:30 am Central time and left the house headed to the spot I had picked out from looking at maps and talking with a few folks. Some public land in the sand hills that was accessible from a county maintained road. Thought I had some good looking spots lined up with no roads and some decent terrain. Got there Saturday morning about 15 minutes before shooting light and started hiking in. Kept hiking and kept hiking. Didn't see much sign at all and there had been a rain the night before so I would have been able to see fresh tracks. Finally mid morning saw a doe and 2 fawns. Got back in a little over 3 miles and that was it.
Here's a picture that I took for an example of the type of terrain I was in. In some other units around there would have been deer all over in this terrain. Just not here.
Pretty discouraging, but I had several other options I had looked at and decided instead of spending a lot of time and effort hunting a spot with such a sparse deer population I would just shift to a different spot.
I ended up driving around a bit and the mix of public and private was a little confusing on what was marked and what wasn't, but basically after about lunch time I decided that there weren't many deer in the sand hills. I did hear some shots that morning up by a rimrock area, but that looked all private so it wasn't an option for me.
I relocated to an area Northwest of Roswell with some checkboard BLM and State land after lunch. It was tough to get off the highway onto public land, but finally found a spot. Looked pretty deery and spooked up 5 does and fawns right off the bat when I started hiking toward the bottom. Snuck up on a doe and 2 fawns down in the bottom, then moved up onto the top on the opposite side. Saw the biggest covey of quail I've ever seen in my life, at least 50 birds. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip probably. Thought that this rock stack was pretty neat. I guess someone had some time on their hands at some point!
I sat down and watched the bottom area as the sun set and 8 does and fawns came working through the bottom but no antlers. Some of them may have been some of the same deer from earlier, but not sure one way or the other. One thing I was sure of, and that is that none of them had antlers. I walked back to the truck in the dark and decided to try a different spot in the morning.
Here's my view of the bottom while I watched the sun go down.
And a view of the sunset.
I ended up with a tiny bit under 10 miles logged on my boots according to my GPS for the day when it was all said and done. Net result right around a dozen deer seen, all of them does and fawns. Hopefully the next day would be better.
I started out at Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge Sunday morning. It's 12,000 acres and open to the public for deer hunting if you have a tag. I spent the night in my pickup in the parking lot that night and then headed out onto the refuge about 30 minutes before shooting light. Didn't see much in the way of tracks in the bottom, so I moved over into the hills a little. Heard some coyotes but not much else. Actually glassed a shed antler about 1/2 mile away and headed over there. Chalky white, but a decent find. I think that's the first shed antler I ever found by glassing.
Still not seeing any recent tracks really. Made a big loop and headed back out. Found another shed antler and saw a few more tracks, but didn't see a single deer. Here's a picture of what most of the country I was covering looked like.
Back at the truck with my chalky sheds.
Logged a little over 6 miles on my boots per my GPS. As I was heading out a couple of recreational horse riders where heading in. I think there was one other hunter at the trail head that morning, but they were gone by the time I came back out a little before lunch.
I decided I would at least go look at the twin buttes road area that gets mentioned as a good spot quite often, and I headed over there thinking I would try to get back in off the road a ways and see if I could at least see a buck. Wow, I've never seen so many hunters in such a small area in my life! Probably 50 or so hunters in about a 10 square mile area. Campers, trailers, tents, ATVs, a regular city back there.
They all looked like they were hanging around camp so I went on in and tried to get off the road. I hiked about a mile and setup overlooking a bottom and within about 15 minutes see 2 hunters coming up through the bottom beating the brush. Literally, one of them was picking up rocks and throwing them into the brush. They spooked about 10 deer out, but all of them were does.
Here's a picture of the bottom. If you look close you can see the orange dot that is one of the hunters when they were working the bottom.
After they finished working the bottom I decided I would follow where the does went back farther in. It was going to be sunset soon and I figured they might lead me to a buck. I topped the next ridge over and a pickup was driving up a road that I thought was blocked off down on private. I moved over onto the ridge and about when I was going to sit down 2 other hunters come walking up from the North. I decide to just head back to the truck and as I'm going down the ridge, 2 more hunters are on their way up from the West. I keep heading back to the truck, bump some does and fawns on the way and decide I might as well sit a ridge looking over a bottom as the sun sets. Saw another doe and fawn, another truck drive by, I can hear ATVs roaring all around, and am just amazed at the amount of pressure put on the deer in this tiny little area.
After sunset I dropped down for the last 3/4 of a mile to my truck and bumped a doe in the bottom as I went through. If there are any bucks in the area they are going to about have to get stepped on to get them to leave cover.
My best decision all week was to head back to the truck before dark as about 1/3rd of a mile away I almost stepped on a big old rattlesnake. I just left him alone and went around.
A pretty sunset to end the day though.
I decided to just drive back to Lubbock and call it a learning experience. Just 4 miles on my boots that evening. There just weren't any real areas to get very far back in that I could see.
Total for the weekend, 20 miles logged on my boots and didn't see a single buck. For sure saw more hunters than deer when it was all said and done as well.
Needless to say I won't be putting in for Unit 32 as a 3rd choice on my application next year. If any of you were thinking about it, I would seriously consider whether it is worth it or not.
Pretty sad to end both of my New Mexico hunts without an animal on the ground. The only other time I didn't fill a New Mexico tag was my Antelope tag that had me assigned to a ranch without antelope. Before this year I was 2 for 2 on elk tags and 3 for 3 on deer tags.
I guess now I can concentrate on my property here in Texas and my hopes and dreams of a trophy whitetail may still come true.
That's it for now. Nathan