See how each state in the southwestern region is shaping up for deer season
The 2023 deer season is here, and with it comes our annual Southwest deer season forecast. While most of the southwestern states remain unchanged year-over-year, there are some notable things to discuss. For the most part, the 2023 deer season looks bright in the Southwest.
Deer season looks promising in the Southwest. Image by John Hafner
The state of Arizona is arguably the best destination for Coues deer. Coues are commonly hunted at 3,500 to 7,500 feet. Some of the best (and most successful) units for these cagey deer include 22, 24A, 29, 31, 33, 34B, 35A and 35B. Rough terrain is more attractive to these reclusive animals than spots that are easier to navigate.
Best of all, a high percentage of the Coues deer are on public land. Therefore, it’s a DIY deer hunter’s dream. With some effort and maybe a wink from the Big Guy upstairs, you can come here and pull a 110-inch buck from the scrubby landscape.
The great state of Colorado isn’t home to many whitetails (only about 25,000). That said, historically, it’s been good where they existed. Things changed last winter, though.
Unfortunately, this past winter was the worst Colorado saw in the past 70 years. To find food, thousands of animals migrated farther west, which caused them to burn more fat, which is critical for wildlife to survive the winter months. For many, it led to starvation.
The second-best state for Coues deer, New Mexico has a good bit to offer. However, it’s known more for mule deer. That said, Coues deer roam the southwestern corner. It’s also the only state that offers Coues whitetails and the Texanus subspecies.
Unfortunately for DIY trippers, this is a draw state, and the odds of getting a tag aren’t great. Those who hope to draw must deal with about 85% of licenses going to residents, 10% to residents or non-residents contracted with an outfitter, and 6% to non-residents who have not contracted with an outfitter. Yeah, New Mexico wasn’t made for the DIY guy.
Oklahoma is the best whitetail state in the region. Yes, it’s even better than Texas. It has big deer, old bucks, high densities, and about 1.7 million acres of public ground. It’s an over-the-counter state, too.
Further, according to Dallas Barber, a big-game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the state’s deer population is on an upward trend, the hunting is improving statewide, and all corners of the state have trophy potential. “These are the good old days,” Barber said. “Deer numbers are good; quality of bucks is on the rise; and doe harvest is within our management goals.”
Finally, Texas wraps up our look at the Southwest region. Of course, it’s still Texas, and the deer hunting is still grand. Those who hunt here should expect a positive outcome for the 2023 deer season.
That said, for those who don’t already have a place to go, don’t expect much public land availability. The Lone Star state is 95% private land. If you choose the public route, check out some of its WMAs, Army Corps of Engineers land, U.S. Forest Service ground, and more.
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