Other areas of the Southwest are rutted out, so change your focus if you’re still in the game.
I’m just returning home from an absolutely epic trip to Africa where I hunted two different countries for wild, free-range animals. Being in wild Africa is a great way to take your mind off the rest of the world. It’s very easy to immerse yourself in that life and just become a hunter. That being said, big mule deer never seem to leave my mind. Some of the best spots in the country for big bucks are just starting to get good.
The Arizona Strip and the Kaibab Plateau are world renowned for good reason. For many, these areas are the holy grail of mule deer hunting. Year after year, these areas produce some of the largest mule deer antlers in the world. This year is no exception. Arizona can be broken down into three general regions for mule deer rut. North of the Grand Canyon, the middle region between the Grand Canyon and I-40, and south of I-40.
The northern region of Arizona seems to be cooling off. This is pretty normal as the rut in the northern part of the state usually follows a similar time frame as, or just after, Colorado and Utah. The middle region, on the other hand, is going strong. I anticipate another week or two of good rutting activity between I-40 and the Grand Canyon. For prime rut, this is the where to focus on at the moment. South of I-40 is always later. I was visiting with Jordan Christensen from The Draw and he said he is just now seeing movement in the southern part of the state. He said it’s not happening yet, but it’s getting closer every day.
The late archery hunt in Arizona can be a very fun hunt with the rut coming as late as it does. The Coues deer in the area should be firing up soon also. I hunt across the border in Mexico a lot and that rut coincides with the southern Arizona rut. My experience with the Sonoran Desert is that December is a great time to hunt the bucks as they are staging up for the rut, but peak rut is usually after Christmas and into January.
New Mexico is on a similar program to Arizona, with the northern half cooling off and the southern half just now showing signs. Chris Guikema with Compass West Outfitters is a resource I look to often for New Mexico information. He told me that the bucks necks are starting to puff up and he’s seeing more bucks around does. He anticipates the rut coming slightly early for his area, maybe around December 20.
Most of Texas is on the downhill slide or even completely finished — except for the south Texas brush country. Bucks are starting to rut pretty good in parts of south Texas. My reports have bucks going nuts in one spot and 50 miles away, they’re not quite there yet. I think you will have pretty good rutting activity in the far south through the month of December and possibly into January. It will just depend on your specific area within the region.
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