Some of the best hunting in the Southwest is yet to come, as the border regions are starting to fire up
It’s been a wild year in the Southwest. Parts were hit with the worst winter kill in 70 years, and other areas got just the right amount of moisture to keep the animals at peak health. Issues ranged from hundred-year rains in California to droughts in other areas. Leading into fall, many folks were skeptical about the quantity and quality of wildlife in their respective areas. I know I was.
Colorado was a pleasant surprise in some areas, but the devastation in some spots made me sick. In the heart of the winter-kill areas, elk and pronghorn really took it on the chin. Some animals were displaced to other areas, but the death toll was undeniable, with carcasses scattering the countryside. That being said, other areas of Colorado were unaffected and produced some world-class animals. There were a few 400-inch bulls pulled from Colorado this year, which is not common. I know of at least three mule deer bucks that scored higher than 250 inches, too. Although portions of the state were a ghost town for wildlife, the rest of the state kept up the reputation as a place that can produce world-class animals. The rut in Colorado was status quo and followed the historic timeline pretty closely.
Utah and California were, in my opinion, normal in terms of rut and trophy quality — always producing some exceptional animals. You can never discount Utah for big bucks and bulls. California produced some monster tule elk and some trophy blacktails.
This year, I have been most impressed with Nevada and New Mexico. Nevada came out of the gate with some giant mule deer and kept producing. The rut did not seem to be a deciding factor in Nevada. The guides and outfitters there were on point and kept digging up giant bucks and bulls. New Mexico has always been known for big bulls, but the mule deer have been a bit of an afterthought. There are a few renowned units, but even at that, only a few really big deer seem to get killed each year. This year has been different. Some giant bulls were taken, but each week it seemed I was surprised with a few more huge mule deer. It was a very impressive year for New Mexico. The elk rut seemed to be all over the place, with the mule deer rut status quo.
Arizona just finished its premium rifle deer hunts and, as usual, they produced a lot of big deer. Arizona is held to a very high standard amongst hunters for trophy quality — so much that your vision can be skewed on what’s realistic for trophy quality. While producing some of the country’s best elk and deer, I didn’t think Arizona had its best year. This could be attributed to some law changes that make it more difficult to keep tabs on big deer and elk, or maybe it was just an average year. The rut is still going or just getting going in the southern part of the state. The late archery hunt should be really fun and could produce some great deer.
Texas has produced some amazing whitetails this year. This is something we’ve come to expect out of Texas because of its intensive private land management. My lease in north-central Texas produced more quality deer than usual, but I haven’t seen the one giant that usually shows up. Southern Texas is hot right now. The next couple of weeks are going to be your best weeks in far southern Texas. I’m headed to my lease right now to meet up with Will Brantley. My schedule and the opportunity to go to Africa kept me from hunting the rut. With luck, a few does will be coming back into estrus and we’ll have some bucks traveling. Dec. 22, 2019 produced my second-largest deer to date, so I’m not afraid of hunting this late, even if it means missing the rut.
Overall, it was a hell of a fall. Success rates were very good, and the quality seemed to be very high throughout the Southwest Region. The winter has been very mild in most parts of the Southwest so far, so I’m hoping that gives some relief to the areas that were hammered this past winter. Only time will tell. I would like to tell you that I’m already looking forward to next year’s rut, but honestly, I can’t see past turkey season. Gobble, gobble.
Don’t Miss: IS THE SECOND RUT EVEN REAL?