New Mexico has an archery-only desert mule deer hunt in January each year that takes place during the peak of the rut. The Good: You can fly into El Paso, Texas, rent a car and drive 45 minutes to New Mexico, where you can buy your license literally 24 hours a day at any Walmart. I bought my license at 11:30 p.m. and went to bed that night with my license in hand. The Bad: You have to travel northwest out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and find a landowner who will let you hunt on his property. Last January, my hunting partner and I simply flew out to New Mexico and bought our licenses, confident we would find someone who would let us hunt. As luck would have it, while the two of us were enjoying a late night dinner in Las Cruces, we managed to hook up with a guy named Clay Heck of Quality Outfitting and Guide Service. Turns out Heck is a local outfitter with access to something like 100,000 acres of private ranch land. He seemed a pretty straight shooter, so my partner and I booked a hunt with him on the spot.
Next day, we drove out to his ranch and started hunting. On the ride out, we saw so many pronghorns it just about scared us. We must have seen a few hundred bucks. Most of these began to appear after we turned off the highway onto a local road that went on and on for over an hour. There were ranches on both sides of the road all the way to the 30,000-acre property we had arranged to hunt. Our hunting area was rocky and mountainous desert country dotted with piñon and juniper shrubs. The mountain draws lead down into cactus and sage country. We set up a remote camp and hunted on foot from there, walking up and down the many mountain fingers while glassing for bucks. The deer here were typical desert mule deer bucks, but because our hunt was during the rut, you saw 15 to 20 bucks a day. Adding to the........(continued)