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My amazing NM mule deer hunt
Being active in various bowhunting organizations has great benefits for those who are inclined to take advantage of opportunities that are presented. If you want to get the most out of your hunts never stop learning and don’t hesitate to take chances. Through my involvement with the Pope and Young Club I have been blessed with some great friendships that have resulted in some even greater hunting opportunities. Allow me to tell you about the latest grand adventure.
While I was on my annual POW sitka hunt, I got an email inviting me to hunt deer on the Armendaris ranch in southern New Mexico. I had already drawn a deer tag for the January hunt so I didn’t know if I could make it work. I didn’t have a lot of time to get things moved around but I knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up. I was able to donate my January tag and as soon as my status showed that I had no tag, I was able to purchase a tag that I could use on the ranch.
Ron and Kyle Thompson are biologists from Arizona and they do conservation work all over the world on some of the most interesting projects. I met them while we were doing the P&Y sponsored couse deer hunts in Sonora starting in 2010. They were overseeing the jaguar restoration project in that area and the deer hunt was the result of their efforts to help fund the project. The deer on the ranch had not been hunted in 10 years so I knew this was going to be a fun hunt.
This hunt was completely DIY and the 3 of us stayed in the main bunkhouse. Since we were going to have above average accommodations, I talked Lisa into tagging along for the hunt. That made it even better. She could go with me on some of the scouting trips and enjoy the ranch while I was out on my own.
The ranch’s main focus is desert bighorn sheep and oryx hunts. They have manmade water tanks all over the ranch to accommodate the sheep, deer, oryx and bison. The tanks that are in sheep country all have trail cameras on them so there was some intel available when I got there. The ranch manager told me about a good buck in one area and a tank on the mountain that should be active. Ron and Kyle gave me a map that showed a number of tanks up on the mountains. Ron had been doing conservation work for Turner Ranches for over 20 years so he knew the ranch fairly well.
We got up early the first day and they pointed me toward what they thought would be the best tank. It had been extremely dry so I thought my best bet would be to hunt water. I pulled the disc on the trail camera and saw that a really tall 3 x 4 had been there fairly regularly. I decided that I would be very happy to have a chance at this buck so I set up my blind and began the hunt.
The tall 3 x 4 that I was after
I sat until about 3:30, having only a small buck and some does come in. I wanted to get out and check some other areas to see what else was around. All of the cameras that I checked that afternoon had just been checked and erased that day. My intel was going to be limited for a while. At the ranch managers suggestion, I hunted a different tank the second morning and then tried some spot and stalk that afternoon after a light rain. I didn’t find anything big enough to stalk but I did run into a small rattle snake. That always gets your heart pumping.
I nice bull oryx watered in front of my first blind on the second day while I wasn’t there. I didn’t have an oryx tag but it would have been neat to have gotten some pictures. I had a good 4 x 4 coming in one evening with a doe. They didn’t spook but at about 40 yards they just walked away. A little later the big 3 x 4 started coming in but he turned north and left. It was too late for a stalk so that ended that day.
After several days of being too hot in the ground blind, I decided to spot and stalk for the last few days of the hunt. On the 5th morning, I spotted a good 4 x 5 and came within one step of getting a shot. I went back after him in the afternoon but I didn’t locate him until it was too late for a shot. I got to 60 yards but ran out of light. The next morning I glassed him up again and he had a friend with him. The new buck was way bigger and really got me excited. I tried to intercept them at a saddle but lost them. I worked around on some high spots to try to pick them out but never could find them again. I decided not to push them too hard so I backed out to try again later.
It rained a little that afternoon so I thought I should get out there a little early to try to find them again. At my first glassing spot, I spotted them just across the road and about 400 yard away. I dropped down into the draw and headed toward them below the road. I was just getting ready to sneak up to the road and try to pick them out when I saw antler tips coming over the rise just in front of me. They walked by at just over 30 yard and stopped when I came to full draw. The Bear razorhead flew true and the big buck ran up the hill. After only about 40 yards he got weak and tumbled back down toward me. Sometimes you get lucky and it seems so easy. He is my biggest mule deer to date and I was able to keep the velvet in pretty good shape. He will make a beautiful mount. He has incredible mass.
We are putting together some archery hunts on the ranch starting in January. We have secured 10 deer tags for next year and even more oryx tags. We have 4 deer tags for this coming January but those hunts are filled. We will probably have 5 tags for September 2020 and 5 for January 2021. The ranch has a ton of oryx and I’m working on setting up some archery hunts for them. We are going to set up some permanent ground blinds on some water tanks and try to come up with a high success oryx bowhunt. I’ll keep you posted on how things progress. If you want to try for an oryx with a bow and don’t want to travel all the way to Africa, let me know. I think this is going to turn into a great opportunity for some dedicated bowhunters.
This buck has incredible mass. I can't believe my good fortune.
I probably saw 100 oryx during the hunt and I didn't spend all that much time in areas where oryx were prevalent. I'm looking forward to going back specifically for oryx.
What a great buck! Congratulations!
Great looking buck and a very interesting place! Congrats.
Great buck.....IMO a giant muley buck is the ultimate trophy animal.
Great buck Jim. Congrats!
What a Dandy Velvet buck.
Good luck, Robb
Beautiful deer!! Congratulations!
Congrats Jim! Keep us posted on the deer hunts for 2021
Very nice Jim great buck!!!!!!!
Congrats on a great buck! Thanks for sharing.
Congrats Jim. Thanks for sharing that sounds like a heck of a time
Congrats on a great buck thanks for sharing!
Congratulations! Love the oryx pics.
Great job. So very well done.
Nice work! You gotta love it when they come right to you.
Beautiful buck. Congrats, Jim!
Great buck Jim! Congrats! Would love to bowhunt an Oryx in NM! That is one animal on my bucket list!
Right on, congratulations Jim. Ed F
Awesome buck, Jim! Congratulations!
Again, nice deer Jim. I've hunted oryx twice on the Armendaris. Very fun and one of my (if not the) favorite animals to hunt.
Congratulations... what a dandy!!!!!!!!!!!
Beautiful buck, congrats. Are you going to peel the velvet off? Looks about ready to shed it. Can a non-res hunt those oryx? Any idea on costs or logistics on obtaining a tag for one.? Thank you. TK
Beautiful, congratulations. Forrest
Too much fun Jim. Nicely done. my best, Paul
Sounds like a great hunt and definitely a beautiful buck. Congrats Jim!
Beautiful buck, congrats. Rattlesnakes can definitely increase the heart rate!
Rattlesnakes seem to love me! It's not mutual... Congrats on a beauty!
Awesome! Great buck. Congrats Jim. I'm VERY interested in the oryx hunts!
Super cool hunt Jim. Congrats on a Massterful buck.
Great buck, Congrats!
So cool seeing those Oryx, awesome critters!
Great specimen Jim, congrats!
Congrats again that’s heck of a nice deer. Can’t wait to hear about the gemsbok hunts! Make sure you PM me Jim once you get it all figured out.
Congrats. Thanks for sharing.
Congrats Sir ! That’s a great buck and the Oryx pics are a bonus....
Congrats on a great hunt and a heck of a buck!
Great story, Jim.
On a side note, am I the only one who is sick of the word "amazing"?
Matt, Sorry to hear that you are sick of hearing about amazing hunts. Would it be OK if I used. Incredible, unbelievable, best ever or simply marvelous? When I tell a story, I generally just use the words that pop into my head. I have a masterful editor living with me who continually tries to get me to write correctly. If I did that, it wouldn't be original. It's amazing that she still puts up with me. Sorry, I couldn't help it.
Thanks everyone for the kind remarks. It was one of those hunts where I didn't know what to expect but was intrigued by the opportunity to the extent that I took great steps to move things around to make it work. A bunch of us are going to have some great times on this ranch over the next few years.
That's amazing! :) Congratulations, Jim!