And should I have released the shot?
I'm on the 5th day of a New Mexico mule deer hunt, in an above average unit. If mule deer tasted as good as elk I'd probably be packing meat right now. However, the freezer isn't critically low, and my wife isn't a huge fan of mule deer meat. So, the goal for a mature mule deer, net P&Y, was set. It's actually a goal I've had for a long time.
I'm thinking this buck is mid 130s, but I'm not great at judging deer. He has solid front forks, but is a 3 +brow tine on one side. With the thinner and lighter rack I'm guessing he's a younger deer.
I want to know what the experts think since I have 4 more days to hunt and may run across him again. I drew and let down twice today. I'm sure that temptation will grow, but you can't shoot the big ones if you shoot the little ones. This buck actually had a larger 5x5 and a smaller 4x4 with him. I just couldn't find the 5x5 when I got down into them. In addition to those bucks, there is a much larger 5x5 in the area. I had him bedded and in range three days ago, but never had a clean shot. He went from bedded to behind a tree in a flash.
Yeah, he’s a pup. But like Mel said - “ A dog is a fine meal.“
(I have no idea what a P & Y minimum Muledeer looks like, but even I know that’s not it…)
With my hunt cut short, I decided to check a small patch of public that I've been eyeing for years. Within 30 minutes, I found a big 5x5 bedded in an arroyo with a doe. Perfect. I stalked in to 55 yards when he made me. He went from bedded to behind a tree as I made it to full draw. As he exited the other side I couldn't get him stopped before he made it out of range.
In the three hours I was out hunting, someone stole the catalytic converter off my truck. That put a damper on things, but not much I can do about it. It certainly gives me pause parking in certain areas now. Talking to the Toyota dealer and insurance reps, it seems to be occurring more frequently. The insurance rep said it was mostly a California problem prior to 2020. 2020 was a rough year for lots of people. I'm thankful for how well my family has done through the last year.
I planned an approach out into the rolling pinyon-juniper country. I made it inside 100 yards before something went sideways. I'm still not sure if one of them saw me, or if the wind swirled slightly. They weren't badly spooked, but I did get a snort from one of the smaller bucks as they slowly moved off. Rather than push them, I backed out as I was near the public land boundary.
This is the best photo I got, as I was more focused on trying to kill the deer than take photos.
After picking some landmarks, I dropped back over a ridge and worked 90 degrees around them to an adjacent ridge to get better wind and put the sun at my back. Once I was inside 200 yards I dropped my pack and boots for the final stalk. While I was out of sight, I heard them sparring, and lost track of the 5x5.
I made it inside 60 yards of the bedded smaller bucks without relocating the 5x5. They eventually stood to look at me, but didn't spook or move off. Unfortunately, I had family commitments, and had to back out before I was able to relocate the larger buck. With perfect wind, I was able to back out without spooking them. Perhaps I'll be able to find him on Day 6.
To make net P&Y will most likely have to be a 4x4 (not counting brows :)) and probably about as wide as it’s ears and equally tall. Good luck