A Three-Year Hunt for a New Mexico Muley

Three years is a long time. That's how long Kurt Stallings has been hunting a wide-racked muley buck in eastern New Mexico. He saw the big buck late each season, but the problem was always the same: Despite the December/January rut that made the buck vulnerable and more visible in daylight, it was always in open terrain and surrounded by a mob of other deer--sometimes as many as 50. Stalking within archery range was impossible.

Kurt estimates he spent 20 days hunting that buck over those three seasons. He never got close enough for a shot, until 2013.

This year was different. The old buck's rack was going downhill in score, likely due to drought and old age, but he still had a huge frame. Kurt decided to try whitetail tactics. So he set a tree stand in a tall cottonwood near trails used by the muleys near a creek bottom, which he'd found by scouting and glassing.

On opening morning of the archery season, January 1, 2013, the old buck walked down that trail by Kurt's tree stand shortly after sunrise with a herd of approximately 30 other deer. Curt drew his Hoyt Carbon Element bow for the 30-yard shot. The arrow hit the buck a touch high, but the downward angle was good enough for a fatal shot.

Kurt, who estimates the buck was 8 ½ years old, says that reports the buck's rack was as big as 190 inches or more two seasons ago. Now, his rack gross-scores 173 inches Pope & Young, with a 28 ¼-inch outside spread.

As if that wasn't good enough to make a guy's year, Kurt arrowed a dandy 10-point muley in the Texas Panhandle back in October. He ambushed that wide-racked buck from a ground blind near a milo field. The symmetrical Texas muley scored about 174 inches P&Y.

In November, Kurt arrowed a mature 8-point whitetail in western Oklahoma. That buck scored around 141 inches P&Y.

Not a bad deer season for a guy who says he'd rather hunt elk. And by the way, he got one of those this year, too!