Carmen Mountain Whitetail | Odocoileus virginianus carminis
Carmen Mountain Whitetail
Odocoileus virginianus carminis
by Patrick Meitin
The Carmen Mountain whitetail was first scientifically described by the biological team of Goldman and Kellogg in the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains of northeastern Coahuila, Mexico, in 1940. This was based on a buck shot by J.M. Dealy on October 27, 1939 in Botellas Canyon, Sierra del Carmen Mountains, Coahuila, Mexico. It would eventually be declared a new whitetail sub-species and named for the range from which it originated. Since that time Carmen Mountain whitetail have been identified in similar West Texas habitats and adjoining northern-Mexico ranges. Texas and Mexico populations have remained stable, and their future appears secure. For example, a healthy population of Carmen Mountain whitetails exists in the Chisos Mountain within Big Bend National Park, where hunting is not allowed, while many Mexican habitats are accessed only with great difficulty.
In many ways Carmen Mountain whitetails mirror Coues white-tailed deer physically and biologically, no doubt influenced by evolving in similar desert habitats with relatively scarce water and scorching summer heat. If anything, the Carmen’s slightly smaller stature is a result of slightly drier and hotter environments. Carmen Mountain whitetails sport smaller ears, the same large fan-like tail that is displayed when startled, and slightly longer tines and larger average antlers. Their rostrum (nose) is broader than that of the Coues. Their small size and light-gray hide help them elude predators, namely mountain lions and human hunters. In one Texas study mature Carmen Mountain whitetail bucks averaged 104 pounds on the hoof, does averaging about 66 pounds. They stand only 33 inches at the shoulder.
As a big-game trophy, for many decades a handful of Texas trophy hunters who made a point to pursue the unique subspecies mistakenly labeled them Coues whitetail. By the 1990s the Carmen Mountain distinction became mainstream — though Safari Club International, a.k.a. SCI, is the only big-game record-keeping organization that recognizes the Carmen Mountain whitetail and has created a distinct category to record and rank trophy antlers. Biological studies have established sufficient justification for a separate subspecies through cranial measurements. The subspecies is also separated by solid geographical barriers from other whitetail subspecies to prevent interbreeding. The range of the Carmen Mountain whitetail does approach Coues ranges in Chihuahua and Texas whitetail ranges in the Davis Mountains of Texas, though these populations are easily excluded for official record-keeping purposes.
Carmen Mountain whitetails subsist on a mix of browse (acacia, oak, euphorbia and evergreen sumac), succulents (lechegiulla and prickly-pear cactus), forbs and grasses (during summer wet periods). Brose makes up about 35 percent of their diet, succulents around 28 percent, forbs and grasses another 18 following summer monsoons. Carmen whitetails are more dependent on free-standing water than Coues whitetails, and require dense stands of oak, piñon pine and juniper for cover. They are most common at elevations above 4,000 feet above sea level, with some habitats rising to 7,200 feet. They are seldom witnessed below 3,000 feet, largely due to thinning vegetation at lower altitudes. The Carmen Mountain whitetails’ largest environmental threat is subsistence hunting in its Mexico range, and sheep grazing in Texas.
Aesthetically, Carmen Mountain whitetail antlers are similar to those worn by Coues whitetails, typically clean 4x4s — 5x5s and non-typical antlers, like the Coues whitetail, are rare. On average antlers from the two subspecies score similarly, though it could safely be said the Carmen subspecies often has a higher top-end. Overall, Carmen whitetail antlers scoring 90 to 100 inches are considered a real prize, while those scoring 110-plus inches are world class. This mirrors general Coues whitetail trophy guidelines.
Like the Coues whitetail, Carmen Mountain whitetails are found in relatively small and highly-defined ranges, restricted to West Texas (far southwest Texas more precisely) and small desert mountain ranges of north-central Old Mexico, namely in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Texas bowhunters (including crossbow hunters) may begin hunting October 1, when temperatures will prove hot, with the general season (all weapons) kicking off November 1 and continuing through the first weeks of January. Specific deer hunt dates vary slightly between counties, so perusal of Texas Parks & Wildlife regulations is recommended. In general, a Carmen Mountain whitetail hunt will be a guided affair, as Texas is entirely private land, availability relatively limited and demand growing since the newfound interest in collecting slams of all sorts. Hunting opportunities have begun to expand in Old Mexico, with outfitters opening new areas as hunting demand increases.
Thorough glassing and spot-and-stalk ploys dominate Carmen Mountain whitetail hunting. Though, the subspecies reliance on free-standing water does make them vulnerable to ambush, especially during the hotter, drier periods following archery-season opener. Overall, Carmen whitetails could be considered as inherently wary as Coues, also likely due to the presence of cougars.
Locations the Carmen Mountain Whitetail is Found
Texas: Carmen Mountain whitetails are found specifically in the high oak, piñon pine and juniper woodlands in the mountainous regions south and west of Alpine, Texas, in Brewster and Presidio counties. Known habitats include Sierra Vieja and Del Norte mountains (where mixing with Texas whitetails may occur), and Dead Horse, Chinati, Rosillos, Christmas and Chismos (mostly within Big Bend National Park) mountains. For more information, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/.
Mexico: Northern Mexico offers several productive mountain ranges, often at higher elevations. Carmen Mountain whitetails are still found in the Sierra del Carmen Mountains, Chisos Mountains (creating the eastern boundary of Big Bend National Park), Sierranias del Burro, San Marcos and other northern Coahuila mountain ranges within these parameters.