This is not a Mule Deer like the ones we saw in Nevada. This is not a White-tailed Deer like we are used to seeing all over New England, either. For a frustratingly long time, I had no clue what this animal was - but I knew what it wasn't!
It doesn't have the rope-like, black-tipped tail of a Mule Deer. It does have sort of blackish ears, though. Actually, it has sort of a Mule Deer face, but the ears are too small.
Mule deers have that black forehead, and the antlers are much more like Mule deer antlers than they are like White-tailed deer antlers. Mule deer's antlers keep branching off the same stems, unlike the multiple stems of a White-tailed deer. And that face is not like any White-tailed deer I've ever seen!
There are not supposed to be a significant population of White-tailed deer in California, anyway. Even if there were White-tailed deers on the California coast, this is definitely not one. I think this is a species known as the Black-tailed Deer. According to a site called Western Hunter, "The
black-tailed deer obviously gets its name from its black tail. They are also
characterized as the smallest and darkest deer of the three deer species." This guy was small and he was dark, with a very obvious black tail.
Unfortunately, I think he was also hurt. One antler appears to be about to fall off, and one ear is severely notched. I think he may have been the loser in a very viscous fight. Being injured would also explain why he was out on a well traveled trail in the middle of the day. Poor guy. I hope he recovers, and I really think he will. I've seen deer with far worse injuries in my own backyard, after all!