Coues' Deer are Tough

By Shaun Smith
Arizona, Guided, Public Land

Coues' Deer Are Tough - Shaun SmithSeptember/October 2013 EBJ (Issue 79) - As I stood there in amazement, staring at God’s amazing creature I was just able to take, a wave of emotions immediately rushed through me. We had been hunting these elusive Coues deer for four straight days without catching a break. Being able to make it happen on our last evening hunt of the trip was definitely a Godsend. It made the hiking, plucking cactus out of my legs, dealing with weather, and long days well worth it.

Last October my hunting buddy and best friend Phillip called me up with the wild idea of chasing the famously elusive Coues’ deer as well as javelina around the rugged Arizona desert. Being a mule deer fanatic I was somewhat skeptical, not knowing what a trophy a Coues’ deer really was. I figured what the heck, and committed to heading to southeastern Arizona that January.

As the hunt drew closer I was almost forced to pull out of this trip because of how busy I was at work. And, with only a month before we were heading to Arizona I had yet to prepare myself mentally or physically. I felt like a college kid again trying to cram last minute before a final, preparing my body and equipment for this hunt. Anyone that hunts Coues’ deer knows that harvesting one with a bow is no easy feat. It takes hard work, drive, dedication, and a lot of boot leather. The night before we were about to leave on the 14-hour drive, I finally felt like I was somewhat prepared.

That following day we got up at 2 A.M., loaded up and hit the road. That evening we met up with master guide Pat Feldt and Elliot Anderson of Arizona Guided Hunts, and headed to our camp. We felt like kings camping in wall tents and having a guide as we have never hunted with an outfitter before. With the sun starting to go down, we still had about 45 minutes of daylight left to get to a glassing point and pull the big glass out. With two sets of 15-power binos on a tripod we were unable to locate any Coues’ deer. With about 10 minutes of light left we heard Pat and Elliot both exclaim "buck.” We finally spotted our first Coues’ deer.

The next morning I was up before anyone and yearning with anticipation to get up the trail and turn up a buck. With the cold January wind howling we sat down to glass. About two hours later, we finally glassed a decent 80-inch buck chasing does. With him being about a mile away and the uncertainty of the swirling wind we figured we would keep tabs on him until he bedded down under a juniper tree.

After watching him we were unable to turn up anything else. Finally, we watched him bed down and I was able to start my stalk. I hightailed it over there and got within a couple hundred yards. I was able to drop my pack and slip on my sneaky feet. I closed the distance at a snail’s pace, using a prickly pear cactus as the only cover between us. Finally, I got to the only cover I had between the both of us, less than 70 yards from the deer.

While I sat waiting for him to stand I felt a gust of wind on the back of my neck. In nothing flat, a doe jumped up, blew, and pounded her hoof against the ground. They were out of the country faster than you could blink. With only seeing one buck that first day I was starting to get a little concerned about taking one of these little guys.

The following day we were hiking in the dark up the same finger ridge we hiked up the previous morning. This time we were able to locate the same group of deer immediately but they were in a completely inaccessible spot. Immediately after spotting them they had us pegged and wouldn’t take their eyes off of us.

Elliot mentioned he had another spot he would like to hike to and check out, but warned that it was a serious hike. Without any hesitation, I threw my pack over my shoulder and we were off. An hour of hiking and a couple of steep miles later we finally made it to our destination, huffing and puffing from the hike. I set up the spotting scope and got to glassing. To our disappointment, the area was like a ghost town as we stayed and glassed till dark, unable to turn anything up.

The following two days were miserable – long hikes, a whipping wind, and no results seemed to be the standard for us. We were seeing bucks but nothing worth putting a stalk on, considering the quality of the area. By this time most people would have thrown in the towel and headed home frustrated, but I was determined to succeed!

Coues' Deer Are Tough - Shaun Smith

For a full account of Shaun's adventure, go to page 38 in the September/October 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.