Be Careful What You Wish For

By Mark Manning
Arizona, 2008, Guided, Public Land
Be Careful What You Wish ForDec/Jan 2011 EHJ (Issue 122) - Don’t shoot the small one. Do not shoot the small one. This advice rang through my head as I prepared for a shot at the deer of a lifetime. It was the Coues’ deer I had dreamed about for years, and now was not the time to shoot the small one. The small one was a deer that anyone would consider a trophy, but the big one - well, he was in a class all his own…

Time and maturity gives opportunity to modify our dreams. For me, the dream of finding and taking a 100-inch Coues’ deer became a goal. It wasn’t going to just happen by itself; it was going to require some extra work on my part. Knowing the “Ghost of the Southwest” is one of the most elusive animals in the desert, my preparation needed to include more intensive physical conditioning, time and rounds at the rifle range, and finding the best outfitter for the area. Then, of course, it’s just a small matter of waiting to draw a tag for one of these areas that holds big bucks.

This year it all came together with a tag in the borderland area of southern Arizona. I chose Rincon Outfitters to help me with my quest. Rom Dryden, the owner and a good friend, hooked me up with Jimmy Seay, one of his best guides. At 20-something, Jimmy can out-climb a mountain goat and knows his Coues’ deer. At 60, I had no hope of keeping up, but my spirit was willing.

The country we hunted was classic Sonoran Desert, with plenty of cactus, loose rock, and plenty of steep hills to give your back and legs a workout. The desert includes an eclectic collection of ironwood and Palo Verde trees and a wide variety of cacti like the saguaro, yucca, prickly pear, lechaguilla and barrel cactus.

Hiking in this country is much like having something biting at your ankles at every step while walking on marbles. In spite of the wild temperature swings from over 100 degrees to below freezing, it’s home to a wide variety of animals including lizards, rabbits, mice, snakes, and an unprecedented array of birds. However, the prize of this desert is the Coues’ deer.

Getting to camp was a four-wheel-drive adventure that ended in an hour-long trail ride on ATVs - and I use the term “trail” loosely. There is a good reason that big deer live here; you can’t get to them without going the extra mile, or in this case, the extra ten or so miles.

The first day progressed with several deer sightings - most of them small bucks and does. We found one good buck late in the afternoon, but light faded quickly and forced us back to camp. The bright red and orange sunset was worth the effort it took to get there.

Mark Manning


For a full account of Chris's adventure, go to page 32 in the December/January 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.