Coues Crazy (My First Deer)
Here in Arizona, all of us hunters look forward to the end of July/early August. Why? This is when we find out if we have drawn the deer tags that we are hoping for through Arizona’s lottery system. Myself and my family had not been drawn since 2013, so the anticipation of the results was just plain cage rattling. During the 2013 season, I had found an area that would soon become a second home for me. The amount of bucks that I saw left me awestruck. I can remember calling my dad every night telling him things like, “I saw 11 big bucks today,” or “I had shot opportunities at 7 bucks tonight.” Never in all of the years that we went deer hunting had we seen things like that or had those types of opportunities.
Unfortunately, our 2013 season ended without any bucks hitting the ground. This wasn’t due to lack of opportunity by any means, but was due to a poor sight in with our rifles. A very hard lesson that was. Even though it wasn’t the ending we were after, it was a very humbling experience. Coues deer can be extremely hard to find, yet alone harvest. This is not a “give me” hunt and they don’t call them the Gray Ghost for nothing.
Ever since that hunt in 2013, we hoped and hoped that we would draw the tags with haste, to get another crack at the coues bucks in that special spot. 2014 brought us a big whopping, NOT DRAWN. Fast forward a year though and 2015 brought us a big whopping, DRAWN! Yes!! Finally, we would get the chance to hunt the bucks that had walked in our dreams for the past 2 years. Our excitement was through the roof!
During my scouting, I was honestly disappointed though. While my trail cameras had shown me the bucks that I knew were there, I couldn’t glass up a buck for anything! Does and fawns were the only deer that I could find, along with a MEGA black bear that I had named Megatron earlier in the season. This bear was so fat, he could barely get up the hill! It was quite funny. I didn’t give up though and just kept after it. Hour after hour I sat behind the glass wondering when I would get a glimpse of antler.My arrival in deer camp would land on a Tuesday, with the season opening that Friday. Dad and brother would be showing up Thursday morning. Without seeing any bucks yet, I got up Thursday well before the sun. Once the sun did start to peak over the horizon, I decided to just go for a short walk with my binos, knowing that my family would be pulling up shortly. After checking an area that we historically had seen bucks in to no avail, I decided to walk over and check another spot that I had never really hunted. As it lightly snowed, I spotted what looked like a 3×3 coues deer standing on the edge of some junipers. It was still so dim, that I couldn’t tell for sure if it was actually a buck that I was looking at. I could tell you though, it was the closest thing that I had to a buck to hunt for the opener the next day.
My dad and brother arrived not too long after I had spotted this deer and were elated to hear what I was pretty sure that I just saw. Before this point, I had been keeping in touch with them letting them know about all of the bucks that I wasn’t seeing. After helping them get camp set up, I set back out to scout for the rest of the day. Once again, nothing but does and fawns. That was until that evening, when I decided to go back to the area I was pretty sure I saw the 3×3 in that morning. Sure enough, right at last light, I spotted what looked like a buck in the same area from that morning and once again, it was so dim that I couldn’t for sure tell if it was a buck or not. As I hiked back to camp, I couldn’t help but feel reassured from this sighting.
My alarm went off and I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag and into my boots. It was opening day! I couldn’t believe that it was actually here. Even though I hadn’t been seeing all of the bucks that I knew were in the area, my excitement ran high! The plotting and planning commenced in my head as I shoveled down my oatmeal. Again, it was lightly snowing with the same wind direction from the previous day. “Would the deer that I saw come through again? Why wouldn’t they? Should I set out into a different area to keep looking for the big boys?” These are just some of the things that were running through my head that morning. I am sure some of you can relate. Life of a hunter right?
I elected to sit up high above the spot where I saw the deer the previous morning. The wind direction was perfect for that spot and it was the closest thing that I had to bucks to work. So, the wind direction was perfect, but the wind gusts were just plain nutty! As I sat in the dark I could see the trees bending over in front of me by the light of the moon. But, the direction was right! This was pretty discouraging and left me to believe that there was no way the deer were going to come out into this open meadow in front of me with all of this wind. I figured that they would stay down low in the canyons or on the leeward side of the hills, out of the wind. Those thoughts ended real quick.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement coming out of the canyon to my right. “Deer,” I said to my self. I raised up my rifle and looked through my scope. That was the first time during that trip and my scouting where I could confirm that I was looking at antlers! This buck was about 100 yards out, standing quartering away from me. A perfect set up. There were more deer with this buck, but I just couldn’t see them through the maze of scrub oak in front of me. The buck that I was looking at was a long spike. Before this hunt, I had never gotten a deer. “I am out here deer hunting and while I know there are bigger bucks in the area, this is what the mountains are trying to give me for this hunt.” A fine first deer. My crosshairs settled on the animal and I pulled the trigger. After a few steps the animal fell over and my hunt came to a close. Dad and brother heard the shot and congratulations flew through my radio. I had done it! I got my first deer!
This would be the first time that I could work on an animal without sundown crawling up my pant legs. The weather was crisp and cool. As snowflakes decided to take residence on us, my brother and I got the deer skinned, quartered, and in game bags. This would also be the first time where I could spend the time showing my brother how to skin and quarter an animal, which gave him a great appreciation for all of the work that is involved after an animal is on the ground. With the whole deer loaded in my backpack, it was a relatively easy packout back to camp with probably only about a quarter of a mile to cover. Taking care of that deer and hiking out of there with my brother is a memory that I soon won’t forget.
What I haven’t told you about this hunt, was how fortunate my brother and I were to have my dad out there with us. Not long before this, our dad had been hospitalized and undergone a major surgery, that had he not had done in time, would have left us without a father. After what was a successful surgery, one of the first things that my dad asked his doctor was if he would be able to go on this deer hunt with his boys in a few weeks. Doc gave him the ok. While I am extremely grateful to take my first deer, I am even more grateful that my dad was able to be there for it. He has been taking me deer hunting since I was a little kid and is the one that is responsible for my addiction. So, while this isn’t the biggest buck on the mountain, it is a big harvest for me. Never forget that success is not always measured in inches, but in experience.