Gabe's Mexico Hunt

I told Gabe squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. The rifle went off – I knew when I moved his hand there was going to be blood everywhere.

On Thursday November 20th, my eight year old son Gabriel and I headed down to Chihuahua Mexico to a ranch that I lease for Gould’s turkey hunts. Over the past five years we have harvested a large number of turkeys, but I have never hunted Coues deer on this ranch. The ranch doesn’t have a very high deer population on it, but it does have some monster bucks. The ranch owner called me a few weeks ago and told me he had been seeing three bucks over 130 inches and one he thought, was in the 140’s. He told me they were coming into one of the food plots we had planted for the turkeys. I was thinking I might be able to harvest a new archery world record Coues deer and at the same time help my son harvest his first deer. I decided to go down and hunt three days prior to Thanksgiving since I had a few days off before my next clients showed up for an Arizona Coues deer hunt. Knowing that it was going to be a very tough hunt, I told Gabriel that I would hunt the big bucks in the mornings and evenings and we would try to find him a buck during the middle of the day. The first morning was very windy and the big bucks had le ft t he field before light. We drove to an area where we could glass and we were now looking for a buck that Gabriel could shoot with a rifle. We knew the deer were there, but with the thick terrain and the very windy conditions we didn’t see a single deer. At about 11 am we decided to go back to the ranch house. On the way back we glassed the edge of the field where we had seen the big bucks. After glassing for a few minutes we saw them bedded in some oaks about 50 yards from a large creek bed. The plan was for me to try and get within archery range and wait for them to get up out of their beds. I got within 50 yards and began my wait. With the wind blowing inconsistently they winded about 20 minutes into the wait. I did, however, manage to get some pictures of them while waiting for a shot. Gabriel and I sat the field during the evening and nothing came in. Not even a mouse – but that’s another story.

Day two:

The second day started out nice, no wind and I thought for sure the bucks were going to be in the field but again, no luck. We took Gabe to the glassing spot and we glassed up 9 does and two small bucks. There was no way to get to them before they went in to a deep heavy brushed canyon to bed. We decided to hike to an old Indian site so Gabe could experience some of the history of the Native Indians from the area. He had a blast looking for artifacts; he found a rock ball, a stone axe head and lots of grinding stones. I explained to him that we couldn’t bring them home because it was history and that it was illegal to remove artifacts. When we got back to the cabin I told him I was sorry that we hadn’t seen more deer and that he hadn’t had a opportunity yet , He then replied,” like you have said before dad, it’s all about the experience and I am having tons of fun.” This made me feel very proud of Gabe he wasn’t there just to kill a deer he was there for the whole experience. At about 3:30pm, I went out and glassed the field again and low and behold I found the big bucks. They were feeding all the way at the end of the field, so again I made my approach. I snuck into 53 yards but couldn’t get a shot through the brush, they again winded me and that was the last we saw of them.

Day Three:

We decided to get up a little earlier and hike into the spot where we watched some bucks go into the canyon on the first day. My plan was to catch them before they got into the thick stuff. We got there right on time. About five minutes after we arrived, I glassed up a buck I thought would go around 105 inches. He was feeding up the hill side and at this point he was about 800 yards away. I knew we had to move fast to catch up to him before he went over the top. When we finally got to the ridge top the buck was feeding at 390 yards. I got the camera set up, got Gabe set up and began giving instructions on where he should hold. I know Gabe is capable of making this shot because he does it all the time at the range, the only difference is his scope at home has target knobs so he doesn’t have to guess what 3, 4, or even 5 inches looks like at 400 yards. We waited a few minutes and the buck stood still long enough for a shot. He fired and shot at least a foot over his back. The buck then just walked around the hill never giving Gabe another opportunity. I asked Gabe if the shot felt good and he replied yes, so I was confident that he made a good shot. Previous experiences have taught me that this doesn’t mean this area is now vacant and that all the animals have left, so we sat down and began glassing again. Approximately an hour later I went back over a spot that I had already glassed at least 10 times before and I caught a small buck out in the open. I knew it was on again! The buck was a small 2x2 and he was with a spike and a nice 85 or 90” 3x3. At this point in the hunt I really didn’t care which buck Gabe tried to harvest I just wanted him to get another crack at one. I was praying this time he would connect. Again, I got Gabe and the camera ready. This time the buck was at 380 yards and there wasn’t any way we could get closer without changing angles and losing sight of the bucks. Knowing that Gabe was capable of making this shot and knowing that he shot a foot high at 390 yards I decided to adjust the scope 5 clicks down. Gabriel was using the ranchers rifle not his own. (The quick decision to hunt in Mexico did not allow time for acquiring the necessary rifle permits needed to bring his own rifle.) It seemed like it took forever for one of the bucks to get into the open for a shot. It was really only about five minutes. The spike fed into an opening between two mahogany bushes and stopped. I then told Gabe squeeeze, squeeeeeze, squeeeeeze and half way through the third squeeze, the gun fired! Oh man, it was just under him, and then I heard oh my eye. He had his hand over his eye and I knew he had been scoped. I just knew when I moved his hand there was going to be blood everywhere. I moved his hand and no blood, but a nice mark just under his eye. I gave him a big hug and asked if he was alright. He said yes, although he was a little shook up. Man, I felt so bad this had never happened to him before and I just knew he wasn’t going to want to shoot at the buck again and if he didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered, I felt terrible. Well I gave him a few minutes and made sure he was ok. I looked through the glass and the bucks were still there just feeding. Obviously they had no clue of what was going on. I then asked Gabe again if he was ok and if he wanted to try to shoot at one of the bucks. I was a little surprised to hear him answer, “Yes.” I then told him you have to make sure you handle the gun, make sure it’s against your shoulder and promised him if he did that he wouldn’t get hit by the scope again. At this point I knew it was due or die, they weren’t going to let us shoot at them all day. Eventually they had to run or at least figure out that we were trying to kill them. Taking into consideration where the last shot was I knew that the next shot was going to be on target. I then again got Gabe set up and told him they were toast if he got another crack at them. I’ll explain what I mean when I say I got Gabe set up. I have a gun mount I made to attach to my tripod and the gun sits in it, this way I can line the rifle up on the deer so he can find it thru the scope. After he finds it he still has to line up the crosshairs for the shot. Anyways, the bucks are now feeding in some pretty heavy cover and it’s a waiting game again. I was so proud of Gabe. I would tell him, ok the buck is just left of the crosshairs at about four o’clock, you probably can’t see him, all I can see is his ear moving and he would come right back and say, ok I see him. At first I thought he was just making that up. So I began testing him. I would say, ok tell me when he moves and every time he was right on the money. I couldn’t believe how good he was doing. I have had many clients with years of hunting experience. Sometimes it has taken upwards of 45 minutes for them to find the animal in their scope. The real test for Gabe came at 1 hour 10 minutes after the second shot. The bucks decided it was time to move and move they did. Across the hill they went walking 20 yards and stopping behind cover, then 50 yards and stopping behind cover, they just seemed to never stop in the open to offer a shot. All the while I just kept telling Gabe to stay on them, don’t lose them, pick one buck and follow him. But I need to know which buck it is so I can also keep track of him. After approximately 150 yards the buck we were both watching and following stopped and he was in the open 340 yards. I then followed the routine and said squeeze, with a 2 second pause, squeeze, another 2 second pause, squeeeeeze, at this point I’m going crazy. I’m thinking the bucks going to move, squeeze again,” I said”, but In the back of my mind I’m yelling shoot, shoot he’s going to move and finally BOOM, then WOP and down went the buck. I told him,”he’s down YOU SMOKED HIM.” He jumped up off his stool and said “yes, yes, yes,” while pumping his arms. I smoked him, he’s down!

A Baker’s Dozen

By George E. Bowser

As our plane touched down in Tucson, Arizona, my long time hunting buddy, Steve Manning, and I were looking forward to a new experience. It had been just over a year since we both collected fine Columbian blacktail deer in northern California, and now we were looking forward to the opportunity of adding the Coues whitetail deer to our quest of taking the five deer of North America.

We were met at the airport by our outfitter and guide, Steve Ward, of Ward’s Outfitters. Manning and I booked a 2x1 Coues deer hunt and were successful in drawing the prized tag on our first attempt. We would be hunting the high desert region of southern Arizona just miles from the Mexican border. We fully expected to see, if not encounter, illegal aliens attempting to elude the United States Border Patrol as we glassed the canyons for the elusive ghost deer.

There were to be two other hunters in camp from the Birmingham Chapter of the Safari Club. Jim Powell, their chapter’s treasurer made the trip but his friend was not able. Jim would be hunting 1x1 with Adam, a Marine veteran of Iraq and one of Ward’s Outfitter’s capable guides.

The terrain of that part of Arizona was reminiscent of northern Namibia, Africa. There were arid mountains, lots of rocks and many bushes that would stick you if you were not careful. That terrain provided the back drop for what turned out to be five wonderful days of hunting and an experience I will cherish for years to come.

Our days started with wake up at 4:30 a.m. for a light breakfast then a 30 minute ride to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. We glassed from the side of the vehicle to see if any deer could be readily spotted. Usually the glassing was quickly followed by a hike to higher ground and a better vantage point. The hike was not a stroll in the park! We climbed on rocks trying our best to avoid the five varieties of cactus that dotted the country side.

It was the morning of our first day afield. The sun had just popped out over the hill side when Steve Ward hurried to where Manning and I were glassing the far hill. He had spotted three bucks coming over the ridge some 400 yards away. “Who is first up” he asked? Manning had given me the honors last year in California so it was only proper that I return the favor. Manning shoots what he refers to as the absolute best rifle ever made, a 338-378 Weatherby Magnum. Steve knows his rifle well and when Ward said “Shoot the last one” the report of the magnum followed immediately and echoed up the canyon. The deer took a heart/lung shot and fell within five steps of where it stood.

Manning has always lived by the motto that you don’t pass up on the first day what you would shoot on the last day. Today was no different than other days we hunted together. Pictures followed, as they always do. Film is cheap and memories last a lifetime. The pack to the truck was short and easy. Steve Manning had collected a nice Arizona Coues deer.

My hunting philosophy is somewhat different from Manning’s. I believe you will never shoot the best deer you can if you shoot the first deer you see. My adage can work well, but it can deliver you home empty handed just as easily.

For a boy from the south, Coues deer hunting in southern Arizona means three things: glassing, patience, and long-long shots. The next four days proved to be classic. I knew Steve Ward was a good outfitter from my Gould turkey hunt with him earlier this year. Steve also proved to be everything one would look for in a Coues deer guide. He had quality optics, a ton of patience, a fabulous eye for deer, he knew the habits of the deer and he never gave up on me. I want you to know I gave him plenty of opportunity if he was going to give up.

To make a long story short, I can say that over each of the next four days I missed some of the best Coues deer Arizona has to offer. I missed a deer at 550 yards, twice. I missed a Booner at 330 yards, another larger Booner, which Ward referred to as a ‘Toad!” at 403, 459 (running) and 650 yards. I missed a really nice Coues at 450, 500 and 600 yards. As you might imagine it was time to visit the rifle range. A forty-five minute ride back towards Tucson to the rifle range and half a box of bullets later, I was on the X at 300 yards; six inches low at 430 yards and 39 inches low at 500 yards. I now looked forward to my last day of hunting with great expectation.

Ward and I started up the mountain before daylight on Wednesday, the last day of our Coues deer hunt. We reached the peak and were set up to glass the opposite side of the canyon as the sun appeared at the top of the mountain. It wasn’t long until we spotted four doe, followed by two buck as they crested the ridge of the far canyon. They were running as though something was after them. One of the bucks was average, the other was quite good. The smaller buck left the far end of the canyon with the doe. The nicer buck, for some reason, turned away from the others and re-traced his steps coming closer and closer to our vantage point. We had plenty of time to look at this deer. He wasn’t a toad but he was a 3x3 with brow tines and he was ate up with mass. We watched this deer through our binoculars hoping he would bed down. If he did we would make our move.

As luck and prayer would have it, the deer bedded behind a large boulder straight across the canyon from us. We determined we would climb down the mountain, cross the canyon at a low spot and then climb up the other side for a closer shot. By 9 a.m. we found our position 230 yards from the heavy horned buck.

Ward set his tripod with the attached rifle rest into position and for the next 3 ½ hours I sat on a rock peering through my 6.5 x 20 Leupold with the crosshairs centered on the sleeping deer’s neck. Taking into account the previous nine misses and the very small target the neck presented, I was not going to take the shot until the deer stood. Ward said we’re in no hurry. On the previous hunt he and his client waited seven hours for the deer to stand. Hopefully, we would not require that kind of time, but if it did I was up for the task. He said that if the deer was not startled when he stood, I would have about five seconds to take the shot before it would turn and walk away.

Just after 12:30 p.m. the sun had reached a height in the Namibian like blue sky that made it un-comfortable for the buck to stay down in the exposed heat. ALL OF A SUDDEN, up it stood, and immediately I pulled the trigger as though I was shooting a shot gun. Regrettably I didn’t find a spot before I fired. “Reload, you missed again” Steve said. Those were words I had heard way to often on this hunt. A running shot at 430 yards left me even more dejected and depressed.

Thoughts ran through my mind of returning home empty handed. A thought even harder to accept in light of the many opportunities I had had over the last few days. Then I realized the beauty of the landscape, the ruggedness of the arid mountains, all the different varieties of cactus we had seen, the bobcat, coyotes, cottontail, jack rabbits, mule deer as well as the Coues deer we had encountered. Jim and Adam, while hunting a different canyon even saw a mountain lion. I remembered the illegal aliens I had seen passing through the mountains and the Black Hawk helicopter that had searched for them. I recalled the dog fight Steve and I watched in the sky the other afternoon and how the F-16 came screaming down the canyon. I would not be returning home empty handed. The hunt is more than pulling the trigger; that is what endears me to our sport.

As I started to feel a little better about my experience, Steve reported the 3 x 3 had crossed the canyon and was headed back towards us on the opposite side of the canyon we had left earlier in the morning. I immediately got the scope of my rifle back on the deer, but it presented no shot as it made its way past the brush, rocks and cactus. Finally we lost it in a cliff and mesquite head. I sat there re-playing in my mind that I was a better marksman than what I had displayed, keeping in mind the reality of my eleven misses. I reluctantly told Steve that if he wanted to give up on me, I fully understood and would not blame him if he did. Steve had been an excellent guide and hunting companion. “Don’t think about it” he said. “Let’s climb to the top of the mountain for a better look.” I know and have known for some time, guides have their own way of getting even with unruly clients or those who can’t shoot very well. I figured our climb for a ‘better look’ was Steve’s way of walking me to death for all my misses. I followed without complaint.

By the time we finally sat down, for me to rest and Steve to glass, it wasn’t five minutes until Steve reported “There he is!”

You’re kidding I said. “No, lets get set up.” Steve said as he positioned the tripod and rifle rest. With the cross hairs of my scope just above the deer 300 yards away, I got into position and found the deer in the scope. As I looked up from the scope to throw the safety with my thumb the rifle went off. Steve said “You just missed, reload!” The next shot was at a fleeing Coues deer at 264 yards. “Reload, you missed…Wait…you smoked him!” Finally, finally after a baker’s dozen shots, I now had a wonderful deer and a marvelous experience. “Praise God!” I exclaimed. At that point Steve related having fallen asleep last night praying and awakening this morning with more prayers, asking God’s favor on our last day.

As we relived our hunt it is kind of crazy to realize, other than the shot that killed the deer, my best shot had been when the gun fired by itself. Had it been an inch lower you would have never read this story because it would not have been told. What happened in Arizona would have stayed in Arizona.

Tom Sawyer - Huckleberry Finn Weekend

By: George E. Bowser

In the spring of 2008, Bill Gay and I had the opportunity to hunt the Gould turkey in Old Mexico with Steve Ward of Ward Outfitters. After three days of hunting the Rocky Mountains of Chihuahua, both Bill and I were able to complete our North American Royal Slam of wild turkey.

As a result of the hunt, Steve made two donations to our annual SCI Chapter “Evening on Safari” fundraiser. A 2x1 Coues deer hunt and a 2x1 javelina and coyote hunt were generously offered. Knowing the quality hunting experience Ward Outfitters offered, I was determined I would purchase both donations.

It has been just over a decade since my friend of twenty years, Carl Ackerman, and I had hunted together. So, we were overdue for another adventure. In 1998, we hunted moose just south of Fairbanks in the foothills of the Japan Mountains on the north slope of the Alaskan Range. We were successful then and we looked forward to a successful hunting adventure in southern Arizona. Actua lly, this adventure has all the makings of being a Tom Sawyer - Huckleberry Finn weekend.

A Tom/Huck weekend is one where you enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer. You don’t worry about the hunt, where your next meal is coming from or where you will bed down. Matter of fact, there are no worries at all. I think it is an essential element of life, a Tom/Huck weekend. It helps keep one young and carefree, if only for one weekend a year.

Steve Ward and his dad, Dennis, met Carl and me at the Tucson Airport then chauffeured us to Wilcox, Arizona. Wilcox would be our outpost for the next four days.

The plan was to hunt javelina until we each anchored a nice specimen, coyotes would follow and fishing for crappie was on the agenda. Through a personal invitation from Pete Shepley to Carl at the Orlando Shot Show, we would end our Tom/Huck weekend in Tucson with a guided tour of PSE Archery and, of course, a visit to the Safari Club International Wildlife Museum.

Opening morning of the javelina season was a cold one, not just by Florida standards either. The thermometer hit 21 degrees as Carl and Dennis headed towards a ground blind to wait in ambush of one of Arizona’s big game animals.

Arizona considers the javelina a big game animal. The limit is one and you have to apply for a tag through a special drawing. Steve and I headed to one of the many agricultural fields which surround Wilcox. Wilcox is a great farming area for orchards of pecans, pistachios, apples and cherries plus fields of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and corn. The javelina love to frequent these fields, make pigs of themselves and then hole up in a nearby culvert.

In the fields there was much sign of where the pigs had been but we did not find any. We did spy a coyote which eluded us and found safety in the jungle at the end of the field. The next coyote was not as lucky. Running at full speed, the coyote presented a challenging target. Steve, using a Russian made SKS with open sights, knocked the coyote down! Coyotes 1 – Hunters 1.

Javelina season is a much bigger deal in Arizona than I had originally thought. We met four other groups of hunters who had drawn a tag and even had other hunters from out of town staying in the same motel we were. One of these groups was R.J., another of Ward Outfitter’s guides and R.J.’s brother Steve. It wasn’t long until we combined forces to do a drive through a corn field. Again, there was much fresh sign but no pigs!

By the time Steve and I made it to the next grain field, R.J. and his hunter had a 60 pound hog on the ground. Javelina in this part of Arizona very often reach 60 to 65 pounds; much larger than their Texas counter parts.

While walking through the next grain field, I jumped a pair of coyotes. I quickly took my .257 Weatherby Magnum from my shoulder, found the dog in the scope, released the safety and BOOM! Coyotes 2 – Hunters 2.

Now it was time to spread out to find javelina. Steve was in constant cell phone communication with three of his friends in different areas of the zone we had drawn. Each group was searching the hill side when Dennis called and reported he and Carl had located a herd of 13 hogs up a draw in the mountain and told us to hurry.

Carl and Dennis had spent the first three hours of the hunt huddled in the ground blind on this very cold morning. By 9:30 they needed to move if for nothing else but to warm up. Dennis drove up a dried river bed to an area he had been seeing pigs since early January. He knew they would still be there. All they had to do was find them.

As Steve and I arrived, we parked our truck next to where Carl and Dennis had parked and headed up the mountain. It took longer than I had figured to catch up to their location as they where quite a piece up the ridge. Finally, as we crested another ridge, over looking a mesquite thicket, we saw Dennis on yet another ridge to our west and Carl on one to our east. We could see the javelina making their way through the thicket, some to the north and some to the east. Carl laid down his binoculars; picked up his bow and stood up. While he stood straight as an arrow, Steve and I watched as he drew his Bowtech Allegiance. He took aim at the javelina. As it stepped from the thicket at 49 yards, the arrow was loosed and flew true. Carl had collected a very nice javelina boar!

Now it was my turn. We knew which way the pigs fled, so after we joined Carl at his position, we made our way over the next ridge and spotted two javelina downhill at 80 yards. Just as I squeezed the trigger the javelina moved. A second shot was required.

By the end of our first day the field had produced two javelina and two coyotes. With a perfect forecast, tomorrow would find us traveling to the Apache Indian Reservation and fishing for crappie on Lake San Carlos.

If you have not experienced the Southwest, it would be hard to imagine the beauty of the rocky desert. To think that Cochise and his warriors called this place home, added to the mystique of the area. Lake San Carlos is encased in beautiful desert mountains and as we wet our first line the temperature still required a few layers to stay warm. It became apparent quickly we were not there to fish but rather to catch. A steady bite that lasted all day left four of us with two solid hours of fish cleaning. Carl and I just experienced one of the finest days of speck fishing either of us had had in decades.

Sunday morning found us calling coyotes. It happened just like on those hunting shows you see on television. Carl and I flanked Steve. The terrain was brushy so when the first coyote showed up, it was a surprise. By the end of the day, the score was

Coyotes 6 – Hunters 4. We left some seed for next time…as though that was necessary.

Our Arizona Tom/Huck weekend was just about over as we headed towards Tucson for our tour of PSE Archery. We saw the entire process, from when the order is received until the bow is shipped. Once you see the machinery, the tooling, the staff and the attention to detail, it is easy to see why quality bows cost so much.

It was Carl’s first trip to the SCI Wildlife Museum and Headquarters. Even if I didn’t know that, it was easy to tell by the number of photographs he took. There is so much to see and so many interesting presentations. I believe the ancient huge elk from the Scottish Highlands may have been his favorite exhibit. While at the headquarters, I met Doug Lugar of the records division and registered my javelina. The Arizona collard peccary as it is officially known completed my quest for the diamond level Pigs and Peccaries of the World.

What promised to be a fun weekend- truly was! Ward Outfitters has put together an action packed few days allowing clients to experience Arizona. The high desert provides abundant game but good hunting skills are still necessary for the harvest. The fishing is speck-tacular this time of year with specks up to three pounds not uncommon. There are numerous ways to experience the local culture from strolling Wilcox’s Main Street to attending the monster tractor pull, to the week long Tucson Rodeo or just spending time with Steve and his father talking archery. Once the word gets out about the Tom/Huck weekend, Ward Outfitters may have to petition the state of Arizona for a longer season to accommodate all those hunters back east who maybe looking for a late season winter break.

The Arizona “Kayak” Bull

I remember applying as always for a shot at another AZ archery bull tag. Since I had 2 points I figured I might as well throw a hail marry and put in for my usual 5BS archery permit. Knowing I would probably not draw, I put my wife in for the limited opportunity archery tag in November, thinking at least one of us will have a solid chance of drawing. Low and behold results came out and not only did I draw, but so did my wife and my Dad, all on separate applications. What a year 09’ would prove to be!

I’m blessed with an ample amount of time in the woods because I have a cabin that just happens to be in my unit. As spring quietly turned into summer and moisture seemed to be plentiful, I celebrated each weekend with trail camera photos and excursions to remote locations looking for fat and lazy bulls. Elk were plentiful and scouting seemed to be too easy with big bulls all over the place. Knowing my unit and the fact that everything changes the few weeks leading up to the rut, I also realized I still had my work cut out for me. I figured my captive audience would more than likely move on and new bulls would wander in the day before my hunt? What’s amazing is that the only thing that wandered in was a bunch of hunters - to my exact spot! I quickly realized that I had some competition and it looked like there were 10-15 bull tags to be had within three or four camps right where I intended to hunt.

As opening day came and went I was completely demoralized as the elk were barely talking. It was over by 7:30am and maybe started back up a little after 6:00pm. Weather seemed to cooperate, but the rut never really kicked in until the 6th or 7th day. I remember chasing two herds around that each had over 150 elk and NO respectable bulls! It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen during the AZ archery season. I must have passed on about 10 decent bulls by sitting water in the evening and chasing during the morning hunt. My goal was to shoot something 340+ and I was sticking to my guns! The 7th day everything turned in my favor! As my guide and I chased some evening bugles for the first time, we followed them right to the shore line of a lake we’ve been skirting most of the hunt. As we watched a 310 bull bugle and make a good amount of noise we noticed a nice 340-350 bull on the other side of the lake rip off about five bellowing bugles. He clearly wanted the smaller bull’s harem of 8 cows. Just as I asked Steven “Do you think?” he sure did! He swam over and took the 8 cows bugled twice and swam back across the lake to his safe haven. We barely had a chance to make a stalk before he exited with his new batch of lady friends. As we sat in awe on the shore line and watched the circus only 350 yards away we also noticed two or three other bulls that would equal or exceed the swimmer.

We sat and quickly drew up plans for the next days hunt much like a quarter back calls an audible at the line. In the morning we would chase on our side because of the prevailing wind and hope they swam back during the night. If unsuccessful in the morning we will keep the wind in our face and kayak across for the afternoon hunt! I just so happen to have a pair of kayaks in my garage for trout fishing and there was zero trail access to hike around the lake properly with the wind in our favor. The morning hunt confirmed that our elk remained on the wrong side and the kayaks were coming out! We could barely contain our excitement and shoved off around 2pm for our afternoon hunt. Besides Steven’s poor kayaking skills, we made it across quietly and without trace.

We snuck into the tree line and waited for the bugling and action to start. Holy smokes did the action start up, but all the way across the lake at least 800 yards away. I think we counted 150 elk and at least 3 great herd bulls and another 8-10 smaller bulls. We didn’t see any of our bulls and knew ours were just late to the happy hour. At about 5pm our elk started to move and vocalize their presence. Closer and closer they came. When they seemed to be parallel with us we started our stalk. Keeping the wind in our face we moved 100 yards and quickly encountered some resistance. A cow fed 7 yards from us and eventually busted us, but thankfully walked off. As we crept to an opening and had our elk in sight we were surprised by what sounded like a herd of horses running our way. As we turned our heads we noticed a 7x7 and maybe 10 cows running behind us to the water? I tried to pivot and ready myself for a twenty yard shot, but it was too late! They winded us and slammed on the brakes. Off they trotted with no opportunity at all on what looked like a 360 bull. Our attention then swung right back to our bull and his cows that just finished drinking. They started to filter through the cedars in single file fashion; cow, cow, 4x4, cow, cow, cow, small 6x6, cow, cow, BIG BULL! Steven ranged the opening and whispered 60 yards! As if on a string, Steven cow called and stopped the bull perfectly in the 3 foot opening between cedars. I remember touching off my release, but everything else was a blur. I remember telling Steven I thought I had missed him clean, but he assured me that my shot was a fatal heart shot and that elk was smoked! I know I heard Steven say he was a shooter, but I didn’t realize his size until I stood over him 20 yards from where I shot him.

Even as I write this I get emotional because one of my passions in life is to elk hunt and help my family and friends hunt these magnificent creatures. Who would have thought that in Arizona I would kayak across a lake to shoot my elk? What a memorable story and incredible experience. I’d like to thank my wife Laurel for all that she puts up with and all her hard work and preparation for my hunt. I could not have done it without her! Of course Steven Ward and Ward’s Outfitters who is a good friend as well as an incredible hunter. I can’t wait to see what happens with Laurel and my Dad on their hunts this November.


Arizona Coues Deer Hunt

Last year was my first time hunting Coues in southern Arizona. My friend and I spent 5 days in 36B on a late Dec guided hunt and left unsuccessful. Although we saw bucks, none were "mature" (spikes/ little forks) and we decided to pass. 

This year was different. We had no problem obtaining Oct. tags for Unit 32 and made our way down to AZ again in search of those little gray ghosts of the desert mountains. Through Ward's Outfitters (Steven Ward) We managed to gain access to several sections of landlocked forest service land via a private ranch with extremely limited access....sorry, I can't give any more details on location...sworn to secrecy. Opening morning we immediately began glassing up lots of deer. Does, little bucks, and an occasional shooter on a distant mountain. Later in the morning when the shadows started to retreat, the deer began to move and we glassed up a bachelor group that contained two shooters. We made our stalk and positioned ourselves 369 yds from the bedded bucks. After a long wait, the shadows moved with the sun and the bucks began one by one to get up and reposition in their bedding area. When, finally, one of the shooter bucks stood up, my friend Kenny ( who had won the right to shoot first in a "pick a number between 1 and 20" game ) squeezed one off...miss! All heck broke loose then. Bucks began running everywhere. Kenny regained his composure and squeezed another shot off at what he thought was the largest buck. Unfortunately, Kenny had tunnel vision and failed to notice that the buck shot at had switched positions with the larger buck. At the report of the 300RUM the smallest buck in the group, a 2 x 1 folded up....oops! Nevertheless, Kenny had his first Coues and a helluva story to tell.

I was up next. My turn wouldn't come till 2 days later. We had lots of packing to do to get Kenny's deer out and taken care of as well as some other business to attend to. Steven's other clients had taken some bucks and we decided to help them with their recovery. Sunday AM we hit the mountains again and began my search. The morning produced ~ 15 does/fawns and 2 bachelor groups of bucks with no shooters. Again, like opening day, when it started to warm up and the shadows retreated to the gullies around 10:00 AM, the bucks began to move. I managed to glass up a small 2x2 at about 700 yds. We watched him intently because all the other small bucks we had seen were not alone. This proved to be the case here as well. After about 5 minutes of glassing Steven spotted a large mature buck that suddenly appeared about 30 yards to the little buck's left....and he was a good one!

az coues deer
az coues deer

We glassed him for 15-20 minutes before he bedded in a spot where he was clearly visible from our position. Next came the stalk. I was not capable of making a 700 yd shot on him so we needed to get closer, a lot closer. Slowly we made our way along a ridge, keeping a close eye on our bedded target. Eventually we found a shaded spot under a cedar that we felt would be a good spot to set up. Steven and I had a lengthy discussion on the ballistics involved with the shot. I had data for my rifle and load for 300, 400, 500...etc. yards but not for any intermediates. The buck was bedded at ~350 yards from us and the shot would be uphill at an fairly steep angle. We finally reached a conclusion of where to "dial up" my turret, settling on 9 clicks up from my 200 yard zero. 

It wasn't long before the buck rose to his feet to reposition himself as the shadows shifted. Immediately upon rising I locked in on him with my custom Rem 700 in .308, cranked up the magnification of my Leupold Mark IV up to 25X, and placed the crosshairs just to the right of his elbow. Slowly I squeezed the trigger until....BOOM! The next thing I heard was "You smoked him!" from Steven. The deer ran about thirty yards across the hillside before piling up. Now the only thing to do was make the recovery. Thirty minutes passed as we watched what appeared to be his crumpled body lay against a couple of mesquites above a prominent rock pile. When we were sure he was dead and not going to move I began the steep climb up to him. It didn't take long with direction from my spotter below to locate him. No ground shrinkage here...I had my first Coues and he was a dandy!

az coues deer

After the photo session and an hour of caping and quartering the hike out commenced. The adventure wasn't over as we jumped several other deer and found both shed and a bear skull as we made our way back to the truck. Once at the truck the tape measure came out. We rough scored the buck at 97 7/8 BC gross. 

I gotta say I'm hooked now. No doubt I'll be stumbling along those cactus infested, rocky hillsides again next year. It's hard to say whether or not I'll ever be privileged enough to take another Coues like this one but that doesn't matter. The adventure I had with one of my best friends on this trip is what I hope to revisit again in the future. 

**If you are looking for an adventure like this, don't hesitate to call Steven Ward of Ward's Outfitters....he's AWESOME!

Preventing Hearing Loss

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can. Check out my new blog at!

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss Even When Hunting

Before you go hunting with your relatives or friends, you need to consider what you are going to do to prevent hearing loss.  For many longtime hunters, they are experiencing severe hearing loss later on in their lives due to excessive gunfire. My father who has been hunting for many years is one of these people who’s hearing has slowly decreased through out the years.  Now in his late 70’s he is severely affected by hearing loss and uses a hearing aid in order to help amplify sounds and increase his hearing. Even with his hearing loss he still makes sure to get out and hunt and hit the range but always remembers to bring the proper hearing protection with him. It may seem normal to go hunting without ear protection, but this is simply not responsible and should not be done on a regular basis.  Noise-induced hearing loss happens over an extended period of time and could drastically affect the way you live your life.  Knowing how hearing loss is caused by hunting and what you can do to prevent it will improve your quality of well-being.

The main reason hunting and hearing loss are directly related is because of gunfire. Gunfire is extremely loud and can damage the eardrum dramatically.  Without ear protection, even one shot from your gun can perforate the eardrum and cause hearing loss.  When done over a longer period of time, you are looking at a life that is void of hearing.  Preventing this loss can be a lot easier than you might think and could save the quality of your life later on.

Using hearing protection does not have to be expensive or take the fun out of hunting for you.  Hearing protection might actually enable you to enjoy the sport a little more because you are not constantly dealing with ringing in the ears or temporary deafness after firing your gun.  For group members, hearing protection will allow them to join you without risking their own safety.  You should put a lot more emphasis onto your hearing and the hearing of your hunting party than what you are used to doing.  There is nothing more frustrating than losing your hearing and knowing that it could have been completely prevented earlier on in life.

There are several forms of hearing protection that happen to be available to you. You want to choose hearing protection that is comfortable to wear so that you can use it for hours at a time.  You should also choose a product that is effective and convenient so that you will actually benefit from wearing it.  If the product is not convenient, you will find yourself forgetting to pack it before going hunting or you may simply leave it in your backpack while hunting game.  It is always best to wear the hearing protection before you actually go out into the wilderness to begin hunting.  This ensures that you do not get side tracked and forget to use the proper hearing protection.

Hearing loss does not have to be something that every hunter deals with.  Despite the fact that you are continually firing weapons, there are products out there specifically made to reduce the noise reaching the ear when using a gun. The key is to make use of these products and to find something that is comfortable and convenient to bring with you.  You will find that this helps you to make use of hearing protection before using your weapons.

Specifically made to reduce the noise reaching the ear when using a gun.  The key is to make use of these products and to find something that is comfortable and convenient to bring with you.  You will find that this helps you to make use of hearing protection before using your weapons.

The Elk Whisper

Written by Beard Hobbs

After eight years of diligently applying for a trophy elk tag in Arizona, I finally hit the lottery and drew a trophy archery bull elk tag in unit 5b South, near Winslow, Arizona. With tag in hand I booked my hunt with friend and guide Steven Ward of Wards Outfitters.

Over the past five years I have hunted coues deer, mule deer, javalina, cotamundi and now elk with Wards Outfitters. Wards Outfitters is based out of Wilcox, Arizona and primarily provides guiding services to bow hunters. Steven’s camps are generally first class. He always rents a nice cabin and has excellent guides, hot showers, warm beds and a great cook.

My elk hunt started on September 09, 2011. The first day I missed a 60 yard shot at a 340 class bull. On the second day we made a great stalk on a bedded bull that would have scored somewhere north of 370”. We crawled within 200 yards of the bedded bull, and then waited for him to get up and feed over the ridgeline. As soon as the bull and cows cleared the ridgeline, we literally raced across the flats and up the side of the ridge. As we neared the ridge, we could see the big bull standing in some oak brush at about 50 yards. As we waited for the bull to clear another hunter came in from the side and busted our stalk. Oh well, close but no cigar!

Every day we were constantly in contact with various herds of elk. Steven doesn’t much believe in bugling or cow calling. He only uses a bugle to locate elk when they aren’t bugling and he only uses a cow call to stop a bull when he wants you to shoot. I can honestly say that when it comes to elk hunting, Steven, out thinks them, and moves in and out of a herd as if he were some form of elk shape shifter. Having hunted elk for the better part of the last 45 years, I am in awe of Steven’s elk hunting skills. Steven Ward is the ELK WHISPER!!!!!!

On about the fifth day, with extreme stealth Steven walked us directly into the middle of a herd of elk. For at least an hour we had four 6x6’s and maybe 30 plus cows, anywhere from 20 to 80 yards from our position. Just before dark, the entire herd walked single file past us at 45 yards. The biggest bull in this group was a 325 class bull, and having already been spoiled, it was pretty easy to hold off on shooting him.

On the ninth day of the hunt, at first light we raced across several canyons in an attempt to close the distance between us and several herds of cows and bulls. As we slipped from tree to tree, Steven positioned us within 30 yards of a 350 class 6x6. As we stood waiting for him to move into an opening, a cow walked within 10 yards of us. Steven just whispered, hold still and don’t look up. The cows moved slowly off and the bull followed.

Almost immediately a group of cows and a 360 class 6x6, moved up from the bottom of the draw.  Steven silently moved us into shooting position. The cows, followed by the herd bull, walked directly in front of us.   As the big bull cleared, Steven cow called and as the bull stopped and turned his head towards us, Steven whispered shoot. My shot was high, right and barely created a flesh wound. Steven and I glassed the bull as he followed is cows down the draw and up the side of the adjoining canyon. I was distraught and devastated but somewhat relieved in that Steven confirmed my shot as nothing more than a slight flesh wound.

Within minutes, Steven turned his attention to three separate groups of elk moving up the side of the canyon and heading towards the ridgeline. With raging bulls screaming from all sides, Steven and I picked our way through the cedars and pines. As we pushed forward, we were able to get in front of two of the groups of elk.  As the first group moved past us at 60 yards, Steven stopped a big 6x6, as the elk moved through the cedars. Again I shot and missed wide to the right. Steven looked at me and “said, something is wrong with your bow.” At this point I was beyond distraught and could not even fathom how I could miss three big 6x6 bulls.  Steven just said hang in there, we are going back to the cabin and we will fix the problem. After watching me shoot my bow we discovered that my drop away was catching the fletching of my arrow causing the arrow to kick right approximately three feet at 60 yards. At thirty yards, the defect was not noticeable but the further I moved back the more noticeable the problem became. Steven got out his bow tools and within a ½ hour had the problem fixed and we were back in business.

Fast forwarding to day eleven, at first light we heard bulls off in the distance. Steven and I hiked approximately two miles only to find ourselves on the rim of a canyon over looking a lake. We could hear two bulls screaming, and both Steven and I swore that they were directly below us in a cluster of pines at the bottom of the canyon. We moved about 400 yards to the north and then dropped off into the bottom of the canyon. As we closed in on the cluster of pine trees we began to hear bulls bugling across the lake. Steven looked and me and said, the bulls are across the lake and what we have been hearing is an echo bouncing off the surface of the lake. We took off and headed around to the other side of the lake. By the time we reached the far shore, the bulls had stopped bugling and all was silent. Steven said no problem, he would find them. We slowly and quietly picked our way from cedar tree to cedar tree. Suddenly, Steven stopped and motioned for me to be quiet. Steven whispered that the herd bull was bedded approximately 70 yards front of us. Steven picked up a broken branch and started raking it against the nearest cedar tree. Within seconds, Steven said the bull was coming and for me to get ready and look towards the clearing to my right. As I set up, the bull walked into the opening and Steven whispered 60 yards. I settled my 60 yard pin and touched off the shot as the bull spun and ran off into the cedars. Although the shot was a little far back, it was a good liver shot. We waited for approximately one hour and then followed the massive blood trail for approximately 250 yards where we ultimately found the dead bull. My Arizona elk scores 367 5/8”. The hunt was incredible. I probably saw more than 30 6x6 trophy bulls and one white cow elk.  Oh, and the other hunter in camp killed a bull that scored 393 the day after I shot my bull.

El Diablo Returns

So fifteen years later, “El Diablo” returns to Mexico for a Coues deer hunt with Steven Ward of Wards Outfitters. I drove with my hunting equipment to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas and then down to Tucson, Arizona. I think the round trip was nearly 5,000 miles. I haven’t flown with hunting gear in well over ten years.

We four hunters all met up in Tucson near the airport and drove for an hour to the border in the outfitter’s vehicles. At the border we showed to the Mexican authorities our rifles and the paperwork we were required to prepare in advance of the trip.This took about 20 to 30 minutes and then we were on our way. The ranch is about 45 minutes from the border.

The final 30 minutes of driving was in an area that was both remote and picturesque. As we drove into the parking area I remember thinking, “This doesn’t look like a modest ranch house that I was expecting.” We were all surprised at the size and quality of the digs that would be our home for the next 5 days.

I would describe the accommodations as a specialty hotel/lodge associated with a working ranch. Quite luxurious, really. It was built in 2002 as a small, intimate specialty lodge targeted at weddings and other family gatherings. Our wives would have been quite comfortable there. The floors were all beautiful Mexican tile as were the walls in the large bathrooms.Sturdy built-in bunk beds with good mattresses were very comfortable. There was ample drawer storage and closets.

The main room was like the lounge area in a fine hotel with two separate seating areas furnished with comfortable leather couches and chairs.The fireplace was huge and magnificent. It burned warmly each morning and evening.

There was a large dining table but we did not eat there. Rather we walked about 100 feet to a separate building that amounted to an eat-in kitchen. Here we watched our Mexican cook prepare entirely authentic Mexican fare each morning and evening. For one meal, we feasted on hunter Zach Fallin’s game birds and elk meat that he brought with him.

I have a ridiculous sweet tooth and was initially disappointed that Magdalena the cook served no desserts even though that is a good thing for me! But I soon discovered the pancake syrup and a jar of strawberry jam up high on the pantry shelf. Since she cooked warm tortilla shells for each meal it was easy for me to feed the cookie monster in me by spreading some syrup or jam on the shells. By the third morning Magdalena had me figured out and the sweets containers magically appeared right in front of my spot at the table.

Our guides were outfitter Steven Ward himself plus Mike, Nick and Tanner. In talking with them it quickly became obvious that they were all passionate hunters and were also long range shooters themselves.

We would be hunting on 30,000 beautiful acres in grassy mountainous terrain dotted with mesquite, cholla and a few saguaro cactus. The river bottoms had many sycamore trees including some giants that I did not know even existed in nature. My hunt 15 years earlier was in an area further west and had only gentle hills. I like this new spot much better. The altitude of the ranch buildings was about 4,000 feet. The elevation gain was about 1,500 on some of the mountains we hunted but closer to 1,000 on most. The ranch road system had been augmented by the owner at Steven’s request when he started hunting this land last year. 

Each morning we left after breakfast with plenty of light but just before actual sunrise. That’s a pleasant switch compared to our Wyoming hunts. On those we left camp 2 hours before first light and returned from one to two hours after last light. Steven explained that the full moon resulted in the deer feeding during the night and bedding down before dawn. But then they would get up from their beds shortly after good light and start moving again.

Each hunter went out with his own guide and two were in pickups and two were in four-seat Polaris Ranger ATV’s. I had not hunted from an ATV before but found it quite pleasant. It was also quite effective for glassing as we moved around the property. WIth either style of vehicle we would start the day in one spot out of the vehicle glassing from the ground and then move on depending on what we saw.

Usually we were glassing at distances just under a mile. Binoculars were effective much of the time especially if mounted on a tripod. But spotting scopes were essential to find the bedded bucks in many cases. For my next trip down here I will definitely bring a small folding stool. 

All the guides were phenomenal game spotters. I saw between 10 and 15 bucks each day and in most instances the other three hunters did about as well in sightings on the same days. So collectively, we were seeing a ton of different bucks during the five days. Each day we did sort of a round robin approach to who was going where to hunt each day. I think everyone got to hunt all the spots that others had been to. We four hunters each killed very nice bucks. On day one after one hour of hunting Doug Rosa took his buck. Doug tends to kill early. In 2014 using a rifle I built he killed his Alaskan Dall sheep just minutes after first light. He and his guide had located his ram late in the afternoon on the day before the season opened and spent the dark and frigid night up on the mountain without tent or sleeping bag just waiting for dawn.

Zach Fallin killed on day two, I killed on day three and John Wayne Smith killed on day four. We all had many to choose from. Some that we saw were bigger than what we shot but had broken tines. I had chosen the hunt dates and as it turned out we were just past the peak of the rut. There was lots of rutting activity still going on. Being a little late to the party, we were finding quite a few bucks had some tines broken from fighting.

Zach Fallin and his buck.

John Wayne Smith killed his buck on the fourth day.

Steven had told me that the buck to doe ratio was high on bucks. This made for a very competitive rut situation that accounted for so many broken antlers. Next time I thought our LRH group will come earlier for this reason. 

Imagine, though, going on a hunt where there was almost too much active rutting going on. That’s pretty close to the dream of deer hunters everywhere.

There are bobcats and javelina on the ranch. I almost took a 500 yard shot at a sneaking-away cat but he got into brush too quickly. A day later I had another bobcat sighting. Several sightings of javelinas afforded opportunities. I saw a coatimundi up close on day three. Coyotes were heard but not seen.

There was very little wind in the mornings but on some of the days we saw wind speeds picking up by mid afternoon. Most of the good spotting activity and perhaps all four kills occurred in the mornings.

Several times while on this hunt I thought about how perfect it would be for some who would like to hunt in the mountains but don’t want to sleep in a tent or don’t want to ride horses or just don’t want to work as hard as it takes for our Wyoming horseback wilderness hunts.

My buck was taken early in the morning of the third hunt day. We left the ranch compound at our normal, civilized time. We headed off in a direction that was new to me. Soon we entered a very narrow canyon with steep rocky hillsides on both sides. Then the canyon widened out as the route meandered along a creek bed with running water. 

Steven stopped the vehicle to glass as we moved along. The second time he did this he saw a buck that may be a shooter. So we got out of the Ranger and he quickly set up his scope on the tripod. After acquiring the buck in the scope he motioned for me to take a look. It took me only about 2.6 seconds of viewing to decide to kill this buck.

He was over 700 yards away up on a steep hillside and I wanted to get to a spot both closer and with better ground conditions for taking the shot. So we grabbed our stuff and hurried off on foot. As I walked I immediately looked forward to spots that I thought Steven may direct us to for the shot. I also started mentally listing the numerous shooting positions that I would choose from. Once I got to a good location I knew the buck may be on the move and I needed to be ready.

So I also ticked off my list of “go” equipment: rifle, ammo, BR2 rangefinder, binos, shooting sticks, tripod with saddle rest attached, backpack if I needed to lean my shooting arm against it or rest my rifle on it. For this steep shot (which turned out to be at 17 degrees) my bipod may be too short. As I walked I checked that my scope was still on a lower power for quick target acquisition and that my parallax knob was set accordingly.

We stopped on a relatively level spot at about 400 yards. The grass was still a little high for a prone shot. But I wiggled into an okay spot on the ground, confirming that the bipod was indeed too short. So I quickly switched to the backpack as my front rest. 

The buck had not seen us but he had started slowly walking to our left as we approached. He stopped as I hit the ground and prepared for the shot. I got the shot off before he started to move again and Steven later mentioned this. “Most of our hunters aren’t able to get the shot off that quickly.”

Well, all the thinking and prepping I did while on the move to my shooter spot enabled this. We teach this in the NTO-LRH Shooting classes in the Wyoming mountains. At the shot the buck just folded to the ground.

The dead deer was on a 45 degree slope and part of our walk upwards to it was through tallish grass that obscured the loose rocky turf underneath. I thought again about some hunters who may be looking for a physically easy hunt. The trip up the mountain to recover my deer was the only part of my hunt that was at all difficult. And a hunter doesn’t really have to accompany the guide if the recovery is difficult.

The body size of the Coues deer is really small. All four of our bucks were about four and a half years old. But look at this image of the entire carcass of my buck being packed out whole after gutting.

Steven and the guide packing Len’s buck.

The first three bucks taken.

Laurel's Coues Deer

I have lived in Arizona four years now but have loved to hunt my whole life. When I was a child my Dad would spend days bow hunting whitetail on the east coast. I was always fascinated by what would drive my father to sit for hours in a tree stand regardless of the weather. I was formally introduced to bow hunting just a few years ago by my husband Derek, for he too shares a passion for the sport. That’s probably why my father and him hit it off so well. Several months after meeting each other they were off hunting together for days. Derek has shot an elk with my dad and a black bear, both with his bow. I was jealous; I wanted to know what it was about, this sport that the two most important men in my life loved. So I made Derek buy me a basic starter bow and I started shooting. From the moment I let the first arrow fly I was hooked. Something about how precise you must be and having a methodical system that you can repeat over and over again regardless of the situation was addicting. I shot every chance I had trying to shoot the smallest spot on the target I could pick.

Ever since I moved to Arizona Derek told me how he hunted with some of the best guides in the state, Wards Outfitters. Whenever he would archery hunt for elk or deer in this state he called Steven Ward. So after two years of practice and hunting a bit on our own Derek and Steven started talking about how I could get an opportunity to shoot my first buck with my bow. The first thing we did was to get me a new bow that can shoot faster while still pulling only 53 pounds; a PSE Ex Force SS. Steven told us if we wanted an opportunity to shoot a good buck we should come to Southern Arizona and hunt Coues Deer in the rut out of ground blind’s. So by September I had my new PSE dialed in and I started shooting from a chair in my back yard every day. We had booked time with Steven in Mid January when the rut is typically in full swing. So when the time came we made the 3 hour drive from Phoenix down to meet up with Steven Ward.

We were hunting out of ground blinds Wards Outfitters had set up along some heavy traffic trails and near scrape lines. Hoping we could catch them as they passed through. Traffic was not a problem, the first day in the blind hunting with Steven we saw 15 deer, but all does. The second day we saw 25 more deer 20 does and fawns and 5 bucks! The first buck was a nice 3 by 3 with nice eye guards. We watched him chasing a doe about 80 yards away. Sadly he never came in any closer than that. When the next set of does came through there was a nice heavy fork horn with them. He was a big 2 by 2 but had a lot of character. He came right into a doe that was only 35 yards away. As I got ready to draw another 3 by 3 buck came charging in and chased him off! After that we saw 2 more small bucks but they never came close enough for a shot.

On day three we switched spots and we had not been in the blind 10 minutes when a spike walked in and was trying to chase the does only he was so little they were chasing him!! Just as it looked like he was going to come close enough to give me a shot all the deer got a bit jittery. I looked to my right and saw a bobcat creeping our way 75 yards out. Immediately our goal of shooting a Coues deer turned to shooting a bobcat! Unfortunately the cat never came inside of 50 yards to give us a shot. The amazing thing was that in the end, one of the big does actually charged at the bobcat and chased it away. Regardless, the rest of the deer left and were not coming back for a while.

The next day started out much the same although my husband Derek and I were now hunting together. We saw a bunch of does with really no bucks until midday. After lunch we had 2 spikes walk in and start sparing with each other. It was really exciting to see them confront each other. They were trying to rub trees, chase does and challenge each other. Unfortunately, again we just never got a good opportunity on these deer.

On day 5 Derek and I hunted a new spot where Steven said they had seen several good bucks. This blind was set up again on a trail, which passed through a nice meadow area. There was a few does that passed through at around 9 am and they bedded down just 100 yards from us. These same does continued to come and go all day long. Around 3:30 pm had been typically when the deer stopped moving and so far in 5 days we had seen no deer after 3:30. So as the hour approached my heart sank, another day without a shot. As I tried to remain hopeful, I looked over at my husband and he was fast asleep!! Clearly anticipating another slow evening.

At 4:30 one of the does that we thought was gone popped up out of her bed with her fawn and wandered back along the trail in front of our blind. She lingered around with a fawn for about 15 minutes and then I herd it. A grunt, a good grunt. So I leaned to my left to peer around the corner of the right window of our blind to see if I was hearing things and my heart stopped. There he was, sneaking in on this doe, a huge mature Coues deer. A big tall perfect 3 by 3 with tall eye guards.

He came right in after this doe, I was shaking so bad and my heart was pumping through my chest. I could swear this deer was going to hear my heart beat. 19 yards in front of me was the largest Coues deer I had ever seen. I knew I had to calm down, I looked at Derek to ask him to range the buck and I saw he was shaking too!! This did not help, I was hoping him being cool and relaxed would help me get it together but he was so excited he could not even range the buck! Luckily we had ranged several spots earlier so I knew he was about 20 yards away with the doe he was after in between him and our blind. I tried to compose myself as the buck came in after the doe and as he turned broad side I drew. I was still shaking and I knew I would have to calm down or I was not going to make a good shot. Just then the buck turned to face the doe, which meant he was facing us. I told Derek I was going to let off and get set to draw again and I could sense his frustration. Having shot many deer with his bow himself he knew I was not going to get many opportunities at this big buck. But I knew that I had waited 5 long days in a blind for this opportunity and I was not going to blow it because I took a shaky or otherwise risky shot. I wanted a good shot on this handsome buck. The buck turned broadside again and I drew, just as I drew he turned to face the doe again I held on him for a minute and he never turned back. So I let off again. Then came the toughest three minutes of my life. The buck walked away. I blew it, I missed my opportunity! My heart sank and I was devastated. But the doe was still in front of us. She had not left. Derek told me the buck would come back as long as she was still there. So we sat hopeful. 3 minutes later the buck was back, on a mission. He was so focused on that doe it was amazing. So I gave myself a little lecture on not being a girl and set my mind on shooting this deer. That buck turned broadside one more time and I drew my PSE super short for the third time and let my Vortex broad head fly.


I new it was a good shot and my husband and I jumped for joy. I know you are supposed to be quite after you shoot a deer but I could not help it. I looked at Derek and the look on his face was irreplaceable, pride and joy. I started crying and hyper ventilating. I could not breath. I started screaming and waving my hands in a truly girlie fashion. Shouting: “Call Steven, Call Dad, Call Everybody I just shot a huge deer!!.” Derek thought I was going to pass out from sheer excitement. This is why I started bow hunting. I have never been so excited (or so nervous) in my entire life. The rush was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. And the fact that I got to share it with my husband who taught me to shoot my first arrow 3 years ago was priceless. This is a memory we will remember and share for the rest of our lives.

I shot the buck late in the afternoon so we decided to wait until the next morning. So I prepared for a long night I had 2 glasses of wine a big dinner and took and Ambien but I still could not sleep. I sat staring at the ceiling all night long. Finally daylight came and we got back out there. Steven found the blood trail and a little while later there he was, my buck. It turns out he had taken a step toward me at the last second so I hit him on an angle from one lung into the liver but that Vortex broad head did the trick! I had killed my first Coues deer with a bow!

Growing up watching my Dad bow hunt and now hearing Derek’s stories I knew that to shoot any white tail with a bow was a huge challenge so many things can go wrong. In my dads lifetime he has killed 10 pope and young white tails and every one is a hunt he will remember forever. I have been trying to shoot a deer with my bow for a few years now, just to get one under my belt. My husband Derek took me down to hunt with Wards Outfitters and five days later I had my shot. I knew I was very fortunate to have my first deer turn out to be this guy. He scored 87 inches, A Pope and Young Coues deer! The first of hopefully many bow hunts I will remember forever. I had this opportunity with a little luck, and lot of practice, but mostly the help of Wards Outfitters. They knew where to go and how to hunt these deer. Hunting Coues deer for them is a passion. So archery hunters like myself can have opportunities to see and hopefully get a shot at these amazing deer. I am thankful to my father and my husband Derek for introducing me to this incredible sport and to Wards Outfitters for the hunt of a lifetime.