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 2×2 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!