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.
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.
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!