I’m originally from Indiana, so when I got to Arizona, I teamed up with Gary Cooper, Danny Yount and Brian Helm, who taught me how to hunt Coues deer. I was basically a tree stand hunter at that time and had little experience in stalk hunting. They helped me get set up and learn how to use tripods, binoculars and spotting scopes to find game. Brian Helm had found an area when he was quail hunting that had a lot of deer sign in it. For me, the Coues deer were very elusive. Just about every animal wants a Coues deer for dinner. Mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats have caused these deer to become very skittish and nervous.
The place I was hunting was full of oaks – which made spotting and stalking tough. I decided to do some still hunting. I thought to myself, “These Coues deer are different but they are still whitetails. So, I will sit still and do some rattling and some grunting.” On this particular hunt, Brian, Gary, Danny and I split up and went in all different directions to hunt. When I reached the oaks, I sat down, did a rattling sequence, waited about 15 minutes, rattled again, waited 15 minutes and then decided to get up and leave. Overnight, we’d had a pretty big snow. When I got ready to change positions, the sun had come up, and the snow was beginning to melt and fall out of the oak trees. I looked down in the oaks and spotted the profile of a bedded Coues buck that had a doe standing off to his right. I took out my old range finder – one of those you had to dial in the distance. Then I pulled my PSE Fire Flite bow back and shot and missed. The arrow landed short by about 2 or 3 yards and buried up in the snow. But, because snow was constantly falling out of the trees, the buck didn’t know I’d taken a shot at him. He didn’t even look around at the arrow. I didn’t know how big the buck was, but I knew he had antlers, so I made the decision to shoot him. I nocked another arrow and decided that my range finder had lied to me. I decided to aim a little bit over the back of the buck and released the second arrow. This arrow hit the buck in the ribs, and the buck jumped up and ran out of sight. But, I knew I had a good hit on him.
I returned to my truck and loaded up my camera and my frame pack. I spotted Gary coming back to the truck. “Did you get a deer?’ Gary asked. When I answered “Yes, I did,” Gary asked, “Where’s the deer?” I explained that I’d shot him, but I hadn’t retrieved him yet. Gary asked, “How good is he?” I replied, “I think he is a little 3 point but I don’t know for certain.” When we got back to the spot where I’d arrowed the buck, we began to follow the blood trail and found that buck dead under some oak trees. When Gary saw the buck he just about attacked me, because the buck was a lot larger than I thought he was. The buck was an absolute giant of a Coues deer and scored 122 non typical. At the time, he was the biggest Coues deer taken with archery equipment in the Safari Club Record Books.
Tomorrow: The Colorado Banana Point Whitetail Deer with PSE’s John May