I always say that I can’t wait until a hunt starts so I can catch up on some sleep. From preseason scouting right down to the last minute preparations, including tying the kitchen sink onto the back of the truck, is very exhausting.
My December Coues deer hunt in southern Arizona was no exception. My good friend Jon Vance and I overslept the first morning out.
Jon had driven over five hours the day before to assist me. It’s always great when good friends can team up on a hunt. Another good friend, Ryan Cluff, had actually found the buck we were looking for a year earlier. Ryan would be joining us for the second day’s hunt. Hopes were high and the three of us had all lost plenty of sleep over this particular buck.
First light found Jon and I working on some Arizona pinstriping down a back road through the mesquite as we “drove it like we stole it” to make up time.
We quickly reached our parking spot at the base of the mountains. We threw on our packs, I grabbed the gun, and straight up we went to our first predetermined glassing point. When we got there, we wasted no time setting up our arsenal of glassing equipment.
Finally ready for business, we could take a deep breath. We eased our nerves with a couple of jokes about our early morning frenzy, then got to work picking apart the surrounding hillsides.
Ryan had last seen the buck we were hoping to find two months earlier. Nobody had really hunted the area in October or November, nor had we heard of any rumors of the buck being taken. So there we sat doing the best we knew how, being patient and looking hard.
Ten minutes into glassing, I found our first deer. The spotting scope revealed a big two point 1000 yards uphill from where we were and right where we wanted him to be. We discussed how this might be the same big two point that was often seen around the bigger buck.
He was raking trees hard and looking around nervously, letting on that he was not alone. Five minutes later a doe and another buck emerged from the tall brush. I set the spotting scope on him and couldn’t believe it. “There he is, that’s the one!” I told Jon.
The big buck began following the two point and raking over all of the scrapes that he had just made.
The situation was perfect. The three deer were rutting hard and completely focused on each other. Plans were made and I took off for the far mountainside. Jon would stay .behind and keep an eye on the situation with the big binos.
By the time I had crossed the canyon and reached the rock outcrop that I had planned to shoot from, I was looking directly up into the sun. The deer were unaware of my presence and still rutting circles around each other. So I took the time to build a makeshift tree out of rocks, my backpack and my hat. It provided just enough shade to cover my scope. My range finder read just under 350 yards. I double checked the ballistics chart on the stock of my gun and settled in for a shot.
I couldn’t believe it. Here we were our first day out and I was pulling the trigger on the deer we had been dreaming about all year long. Ryan had actually shot at this buck with his bow the January before. His arrow was deflected by a mesquite limb. So there I was, the one lucky enough to draw the tag.
I wish I could say that the buck dropped with the first shot. Neither Jon, the deer, nor I knew what was going on.
I shook my head in disbelief as the two bucks trotted over the nearest saddle and into the biggest canyon around. I then realized their hot little doe had stayed behind. She disappeared into a patch of brush to hide out. That was my big break. The two bucks hadn’t flagged their way over the saddle. So maybe he wasn’t planning on going far without his little lady. With that thought in mind I took off straight up at a death defying pace. Up the mountain I went with the kind of speed and agility my wife wishes I had while taking out the trash or changing a diaper.
I reached the top with burning lungs and found a house-sized rock for a vantage point. I sat atop the rock and began sweeping the immediate area with my binos. At the end of my first sweep the buck ran through my view. I quickly swapped binos for gun, gave a loud grunt, and leveled on the buck. He paused for a quick look around at about 250 yards. The big buck dropped at the crack of the rifle. “Oh thank you,” I said aloud and put another round through him for safe keeping.
I laid on my back and looked at the sky and just sort of took it all in. When I finished catching my breath I dug through my pack and found the radio. When I asked Jon if he had a copy, he asked, “Do you need me to bring some more bullets?” I assured him that he just needed to bring the frame pack, then I went to claim my buck. When Jon arrived there wasn’t any hollering and high fives but more of a calm reverence and respect for a beautiful animal and the end of a hunt that was a year in the making.
The buck’s gross score was 115 with a net score of 110 1/8 B&C points.
We met Ryan back at camp for a dinner of elk steaks over a mesquite fire. And needless to say, we slept in the next day too.