Anyone who has had the privilege of hunting the Coues whitetail would attest to the animal’s uncanny ability to disappear without a trace. Hunting the Coues is comparable to searching for a needle in a haystack. Most hunters know that the key to hunting them is to glass for a long period of time; and when you’re tired of glassing, glass some more! Their ability to blend into their surroundings gives these stout little deer the popular nickname of “The Grey Ghost.” The dry mountainous terrain isn’t a walk in the park either while looking for the little Houdini’s. In July of 2003, I was anticipating the tag eluding me since I hadn’t drawn one in the five previous years. I was sure my number was up that year, but the results came out and, once again I drew nothing.
I later found that there were ten permits left over for a special December hunt in southeastern Arizona. Knowing that the unit carried some good bucks, and with never having applied for the leftover permits, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity. This meant I had to wait an additional month to find out if I was drawn. Finally, the leftover draw came and I received the news. “Guess what, baby?” I said to my wife. “This is Christmas in August for me!” I found out that I had drawn tag #120 out of 120. My luck had just begun.
After a few scouting trips, opening day finally arrived, and with the help of Timberland Outfitters owner, Lance Crowther, I was ready for the hunt. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was cold with two inches of snow on the ground. We were into deer all day long, and over the next couple of days we passed up several respectable bucks.
The next weekend I decided to head back to the same vicinity. Due to prior obligations, Lance wasn’t able to make it, so I took a couple of hunting buddies, Mark and AJ, instead. We found a small group of bachelor bucks early in the morning. Just when we thought there were only two bucks, a third buck stood up from behind a tree. Everything but the back half was covered by a tree so I couldn’t tell how big he was. Then he turned his head to lick his hind leg. “There he is! That’s the buck I want!” I said. We decided that AJ would go with me to get closer while Mark stayed back and watched through the 15 power Swarovskis. We initially found the deer about 700 yards away, so we figured we could easily cut that in half. After the hike we looked over the ridge and found the two other bucks feeding and soaking up the Arizona sun. Finally, we found the bigger buck at the edge of the trees. We ranged the deer at 350 yards. I laid out the bi-pod on my 7mm and got comfortable. The next few minutes seemed like eternity as he headed out of the sun and into the trees to give me a broadside shot. “Here I go! Watch him for me,” I said to AJ.
The buck stopped, and I settled in. I slowly squeezed the trigger and then “Boom!” When I heard the return echo I anticipated AJ’s response not knowing whether it was a good shot. Finally, Mark yelled, “You got him!” He let us know it was a good hit as the deer bolted down the canyon and out of sight.
After finding his tracks but no sign of blood, my confidence was replaced with chills of doubt. Then finally we found the first sign of blood, and I could relax a bit. Not ten yards from there, he was down, underneath a juniper tree! The bullet hit its mark by taking out the bottom of the heart.
After help with getting him onto my shoulders, (yes, with these Coues whitetail, it’s possible!) we carried him to a firebreak just above the canyon he went down in. Mark and AJ went back to get the truck as I had some time to contemplate the past week or so. “What an amazing hunt with a leftover permit!” kept going through my mind. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude at that moment. I was grateful that this animal would provide for my family. Too often we take for granted the animals that are here for our benefit, and too often they are disrespected. It’s not only our passion as hunters and anglers to harvest that big buck or bull, or to catch the largemouth of a lifetime; it’s our duty to pay respect to them in return. There’s more to the exceptional animals we have on our walls than just the amount of tape used to score them. There’s a story behind that hunt we can all relate to. Blessings come at a time when we least expect them. In my case, I received a gift in August that I was finally able to open in December. My buck scored 95”. He was the perfect buck for me that day!