Usually in January my hunting season has been over for a while and all I think about is when warm weather will return so I will be able to get back out into the woods again. I have not ever given much thought about going to Arizona before to do a deer hunt, but after talking with a friend this fall that has done this kind of hunt several times I decided to give it a try. The hunt would be in late January for Coues deer in southeast Arizona. The good thing about this hunt is that a tag can be bought over the counter and also you can choose if you want to go after Coues or Mule Deer. I guess I chose to go after Coues since I had never pursued them before, actually I had never even seen one before this hunt. The deer would be rutting in a late January and I convinced Justin to get some time off work so we could go down together. Before I knew it we had all our gear loaded in the truck and were on the road to Arizona. Sixteen hours of driving later we parked at the spot where we would set up camp and where we would live for the next week.
After we got camp set up we went out on a nearby ridge to see what we could find. It didn’t take long and we had deer spotted. The first one we saw was a small buck that was cruising around like he was looking for a doe. We continued to watch the little buck and eventually he met up with a doe and large buck. Being new to looking at Coues deer, which are fairly small animals, judging his exact size was hard but I knew this was a great buck and was honored to just see an animal like that. The deer went up and over a ridge and out of sight as the sun went down. That would be that last we would see of the big buck.
The next morning we headed uphill again to do some glassing. We ended up finding some deer in some of the thick timber and I headed off to try a stalk. I ended up getting to about a hundred yards from the deer when they busted out and it was over. Right then we knew that sneaking up on these deer in this type of terrain and vegetation would be nearly impossible. The rest of the day was spent looking through binoculars and spotting scopes, which became a major part of the hunt. Coues deer are small animals and the grey color made these deer fairly hard to spot. There were times when we were looking through our scopes with 20-25 power at hillsides only a few hundred yards away, and I know we were not seeing some of the deer that were there.
The next couple days we covered a lot ground and were seeing deer but were not having much luck in getting close to them.
One afternoon while glassing Justin spotted a Javelina out feeding on the ridge opposite us. I had a tag for Javelina as well and since we didn’t see any deer in the immediate area I went after it. By the time I got to where it was feeding it had moved off and I could not find where it had went to so I headed back to our glassing spot and met back up with Justin. Right away after I got back I spotted some more Javelina down the ridge from where I had just been. They seemed to be running around all over the hillside so I grabbed my bow again and I was off to try again. By then the sun was going down and the wind started to go downhill so I went below them and stalked them from below. I was able to sneak right up on two of them as they were feeding on a large yucca type plant. I ranged them at twenty yards and drew my bow. I had a good shot at the left one so I settled my pin and let the arrow go. With that I had my first Javelina ever, and a nice boar at that.
By the last couple days of our six days to hunt we had somewhat learned how to better hunt for the deer. We had pretty much given up on just stalking up on them. What we ended up doing that seemed to work better was to go to certain areas where the deer were rutting and then we just would sit and hope they would come near us. Another way was to stalk to within a hundred yards or so and then hope the deer move around and get closer. Doing this took some patience and also getting the wind to be right was very important, which seemed to be fairly unpredictable in this area. Also, while sitting and waiting it gave us some time to enjoy the scenery and things around us.
While sitting one morning I had a good eight point buck chase a doe near me, but not quite close enough for a bow shot. It was a cloudy day and sprinkled rain off and on and the deer stayed out in the open country all day. This allowed me to try a couple of stalks, and I got to within range of does a couple of times, but my tag was for antlered deer only so I had to let them go.
On the last morning of the hunt I spotted a buck and doe in some thick cedar trees. The buck was chasing the doe around, but staying in one general area so I knew I had to try to get in there and do it quickly. I moved in as quietly as I could and eventually spotted a doe moving around through the brush. It was coming right towards me so I stood still and readied my bow as I hoped a buck would be behind her. As the doe got to within twenty yards another doe with the buck following came running toward me and the first doe. The buck and doe made a turn and ended up going out of sight for a little while before coming back at a run. I was able to grunt and get him stopped at what I figured to be thirty yards. I took a quick shot but completely missed. Not sure what exactly happened, all I knew is that I had just messed up the only opportunity I was likely to get.
I hiked back to where I had left most of my gear and then waited for Justin as he was supposed to meet up with me after his morning hunt. He had seen some deer that morning and had made some attempts at getting on a couple bucks but it just didn’t happen for him. We gathered our things and started back toward camp with a feeling of being beat. Just when we last expected it a young buck came out of nowhere in front of us, trotted across the road we were on and into the timber on the other side. He must have been on the trail of a doe since he didn’t really notice us. I was able to manuever around to where I could see him walking away through the trees and at that time he noticed me and turned to look back. The shot was quartering away but I felt good about the 35 yard shot so I took it. The arrow hit right where I wanted. It entered just behind the last rib and exited out the buck’s chest in front of the offside shoulder. He disappeared into the timber and we didn’t see him go down so we gave him thirty minutes before trailing him.
As I walked up on the buck it seemed unreal. It just goes to show that even if you think something is over you really shouldn’t give up, even though I pretty much had. Things can go from bad to great in a matter seconds. Unfortunately Justin was not able to harvest a deer on this trip, but it was not due to lack of trying.
If you are looking for a hunt that will challenge you, try hunting Coues deer with a bow spot and stalk style. Out of the hunts that I have done, and I think I have done some challenging ones, Coues deer were the hardest for me to get an arrow through. This type of hunt is not very physically demanding but would make a great bowhunter even better and I would recommend everyone try it.