Back for More - Coues Deer Part II

Coues deer hunt quail in boulders
          Packs drying out after deer haul, extra vehicle proved to be vital, boulders where we'd again bag quail


Our next excursion was a day later, this time taking us high into the tops of the mountain range. By 9:30 a.m. we had ascended 1500 vertical feet and were nearing the summit. As we topped out we could now see mountain ranges miles in the distance. The plateau on which we stood was devoid of much foliage, the knee high grass had now yellowed but still hid the boulder laden ground which was dotted with juniper and oak trees.

Southern AZ desert Coues deer hike
                      After a long uphill hike, we are finally nearing the summit


We marched along determined to reach an overlook where we could glass for deer. About 150 yards into our trek, we jumped a 6 point whitetail buck with a doe, but they bounded away before we could get off a shot. We rushed down off the mesa trying to get a glimpse of the fleeing buck, perched ourselves on some huge boulders overlooking the gorge below, but never saw the deer again.

After sitting for several hours we decided to reposition ourselves over to the opposite side of the gorge to get a better angle. The mountainside below us contained a significant stand of oak trees, but our current view was severely limited due to the bulging nature of the terrain. By moving, our hope was that we’d be able to spot deer as they began to mill about the trees come late afternoon.

 Coues deer hunting mountain top  Coues deer hunt illegal immigrants

  On top we could see for miles, found abandoned items     Flip flops, Spanish food wrappers, etc. in knee high grass

After hiking about three quarters of a mile, we plopped down on a rock ledge where our vantage point was absolutely superior. We began to glass, peering intently into the thick pockets of trees. Probably thirty minutes into our endeavor, I spotted a nice buck, bedded. Given the distance and the dense nature of the thicket a shot would’ve been difficult at best, so we chose to wait for the buck to relocate. At last the buck stood and slowly wandered into a small opening between two trees. I ranged the buck, 412 yards. With no pressure to rush a shot, I took my time acquiring a steady rest and fired. “High” was the familiar response. The buck bolted across the hillside. I got off a couple more wild shots before the buck escaped into a small depression and disappeared. Flashback to yesterday – several distinct incidents occurred where we shot high. I guess I must be slow because it wasn’t until this very moment that I myself finally concluded the scope was not properly zeroed.

Sickened, I turned and looked at the others in disbelief, scolded myself…and the gun, even though missing the shot was clearly my fault. Given the symptoms from recent misses, I should have made time to double check the accuracy of the rifle. Now, not knowing what to do next, Dallas opted to continue further around the mountain while we remained behind. His goal was to proceed until he could see into the swell where the deer had disappeared hoping to again locate the buck. I couldn’t help but be skeptical of his plan, but I had no objections or better ideas.

Ten minutes later the radio crackled, “I see deer, get over here” Dallas said in a whisper. We gathered our gear and rushed to Dallas’ location. Across the way, several bucks could be seen feeding among a handful of does with their fawns. It was decided that I would continue my crusade and that Mark would follow-up on one of the other bucks should the situation arise. I got set up on a pair of shooting sticks in order to get as steady as possible while Mark found a great spot in which to shoot from a prone position. I ranged the buck, 498 yards. A minute or two passed before the buck presented a broadside shot, but finally it was go time. Unlike the last couple of times, I instead compensated for the gun shooting high and aimed just below the buck. At the blast, the buck gave a kick and I heard “you hit him”. But as opposed to dropping in his tracks, the buck broke into a run and dashed off into a nearby ravine. Chaos ensued. Mark began blasting away as deer were now scattering all over the place. We would later discover that he too had a scope off zero because the range adjustment turret on his scope had spun. But in the moment, the group was calling his shots as dust kicked up all around the buck while Mark attempted to compensate.

 Coues deer hunt shot from rock ledge  i went hunting Coues deer long range shot

               Mark is all settled and ready for shot                     Uncharacteristically difficult shot due to mechanical issue

In the meantime, my buck inched out of the ravine and stopped broadside in an opening through the oak trees. Taking aim I again put the crosshairs of the scope on the ground below the buck and fired. The buck dropped and tumbled down the slope! Mark, on the other hand, was still after his buck, he had shot 6 or 7 times already and had run out of shells. “I need more bullets” Mark shrieked. Carson reached again to the one and only box of bullets, it was empty. Frantically, I dropped the magazine out of my rifle. We had exactly one bullet left since my chamber still held a spent shell casing. Wasting no time, Mark chambered the last remaining round. Through his scope he found his buck and again acquired his target. Doing his best to recall the sight picture from his last shot, the one that had hit right at its feet, he tracked the deer’s movement proportionally. Then it happened, the buck paused ever so slightly, the roar of his Creedmoor shattered the silence. But before the report of his gun reached the deer, the 143 grain Hornaday ELD-X slammed into the buck!

 Coues deer 7 point buck  i went hunting Coues deer 8 point buck

                     Dallas' 7 point from yesterday                                                 Greg's 8 point whitetail

A few pats on the back, some congratulatory remarks, a couple of quick pics and we were off to go pack out our bucks. I glanced at my phone, it was just before 3:00 p.m. and we had scored another Coues deer double!

Coues deer double, gray ghost, whitetail
                 It definitely wasn't a gimme...lucky to have another Coues deer double!


As an interesting side note, it turned out that I had not adequately compensated on my first shot as I hit my buck high above the front shoulder, just above the spine in fact. Had I not had another shot opportunity, this buck would have gotten away and lived to see another day.

Coues deer whitetail pack out
                                       Nearing the truck after a long pack out