It's a Coues Thing...Part II

The next morning we were back at it – well sort of. Carson stayed back at camp with a strained knee and hunted quail while Dallas and I logged another 8 mile day. All we saw for our effort were several antlerless Coues, a few javelina and some fellow deer hunters. But Carson on the other hand scored by shooting his first scaled quail and ended up with three scalies for himself!

  scaled quail scalies

                 Awesome looking little birds! 

With only one day left to hunt deer, we changed it up again and headed to a completely new area. As we wound our way into the foothills the wind was increasing in strength. By the time we reached a favorable glassing point, the wind was howling! But it wasn’t long after sunup that we spotted our first deer, 753 yards up the ridge. The wind was blowing so hard that we had a difficult time getting the rangefinder to provide a reading, even though having a distance on the deer wasn’t actually important since a relatively long shot wouldn’t be possible given the conditions. And as if getting a distance reading wasn’t challenging enough, holding the spotting scope steady enough to see antlers was a nearly impossible task. However, we finally succeeded in making a human shield that blocked the wind just enough that, through the still-wobbly spotting scope, we determined the deer was indeed a buck!

 road runner  road runner flying

                 Saw this road runner along the way                                      Even caught a brief picture in flight 

Without hesitation we made a plan to loop up and around the buck’s position in order to approach the deer from downwind. After a long hike and stalk we were unable to turn up the buck. We supposed the deer had spooked and figured it headed upwind, so that’s the direction we headed. We walked along a rock ledge just below the spine of the ridge when a deer snorted beneath us. My head snapped just in time to catch a glimpse of antlers as a buck disappeared around the rock shelf. Frantically we raced ahead to get a better view. After about 100 yards we came to an opening and I spotted the buck climbing up over the rocky ledge 120 yards ahead. The buck paused to look at us for at least 10 seconds, but I was still unstrapping my gun from the backpack. And before I could take aim, the deer was once again on the move. I finally shouldered my gun and found the buck in my scope and cracked off a running shot just as the buck disappeared. My shot was poor as I didn’t lead the buck sufficiently and hit him in the paunch.

 illegal immigrant slippers  illegal immigrant slippers

 Very near the Mexico border found homemade slippers          Would certainly make for quiet stalking... 

As fast as possible, we ran to the top of the saddle and saw the buck right before he vanished into some thick mesquite trees in the coulee below. We glassed for several minutes but couldn’t spot the buck anywhere. Without a blood trail to follow and worried that the elusive Coues buck might slip away right under our noses, Dallas dropped into the valley. The plan was for him to dip down below the trees and fishhook up and around in hopes of either walking upon a dead deer or pushing the buck back out toward us. We figured this was the best course of action even though being positioned on the hillside in a 30 plus mile per hour wind wasn’t ideal. But worse than that would be for all three of us to drop down into the gulch and bump the buck; never to see him again.

  Sonoran desert century plant flora

                        Just love the desert flora

Dallas was now sneaking within 60 yards of where we last saw the buck when suddenly the deer made a break for it. Instead of heading toward me, the buck busted out the bottom. With my gun propped across my backpack, I looked ahead for a gap since I anticipated the buck would continue downhill. Seconds later the buck popped into an opening and I took the running shot. I saw a puff of dust kick up near the buck’s head right as the deer faded into the dense brush. I did my best to follow the buck’s path as the gusting wind battered my rifle. Then literally at the last moment before the endless cover would completely engulf the deer for good, I took another wild running shot. The blast of the gun, along with the gale force winds caused me to lose sight of the deer for an instant. However I quickly zeroed back into the vicinity but couldn’t see movement anywhere. I didn’t know if the deer was dead or if it had gotten away. After the shooting had ended for some amount of time, Dallas radioed me to ask if the buck was down. I had no idea -- between the hurricane force winds, the bolting buck and the wild running shots, I was clueless as to what had just happened – so that’s what I told him. And since Dallas never once saw the deer during his entire search, I directed him toward the last place where I had seen it.

  discarded items near Mexico border

More discarded items (NY hat, socks) near the border, miles from any road

A while later the radio crackled, Dallas said “the buck is down!” He followed up a minute later by asking “how many times did you hit the deer?” Somewhat confused by the question I said “apparently two, why?” “Where do you think you hit the deer?” he asked. Still confused I replied “my first shot was in the paunch, my second shot maybe hit up near its head and my last shot might have hit the front shoulder?” Dallas replied, “well…you might not be happy…you blew off an antler.”

  i went hunting coues deer

                         Lucky shot got me this nice whitetail 6-pointer Coues buck

Carson and I proceeded to hike the 300ish yards down to the deer. As we approached, Dallas said “you won’t believe this, come look…” and there lying a few feet from the deer was the blown off antler. But the perplexing part was that one shot had in fact hit the deer in the paunch, then another had hit him in the neck and then a shot had blown off an antler. But how was that possible when my last two shots had been spaced out by 100 yards or more? As we matched up the broken antler back onto the deer’s head, we could see that the bullet hole had not completely broken off the antler but had left about ¼ of the antler intact. So when the buck had fallen on that final and lucky shot, the impact of hitting the ground must have broken the antler the rest of the way off – and there it lay a few feet away from the deer – crazy!

  hunting Coues deer

                   Can't believe we found the antler...

After a 7 ½ mile jaunt our deer hunt came to a close. We loaded the deer into the bed of our truck and headed back to camp. We’d spend the last hour of the day chasing quail around camp and then head for home in the morning. What a fantastic way to spend the week in Arizona! The fall season just might be the ideal period to spend time trekking around the Sonoran desert, but add to that a hunting adventure with family and I’d say it becomes perfect!

 Saguaro cactus and quail  Saguaro cactus

     Met my brother on way home for some quail hunting             Carson posing next to a mighty Saguaro