The excitement of October Coues deer hunts
The air is finally starting to cool and the leaves are changing. Our sun’s path of travel is getting lower and lower as it crosses the sky. Fall is here and, for many, that means hitting the field and chasing whitetail deer. There is nothing like having fresh venison for the upcoming holidays to feast on. Fall deer hunting is a big deal across the country and ritualistic for many. I know it was for me. Every year, my dad and I would hit the mountains in late October in hopes of bringing home a deer. Instead of chasing whitetail deer, though, we were pursuing Coues deer—their light-footed cousins down here in Arizona. Coues deer are our most worthy adversaries and the opportunity to hunt them is plentiful. One of the best opportunities someone has at chasing these edgy little deer around with a rifle is late October in Arizona.
So, why October, right? Why not try and draw a rut tag in December or just hunt them with a bow during the over-the-counter (OTC) archery seasons? Well, first off, those rut tags are fairly hard to draw. It’s not something I would count on doing every year in the least bit. And I don’t know about you, but I like to go hunting instead of waiting around, hoping the state gives me the green light to do so. That is where October comes in. These tags are much easier to draw with many of them sitting at or around 100% draw odds even for a nonresident. That number grows more if you’re willing to wait a year or two. Check out goHUNT Filtering 2.0 for more information!
Second, even as a die-hard bowhunter, I will admit that hunting Coues deer with a bow is enough to drive someone mad. Their ability to dodge arrows and know when something isn’t right is second to none. It’s sometimes comical at how switched on they are, but it’s for good reason: Everything wants to eat them and is working hard to close the distance for a bite. I have seen mountain lions fail at stalking these things. Mountain lions. So, for us mere mortals, getting the job done with a well-placed arrow is few and far between. Lucky for us, we have rifles to alleviate the pain of our inadequate stalking skills with a bow.
Why Coues deer?
Another question you might be asking is, “Why Coues deer?” They are way smaller than whitetails and way harder to hunt. Why would someone put themselves through so much of a challenge for something so small? While those things are all valid concerns, they also sound like questions from someone who just hasn’t experienced Coues deer hunting. Once you’ve gotten out here and seen this magical deer appear, disappear and then reappear again, you’ll know. The sight of a 100”+ Coues buck will burn itself into your memory and leave you yearning for more. The gray ghost will haunt you and the landscapes they live in will call you. On top of all of that mushy stuff, Coues deer are absolutely delicious! Show me someone that says they don’t like Coues deer and I’ll show you a liar.
A few tactics
Scouting is key
The first battle you’ll face with hunting Coues deer is finding Coues deer. Spending time before your October hunt will provide a high yield as far as the quality of your hunt goes. While that is true for all hunts, this October hunt is even more crucial to the fact. The reason being is that these deer are susceptible to being patterned this time of year. Meaning that if a hunter spends the time before season finding bucks, they will be in the same area come late October. They love walking in their own footsteps. This gives a huge advantage on the side of the hunter.
Let’s remember something here. We are in the desert. Unlike a good portion of the country, water is pretty hard to come by down here. For this reason, water needs to be on your radar when scouting for Coues deer as they will water regularly. This could be a stock tank, spring or just a natural bowl of water at the bottom of a canyon. Whichever it is, note where these are and focus your scouting efforts around them. The deer will be close by.
Hands down, the absolute best way to finding Coues deer is by way of quality optics mounted on a tripod. Because of their edgy nature and how well they blend in, sitting back on a high vantage point and burning up the hillsides with optics is king. The tripod thing is really a must. In order to spot that slight movement, there is no better way. Glass slow and glass for a long time. You might go all day without seeing something on a particular mountainside and, then, all of a sudden a deer can stand up. One that was there the whole time, but also one you never saw. That is how well these animals can hide. This is a regular occurrence in Coues country. This time of year can still be warm as well, so pay extra attention to shaded hillsides. I’ve seen bucks bed before the sun has even crested the mountain.
Since I was a kid, these October Coues deer hunts have been in my life. They gave me something to look forward to before winter kicked in and were another way for me to get out in the field with my dad. Good times with great people are hard to come by and should be cherished. These October Coues deer hunts are a great way to do just that. The weather is usually beautiful, the bucks are hard-antlered in bachelor groups and it’s just a great opportunity to get out and stretch your legs. Not to mention, Coues deer meat is some of the finest on the planet as far as I’m concerned. They might not be as big as their Midwestern cousins, but I promise you, the effort of putting one in the freezer is worth it. Coues camp is calling and I must go…