All wild ungulates (deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, etc.), can be aged fairly accurately by examining their teeth. This can be done two ways. One way is to examine the teeth under a microscope and the other is to look at wear and replacement patterns of all the teeth in the lower jaw. Using the number of tines on a buck’s antlers is not an accurate way to estimate age. Bucks in exceptional condition can have more tines than those of the same age which are in poor condition. And older bucks may have heavy beams but fewer points than a young buck.
Aging by counting cementum annuli under a microscope
This method requires the extraction of one of the large front incisors from the lower jaw and slicing the root extremely thin. These slices are then stained and examined under a microscope. As a wildlife biologist, I have pulled and collected hundreds, if not thousands of teeth from ungulates. Most of the time biologists send those teeth to a lab either at their Game and Fish Department or to one in Montana (Matson’s) to be examined. But I have also had jobs where I spent hours cutting, staining and examining slices of deer teeth. This method is very interesting and is similar to counting annual rings in a cut tree trunk. Deer lay down a layer of cementum in their teeth each year. A specialized machine is used to slice microscopic sections off of the tooth root. After staining, the slices of tooth will show annual rings.
Counting cementum annuli is the most accurate method of aging deer older than 3.5 years. In some species you can gain additional information from this technique. Matson’s lab in Montana has correlated the years that a bear has young with thin layers of cementum (perhaps because the bear is putting more resources into the pregnancy). So by looking at a slice of tooth from a female black bear, a biologist can tell how many times the bear has produced young. This works well in bear because they tend to only have young every other year. But for most deer, reproduction is an annual event.
If you have a buck that you would like aged, pull the front incisors from the lower jaw (deer don’t have upper incisors) and contact Matson’s lab for information on how to get it aged. It is just as expensive for the lab to analyze one tooth as it is for 4-5, so you might wait until you have several or get your hunting buddies to collect teeth too.
Make sure when you extract the tooth that you do not break off the root. The easiest way to extract them that I know of is to use a pocket knife to slice down deep into the gum on each side of the tooth. Then wiggle the knife on each side of the tooth so as to loosen things up. Do this on both of the front incisors. Then place the blade of the knife behind the teeth, with the width of the blade parallel to the width of the teeth. Push the knife blade into the gum and gently pry the knife toward you. This should push both teeth forward and down from the rest and then you can slice any remaining flesh from the root to fully extract them.
For more information visit Matson’s Laboratory, LLC – Home Page.
You can email Gary Matson at gjmatson AT montana DOT com
Matson’s Laboratory, LLC
8140 Flagler Road
P.O. Box 308
Milltown MT 59851
Aging by tooth wear and replacement
Another way to use a deer’s teeth to determine it’s age is by looking at wear and replacement. Deer develop their teeth in a predictable pattern. In addition, over time, the teeth are ground down and that wear can give an indication of age. This method is most accurate for deer less than 3.5 years old. For older deer, the amount that the teeth wear down annually varies according to what they are eating. A deer that lives in an environment with a lot of sandy, gritty soil will wear his teeth down faster than one that doesn’t. Many Game and Fish offices have a “deer jaw board” which has examples of deer jaws of known age deer so that one can see how the teeth wear in that particular area. When I get some photos of some jaws, I will post them. An excellent reference for aging all big game animals in Arizona has been published by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It gives a great description and has pictures demonstrating the tooth replacement patterns.
To use this method of aging a deer, you want to look at the lower jaw. A deer has long incisors on the front part of the jaw and premolars and molars on the back the jaw. In fawns, you will only see four back teeth (3 premolars and 1 molar). A yearling Coues deer will have 3 premolars and the third premolar will have three cusps. The molars of a yearling are still coming in, but you should see three molars with the last molar only partially erupted. A deer that is 2.5 years old will have all its adult teeth in and the third premolar will only have two cusps. There is very little wear evident on the teeth of a 2.5 yr old. Because a deer does not replace any of its teeth after 2.5 years, the teeth start to show more wear with each passing year. The first molar (the fourth tooth on the back part of the jaw) is the one that will show the most wear and is the one to key in on. Look for the width of the dentine (brown parts of top of tooth) compared to the width of the enamel (white part on top of tooth). As the tooth wears it will have wider dentine sections compared to the enamel. And the cusps of the teeth will wear down and become smooth. A deer that is 3-5 years old will still have some cusps to it on the first molar, whereas on an older deer that molar will be very smooth. Here is a link to an online site that shows pictures of this wear pattern. For Arizona specific information, you will want to purchase a copy of the publication put out by Arizona Game and Fish – its only $3 and well worth it.
Deer leave a variety of sign that can let you know where they have been even if you don’t see them. The most obvious of signs are scat (feces) and tracks. Coues deer scat is in the form of small pellets. The pellets will vary in color from greenish (when really fresh) to brown or black and even gray or white (when really old). The photos below show some of the variation in colors. Coues scat can be clumpy if the deer is eating a really moist diet. Deer scat will also be moist when fresh, but dries fairly quickly. Scat that is somewhat fresh may appear dry on the outside but still be moist on the inside.
All photos by A. Moors.
Deer also leave tracks when they travel through an area. Good places to look for tracks include washes, hillsides, and saddles. Also check any area that has muddy soil like around a stock tank, spring or river. Looking at tracks can tell you the size of the animal and what it was doing there (i.e., running, walking, pawing at the ground). White-tailed deer and mule deer have very similar tracks, but mule deer are larger. Mule deer tracks tend to be about 2.5- 3 inches long while Coues tracks tend to be 2 to 2.5 inches long. Sometimes people confuse javelina and whitetail tracks. Javelina tracks are fairly easy to distinguish due to their smaller size (1 to 1.5 inches long) and blunter tips (see photos below).
Tracks can help determine when an animal uses an area.
The white-tailed deer is highly adaptable. It is found from Mexico and Central America to Canada and throughout the United States. It survives in environments that are subject to extremes in temperature – both heat and cold. It lives in remote areas where few humans ever go and it survives in highly populated areas as well.
So what is good Coues deer habitat? When evaluating habitat, it helps to think of the elements that are needed for any animal – food, water, shelter, and space to live. Good Coues habitat is any area that provides adequate amounts of each of those factors. The best Coues habitat will provide a large diversity of foods by having a mix of open areas and brushy areas. Coues are primarily browsers, so shrubs must be available for them. However, Coues highly prefer forbs and those grow more commonly in open areas such as a grassy meadow or grassland found at the edge of juniper woodland.
Coues deer seem to be most numerous in woodland areas about 4000-6500 feet in elevation that have Madrean evergreen oaks or areas of oak mixed with juniper and pinon pine. However, Coues deer can be found in the more open Sonoran Desert and in Semi-Desert Grasslands. They can also be found in Ponderosa Pine forests. I have selected some photos below to show some of the variety in habitat that Coues deer will use.
The best Coues habitat will have several permanent water sources since these deer need them to survive. The home range of a Coues is about 1-2 square miles. Deer density is highest within 0.5 – 1 mile of a good water source. Maghini and Smith (1990) suggested that a density of 1 water source for every square kilometer (approx. 0.5 sq. miles) is best for female Coues. Based on their research in the Santa Ritas in Arizona, Ockenfels et al. (1991) suggested that a density of one water source every 2-3 sq. km would meet deer requirements. They also found that the first 400 m (roughly equal to a quarter mile) around a water source was used far more often than areas greater than 1200 m away from water.
If you are looking for an area that has a high density of Coues deer, look for a place that has a good mix of thick and open vegetation types between 4000-6500 feet in elevation and that has springs or water tanks scattered throughout the landscape within about a 1/2 to 1 mile of each other.
Juniper-oak woodlands with large populations of Coues deer. These two areas have a good mix of white and Emory oak, mesquite, acacia and pinon pine along with the juniper. The variety of topography in these areas provides places for many different types of plants to grow (trees, browse, grass and forbs). This excellent diversity of plants along with good water sources makes these places great habitat for Coues. Deer will feed through the open areas in early morning and evening and move into the thicker areas to bed.
The breeding season for the Coues deer is about 6-8 weeks later than northern or eastern whitetail. Breeding generally occurs from December to February with the peak usually in January. Some breeding activity can occur in November and some even as late as March. In November, bucks are generally found in small herds and can be seen sparring to establish dominance for the upcoming breeding season. These sparring matches are generally very short-lived and mild. They are much less dramatic than the spectacular battles that can occur during the rut. Bucks spend the breeding season searching for does in estrus (those ready to breed). Females are receptive to breeding for only 2-3 days. Females that are not bred in their first estrus cycle may be bred during their next cycle about 26 days later. Bucks can be very aggressive toward does during the breeding season. I have seen them chase a doe in a frantic effort to keep them from running away. They herd the doe much like a horse herds a calf or a sheepdog herds sheep, not allowing them to escape. If there are other bucks present around the doe, the dominant buck will usually be closest to the doe and force the other bucks to stay in the periphery. Bucks are most vulnerable to hunters during the rutting period because they are much more active throughout the day and rather careless in their single-minded pursuit of females.
Reproduction is highly influenced by the nutritional condition of bucks and does. Bucks that do not receive adequate nutrition can have delayed antler development which can lead to an extended rut period. Similarly, does in poor condition can have delayed cycles which can result in later fawning dates. Smith (1984) found that in a drought year in Arizona the average Coues fawning date was in the third week in August. Whereas in a year following several years of exceptional rainfall, the average fawning date was 2 weeks earlier. This 2 week difference in breeding activity has been documented in other whitetail subspecies for does on a nutritious diet compared to a substandard diet (Verme 1965). Smith (1984) also found that in years of poor food production, young Coues does (< 3 yrs old) may not breed at all and although the older does may still produce fawns, they have fewer of them (singles vs. twins). I have not seen any documentation in the literature that Coues deer can have triplets, but I have seen a Coues doe with three fawns in Arizona, which I presume were all her fawns. The fawns were of identical size and condition and were all following the one doe. It could be that she "adopted" a fawn from another doe that was killed, but that is probably less likely than her having had triplets. Production of triplets has been documented in other subspecies of whitetail.
Antlers are made of the fastest growing bone in the animal kingdom. Antlers are grown and shed annually, which in itself is amazing. In addition, generally, each year a deer’s antlers will grow larger than in the previous year. The annual cycle of antler development is primarily controlled by hormones produced in the pituitary gland and testes. Increasing daylength stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete substances that cause antler growth to start. Antlers receive the nutrients needed for growth through a fur covered skin (called velvet) covering the antlers. During this velvet period, the antlers are very sensitive to damage. If a buck injures his antler during this time, it will generally cause abnormal antler growth in the form of non-typical tines or bumps. These abnormalities may continue to be seen through each subsequent year’s antlers. In addition, it has been shown that in antler producing cervids (deer, elk) that an injury to the body will sometimes cause abnormal antler growth on the opposite side. For example if an elk injures his front right leg, the antler growing on his left side may become deformed. Later, the pituitary gland also secretes gonadotropin which causes the testes to enlarge. As the testes enlarge they produce an abundance of androgen which inhibits the pituitary antler-growth hormone, resulting in the stoppage of antler growth and the drying of the velvet covering on the antler. Antlers are eventually shed as changes in hormones cause the decalcification in the pedicle (the living bony growth on the frontal bone of the skull to which the antlers are attached).
Just as the breeding season for Coues is 6-8 weeks later than that for other subspecies of whitetail, the antler cycle is similarly delayed. For Coues deer, antler growth happens from June-September. During that time, the antlers are covered with “velvet”. After the buck has completed antler growth, the velvet dries up and is rubbed off (antler polish). In Arizona, Coues deer typically polish their antlers from late September to mid-October. Originally the antlers are white but become stained brownish from blood in the velvet and from the juices in the trees and bushes that the buck rubs his antlers against. Antlers are then used during the breeding season to secure mates through displays and fighting with other bucks. After the breeding season, hormonal changes cause the antlers to drop off. In Arizona, that antler drop typically occurs in April and May. Growth of the new antler begins shortly after antler cast.
Does that become pregnant will give birth to fawn(s) about 180-200 days later. Yearlings tend to give birth to single fawns while older does generally give birth to twins. Nutritional condition of the does and bucks influences by the timing of fawn drop and number of young produced (see discussion of this in the breeding section above). Most fawns are born in July and August. Fawns will weigh between 4-6 pounds at birth and nurse for two to three months. Fawns can eat some vegetation even while still dependent on the mother’s milk during the first month. In Arizona, nursing tends to occur between 0800-1000 and 1500-1800 hours. Fawns have spots on their coats for about the first two months of their lives. Fawns will stay with their mother until she drives them off, which usually happens just before she gives birth again the following year.
The information on this page is taken with permission from Craig Boddington’s excellent book “Shots at Big Game: How to shoot a rifle accurately under hunting conditions” published by Safari Press, Inc. Illustrations by Stuart Funk. Click on images to see a larger version.
Shot placement on a broadside deer is simple, but deer don’t often cooperate by standing just right. You’re more likely to get a quartering shot of some kind. On animals quartering away, try to locate the off-side front leg, and follow its line up to the chest area to find your aiming point. You need to visualize where the vitals lie from any angle, and plan your shot accordingly. On strongly quartering-away shots, your bullet may actually enter the deer’s body quite far back. On deer quartering toward you, keep your eyes on the on-shoulder; that one protects the chest area that your bullet must reach.
The problem with wind isn’t really that it has an effect — it’s in reading it and figuring just how much effect it will have. Winds at a 45-degree angle cause half the drift of a 90-degree crosswind, while headwinds and tailwinds have no effect at all. But is the wind at the target the same as where you are? How can you tell? You can read the wind carefully, but it comes down to a best guess.
It doesn’t matter whether the angle is uphill or downhill – the effect is the same. Your trajectory will essentially follow the trajectory curve of a bullet fired at the horizontal distance to your target.
Successful shooting of running game with a rifle isn’t materially different from hitting flying game with a shotgun. It’s essential that you keep the rifle barrel moving, establish your lead, swing with the target, and make certain that you fire with the barrel moving, following through afterward by continuing your swing.
The Coues deer is a small whitetail (a good buck might only weigh 80-90 lbs.), for which small caliber weapons can be appropriate. I use a .270 to hunt for Coues, but you could even go with a smaller caliber weapon like a .22-.250 or .243. Many people use 7mm mags. What you want is a very flat shooting rifle that will allow you to become proficient at long-range shooting (250-400 yards).
As many guides will tell you, they want clients that are able to shot long distances because the bucks they spot may be far across a canyon. And quietly stalking to that far side of the canyon may be impossible due to the rocky soil and thick brush that is found in Coues country. Shot placement is very important to making a clean kill. Click on the “Shot Placement” button on the left to learn more about a well-placed shot.
Spot and Stalk
Most people who hunt Coues use the “Spot and Stalk” method. This method is ideal for our open landscapes in the West. To effectively spot Coues whitetail you will want to have premium optics. For years I hunted with cheap 7×35 binoculars, and although I was successful, I recommend that you buy the best binoculars (glass) you can afford. Several years ago, I upgraded to Zeiss 10×40′s which have made spotting deer much easier. Some people prefer to go with even more powerful binoculars, such as 15×60. That magnification is outstanding for spotting pieces of deer through foliage. But they are heavy to carry and most Coues hunters opt not to carry such large optics. The best binoculars and spotting scopes are made by Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski. These high-end optics are superior in the light-gathering and contrasting ability. In low light situations, I can see deer in my binoculars when I can’t see them with my naked eye – it’s as if the binoculars turn on some extra lights. If you are looking to buy some new optics, please check one of our sponsors, Camera Land. They carry an excellent variety of binoculars and spotting scopes.
To use the “Spot and Stalk” method, find a high point in some good Coues habitat, sit down and use your binoculars to search the terrain for deer. The key to finding Coues is to GLASS, GLASS, GLASS. Several times I have been out hunting somewhere and seen some hunters drive up, jump out and quickly scan a canyon with binoculars. After about 10 minutes of searching, they are convinced that there are no bucks and they leave. Meanwhile, because I have been there glassing longer, I have found deer in that canyon that they missed. The old rule of thumb of that you should “wear the seat of your pants out before your boots” is very applicable to Coues hunting. I recommend sitting in one place for several hours and searching continuously, even going over and over the same brushy hillside. Coues tend to move slowly and are amazingly good at hiding behind the smallest amount of vegetation. A slight change in position can make a deer visible or invisible, which is why scanning the same areas several times is a really good way to find deer.
A view through a spotting scope. Can you find the two deer in the photo above? Click on image to see larger version. Photo taken by A. Moors. (It is extremely difficult to see the deer, so if you have given up trying, click here to see them)
After you get a good pair of binoculars, the next piece of equipment you will want is a small, portable tripod. Using a tripod to hold your binoculars tremendously boosts your ability to spot deer. The tripod allows the binoculars to remain completely steady which makes detecting movement in your field of vision much easier. I used to glass just by bracing my elbows on my knees and although that is one way to provide some stability to your binoculars, it is not the best. Without a doubt, using a tripod will make you a far better glasser.
There are many manufacturers that make portable tripods. You can look over some tripods in the CouesWhitetail.com store. The tripod I use is one my husband bought for his camera at a yard sale and I haven’t been able to find it for sale anywhere. It was made in Japan and says “Minette” on it, which I assume to be the company. It weighs a little over a pound (20 ounces) and extends to 40 inches tall. Folded up, it is only 11 inches long. Some binoculars (like my Zeiss) do not have a place to screw them into a tripod. I use an attachment that attaches to the binoculars with velcro straps and has a sturdy base that can be screwed onto my tripod. Tripods and attachments can get very high tech and very expensive. What you want is something that is sturdy, but is light enough so that you will be willing to carry it with you everywhere you hunt.
My setup for glassing. The next few pictures show the individual components of the setup. Photo by S. Wesch. The three parts of my glassing setup: the tripod, the binoculars and the attachment for the binoculars. Photo by A. Moors.
Tripod shown in folded up position. The head of the tripod has a standard screw (in center of red platform) to attach optics to the tripod. Many binoculars and spotting scopes have the threading to be screwed directly on to the tripod. If your optics don’t have a place for a screw, you can purchase an attachment like the one shown below. Photos by A. Moors.
This attachment screws onto the tripod and attaches to the binoculars using velcro straps. Photo below shows the binoculars in the attachment. Photos by A. Moors.
When you are glassing, get comfortable. Get a seat pad of some kind and sit so your neck and back won’t get too strained. The more comfortable you are, the longer you can glass and the more deer you will see. I use a seat pad from Crooked Horn Outfitters. It’s great! It’s lightweight, made of saddlecloth so it can handle field conditions and it’s comfortable. It insulates you from the rock or ground that you are sitting on so you stay warmer as well. I also use the master guide daypack from Crooked Horn. I can pack out a boned-out Coues in one of those packs, along with my hunting gear. It’s a great product!
To glass effectively, you can use a couple of methods. One is to look over the habitat and decide where the deer are most likely to be at that time of day and glass those areas the most. That is what I generally do. Look at the lay of the land and think about how a deer would use the landscape. Where is the best food? Think about which plants are green and growing at the time. Where will the deer feel secure? Is there a water source nearby? Glassing closer to the water (say within a 1/2 mile) is more productive than glassing farther from the water. Is it early morning? The deer are more likely to be out in open areas. Is it late morning and getting hot out? Glass the thick brush and other bedding areas. The longer you hunt Coues, the better you will get at predicting where they will be at any given time.
If you don’t have a feel for where the deer would be, or the habitat is fairly monotypic such that they could be anywhere, use a systematic approach to glassing. Say you are glassing the hillside in the photo below.
You want to pick apart that hill systematically with your binoculars. Start at the top left corner and work your way across the slope to the top right. Then adjust your tripod so that you are viewing the next “row” down. Glass back to the left side. Do that same systematic glassing until you have covered the whole slope. If you haven’t seen anything yet you think it’s a good place for a deer to be, then start over. Glass the same areas several times. You don’t always see the deer the first time through. They may be behind a bush or just have been standing perfectly still and so your eye didn’t pick them up. Give the deer a chance to show themselves to you. Look for pieces of a deer. Maybe you will see the line of a deer’s back as it feeds with it’s head down behind a bush (as in the spotting scope photo earlier on this page). Maybe you will just see part of a leg. The more experience you have glassing, the more these small pieces of a deer “jump out” at you as you look at them.
Many people glass too fast. If you search too fast, you won’t find these tiny deer or you will only see the deer when they are fully in the open. You will miss the deer that are partly hidden. It’s almost impossible to glass too slowly. Force yourself to slow down and you will see more deer.
When you glass, let you eyes adjust to each new field of view. Let them focus for several seconds and search around in your field of view. On a brushy hillside like that one above, you will really have to concentrate to pick up a Coues deer. Sometimes in order to force myself to concentrate better and slow down my glassing, I will imagine that I am actually walking around in that field of view. I pretend as if I am actually on that slope searching around and peering through each bush. Doing that forces me to search more effectively. Look behind the bushes, search everywhere for any hint of a deer. When you have thoroughly searched in your field of view, move the binoculars over so that you are covering some new ground, but can still see about half of the old field of view. That method gives you extra coverage of each spot and will increase your odds of seeing deer. If the country is fairly open you don’t have to overlap field’s of view so much.
Once you spot a deer, take note of where you are looking BEFORE you pull you eyes away from the binoculars. Mark the spot in your mind so that you can find the deer again. Most likely you will want to put a spotting scope up on the tripod and get a better look at the deer. To find the deer again you will have to know where the spot is that you are looking at through the binoculars. Many people have trouble with this, but with practice you will get better. Once you have looked over the unique vegetation around the deer in your binocular, take a look at the slope with your naked eye. Can you spot the same vegetation so that you know exactly where the deer is? If not, get back in the binoculars and look some more. Are there three junipers and a yucca lined up? Is there a unique prickly pear near the deer? Maybe the deer is 50 yards downhill of a big white rock. Look for something unique that will help you zero in on the buck with your scope. I have been out with several people who have seen deer, but then they take their binos down before marking the spot and then they can’t find the deer again. This is especially a problem if you are not using a tripod, since you can’t just leave the binoculars set on the deer while you look with your naked eye. Whatever method you use, you don’t want to loose track of a deer you may have spent hours finding.
Most serious Coues deer hunters also carry a high quality spotting scope with them. A spotting scope will increase the weight of your pack that you are carrying all day, but it will save you some energy by allowing you to evaluate bucks without hiking over to them. If you are hunting for a large Coues, carry a scope with you. If you aren’t so picky about which buck you get, then perhaps the extra weight won’t be worth it. I carry the newly released Zeiss Diascope 65T*FL. These new, smaller, lighter scopes are great for packing. Leica has also come out with light weight scope. Having a lighter spotting scope will allow you to use a smaller tripod. I recommend that you go to a sports store that carries high-end scopes and have them set up several scopes for you to look through. That way you can pick that one that you like the best.
My Zeiss Diascope 65T*FL. They sell an angled eyepiece, but I prefer the straight one. This eyepiece is a variable one that goes from 15x to 45x. It will also fit on the larger versions of this scope and then it will give you 45x-60x power.
Planning a stalk takes some good knowledge of the lay of the land. How will you get to that ridge the buck is on? Plan a path that allows you to get over there without the buck seeing or hearing you. That can be difficult in the rocky and open landscapes in Coues country. Use the topography to your advantage. A hillside can block the noise of you approaching if the buck is on the other side. Then you can cover ground much more quickly.
How close should you get? Well, that depends on the range you are comfortable shooting at. I always try and get as close as I can to my target. Some people think nothing of taking a 400 yard shot, but that isn’t what I prefer. I try and get within 200 yards. But really it’s a matter of your comfort level, which is dependent on how well you know your ballistics and your shooting ability.
Still hunting is a very difficult method for most people to master. It requires extreme patience since the hunter must move very, VERY, slowly through the landscape. It also requires a hunter to use all his senses to figure out what is happening around him. In still hunting, a hunter may take 30 minutes to move 50 yards or less, depending on how thick the vegetation is. This method can be successful when deer density is fairly high or in an area you happen to know is holding deer at the time. In Arizona, I have used still hunting to sneak up on deer in juniper or oak flats or along fairly flat drainages. It can be especially useful to the bowhunter who needs to get into close range for a shot. You may end up using still hunting as the way to finish your spot and stalk hunt. If you spot a buck far away and watch it go into an area where you think he will bed, but you aren’t able to find him through binoculars, you can hike over to that area and then slowly still hunt it – walking through the area looking for the deer. You will be looking for just pieces of the deer. You may only see an ear tip, or a tail, or just the line of the leg. Walking quietly in Coues country can be very challenging. You can walk in your socks (take a really thick extra pair to keep rocks and cactus from stabbing you) or use commercially made “stalkers” (they fit over your boots) to soften the sound of your footsteps.
Hunting from a Tree Stand or Ground Blind
As with still hunting, hunting from a stand or blind takes a lot of patience. Being comfortable is a key to making this method work because if you are comfortable (not freezing your butt off!) you won’t move around so much. A tree stand or ground blind is placed in an area where the hunter expects deer to come. In Coues country, this is typically a water hole. But they can also be placed along trails or saddles where you expect deer to move through. You want the stand to be downwind of where you expect the deer to be. In a tree stand, you don’t have to worry so much about total concealment as you do in a ground blind. A tree stand gives you an advantage over the deer because they don’t look for predators to come out of the trees after them. Although that is not to say that deer don’t learn about hunters in tree stands and learn to avoid them. But you have an advantage and assuming you don’t “teach” the deer about your tree stand by having a lot of scent around it or by allowing them to see or hear your movement in the stand.
Personally, I prefer ground blinds. I am just more comfortable there. I also like that you don’t have to haul anything in to put up in a tree. Generally you can make a ground blind out of the scattered limbs and bushes around a waterhole. If you know for sure which way the deer will come in, you can build your blind so that you are covered from view only from that direction. However, you are likely to be more successful if you totally surround yourself with vegetation, in the off chance that the deer comes in from a direction you are not expecting. It is also important to have vegetation behind you so that your profile is broken up behind you as well as in front of you. This makes is doubly hard for a deer to see you. It may help if you make the blind ahead of time and let it “sit” for several days. That way the deer will get used to it and any scent you left while making the blind has a chance to dissipate.
You will want to have full camoflauge on, including head and hands. You also don’t want anything metal shining through your stand when the sun hits it, so you may want to use camoflauge tape on your gun, bow or other metal objects. And you want to be scent free, which means using human scent eliminator sprays or soaps or something like a Scent-lok suit that locks in odors.
I should start off by saying I have never used this method to hunt deer. However, I am dying to try it and will do so this January. I killed a buck this November and will be using his antlers to rattle up some other bucks – or at least I will try to!
With rattling you want to imitate the sound of deer sparring or fighting. This method can be used to draw deer to you for close range hunting. As with calling in any kind of game, you want to be set up in an area where they can’t see you or smell you when they come in. You will probably want some kind of ground blind to conceal your movements. Deer are most likely to come in from downwind so they can “nose around” the situation before they expose themselves. If you set up near an opening, you may be able to force the deer to come in from upwind. They may prefer coming in from upwind rather than exposing themselves in the opening. My guess is that rattling for a minute or two, followed by listening for 5-10 minutes might make a good sequence. Repeat the sequence for an hour and see what happens. You may want to add some doe bleats or buck grunts as well as ground scraping noises for added realism. Their are electronic deer callers that can make all these noises for you. Check out the one made by Extreme Callers.
In the pre-rut (November-December for Coues), bucks are sparring to establish dominance. These fights are mild and short-lived. In contrast, fighting during the peak of the rut in January can be far more intense. So if you are trying rattling, think about the time of year and imitate either the mild sparring sounds of the pre-rut or the hard edged fighting of the rut.
If the buck is already with some does, he is less likely to leave them and come check out the fight. Rattling can also be another way to complete a spot and stalk hunt. If you spot a buck, but he moves into cover where you can’t find him, hike over there and set up. You may be able to lure him out to you by rattling.
Got some old antlers around? Give rattling a try, it might just draw in that buck you have been trying to get.
If someone should conduct a beauty contest among the game animals of the Southwest, I have no doubt the Arizona whitetail would win hands down. A big buck mule deer, with its massive antlers and blocky build is a magnificent sight. Likewise a great desert ram or lordly bull elk. But the Arizona whitetail is an exquisitely lovely thing. ~Jack O’Connor
The Coues white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) is one of the smallest deer in America. Coues deer stand around 28-32 inches tall at the shoulder and measure about 56 inches (1426 mm) from head to tail. A large field-dressed buck will rarely exceed 80-90 lbs. (although some can exceed 100 pounds) and a doe tends to weigh about 65 lbs. Hoffmeister (1986) reported the average weight of 7 males from the Chiricahua Mtns. in Arizona as 83.5 lbs (37.65 kg); of 19 females as 67.3 lbs. (30.53 kg). Raught (1967) reported that bucks in New Mexico averaged 85-90 lbs (39-41 kg) and females averaged 65 lbs. (29 kg). In contrast, a good-sized field-dressed Eastern Whitetail buck will weigh approximately 200 lbs. (90.91 kg).
You can see in the photos below the size of a Coues deer buck relative to the size of a man. Both these are large, mature bucks. The one on the left was exceptionally large bodied. It probably weighed 115-120 lbs. whole. At the meat locker it weighed 79 lbs. and it had no head, legs, internal organs or skin on it. Photos by A. Moors and M. Hanson.
The Coues deer varies in color from a grayish coat in winter to a more reddish-brown color in the summer. Fawns are born with numerous white spots on their coat. Those spots generally disappear after about 2 months. Coues deer have the classic white circles around its muzzle and eyes seen on other subspecies of whitetail. However, Coues tend not to have such a pronounced white throat patch as do whitetail in the East and to the North. The tail of the Coues deer is generally brown with a border of white on the topside and completely white on the underside. This is in contrast to a mule deer which has white on the topside of the tail. Tail color can vary geographically. The topside of a Coues tail can be grayish, reddish brown, or black (see photos below).
The illustrations above show the tail pattern variation in Coues deer and mule deer in Arizona. Graphics provided with permission from Dr. Donald Hoffmeister and were taken from his book “Mammals of Arizona” published by University of Arizona Press. Click on pictures to see larger version. Note the narrow, rope-like white tail of the mule deer in comparison to the wide, colored tail of the Coues.
The photo to the left shows three Coues spike bucks with three different tail colors. Photo taken near Globe, Arizona on December 2, 2002 by Amanda Moors. Click on image to see larger version.
The nice 3 point buck in the photo to the right has a two-toned colored tail. It is reddish-brown on the upper half of the tail and black on the lower half. Photo taken Dec. 22, 2002 by A. Moors in the Roosevelt Lake area in Arizona. Click on image to see larger version.
How do you tell a Coues Deer from a Mule Deer?
In most of the Coues whitetail range, the other common species of deer is the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Although there are some similarities in looks between these two species, it is generally easy to distinguish between them.
The tail is the easiest way to distinguish these two deer species (see graphic below). Coues deer also have a much wider tail that is white underneath, but not ontop. The tail of the mule deer is much skinnier, very rope-like, and is white with a black tip. When Coues deer are excited, as when fleeing a person or predator, they will raise their tail. This prominently displays the white under the tail and is commonly referred to as “flagging”. The mule deer will not raise its tail in that manner.
In addition to the tail flagging, you can also tell these deer apart by other differences in their behavior. White-tailed deer generally live in small groups of 2-5, not larger herds like mule deer. White-tailed deer and mule deer have different predator avoidance strategies. When mule deer are fleeing a predator they will use a unique gait called stotting. Stotting is the gait where they bounce stiff-legged on all four legs at the same time. Whitetails will not do this. They will leap or trot away from danger.
Coues deer have a much smaller metatarsal gland found on the outside of the hind leg (not the tarsal gland on the inside of the leg –see graphic below). The gland is covered by white hairs in the Coues, but by buffy or brown hairs in the mule deer.
This figure is provided courtesy of Dr. Donald Hoffmeister and is taken with permission from his excellent book “Mammals of Arizona” published by the University of Arizona Press in 1986. It shows the differences in metatarsal gland (see arrows) and tail of the white-tailed deer compared to the mule deer.
Coues deer have the classic white “halos” around their eyes and muzzle. Mule deer will have quite a bit more white on their faces, not just encircling the eyes and nose. Mule deer also have more black coloration on their foreheads. These facial differences are very useful to help identify deer that are facing you and you can’t see their tails.
This photo shows the white halos on a Coues Whitetail’s face. Sorry the photo isn’t really in great focus, but you can see the white rings fairly well. Photo by A. Moors.
Coues whitetail, like other whitetail, have antlers that have the tines coming directly off the main bean. In contrast, a mule deer has branching of the antlers such that some tines come off other tines in a regular forked pattern. A young Coues that has just two points (a forkhorn) on its antlers will look very much like it has the branching pattern of a mule deer. Keep that in mind when using this feature to identify deer.
Mule Deer Skull Coues Deer Skull
The photos above show the differences in antler branching patterns of Mule Deer and Coues Deer. Note the branching of the mule deer antlers versus the tines coming off the main beam on the Coues. The mule deer photo is courtesy of Dr. Donald Hoffmeister, from his book “Mammals of Arizona”. The Coues deer photo was taken by Amanda Moors.
Coues white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) is one of about 35 subspecies of white-tailed deer. The Coues deer is a member of the order of animals called Artiodactyla, which is a group of hoofed mammals that use their third and fourth toe as their main support when walking. This group is also referred to as even-toed ungulates. Elk, javelina, antelope, bison, and bighorn sheep are also members of this order. Deer belong to the family Cervidae, whose members are characterized by, among other things, having antlers that are shed annually and a four chambered stomach. White-tailed deer are members of the genus Odocoileus and the species name virginianus. The subspecies of Coues whitetail is denoted by having couesi added to the genus and species names.
In terms of evolution, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the oldest deer species, whereas the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is the youngest deer species. The white-tailed deer shows up in the fossil record for North America over 3 million years ago. The mule deer seems to be a species that only developed after the massive mega-faunal extinctions about 12,500 to 7,000 years ago. For more information about the evolution of deer, I highly recommend a book by Dr. Valerius Geist called “Deer of the World: Their Evolution, Behavior, and Ecology”.
Roy Lopez with Northern Arizona University is currently studying the genetics of Coues whitetail in Arizona. I hope to post his preliminary results as soon as they are available. DNA analysis can tells us, among other things, if deer in the Chiricahuas ever travel to the Galiuros or other mountain ranges. Or if those deer are reproductively isolated over the long term from the rest of the “sky islands” in the southeastern part of AZ. If you have antlers or tissue from deer harvested in Arizona game management units 21, 22, 23, 24a, 24b, 27/28 and/or 30b, please email Roy Lopez and find out how to get the sample to him. The more samples he gets, the more reliable the data. If you are a shed hunter and remember where you picked up those sheds, give Roy a shout and see if you can help him out. He can get a sample from the bone under the base of the antler.
If you love antlers, you need to come up to Show Low for the 4th annual Shed Antlerfest at Alan Ellsworth’s barn. There will be an unbelieveable amount of GIANT coues antler, elk antler, and mule deer antlers. There are a few pics listed below.
For more information and more photos, please visit the following thread in the forum: http://www.coueswhitetail.com/forums/topic/48114-shed-antlerfest-2014/
I have a tag for the rife bull hunt in unit 5a this years. Any suggestions on where to hunt?
ABOUT NINE YEARS AGO WHILE HUNTING IN ONE OF MY FAVORITES SPOTS I CAME ACROSS A HIKER. AFTER TALKING TO THIS GUY FOR A LONG TIME HE TOLD ME HE FOUND A SPRING UP ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS BEHIND US. WELL IT TOOK 5 TRIPS FOR ME TO FIND IT MYSELF BUT IT HAS BEEN A GOLD MINE EVER SINCE. I HAVE ALWAYS HUNTED MULE DEER MY WHOLE LIFE AND HAD THE SAME PLANS TO DO THE SAME ON THIS SPRING. WHERE I USUALLY HUNT ITS ALOMOST ALL MULE DEER.BUT THIS MOUNTAIN IS ALOT HIGHER THAN WHERE I USUALLY AM. THE FIRST TIME THE FIRST MORNING I SIT ON MY BLIND IN COMES A VERY, VERY NICE COUES. SO MY LUCK BEGAN. NOT EVERY YEAR SINCE THEN HAVE I HAD THE LUCK.SOME I SEE ARE TOO SMALL OR SEE NOTHING AT ALL. BUT I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY KILLED TWO VERY NICE COUES AND TWO VERY NICE MULE DEER,ALL ARCHERY. IF YOU CAN FIND THAT KIND OF SPOT TRUST ME ITS WORHT THE TIME GETTING THERE .IT IS A FOUR HOUR DRIVE FROM THE MAIN ROAD OF ROUGH ROCKY TERRAIN,THEN TWO HOURS TO HIKE FROM THERE. BUT FOR ARCHERY IT IS SO WORTH IT,BECAUSE MOST DEER UP THERE HAVE NEVER EVEN SEEN A HUMAN. NOW WHERE I AM THE MULE DEER DONT GET TO BE MONSTERS. JUST NICE BUCKS. BUT I HAVE SEEN A FEW COUSE UP THERE THAT WERE MUCH BIGGER THAN THE ONES I HAVE. MY BROTHER HAS ALSO KILLED A VERY NICE 28 INCH 5X4 MULEY UP THERE. I HOPE I GET ONE OF THOSE TOADS I HAVE SEEN BEFORE I GET TOO OLD TO MAKE THAT HIKE. IF YOU HAPPEN TO SEE THOSE HIKERS TRUST ME PULL HIM UP AND TALK TO HIM.IT HAS PAID OFF FOR ME. I HAVE ANOTHER SUCH TIP IN ANOTHER UNIT I HUNT,BUT THE CLIMB LOOKS EVEN WORSE. I THINK I WILL PASS THAT TIP ON TO MY KIDS UNLESS MY HONEY HOLE DRIES UP.
This article was originally published in Arizona Wildlife Views (the AZ Game and Fish Dept magazine) in Jan 1980. It contains some interesting history about the establishment of big game seasons and big game re-introductions. Thanks to forum member Snapshot for sharing this link in the forum.
7 west or 10 bull archery. Always been hooked on deer. But two years ago went on my first archery bull hunt. Best hunt I ever experienced. Wasn’t even my hunt. Got two bulls one huge one one nice one on camera. First time for me this year I’m so excited it’s going to be a long long wait.
I am a huge fan of duck commander. I have a couple of their duck calls, and after I watched duck dynasty, I got drawn into the love of duck hunting. Who here is big fans of the Robertson family? I sure am!
I was drawn for a 2014 rifle cow hunt in October in 6a. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or tips on where to go to make this hunt successful. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance
We have narrowed down all the photos submitted to the Top 5 in each category of the Trail Camera Photo and Video Contest. Now it’s up to you to select the winner in each category!
Go to the contest subforum to see the voting topics. Click on each voting topic and make sure you login to the forum so that you can cast your vote in each of the 5 categories!
looking for trailer for my 12ft alu. boat. 928-713-2229 thxs or texts firstname.lastname@example.org
I just purchased a javelina tag for this weekend in 36C. I have never hunted the unit and was looking for any advice. Anyone recently been in the unit and seen pigs? Thanks.
Lost 5 month-old German Shorthair pup. Solid liver in color with small white patch on her chest. Lost in UNIT 21 at DUGAS ORME Exit. She is wearing a bright green collar and had a leash on. Seen last headed south about 1/2 mile in from I-17. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Please call me at 928-853-2768
Happy New Year to all…. we started the New Year with a great buck… saw a lot of 90-100in class bucks and finally found this guy on the last day… I pushed my hunter to within 380 yards and he connected…. The buck had a lot of extra stickers but were broken and also main beams were both broken an inch or so….
George Wilde and his 120 gross San Carlos Coues Unit C
The scouting and time paid off… found this buck before the last day of the hunt
I have taken several 100 class Coues Deer with my rifles but had yet been able to take advantage of an opportunity with my bow. I have to say that I have had a couple of opportunities, but did not realize I had to aim at the ground to hit one. LOL
This story starts with me chomping at the bit to get off work as it was 28 Aug 2013 and it was an overcast cool day (75) for Southestern AZ in the Huachuca mountains. Finally the work whistle blew and I meet my buddy who is just starting into hunting to take him out and show him how we glass in AZ. Unknown to the both of us at the time this was going to be a teaching session from start to finish. After getting to our glassing spot I still had to change out of my work cloths so my buddy began to glass aound. Within minutes he has glassed a Doe here and another there. After I finished changing I pulled out my 9x bino and did a quick scan and also spotted several Doe moving about. Finally I pulled out the tripod and the 20x glass and started scanning the far bank of the huge wash we were hunting. After about 10 minutes I glassed up a small buck moving down the wash bank on the far side and low and behold behind him was a shooter. The wind was terrible for a stock from where we were sitting so I made a big loop to get into position above the Deer. Once I was finally able to peek over the bank I spotted the smaller buck feeding in a small thicket of mesquite 95 yards away. I could not see the larger buck so I just stood there picking the patches of brush apart until finllay I could make out the backend of another Deer bedded down. I figured that was the big boy so I eased along the side of a small bush hoping that when they got up to feed they would move into my bow range. The smaller buck beeded down shortly after I had gotten settled by the bush and it was 2 1/2 hours before they decided to
High Point Outfitters has just signed up as a sponsor of CouesWhitetail.com! They provide high quality hunts for every type of hunter, from first timers to avid trophy hunters. They focus their efforts on elk, antelope, mule deer and Coues deer in Arizona.
And here are a few pics of their clients’ trophies
Scott Adams shot this during the Dec 2013 hunt. He hunted this buck for several days and finally got him near dark on the last day. Here is the video of the shot.
Got my first coues buck on Dec. 29th 2013. Went 80 1/4. Not bad at all for a 2 point eh? Couldn’t be happier. Passed bigger bucks in the beginning but had to cut my losses and shoot this dandy 2 point 3rd to last day.
We are having our 4th annual Trail Camera Photo and Video Contest now! Get your pics and video entered to win a new trail camera!
There are five categories and you can submit up to two entries per category. Please visit the forum link below for more details on entering the Trail Camera Photo and Video Contest.
Have fun and good luck!