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.
Have a pair of Swarovski 10×50 EL Swarovision for sale. Price is $2,300. They are in BRAND NEW condition! Comes complete with all the fixings! Even the warranty & registration card that hasn’t been filled out yet! Asking $2,300 OBO. Open to reasonable offers, call 480-777-1027 with any questions.
Model : HABICHT ST 80
Please call, text or email me if interested or have any questions.
Looking for a pair of swarovski SLC 10×42. Currently own a pair of SLC 8×32 but it just doesnt cut it for glassing the area I hunt. Send me pics of the binos at 623-889-1905.
My paps glassed this guy up about a mile away and he looked like a dandy so we made a great stalk on him and well the rest is history. 280 yard shot with the 300 ultra mag.
Hey guys, love this site and just wanted to share a bit about our January hunt. My brothers and I make a yearly trip from Michigan to hunt for 2 weeks in the January archery season. I’ve been meaning to post this all summer and I finally got around to it. We generally make our base camp somewhere in Tucson Region but we have hunted everywhere from the 15s to the Payson/Show Low area. In recent years we have focused more on Coues hunting and the quest to take a 100″+ buck. After many close encounters over the past two seasons, our goal was finally realized as my brother was able to take a great buck on the final day of the season in 30a. I have a few pics to go along with the story.
As always, we spent our first week chasing mule deer around 31 and 32. And as always, we had some great encounters and saw some really great bucks but we weren’t able to get the job done. We did get this trail cam pic of a muley at a tank though. Sadly we had been glassing this area all morning before he strolled through just before lunch.
So after a week of climbing, hiking, glassing and failure we decided to head south for some Coues action. And action was exactly what we found! From the first night, we had bucks to watch non stop. I won’t go into detail about our many different opportunities… mainly to save myself the embarrassment But on our second to last day my youngest brother missed a great 100″+ buck when he wasn’t able to get an accurate range on him. It was a long drive back to camp that night and a feeling of deja vu from our 2013 hunt.
But let’s be honest, we don’t put 5,000 miles on the truck to shoot a rabbit. So it was a tense morning getting dressed and packed up for the final hunt. After spending the morning watching some smaller bucks my two brothers located a good buck and set out to put a stalk on him. While they made their way towards the buck, the fourth member of our group and I set out to glass another area that we had been seeing deer in regularly. After only a short time we were suprised and disappointed to see them hiking towards us. Assuming they had been unsuccessful, we all hiked back to the truck and were getting ready to leave for another area. Finally my brother said we had better drive up the mountain another mile so we didn’t have to drag his buck all the way down to the truck! A few minutes of confusion, laughter, story telling and tears followed. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and this was before I had even seen the deer. They had stalked within 50yds of the buck who was with a doe, but weren’t able to get a clear shot until she took a few steps and he followed. At 50yds his arrow broke both of the bucks shoulders and dropped him where he stood. And even though my brother had said it was a good buck, walking up to him was a surreal moment for all of us.
We taped him at roughly 104″. He isn’t the biggest buck we’ve seen in that area, but he was an old deer with a lot of character.
I’m sure some of you guys have passed bucks like this, but to us it was all we could have asked for and then some. We might shoot bucks that score better than this one, but they won’t ever take it’s place. This buck was bigger than a number for us. Bigger than we could measure with a tape.
I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone that contributes their knowledge and experiences to this site. Hours of looking and reading on here have given us immeasurable insight into hunting Coues and hunting AZ in general.
Also, thanks for a forum to share our story! Hope you enjoyed as much as I have enjoyed the countless posts I’ve read on here.
Good luck everybody, shoot straight.
I’ve been hunting for deer a handful of times with my buddy Sy but never put in to try and draw my own tag. This year he talked me into putting in and assured me he would take me out to a great spot. Once I found out I was drawn I started asking on opinions for rifles, binos, packs, etc… making sure I was geared up.
The hunt finally came around and we headed out. Friday morning rolled around and we were hiking the hills and getting to our spot just as the sun came up. It didn’t take but 15 minutes for me to glass 2 deer flagging us about 2 hills over. I couldn’t see either one before they vanished. So much for being stealthy. We weren’t too worried because 2 weeks prior we came and scouted this spot and glassed 4 bucks within 30 mins. We knew they were in there.
About an hour later my buddy Sy says “I got one, I got one.” He glassed him at about 1000 yards! Deep spot. Only thing he saw was his ass shining in the sun. He’s been hunting for years and said this was his best glass – for as deep as it was. A few minutes pass and Sy finally says “He’s a buck! A nice buck, he’s wide!” Being so far out we couldn’t really tell how big but when the sun hit his rack you could tell he was worth the chase. We moved back and around to a closer point where we could get a better look and range a shot. We glassed him up easily. This time he was out for a full view. Broadside. Sy took his pack and laid it on a rock and I went belly down to take a shot. He ranged him @ 500 yards. Now, I had been to the range a handful of times making sure I was comfortable with my new rifle! And I was shooting – up to 300 yards. Sy guided me through the process of how high to aim. Low, low, low, high…JUST LOW…Amazingly he just stood there after 5 shots! But after the 5th he decided to go behind the same bush as before. Didn’t see him for about 10 minutes and Sy told me I need make a decision to move after him or stay and glass. Well, with adrenalin rushing I headed out! From where I shot I knew the marking points that we were marking him with and ‘thought’ I knew where to sneak up at. Once I dove off the hill and moved up the creek I came to a point where I knew I was close but wasn’t sure which spot I needed to move up at… A little frustrated and having the sense that I was close I decided to move up this hill. I was gassed from the hike and didn’t think to try and move over quietly. I got to the top and looked across (150 yards) and to my surprise saw him standing, stoved up and starring right at me. With no hesitation I took aim and put him down. I put my binos up and looked back at Sy… He was busy doing something else but came running to his binos and looked and threw his hands up and yelled ‘Hell ya!!!’ I hollered back and waited till he made the hike down. Turns out that 5th shot hit him in the lower gut and injured him. When I left to chase after him Sy said he came out and was laying down in the open – trying to bite at his hind leg – standing funny. Sure woulda been nice to have remembered those WALKIE TALKIES! Glad it worked out…
The rest is history and needless to say I’m hooked. Sy says I got spoiled. I enjoyed the entire hunt! Icing on the cake was tagging out and being back @ camp by 2pm Friday – just in time to hear UofA handle ASU! Can’t wait till next year.
Forum member Couescrazy31 shot this fine buck on his 2014 hunt.
you can see more pics in his post in the forum:
Never hunted 5a before. Any ideas of what roads and or canyons to hunt?
You can read more about this buck in the forum.
Was hoping someone found my pack while in 3C this past weekend. Not sure how I lost it, but I think it slipped out of my vehicle and someone picked it up from the road.
The pack is an Alps pack, here’s a picture of it from Amazon.com:
There were several hunting items in the pack as well. Please message or contact me by phone or text if you have or have seen the pack – 4806840686.
A junior hunt of a lifetime
My Kids are on a roll…. From last years 2013 JR Elk where 4 of 4 tagged out, to the Spring 2014 Javelina hunt going 3 out of 4, to the 2014 JR Deer Hunt going 3 for 3!!!
We headed up the hill Thursday with high expectations as we had put countless hours of scouting in evenings and weekends and had seen several good bucks in the weeks leading up to the hunt. Thursday was perfect (cloudy & rain), temperatures cooled off about 10 degrees.
we reached camp around 12:00 under cloudy skies and steady rain.
Lane & Tucker started off by Collectively Agreeing to let their sister go first for the first five days as that is all she had to hunt… little did they know at the time that good things come to those who wait!
The first three days produced many nice bucks, but no shot opportunities, we did encounter an AZ Black Tail rattlesnake who was mad at the wold. we found some fresh bear tracks but no bear.. we saw several tarantula’s (i quit counting after 10)
On Monday morning we moved into a new area that we scouted once. My Daughter and her Older Brother got onto a small coues buck and doe, but ran into another rattle snake (who struck my oldest son in the boot (thank god it did not puncture anything). that evening we glassed up a group of does feeding away over the top of a ridge. we hurried back to the truck and drove around approx. 3 miles to get on the other side, put up the glass and located 5 bucks. Mckayna and i began the stalk and were able to close the distance to 265 yards. she squared up on a nice 5 x 5 mule deer and squeezed off it was a clean miss, she loaded another round and another miss. light was fading and the deer went back to feeding, she was unable to get back on them before we lost light.
Tuesday arrived and we started off where we ended Monday but only found some does. we hunted around until around 2 pm where we all agreed to go sit under a tree and wait for the bucks to return just before dark where we were Monday…we waited patiently until 5:58 pm when the four small bucks came running down the hill to the feeding area where she shot her buck. a 1 x 2 at 165 yards.. we all made our way over to the buck took some pictures and dressed the animal. the kids carried all the gear, and i packed the deer. we encountered another rattlesnake on the way down in the dark not a good thing in the dark loaded down with gear and game.
Wednesday Morning arrived and the boys were on deck. we slowly began working our way along a ridge top alternating north and south sides glassing. at out third set up i was glassing south, Lane was sleeping, Tucker was eating sunflower seeds and playing with grasshoppers when he says Dad i just saw some deer on my side. so i stand up walk to his side and see nothing. he said i swear they are there. so i start glassing and there is a stud standing under the shade of the tree with his doe. the boys set up on the fence Lane said i got him and I am going to shoot, tucker says go for it get him. Lane dropped his first AZ Deer ( 3 x 4 mule deer) 176 yards one shot big buck down. it took all three of us two hours to slowly drag that big old buck out of that canyon!
during a breather during extraction…. i caught Lane in a moment with his buck… i can only imagine whats going through his mind
Wednesday evening didn’t produce much (just a few does).
Thursday was the last and final day. Tucker was the lone ranger on deck. Since we did not get to work all the canyons on the ridge we were on Tucker decided he wanted to return to the same ridge and repeat what we did on Wednesday. so we began the morning on the ridge working canyon by canyon. On our first stop we glassed up 8 nice javelina, and were being chilled by the stiff cold breeze. then our second set up i was glassing down the canyon where Lane shot his deer the day prior. there were about thirty crows fighting over the gut pile about 1/2 mile down. i slowly began running my pan head down the canyon back to myself when a grey ghost appeared he was feeding in the dimly lit canyon. i pulled out the range finder and the buck was 396 yards feeding without a care in the world. we tried to close the distance but only encountered more obstacles and ended up back where we began 396 yards (tucker made this same shot on his elk the year prior ) the buck was facing us on a quartering angle, and the sun was coming up making it hard to see through the scope. so lane and i stood on the sunny side and blocked the suns glare. i set the gun up on the tripod and coached tucker through where to hold, seems like and eternity passed when he finally squeezed the trigger… and we heard the unmistakable sound of the whop!!!! i said you nailed him, and the buck was gone in and instant. Lane and i glassed the side of the hill relentlessly and saw no movement, no sign. Lane stayed behind on the tripod watching the spot the buck last stood. Tucker and i slid under the fence and began slowly working side tail down the opposite side of canyon. we closed about 150 yards it was steep slippery slope where tucker fell cut his hand hit his head and landed in some prickly pear, he began crying. i said but i know it hurts but your going to have to reach down and pull yourself up and get back on this. so he did, when we turned to walk again deer started blowing out 5 does went flagging up the hill. still no sign of the buck. we kept panning down to the tree he was under when tucker shot, and there he was walking slowly up the hill following the does. he was hit hard and bleeding profusely. tucker fired two more shots and missed. the buck began moving faster going to the top of the hill. when the buck switched back to the right broadside tucker drilled him again in the right front shoulder, but it didn’t even knock the buck down. he continued another 75 yards up the hill to a thicket where we watched him bed down. we sat down and waited, i told tucker we sit and watch he will expire, if we keep pushing he will keep going. we waited and watched about 10 minutes when all of a sudden it was like the buck was launched from a spring loaded platform, he went from bedded to 5-6′ in the air doing back flips down the mountain where he quit tumbling and flipping after about 100 yards.
we saw several beautiful sunsets and had another family hunting trip that will go down in history, these kids will never forget these moments i assure you!
my oldest son and i have tags for this upcoming weekends coues hunt. there will definitely be a lot more competition out in the field bu t chances are we wont encounter any of them. Its gonna be hard to beat, but i hope my oldest son and i have this much excitement on our hunt next week!
I have a Taurus PT 140 Pro Millennium. It’s a fairly compact gun and it holds 10+1. It has maybe 2 boxes of ammo through it and comes with 2 mags.
Text or Email Jaymison
Jim Mullins of Mullins Outfitters shot this bull during his recent elk hunt! Congratulations Jim!
You can read more about it in the forum. He got video of the bull too, but hasn’t posted it yet since he is headed back out to the woods for awhile!
Forum member Tunachaser got this outstanding antelope buck with his bow! WOW! And he wrote up a great story that you can read in the forum.