My 2006 hunt in Sonora
By Amanda Moors
Being a Coues deer fanatic, I am frequently dreaming of hunting Coues in Mexico. This year I was very fortunate to be able to go to Sonora for a Coues hunt. Mexafari outfitters in Mexico (www.mexafari.com) asked me to come down to hunt and get video for them to create a promotional video which they could show to prospective hunters. The ranch I went to is East of Hermosillo about 120 miles, but despite the relatively short mileage, it takes about 6 hours to drive there. Much of that drive is on very slow dirt roads, but the scenery is wonderful. Javier Monge is the owner of Mexafari and he guides hunters for Coues deer, Mule deer, turkey, and bighorn sheep in Mexico. I hunted with Javier two years ago and saw a 120 inch buck, but I wasn’t able to get him.
This year I went down to the same ranch with my friend Martin Guerena, but we only had 4 days to hunt. We both wanted to bring our own guns this year. Since I had not previously brought a gun into Mexico, I was concerned about making sure the paperwork was done correctly. Javier assured me he could get the gun permit and all the paperwork necessary to get the trophy back across the border. We met one of Javier’s guides named Temo on the Arizona side of Nogales and he helped us cross the border and check our guns with all the appropriate Mexican authorities. I was surprised how easy that seemingly formidable process proved to be.
We arrived at the ranch late on the 25th and got up early to start our hunt the next morning. Because Javier had a cactus spine in his leg causing significant problems, he scheduled to have it surgically removed on the 26th and wasn’t going to meet us at the ranch until a day later. So on the the first day Martin and I hunted together with Temo. We went to a nice spot where we could glass a large area and saw many deer. Temo said the week previously they had seen 5 bucks chasing one doe near where we were glassing. So the rut was in full swing and we were eager to see some of it. Martin, an excellent Coues deer hunter, glassed up a large buck but it was far away, moving fast and in thick brush so we didn’t get a real good idea of what it would score. It was over 100 inches and perhaps pushing 110. Because of where it was headed and the low odds of seeing it again, we decided not to pursue it and to try and find other bucks. We found several more bucks that were chasing or following does, but none of those were over 100. Later in the morning we went to another point and glassed up a very nice buck that we think would go about 103. Both Martin and I were holding out for bucks that were 110 or higher, although I figured I might be convinced to take a 105 on the last day if he looked right.
We spent the next several days hunting together and then separately once Javier got to the ranch. The surgery was successful and he was able to hike around just fine now. It was the peak of the rut and bucks were chasing does all over. Everywhere we went we found several bucks. I would say the average buck was about 100 inches and we saw many of them that were over 100. But finding a 110 proved more difficult. Many of the bucks had broken tines or main beams from fighting.
The weather was unusually warm for late January. It would be close to freezing in the morning, but would heat up really quickly. Despite the warm weather there was a lot of deer activity throughout the day. Some of the days we hunted all day and some found us back at the ranch for lunch. This ranch has some great hunting very near the ranch house and you can even glass up nice bucks right from the ranch porch. The ranch had several reasonably comfortable bedrooms and a nice fireplace in the livingroom. A very large buck that I measured as a 129 inches (gross) was hanging on the wall near the fireplace. It is a breathtaking buck, and inspired us to continue passing on the smaller bucks in hopes of a monster.
Each day’s end brought discussions of what we saw; one evening Martin returned with some great video of an excellent buck that, unfortunately, had broken off his main beam after the 2nd tine on his right antler (Martin figured he was a 108 or 110 pre-fracture). Talk about having to make a tough decision! He had him in his scope at about 80 yards and was able to watch him for quite awhile. But he decided the broken beam was reason enough to let the buck walk.
On the 3rd day we all hunted together at a new location that was farther from the ranch. We were walking some shallow, rolling, oak woodland covered hills, when we saw a nice buck. He was moving away from us and into some thick stuff. So we decided to try and call him back to us. The day before Javier and I had called in another buck to within 5 yards. It was quite an experience. With the rut in full swing, I felt confident we could call this buck back. Based on the brief look I had at him moving away, I thought I might want the buck so I got ready for the shot while Martin filmed and the guide used his grunt call and estrus doe call. The buck was within 50 yards in just a few minutes. He was partially hidden behind some mesquite-like brush. He could see us, but was still interested in the calls. After a short time he stepped out and moved toward us. I had him in my scope and was looking him over. Martin whispered that he was a 4 point on one side and so I was about to shoot, but I couldn’t see the fourth point and the buck didn’t seem to have the tine length I was looking for. So I watched him walk around in front of us only 10-20 yards away. I can’t really say I made a conscious decision not to shoot the buck. It was more that I did not make a clear decision to shoot him. Usually when I see a buck I want I know right away and this one just didn’t grab me that way. So the buck eventually moved away, somewhat alarmed by us. Of course almost immediately I was doubting myself and thinking I should have shot that buck. It would have been so easy and he certainly was a gorgeous buck. I only had one more day of the hunt left and I hadn’t seen a 110 yet. So maybe I should have taken that buck. I think Martin thought I was nuts passing on that buck. (Which is about what Martin thought when I passed on a 108 two years ago on the same ranch. So it’s not unusual for him to think I am nuts!). But, fortunately, after I passed on that nice buck Javier immediately said not to worry and that you have to follow your heart and take the buck that is meant for you. So I felt better and later we tried to figure what that buck would score. We came up with 101 or maybe up to 103. A great buck, but not what I was holding out for. After watching the video I noticed he has a short non-typical point on his right antler between the eyeguard and the 2nd point. Look for it in the video and look for how wide this buck is when he turns. In the video you can also hear us using doe bleats and buck grunts to lure him out.
We moved on to a nice glassing spot that overlooked two dirt tanks that were full of water and spent the afternoon watching numerous deer come to water. In addition, there were bucks chasing does most of the day, but we hadn’t seen anything worth going after until we decided to leave. Javier wanted to go take a last look at a buck he had seen only briefly nearby. So we went to find that one but could only see parts of him in the bushes. Then Temo spotted what looked like an enormous buck chasing some does in the area below us, maybe 550 yards away. The buck had good mass and had a forked G-2 like a mule deer. Martin decided immediately that he wanted to go after him. So he and Temo took off after the buck. They got within about 300 yards and Martin set up for the shot. Temo whispered “shoot him!” and Martin let out a rushed shot at the buck while it was walking. I was filming and saw the shot missed high and to the right. Now Martin is a very good shot and he was using his own .270, but he had been having some problems with the scope lately. We tried sighting it in the day before and it wasn’t shooting very well. After the shot, the doe ran off and into some thick vegetation. She was alarmed but her suitor was not. He followed her languidly, showing no sign of injury. Martin couldn’t see the buck anymore from his angle. I radioed that he had missed the buck cleanly and to wait for us to try and find the buck again. But then we got thinking: from our perspective it was possible that the bullet could have passed through the buck and hit the dirt uphill of him, making it look like a miss to us. So Javier went down to meet Temo and Martin to go look for blood. I stayed where I was and watched for the buck. Javier had actually spotted the buck moving in some bushes a couple hundred yards away and thought the buck looked unhurt. But they wanted to be sure. They found no blood and were sure the buck had not been hit. They tried to find another area to glass from, but the vegetation was too thick and they decided to leave the buck alone for the evening and try somewhere else. So we hiked out and searched for deer on the way back to the vehicles. We didn’t find anything worth pursuing.
Back at the ranch in the evening we debated the plan for the next day, which would be the last day of our hunt. Martin wanted to go back to the area where he took the shot at that buck. With his huge body and forked G-2, he dwarfed all the deer we saw around him and his dark antlers looked massive. None of us ever had a good chance to study his antlers to get a good score estimate but most of us thought he was over 110. I even thought he might be a 120-class buck. So, not surprisingly, Martin headed back there with Temo the following morning hoping to find that buck. I went with Javier to another location where he had seen a 110 buck earlier in the season.
At first light we spotted a large-bodied buck with some does skylined on the top of a ridge. They were only about 300 yards away. Based on body size I thought this might be the buck for me. As it got lighter we were able to look at the buck more and decided he was maybe a 102-103 size buck. But he sure was impressive. We left to go check a drainage where Javier knew the 110 liked to spend his time. On the way there we saw several more bucks chasing does, but none was what I was looking for. We spent the next hour or so searching for the buck but not locating him. So Javier decided it was best if we go try another spot. It was late morning and getting hot. He wanted to go glass an area around a spring that had some shade. So we drove over and started the short hike to the glassing spot. We were side-hilling toward a ridge and when we got to the ridge Javier looked uphill and saw a buck. I couldn’t see him from where I was but Javier motioned for me to get down, which I did. As I crouched there I leaned a little around a bush by me and looked up and saw a very large buck facing us. I could see massive, dark beams and a big body. I couldn’t see anything for tines, but Javier saw the buck turn his head and he thought the tines were 9 inches long. So he whispered to shoot if I could. I chambered a round and when I looked up to shoot the buck was gone! I never even saw it disappear. Javier said it bounded up and over the hill. So we pursued him, but it was very thick on the other side of that hill. After not seeing him, we decided to try calling. No buck showed up. We moved around trying to get different angles on the area but we saw nothing but some does lower down. Javier was pretty upset we hadn’t seen the buck just a few minutes sooner. He figures the buck was over 115, maybe 119. And it was only about 50-80 yards away!! Here it was the last day of my hunt. It’s now getting hot and near mid-day and I just missed a great opportunity at a great buck! That hurt! One second more and he would have been mine….
We decided to go back to the original plan of glassing that spring. After 30 minutes, we saw nothing and were about to give up. Then Javier checked one more time and saw a great buck! The buck was chasing off other bucks and following a doe. The moment I saw the buck I knew I wanted him! I ranged him at just over 400 yards. But never having taken a shot that long, I wanted to close the distance. I told Javier that I wanted a 300 yard shot or less. So we moved downslope and closed the distance to about 300 yards. The buck was still chasing other bucks and guarding the doe. It looked like a nice spot for them to spend the next several hours so I wasn’t real concerned they were leaving anytime soon. Javier took off his jacket and put it on branch on an oak tree. There were several branches hanging in the way so we had to make noise breaking those off. Luckily nothing spooked and I got all set and ready for the shot. I had the crosshairs on him and was thinking of pulling the trigger when he decided to bed down! Now all I could see was the tips of his antlers! Well, we waited there watching and watching and watching. Several more does and bucks were moving around in the area, but the big buck stayed bedded. After an hour or more of waiting I started to let my guard down and I was sitting talking to Javier under the oak tree. I just happened to look up and saw a big deer moving in the open. I jumped up, got on the gun and saw it was the big buck. I prepared for the shot while Javier filmed the buck. The buck was slowly sauntering toward a doe. As he got closer to her he quartered away and then stopped. I took the shot and saw him jump up a little and take off running. I followed him and took a shot at him while he was running but that missed by quite a bit. I saw him run into some bushes that I had previously ranged as being at 200 yards. So I knew if he came out I would have a great shot at him. We watched and searched for him but nothing came out. Had I hit him? He never appeared to stumble when he went in the bushes. Had he changed directions and moved out without seeing him? Or was the tall grass just hiding him? As we watched the area we talked about my shot and Javier saw the buck jump up as well. The movement of the buck was the same as I had seen on other deer I hit very well in the lung/heart area. Javier thought it looked like a good shot into the ribs based on how the buck reacted. But neither of us saw any blood or any sign the buck was wounded when it was running. Where we were we had a perfect vantage point to see the buck if it came out of the patch of brush. If we went over to his side of the drainage we wouldn’t be able to see anything until we were right at the area he was last seen. We decided we would wait at least an hour before going across to find him.
About a half hour later, as we watched for the buck to come out, several more deer went by and at least two 95 inchers were being run off by something lower in the drainage. So I was worried I missed and my big buck was running them off. We couldn’t see who was pushing the bigger bucks out. Javier got on the radio and asked for one of the ranch workers to come meet us. So Jorge came out and Javier explained where he wanted him to walk to try and find the buck or push him out if he was hiding. As all the deer started busting out of the drainage we looked them over and none of them was the big buck! Jorge then moved around in the area where we had last seen the big buck and found him lying there quite dead. I was elated! The emotion was just overwhelming. I have a huge fear of wounding and losing animals, and I had waited over an hour wondering if I really got him or not. But that buck must have been dead within 5 mins of the shot. I rough scored the buck at 110 7/8. In the video you can see the buck bed down right about the moment I was going to shoot him. Then after waiting a long time we saw him get up again.
Here are some views of the buck.
As we were returning the to ranch we heard that my friend Martin had been successful at finding that same big buck and taking him with a rifle owned by the camp cook. He shot him at about 400 yards. It’s a great buck, but we all were somehow deceived by this buck since he ended up scoring about 100 inches if he wasn’t so broken up. That buck had a huge body and seemed to dwarf all the other deer around him. He definitely was a macho buck!
Here are some other photos from the trip.
In the field the guide used a flexible, thin strip of bark to measure the antlers. He used the strip on the rack and then placed the strip against the ruler on a multi-tool to get the measurement. Pretty slick way to do it.
Some pics of one of the bedrooms and kitchen (which was remodeled a year ago) at the ranch.
Here are the measurements I took on my buck (Feb 16, 2006)
|main beam||18 4/8||18 1/8||0 3/8|
|1st tine||3 6/8||3 1/8||0 5/8|
|2nd tine||7 6/8||8 1/8||0 3/8|
|3rd tine||6 3/8||5 6/8||0 5/8|
|1st circum.||4 1/8||4 0/8||0 1/8|
|2nd circum.||3 4/8||3 4/8||0 0/8|
|3rd circum.||3 2/8||3 2/8||0 2/8|
|4th circum.||2 4/8||2 2/8||0 2/5|
|totals||49 6/8||48 1/8||2 3/8|