First San Carlos Hunt – Mike Stancill
First San Carlos Coues Deer Hunt
Coues deer…Coues deer… Coues deer please appear.
I guess sometimes ignorance or just giving a shot is all it takes but it does helps to have a lucky charm thou. I always wanted to harvest a trophy Coues and plus these deer are just plain fun to hunt. A few years ago when the AZ Game and Fish cut back December tags to add more hunters afield in the early hunts my ability to draw a December decreased dramatically. I still have yet to get a December tag over the last 4 years. Undaunted in my quest I looked elsewhere and the options I found were Mexico, New Mexico and San Carlos. San Carlos was the closet and had excellent hunt dates for the student and school vice principle in our group. I knew little of San Carlos and needed a resource which was Coueswhitetail.com. Given the number of posts and information on the site I was able to convince my group to go hunting there, purchase tags, hire a guide, and locate a decent unit to hunt. (Thank you all for the great posts it really helped)For the first part of the hunt we hired a guide who showed us around and helped us glass. Given that we had four tags and only one guide, I convinced my friend Gill to come along to help me so I could hunt more to my preference. Gill and I have never hunted together before but he has great enthusiasm and was crazy enough to miss a day of work to go. The wind the first two days blew constantly near 40 mph’s. It was so strong we had to put large boulders on the wall tent to keep it in place and this wall tent has 2” galvanized steel poles for cross bars. Unfortunately, the contestant friction wore holes in the tent and drove us nuts with the tent pulling out steaks and breaking ropes so we had to stay close to the tent the first day.
On day one we spotted only one doe that morning hiding from the wind. One deer out of 6 guys glassing, it was not a good start. We hit camp for lunch and checked the ropes and steaks then we headed back out. On the drive to a new area we caught a buck, at noon, walking along a ridge 600 yards out. With the wind blowing so hard we couldn’t tell from the truck if he was big enough but he looked decent. We jumped out of the truck to get the spotting scope setup and by that time the buck vanished. With no deer spotted that evening we headed out again the morning.
On day two we did not see one single living creature that morning and again the wind was blowing so hard. I couldn’t take the wind and not seeing deer anymore so we decide to walk some draws that afternoon to see how much sign there was out on the hillsides. Gill and I broke off from the group and guide to work a few draws with our legs instead of our glass. We pushed out one doe from one of the draws. We did see some sign but not as much as I would like. We ended up glassing the surrounding country that evening watching for a buck to come check that doe out, but it never happened. The group with the guide ended up spotting a buck running through the trees up at the snowline that evening, so all was not lost. Day three had me over in the area where we saw the buck day 1. Looking out to the west we spotted two does right off the bat and the wind was finally settling down, I had high hopes. 30 minutes later we spotted two bucks, but they were only forken horns. I didn’t come this far to harvest a 2pt so we tried to contact the group to see if they wanted to stalk them but the group had run into some deer. The day was getting better, the group spotted a buck with a few does and he was a really large 120 type buck. They circled a big hill and stalked in close, too close in fact and the buck blew out of there. A few shots were fired as he slowed on the next hill but clean misses. The group moved to another spot and caught a different buck running down a draw and but no shots were able to be fired.
The group returned to camp where I told them where I saw two bucks. Low and behold they told me they were just a mile from where I saw those two forken horned bucks. Gill had to leave that evening so the group headed out in the afternoon and I went back to camp to drop Gill off for his drive home. I then headed out for the evening by myself. I wanted to see if I could get closer to where I saw those bucks but a super steep canyon prevented that. I guess that is what happens when you don’t know the lay of the land that well. The group went up to the snowline where they saw the other buck but they never saw a deer that evening.
Day four had me traveling with the group as we head back to the area that they saw the big buck. I was excited figuring the buck didn’t go too far and some of his does might be hot and have other bucks checking them out. Daylight came and hours passed and frustration grew as only a single doe was spotted. We head south over the ridge to a new area that we hadn’t looked at yet. It was getting near lunch when we stopped to glass next to the road and grab a bit. After walking ten yards to a small rise a buck jumps up and my Dad takes care of him with two shots. The buck was just a large 2pt but we were happy to have shot opportunity and connecting on a buck. With the buck in the back of truck we head back to camp. We discussed the lack of seeing deer and the frustration with wind the group decided to leave a day early.
I couldn’t stand that I never got an opportunity at a big buck the reservation is known for but I could not stay by myself. I hatched a plan to go back the last weekend, risking making my wife really mad at me but with encouragement of my buddy Gill and a chance at a monster buck the reservation is know, it was on. My youngest son Andrew’s, who is 7, had his first basketball game Saturday morning at 8a.m. and as soon the whistle sounded Gill was calling me asking if I was ready, I told you he was enthusiastic. Knowing the land better this time I decided to bring brought oldest son, Jeffrey age 10, along for the ride. I figured this would also help my wife stay sane. Two young boys have so much of energy and I really enjoy having my son with me, he is always finding something interesting to look at or do.
After arriving at the dirt road at 2:30 in the afternoon we drove for 30 more minutes and then got out to glass. We spotted a huge 3 by 3 mule deer right away, (30 incher and super tall) it was a good start. We found the road that took us by the mountain where the group spotted the big buck. My plan was to hike around the backside of that mountain to glass over to the ridge that Gill and I spotted the two 2pts on. We made it there right at 4:30 and within 30 minutes or so I spotted a deer, just not any deer but a solid buck. At this point I didn’t care about the score just, I was just hoping to get a chance to shoot at a buck and tag out. However, I lucked out for this buck was big and had my favorite characteristic mass, so I was super pumped. Looking at the time I realize that I probably wouldn’t be able to cut the distance in order to get a shot off at the buck before dark. I looked over at Gill and Jeffrey and said “there’s no way I can make it to him in time”. Gill says, “you will never know until you try” and then Jeffrey says “you’re my Dad you can make it” wow those words will make you try anything. Straight down the hill I went, I knew it was super steep but I didn’t think it would be lose rock all the way down. I stopped half way and said this crazy and I tried to go back up but it was too steep and loose. Only one way to go now and down the hill I went again. This time I cradled my gun on my chest and slid down on my butt over the loose parts and it worked pretty well. I made it off the hill in 15 minutes and with only a couple holes in my camo jean pants. I raced up and down a small ridge and then begin to climb the hill that I thought I could shoot from. Half way up the hill, I stopped and darkness was on me. I had to turn back. Sweaty and dejected and I walked out a mile in the dark following a wash bottom until it hit the main road. Gill and Jeffrey found me walking the road late that night but the good part of that crazy stalk was that I now knew exactly how to get back to that buck in the dark in the morning.
We made camp in the dark and debated on going back after that buck. I was worried with him rutting or starting to rut he might cover some ground but we decided to give it a try, he was just too nice of buck not to try for and its better hunt where you saw a buck then a completely new area. In the dark of the morning, we retraced the path I walked out last night. We made it to the ridge that I tried to climb last night just as grey light was starting. I felt we were a bit late so we raced up the ridge as fast as we could go and then started over the cress. I looked up and wondered where exactly I saw the buck last night and dead ahead of me was the buck standing there broadside. I dropped my pack and I told Gill and Jeff I saw a buck. I readied my shooting sticks and found the buck in the cross-hairs but he ran. I panicked thinking he saw us and motioned to Gill that I had to move spots. I moved up ahead the ridge bringing Gill and Jeff with me to help spot. We spotted the buck higher up the draw at 300 yards and he was coming back down the hill. I held for 300 yards and shot. With buck still standing I shot again and the buck was now running, I shot again and then Gill said your high. Click, light bulb went off I knew the problem and zoomed in my scope to 10 power and found the buck sneaking through the bushes near the top of the hill. Bang went the gun and then that solid twapp was heard, the buck fell but then got up. I shot 2 more times and then the buck was gone but where did he go, was he down or just hiding? A few minutes went by with us glassing and watching the hillside and then Gill said he saw deer. A buck in fact, he was running down the hill towards us and this buck stops at 200 yards. I had the scope on him but I swore I hit my buck good and saw him stumble. This buck looked fine and now my mind was racing. This deer finally had enough, turned and ran back up the hill. He was big, really big, He had tines that went straight up and looked taller than the buck I was shooting at.
With my mind racing and my ears ringing (wear hearing protection junior hunters) I sat there and thought were their two bucks or did I miss all 6 times? I headed up to where I shot at the buck and the boys stayed behind to glass in case the buck gets up and runs off. On the hillside I found blood and bone, the buck was hit but how hard. The boys came up and helped me blood trail him over the cress. We stopped at the top and retraced the blood trail several times trying figure out what happen and where he was hit. This delay also gave the buck more time to expire. After an hour passed we worked down the other side and kicked the buck out of his bed. He could barely stand. He tried to climb the other side but he was nearly done and with another shot he was finished. I caught a glimpse of the horns just before I shot the last time. Those horns might have caused me to pull a few shots because they looked big.
My son raced towards the downed buck only to be held up by Gill and I telling him to stop so we could make sure the buck was dead. Seeing my son grab those massive horns was real treat. Gill and I have not hunted together before but you would have never known that, we worked together as if we have been doing this for a decade. Looking at the deer Gill asked how much I thought he’d score. I said 103 and but it was hard to tell because the buck was very curved on his tines and carried good mass down the main beam and up the tines. His mass was better on the main beam then the bases. We took our time and caped and boned the buck out on the hillside. I told Gill the best part of whitetail hunting is the pack out because they really do not weigh much. I think we had 50 pounds, (42 to be exact) and it would take only one trip. I love elk hunting but packing out an elk is some serious work.
The other part of my hunting group had driven up that morning to hunt and I was excited to go find them and show them my buck. We found them and everyone was pretty excited and guesses were tossed around on how much he would score. My Dad said 115 and he was close the buck grosses 111 and nets 108, a big buck in my books. Man I was glad I brought my 10 year old son, who seems to be my lucky charm, with me this time because I needed some luck on this hunt. I only saw a total five bucks over 6 days. Jeffrey turns 11 this summer and his brother Andrew turns 8 and I can only image with two lucky charms in field with me that we are going to see some big bucks in the future together.
The buck scored 111 gross and 108 net B&C.