Sooner or later, every deer hunter catches the Coues bug and, once experienced, can become an addiction. What is it about this smaller, but very wily whitetail that makes hunting it so addictive? I’m at the Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nevada, where I found Ricon Outfitters who specialize in Coues deer, gawking at their heads on display: one scoring 126 and the other 124. I had six immediate questions.
First, is Coues pronounced “coos” or “cows?” The names are used interchangeably with “coos” probably the most common. That said, the deer was discovered by Army surgeon Elliott Coues (pronounced as rhyming with “house”) who was assigned to study the animal by Commander Merriams in 1865. So, apparently, there are three pronunciations of this whitetail subspecies.
Why is Couse hunting so exciting? Suddenly, a chorus of answers poured from the Ricon Outfitters booth. It’s probably the most difficult animal to hunt in North American, like a whitetail that has been hunted by cougars every minute of its life, which it has. They are constantly on edge, live in open country, and are wired every minute. Even walking is done with great care, always nervous and totally alert.
Can you hunt them successfully with techniques for Eastern whitetails? “A whitetail is a whitetail is a whitetail,” said experienced guide Rob Daniels, who was one of the first to use Eastern deer tricks on Coues. “They live in a different country, but still have the chink in the armor that all deer do. If you play the game with them–calling, grunting, and rattling–you can succeed. The county is very open, so they aren’t fooled easily. Bucks have an aggressive streak. If you grunt them, they may come close enough for an arrow.
Can they be hunted with rifle or bow? We use the same strategy to find them: get to a high vantage point and glass and glass. With a rifle you must be very proficient and be forced to shoot across a canyon. Archers can use ambush tactics around water and with calls during the rut. Hunters need the same gear as for Eastern whitetails, a flat shooting rifle and a lot of practice at longer ranges for archers and gun hunters.
Where are Coues deer found? Coues deer live in southern Arizona, south-central New Mexico, and northern Mexico. “We have hunted in Mexico, but our specialty is public land in the USA,” said Daniels. “No fence, no lease, just rock and roll,” he laughed. “Coues deer terrain changes from pine trees in the high country to low desert. You find them from cactus country to the pine woods and everywhere in between.”
Talk about hunting seasons: Archery in late August and September and rifle hunts run from early October to December. The rut archery hunt starts in January and runs the month. You can also hunt javelina at the same time; it is quite fun. Archery tags are over the counter while rifle tags are a draw with unit 33 in December being the premium tag for the USA.
“They make delicious table fare,” concluded Daniels. “I grind it and grill it. You want to eat it rare, so that the true flavor comes through. Go caveman, just add salt and pepper.”
Finally, “be careful,” warned Daniels. “Once you begin it’s difficult to stop hunting them. We have a 60% or higher return rate among clients. They can’t get enough.”
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