Coues Deer are a small-bodied subspecies of whitetail deer found in the desert ranges of the southwestern United States and Northern Regions of Mexico. They are rarely over 100 pounds, and have oversized ears that help dissipate heat in the arid environment they live in. They are also lighter colored than most deer, allowing them to blend in extremely well with the sandy environment they occupy, thus leading to their common nickname, the “grey ghost”. These ghosts thrive in desert mountains, rarely needing to drink standing water as they get most of their required moisture from the shrubs and grasses they eat. Their rut takes place in December and January and is timed with the Southwest’s early summer rainy season. This sudden increase in water and plant growth occurs right as fawns are born and provides the newborns with much needed nutrition in the early stages of their lives.
Where To Hunt Coues Deer
Coues deer are only found in the Southwestern areas of North America, with most hunting opportunities taking place in Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico. These areas of Mexico offer the best hunting, but the land is made up of private hunting ranches that can be quite expensive. However, these ranches have good densities of deer and produce some of the biggest Coues bucks every season. Stateside, Coues deer can be chased on huge parcels of public land in the desert mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. These areas support strong populations of Coues deer, and provide hunters with a good chance of filling their tags at a fraction of the cost of a Mexican hunt. However, many of the tags for these regions are allotted through a lottery system.
Coues Deer Hunting Techniques
Coues deer are hunted via spot and stalk. However, the majority of the hunt is spent spotting rather than stalking, as the grey ghosts frequently live up to their name. Luckily, Coues deer bucks typically have a home range of less than one square mile, with that range only slightly increasing during the rut. This small range gives hunters their only advantage when chasing the invisible deer. If a buck is seen once, or the hunter knows one is in the area, the buck will never be too far away. Because of this fact, hunters spend a great deal of time glassing the same small areas, as even after a full day of glassing one spot, bucks will simply appear out of nowhere.
Your gear is extremely important when hunting these deer, with the single most important piece of equipment being your glass. Hunters need to bring the highest quality glass they can afford, and then mount it on a tripod. Due to their incredibility ability of blending in with their surroundings, Coues deer are most often spotted because of movement, whether it be the flick of an ear or a white antler shining in the sunlight. These small movements are impossible to see if your glass is also moving, like when it is in your hands, thus proving the importance of stationary optics. It is also very important to have a rifle that is both capable of and that you are comfortable with shooting out to 400 yards. These deer vanish just as easily as they appear, so long stalks frequently end in disappointment. Being able to quickly get into position and make a long, accurate shot greatly increases your chances of success.
If you are brave enough to attempt to take a Coues deer with a bow, there are a few things to consider. First off, your effective killing range needs to be a good distance. A Coues deer’s main predator is a mountain lion, and no matter how stealthy you think you are, you are not sneakier than a lion. With deer frequently escaping lions, your attempt to get within 20 yards of these wary deer will likely fail. However, if your effective range is roughly greater than three times that, you stand a better chance. Do not be mistaken though, as the many variables associated with bow hunting require a serious amount of forethought before the release is triggered. Long shots on nervous animals frequently result in jumped strings and missed shots, or even worse, wounded animals, so only take shots you are 100% confident with.
Coues Deer Regulations
Arizona’s rifle tags and all of New Mexico’s tags are allotted through a lottery system, but certain units offer very high chances of drawing. On the other hand, Arizona offers over the counter archery tags for some of the state’s best units. Archery seasons typically begin in August and run through September, with rifle seasons starting in October and running through December. Finally, the second archery only season begins in January and takes place during the peak of the rut, offering bow hunters their best chance at harvesting a buck.