The grey ghost of the deer family, the Coues deer, is a tiny, aggressive survivor that makes a worthy challenge for bow and rifle hunters alike. A good glassing setup paves the way for consistent success.
by Josh Kirchner
Ask anyone who has spent a significant amount of time hunting for Coues deer about the “how” involved, and I’d be hard-pressed if not all of them mention the importance of glassing. It is, without a doubt, the most efficient way to find these little deer. Looking from afar gives us, as hunters, the opportunity to spot deer and not spook them in the process. This is a cagey animal, so finding them before they find you is paramount to success.
I’ve been fortunate to spend a great deal of time looking for Coues deer through optics and hunting them in various ways. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout doing so, it’s the importance of having the right tools for the job.
First and foremost, let’s chat binoculars. I’ve used all manner of magnification glassing for Coues deer, but there is one that I keep coming back to. The 10×42 is the most versatile magnification from where I’m sitting.
You have enough reach to mount on a tripod and scan your surroundings effectively. You also can freehand glass for on-the-go use or when creeping through certain zones, essentially still hunting. They also don’t feel like a brick on your chest. Many folks use a 15×56 for Coues, and they work great but are not advantageous for freehand glassing and are heavy on the chest. Versatility wins the day for me.
My go-to 10×42 is the Razor UHD from Vortex Optics. I’ve had them through many different weather conditions, and not once have they given me a problem. They’ve fallen out of my harness, blown over on the tripod, and still nothing. Dependability goes a long way, and so do these binoculars.
Along with a versatile set of binoculars, you’ll also need a spotting scope, even if you decide to use a 15×56 set of binoculars. Coues deer are tiny, and even big bucks can be difficult to make out from a distance. My preferred size of spotter is 65mm.
Again, versatility is important to me, and it’s no different here. A 65mm has more than enough power to see great detail at a great distance. It’s also smaller and more lightweight than an 85mm. The 85mm has more magnification, but you’re giving up more real estate in your backpack and energy from lugging it around.
The companion optic to my UHD binoculars is the 65mm Razor HD spotting scope. It’s easy to use, throws clear images, and I can depend on it. Like the binoculars, I’ve thrown this thing everywhere and never had an issue.
Tripod and Head
There is no debate here. A tripod and a good tripod head are mandatory if you are hunting Coues deer. It’s not mandatory; you will struggle significantly without a top-end tripod and head, though. I’m just trying to get you on the right path, so hear me out.
Mounting your optics to a tripod will allow you to see movement and effectively leave no stone unturned. Once you find something you want to take a closer, cleaner look at, you can lock the optic in place via the head. On that note, a good fluid head helps immensely with grid searching. Because deer don’t stick as you’re panning, which, let me tell you, is incredibly annoying, you will miss animals with a good fluid head. You’ll miss much more with a bad one.
I’ve combined a great combo and been through thick and thin with the Vortex Summit Carbon II Tripod with the Sirui VA-5 Head. The Summit Carbon II is a shorter tripod, which fits my hunting style. I don’t need a tripod that lets me stand and glass. Sitting is my preferred way of glassing for long periods. And the Sirui head is like butter. The head is straightforward to adjust and hasn’t given up its smooth panning even after the 6-plus years I’ve had mine.
Something To Sit On
I mentioned I like sitting and glassing for Coues. The reason is you’ll need to glass for a long time. Glassing for Coues isn’t a throw the binoculars up for five minutes and move on situation. It’s more of a sit-down for five hours situation. To do this, you’re gonna want something comfortable to sit on.
I’ve got two options for quality sitting. One is my trusty Thermarest Z-Seat. I call it my “dad pad” because I felt my rear end deserved some cushion once I became a father. This is a closed-cell foam pad that folds up nicely and is small. It fits great in a backpack and keeps you insulated from the cold ground and from getting what I’ve deemed “rock butt.”
Next is more on the bouji side when compared to the dad pad. The Hillsound BTR Ultralight Stool has been a fantastic addition to my glassing setup. I can sit on this thing for hours on end and be fine. The stool packs down small and fits great in my pack. It’s incredibly awesome to use when the ground is wet, as it gets you up off of it.
A Whole Lot of Patience
We are so fortunate to have access to incredible gear items like the ones I’ve mentioned. With that noted, money can only buy you so much. The last thing that is imperative to successfully and consistently glassing for Coues deer is patience. One of the most beautiful things about this species is its ability to disintegrate into its environment. It truly does not matter how much you spend on gear. If patience is not on your side, the number of Couse that walk through your glass will be minimal, and thus, your overall success will be limited. So, be patient. Be diligent. Be a good hunter.