Take The Coues Challenge

The predawn air was crisp, and the musky smell of dead, dry vegetation hung in the moist mountain atmosphere. Visiting old Mexico, I had looked forward to warming temperatures compared to the frigid, sub-zero deep freeze at home. The elevation of the Sierra Madras mountains, combined with the winter months, and the sun being low on the horizon, meant warm days and cold nights. A heavy layer of frost forced me to pull on an extra jacket to prepare for our drive to the hunting area.

Hunting Coues deer, we hoped to use the early-morning darkness to get to a vantage point, where we could scan the vast, rugged landscape for the gray ghost of the desert. Ted Jaycox, my guide, and owner of Tall Tine Outfitters was bubbling with enthusiasm as we drove from camp.

The twists and turns in the road led us to a dry creek bed where Ted parked our side-by-side before pointing at the silhouette of a steep ridge. Using our headlamps, I tried to keep up with Ted, as he scurried up game trails to get to the crest of the rocky outcrop. We settled in under the meager cover of a pine tree and immediately went to work glassing the adjacent ridges for movement.

The sun hadn’t even crested the eastern horizon before I spotted an ear. I watched it intently, waiting for it to move and transform into a whole deer. I described the exact location to Ted to allow him to zero in on our target. We both locked onto the piece of deer and watched for 10 minutes before we could finally make out that it was a doe. We scanned the nearby brush for a buck, but no matter how hard we tried to make a deer, nothing appeared.

We stayed on the ridge and glassed until midmorning, locating several bucks and does. Not finding a mature set of antlers we hiked back to the creek bed where we left our ride and traveled farther into the mountains. Ted had a new spot he wanted to hunt, and after maneuvering our way through a broken trail, we finally parked. Climbing to a rise, we had an excellent vista of steep mountains, timbered ridges, and rocky creek bottoms.

It didn’t take long to find deer, with Ted’s uncanny ability to pick apart the habitat. Several bucks worked their way across the high ridge behind us, as several does and fawns went downhill to water. We had been glassing for close to four hours when Ted announced, “I’ve got a buck”.

With specific reference points on the ridge, Ted led my binoculars to white antlers under the cover of sprawling tree limbs. How he spotted the buck, I’ll never know. The antlers swayed back and forth, as the buck scanned his surroundings on a regular basis. The deer’s body was completely concealed, and it was difficult even to make out the neck or head. We set up a spotting scope to have a better look and were able to judge the buck at 110 inches.

I was impressed with the mature antlers with long tines and main beams. The buck would make the magical score to qualify for the Boone and Crockett record book, and my heart started to race with excitement. Ted knew Coues deer exceptionally well and gave me a quick tutorial on how to field judge the antlers.

Scoring a Coues—Ted uses 75 inches as a base for the deer’s frame, deducting or adding to the measurement if the antlers have unusual mass, main beam length, width, etc. Most of the bucks that score in that 110-inch range will have main beam lengths of 17-18inches and widths of 13-14 inches. You need 35 inches of tine length, so brows of 4-5 inches, G2’s of 8-9 inches and G3’s of 4-5 inches are required. Of course, if you are fortunate to shoot a 5×5, then tine length can be less on each tine.

I expressed interest in stalking the buck and found a secondary ridge in front of us that would put us within 400 yards. Long shots are common on Coues deer hunts, and I wanted to get as close as possible. We tried to advance but ended up cut off by a deep ravine. Ted liked the deer but kept telling me about several unbelievable bucks he had seen in the area. Although we had a great buck spotted, it was still the first day, and he eventually convinced me to hold out for something bigger.

We returned to our glassing ridge and found dozens of deer over the course of the day. A buck and doe snuck up on us out of the heavy brush, and when we heard them blowing, we spotted them 150 yards away. It would’ve been an ideal situation if only the buck sported mature antlers. Day one was a learning curve for me, leaving me wanting more.

The second and third mornings started the same as the first. Out early, climb a steep ridge, spend the day glassing. Ted and I were joined by Charles Oberly, another guide who had helped his client tag out on the first day. An extra set of eyes would be a welcome addition to the game of Coues deer hunting.

As the sun rose, deer moved from open areas and into cover. We spotted dozens of deer but not the one we were after. Ted described a monster buck who had towering G2’s and would likely gross well over 120 inches. It was the kind of story that had me glued to my binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive deer.

The real catch was the cat claw cactus that grabbed at my shins as I hiked up the narrow game trail. The fresh scratches and punctures burned slightly, reminding me I was in the desert country. An elevated plateau provided a bird’s eye view of several ridges. The ruckus of songbirds singing welcome to the rising sun filled the morning air while my hunting partners silently scanned the brushy, cactus-laced hills for a glimpse of deer. The cold had deer moving early, and I had several does moving on the ridge across from me.

We had spent most of the third morning in the same spot when Charles caught a glimpse of a big buck with his naked eye as it disappeared into cover. The deer had inconspicuously fed out onto the ridge across from us without being spotted. Our scent was blowing in the buck’s direction, which likely sent him trotting for cover when Charles picked up the movement. Everyone glued binoculars to their eyes to pick apart the far cover. After 20 minutes, Ted found the deer standing in the long shadows on the bottom edge of the ridge. The antlers drew immediate excitement, but after a good look we realized the G3 on the left side was stunted.

Hunting Coues deer takes more patience and focus than any other type of deer hunting I’ve ever done. The challenge is often overwhelming. The deer are next to impossible to see, and you must look at dozens before getting a glimpse of a big, mature buck. Often the best antlers are roaming where they are extremely hard to get to, and one never knows where they’ll be by the time you get to the last spot you saw them.

Day four was on another new ridge, overlooking some incredible deer country. Shortly after the sky started to brighten, I spotted two bucks directly below me. One was a good looking, big-framed buck with long tines. My heart raced at the thought of finding a deer worth stalking and we quickly ruled out the deer, as it has a short G3, which would reduce the overall score substantially. We all marveled at the old deer and wished out loud that his antlers had that little bit extra.

Midmorning is when things heated up, as Ted spotted a big deer moving uphill two ridges over. I never did see the buck but could tell by Ted’s excitement that it was a good one.

Ted and I headed up the ridge, moving carefully and stopping to glass after each step. We spotted several does and were surprised the buck wasn’t held up with one of the local ladies. We made it to the saddle where Ted had last seen the deer and sat down to glass the area. As is often the case, the deer simply vanished. Who knows if it continued to run for two more ridges, or turned to head in a different direction after hitting the saddle? I felt mildly dejected but kept vigil with my optics to dissect every rock, bush, cactus, and shadow.

Day five started with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. The hunt days had quickly disappeared, and I refused to think about leaving Mexico without a nice Coues buck. Like any deer hunting, persistence usually pays dividends, and we were back out, yet another ridge over from where we had seen the big boy the day before.

Dawn broke with sunshine lighting up mountains and hills with glorious detail. The desert sunrises and sunsets had been spectacular, and worth the trip on their own. An hour after sun up, Ted spotted several bucks high on a mountain to the north. The deer were spread out and feeding towards cover, where they would soon hide from the increasing heat of the daytime sun. We watched two of the mature deer travel for close to a mile before finding a preferred bedding spot.

One buck traveled farther down the ridge than all the others and ended up under a lone oak tree in the middle of an open sidehill. We discussed the deer for a long time, and its perfectly symmetrical antlers persuaded us to make our move. A long meadow and two steep ridges between us, meant we would have to hurry to get to the deer before the sun got directly overhead and forced it to find better cover.

It didn’t take long to scurry up the loose rocky trails and find our way to the top of an intermediate hill. We edged to the few shrubs lining the top edge and confirmed with binoculars the buck was still in its bed. Ted and I belly crawled out on a gravel plateau to set up a pack to shoot off in the prone position. The deer was about 230 yards away, and I was perfectly set up to make the shot. All we had to wait for was the deer to stand up and offer a broadside shot.

It only took a few minutes before Ted got nervous and said the deer was likely to stand up and walk out of sight in a matter of seconds. It wasn’t how I’d played out the scenario in my head but was now all I could think about. A minute later the deer stood, hugging the remaining shadow of the tree for a second. The deer took a few steps uphill to where we couldn’t see it around the tree. Seconds ticked by and no sign of the buck. Had he slipped away uphill undetected? The anxiety these little deer can create is amazing. I saw the nose of the buck poke out from behind the tree and Ted said, “He’s moving downhill.”

I had to move my rifle on my rest to keep up with the fast pace of the buck and locked my crosshair on the front shoulder as it walked briskly towards the creek bottom. I only had seconds before the buck would disappear behind the edge of an adjacent ridge, so I tightened up on the trigger.

My Mossberg rifle barked, and the deer disappeared. Ted jumped up and ran to the side for a better view of where the deer had gone. Charles had been watching the whole scenario from behind us and let us know the deer dropped in its tracks. The whole thing played out so fast I wasn’t sure what had happened.

I was so anxious to see my deer up close I practically ran down the ridge and up the next. The white belly eventually came into view and my Coues buck was finally in my hands. The hunt had been more exciting than I ever dreamed and the whole experience left me wanting more.

Ted called one of the cowboys from the ranch, and soon my buck was strapped over a saddle horn and headed downhill.

That evening we feasted on braised Coues deer front shoulders, cooked with the bone in and I pledged to someday return to the desert to chase these tiny deer another day.

Mossberg Patriot Revere

The new Patriot Revere is a classic high-end looking rifle from Mossberg, with plenty of precision shooting features expected in the Patriot line. The Revere features a 2- to 7-pound adjustable trigger, blued barrels with a recessed crown, streamlined bolt handles, spiral fluted bolt, Weaver-style scope bases and box magazines. It is available in three long-action and three short-action chamberings. Featuring a high-quality European walnut stock along with a rosewood forend tip and a grip cap that is also enhanced by a maple spacer, this rifle will catch the eye of any rifle aficionado. MSRP: $823.00; www.mossberg.com

 

Federal Edge TLR Ammunition

Federal Edge TLR bullet design has an extremely small meplat diameter, secant ogive, AccuChannel groove, and maximized boat-tail length with the optimized angle. The bullet weights are heavy-for-caliber in design, which adds up to a high ballistic coefficient.

Edge TLR ammunition was designed for big game, doubling as an accurate bullet for long-range shooting. A heat resistant, Slipstream polymer tip offers better aerodynamics while ensuring expansion at low velocities. Match-accurate, tough and one of a kind—Edge TLR. www.federalpremium.com

Bushnell Optics

Bushnell launched three new lines of optics in May 2018, with over 50 products in the initial introduction, including binoculars, rangefinders, and spotting scopes. Bushnell claims that each optic will showcase the best features and performance at each price point. All three lines of optics will feature an EXO Barrier lens coating that resists water, oil, dust, and will not fog.

Riflescopes.

Prime is the entry-level line of new optics, offering terrific value. A 1-inch tube is used on riflescopes, with some models available with side parallax. The scopes have standard capped turrets, 3x magnification, are fully multi-coated, and have an ultra wide band coating for transmission. Prime optics are available with black skin.

The Nitro line includes upper mid-range optics having better ELD glass, 30 mm tube construction, ultra wide bandcoatings, and large objectives, with powers ranging from 2.5-10×44 to 6-24×50. Some of the scopes use a first focal plane, while others feature second focal plane. Nitro optics are available with gray skin.

Forge is the top end of optics, with riflescopes constructed with elite, tactical quality glass. All riflescopes have side parallax adjustment, ultra wide band coatings, zero stop on the turret, and high-end performance. All Forge scopes offer 4x magnification with models ranging from 2.5-15×50 to 4.5-27×50. First and second focal plane options are available. Forge optics are available with a terrain brown skin.

Binoculars

Prime has options from compact to 12×50. Nitro uses ELD Glass which captures and transfers more light through the optic. This line is noticeably brighter than Prime. Forge utilizes PC3 and dielectric prism coatings for ultimate true color and brightness. The binoculars in this line are remarkably sharper and more defined.

There are spotting scopes in all three lines that offer the same quality and construction described for riflescopes and binoculars.

To help determine what is best for you, Bushnell has developed a new webpage that will be operational in May, where you can easily review all the new products at www.bushnell.com.

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