DIY Coues Whitetail Hunt

How to pick a hotspot, scout, glass, and stalk your way to a trophy Coues whitetail—on your own!
DIY Coues Whitetail Hunt
coues deer hunting
The agile Coues deer is small. A Boone & Crockett trophy measures a minimum of just 110 inches.

Once the regional obsession of Southwestern sports, the tiny Coues whitetail is now on a good many bowhunters’ wish lists. The well-heeled gravitate to Old Mexico guided hunts in search of easy success, but the man on a budget can enjoy a quality Coues hunt on his own, on public lands in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

Coues Habitat Hotspots: Arizona & New Mexico

Deer habitat includes foothill country supporting mountain mahogany, manzanita, blue and silver oak brush, even mesquite and palo verde flats in Arizona, sometimes piñon/juniper ridges on the northern reaches of their range. To start look into Arizona’s Galiuro, Pinaleno, Catalina, Patagonia, Dragoon, or Chirichahua Mountains, or New Mexico’s Blue Range Wilderness, southern Gila National Forest, Black Range, Burro, and Peloncillo Mountains. Archery tags, with a few exceptions, are easily won in these areas. Pore over maps for hotspots discovered by seeking roadless areas requiring more effort to access, even backpacking.

Scout & Glass

Scouting’s key to success, Coues typically highly territorial. Look for tiny cloven hoof prints, ball-bearing droppings, and especially shed antlers, which give you an idea of trophy quality in an area.

Bowhunting effectively starts with glassing. Bring quality binoculars in the 10x40 class as you’ll spend plenty of time behind them seeking distant deer. Experts sometimes use tripod-mounted 15x60s in this vast country. A spotting scope saves both time and your legs in determining the trophy quality of distant bucks. Coues glassing can prove tedious. The country’s big, and Coues difficult to spot in the best of circumstances. Persistence is the name of the game.

Judge Coues Size

Judging Coues trophy potential can prove difficult for the northern whitetail hunter. Boone & Crockett minimum is only 110 inches. A true trophy might score 95 inches, though P&Y minimums are 65 inches. The devil is in the details. To learn more it’s smart to study record-book listings and photos of bagged deer.

Stalk & Find Your Range

Even with the long-range capabilities of today’s modern compound, arriving in range of a Coues is one of bowhunting’s greatest challenges. After spotting a desirable buck, inventory key landmarks to assure you can locate your buck as you move closer. Take your time, but once the stalk begins waste no time. If your buck slips into cover you stand a good chance of losing him.

Bowhunting Coues is a long-range game, 65 to 75 yards considered fair game. The Coues bow should be fast and flat-shooting, and a laser rangefinder is an absolute must. A combination of lightweight (6.5 to 8 gpi) arrows and broadheads (75 to 100 grains) and plenty of long-range practice are required. Coues are relatively fragile, so mechanical broadheads are highly encouraged, making the best of longer shots and sometimes turning marginal hits into killing ones. Too, arrive prepared for steep uphill and downhill shot angles.

Coues represents one of big-game hunting’s greatest challenges. The rugged terrain, the inhospitable habitat as a whole, and the crafty deer itself all combine for one hard-earned trophy. Those who label the Coues “just a little whitetail” haven’t experienced the adventure that can be a Coues hunt. The elfin deer remains one of North America’s most coveted archery trophies.


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