Cherish Every Minute of Every Deer Hunt

Whitetail pursuits vary greatly in degree of difficulty. Cherish the hard deer hunts as well as the easy ones.

Cherish Every Minute of Every Deer Hunt

The author’s hard work, and that of his son, was rewarded with a big-bodied and heavy-racked New Mexico Coues whitetail.

The morning air held a chill. Still, sweat drenched my shirt and dripped down my face. My son, Colton, and I were making our way through a maze of understory on the first of many hills on the long hike to our morning glassing point. I paused and took a deep breath, taking in not just the oxygen but the moment in time, too.

This morning, the third day of my New Mexico Coues deer hunt, my son led the way up the mountain. In the darkness my movement bobbed light from my headlamp this way and that way, at times lighting the vague outline of my son in front of me. As a wildland firefighter, his summers are extremely busy and this hunt would be a good time for us to catch up, rekindle our friendship, if you will. I was proud of the man he had become, and I was glad he was able to make this hunt. Again, I replenished my lungs with oxygen, taking in the moment.

As the first rays of light peeked over the eastern horizon, we made it to our initial vantage point. The wind had picked up, so we both added a layer of protection, though we were soaked to the core in sweat. Quickly, we set up and began to glass the distant hillside for deer. Immediately, Colton detected movement, it was a buck — a definite shooter. With a little instruction from him, I was able to find the target in my bino. Although my son was yelling instructions at me — in a whispered voice — I watched the buck intently, taking in the encounter with every breath.

Finally, out of the trance, I proceeded to the next point above us, as instructed. My son remained on the hill as the spotter. The run was less than a quarter-mile, but the rise was several hundred feet. I was in great shape, but with every step my legs and lungs burned. As I neared my next destination, I paused to catch my breath. As I inhaled deeply, I felt the pounding of my heartbeat. I was exhausted; I was alive. I took it all in.

Now, I took over as the spotter while my son climbed to our next vantage point. We were still too far away for a shot, so we played another round of leap frog. Once there, I quickly set up for the shot while awaiting my spotter. Buck in the scope, I was well aware that this was the biggest-bodied Coues deer I had ever seen. Compared to the other Coues deer there, this buck was a beast!

I heard the commotion of my son dropping his pack while readying his glass, followed by the whisper, “I’m on him.” As I placed the crosshair on the buck, I drew a breath and released half of it. I squeezed the trigger — the moment is still vivid in my mind.

To recover the buck, we descended more than 1,000 feet of elevation and then ascended an equal number of footsteps on the opposite hillside. This journey was also a physical feat. Arriving at the downed buck, there was jubilation, even a short celebration. However, there was still work to be done. We made quick work of field-dressing the buck, and loading our packs with our gear and the meat provided from the harvest. The initial descent was difficult, but easier than the ascents and miles to come. With every step, I welcomed the labor.

As we neared the final destination, even Colton — the hard-working, mountain-climbing, physically fit wildland firefighter — was feeling the burn and the hurt. Carrying 30 additional years of experience with me, I was likely feeling the effects of the journey on a different level. With the truck in sight, I trudged on, putting one foot in front of the other. The burn was deep and cramping had set in, but I pushed through the pain, cherishing every moment with each step. I hope this fall brings with it many cherished moments for you, too. As always, if there’s a topic you would like to see highlighted or expanded upon in the pages of Whitetail Journal, please do not hesitate to send me an email ( with your thoughts. Best to you.


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