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Tactics for Bowhunting Coues Whitetails

(Photo courtesy of bowhunter.com)
(Photo courtesy of bowhunter.com)

Many veteran bowhunters consider Coues whitetails the toughest deer to take in North America — they might be right!

What the weather was like at the North Pole last winter I don’t know, but it could not have been any colder than it was at my house in the Texas Panhandle. Temperatures dropped to single digits, wind chills were as low as -20, and ice-crusted snow made roads treacherous. So you can understand why I was excited about migrating south with the ducks to warmer regions the day after Christmas to hunt Coues whitetails in Arizona. Cactus and sunshine never sounded so good.

At the annual family Christmas dinner in frozen Amarillo, Texas, my sister-in-law questioned my real motives for heading to Arizona. “You’re not hunting,” she said. “You’re probably going to some fancy spa for a week to relax.” I wish. Little did I know at the time, but my Arizona deer hunting vacation would not be quite as laid back and full of sunshine as I’d first thought it might be.

Boot Camp Begins

“There are two ways to hunt these desert whitetails,” my buddy, aka drill sergeant Rick Forrest, said as we were driving across the desert badlands. “Sitting water can pay off if you put in your time. The longer you sit, the better your odds of eventually having a nice buck drinking at slam-dunk bow range. Spot and stalk is the other way. Stalking means long hours behind big glass. The stalks are through rock and cactus in tough country, and you usually face a long bowshot at a small target. Either way, it’s not easy.”

An expert at bowhunting deer in the desert, Rick has filled the walls of his home and shelves in his garage with big racks from desert muleys and Coues whitetails. He’s a pro at this game.

So boot camp started with my sitting in a makeshift blind built of available mesquite branches, tumbleweeds, and part of an old fence. The temperature was 17 degrees. Some vacation. If only my sister-in-law could see me now! The water trough near my blind was a frozen block of ice, but tiny deer prints dotted the earth surrounding it. So I sat.

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STARTING OCT 15
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