Archery Coues Challenge
by Steven Satran
Archery is never easy; it takes focus, patience, skill, and practice to succeed. Hunting is the same way; you need to have the motivation to get through limited sleep, hours of driving on roads that vary from wide open interstates to narrow two tracks pin-striping your truck as you go. Combining the two adds up to a tremendous challenge, where being unsuccessful is typically expected.
When you add the Coues deer into the equation, the challenge spikes. The Coues whitetail is arguably the most elusive and difficult to hunt animal in the United States. With seemingly every adaptation imaginable to keep hunters at bay, a habitat too brutal for nearly anything else to live, let alone thrive; a mature Coues deer with a bow has reached mythical proportions for most.
I started bowhunting at the age of 13. Wandering aimlessly through the woods with a bow, I couldn’t shoot more than 30 yards. I saw a lot, shot at few, and missed all. Looking back my equipment was sub-par and my tactics were crude at best. At the time, any success I had was pure luck. Fast forward eight years, and my tactics have flipped 180 degrees and my shooting ability has dramatically improved. Now I rely on quality optics to walk with my eyes, rather than my feet.
The January Hunt
At first light, my friend, Paeton Keller, and I glassed up a respectable mule deer buck with a small herd of does. Because they were 1,400 yards away we quickly packed up our optics, grabbed our stick-flingers, and closed the distance to 500 yards. We relocated the deer in a much closer, but much more exposed vantage point.
While scanning the herd of deer, we noticed a Coues buck several hundred yards behind the group of mulies. Several hours passed and the Coues deer buck ended up with the herd of mulies! Obviously rutting, the Coues buck proceeded to push the other buck’s does without the mature buck seeming to care. More time passed and we established a game plan that, with a positive attitude, it could work…possibly. The goal: Attempt to double up on a mule deer buck and a Coues buck at the same time from the same herd. We waited a couple more hours for an optimal window of opportunity to present itself. Our plan changed when at just 300 yards, the big mulie busted for no apparent reason. After regrouping, we developed a new game plan for me to stalk the Coues buck.
After skirting a box canyon, we came up over a rock outcropping with the buck at 31 yards. Shaking like a leaf, I dialed down my single-pin Spot Hogg and drew back. The buck was looking downhill in the opposite direction. With my pin settling behind the buck’s shoulder, I heard a whisper over my shoulder.
“Don’t miss,” Paeton says.
As the arrow left the string, my shot felt like the worst shot I’d made in my entire life. I heard the sound of carbon hitting rocks almost instantly. As my buck fever fueled fingers fumbled to nock another arrow, I asked Paeton how badly I missed. His response surprised me.
“You smoked him bud, he’s already dead” was his reply!
I quickly composed myself, and re-evaluated the situation. Sure enough, the buck only took a leap or two down the canyon and expired. The shot was steep downhill, so a high entrance hole and low exit hole resulted in the perfect wound channel. The Rage Hypodermic did its job. The sound I heard was arrow hitting rock after a complete pass through! The hunt was over, the Coues challenge, completed.
After celebrating in the field, we took a couple pictures, and then headed home for a well-deserved celebratory pizza for dinner.