Completing the Deer Slam
by Darrell Pardy
As we hiked across the desert floor, I was going over my checklist of making a good shot in my mind. My outfitter, Pat Feldt (Arizona Guided Hunts), and I had just climbed down from the top of the hill where we had been glassing for Coues bucks. Pat and my guide, Keith Hubbard, had spotted a nice buck on an adjacent hill, and we were trying to put me and my rifle closer to the deer.
We knew the eagle-like eyes of the buck wouldn’t spot us while we were shielded by the hillside, but now that we were getting into more open terrain that advantage was quickly fading. Additionally, our route was strewn with loose gravel, prickly cactus, and mesquite trees. Trying to avoid the needle like plants and remain stealthy was difficult.
As we approached, I could see that my intended quarry and a few of his buddies were behaving like sentries high above our position. This is typical of Coues behavior. In the dawning hours of the day they will find a resting place high on a hill and bed down under a mesquite tree, to escape the heat of the Arizona day, and watch their surroundings for danger.
As we closed the distance, the deer on the hill became spooked. The buck I was after was bedded, but the other deer were getting a little antsy. We decided we couldn’t venture any further without being busted, so we climbed up a hill, and found an area to set up for a shot. Again, I quickly recalled my checklist for making a shot at the 400-yard range. Earlier in the hunt, I had missed two opportunities because of “rookie” mistakes and I was determined not to do that again.
Cautiously, I set up my Sako .300 Win Mag using a Harris Bi-pod and a butt rest. As I looked through my Leupold VX-3 6.5X20 50MM scope, my heart sank. It was fogged. I tried to wipe it clean, but it appeared to have some internal fog, rendering it pretty much useless. I couldn’t believe my luck.
I asked Pat if he had any tissue paper. He did, and I grabbed the paper and wiped both ends of the scope. I was back in business! Pat told me to hold for 350 yards to account for the angle of the shot. I put the 300-yard hold point on the back of the deer and relaxed. Pat and Keith both waited for me to pull the trigger. I gently squeezed my entire right hand, and the shot rang out.
“You got him!” Pat exclaimed. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I had just completed my “deer slam,” and had redeemed my previous misses. Later, Keith told me he saw the deer roll over before he heard the shot. Pat told me the shot was actually 416 yards, by far the longest shot that I have ever made.
The adrenaline rush kept me going up the hillside to the downed buck. As I walked up on the buck, it was evident that not only had I completed my slam, but I had also taken an impressive deer. The buck was a nice fat 8-point (3×3) that would gross score nearly 100 inches. After several congratulations and a few pictures, we dressed and quartered the buck, and made our way back to camp.
With my “slam” completed I have now turned to making new goals. At the top of my list is a return trip to Arizona to hunt with Pat; perhaps for a giant Desert mule deer.
Leading to the Slam
I was fortunate enough to harvest a 220 pound, 10-point whitetail on my first deer hunt in Maine in 2006. Next, I shot a 325 pound, 10- point (4×4) mule deer in Wyoming in 2007. A few years later, I harvested a respectable Blacktail deer in Washington.
Finding a Reputable Outfitter
The Coues deer was that last deer I needed for my deer slam, and everyone I communicated with told me that Pat was the leading candidate to aid in a Coues deer harvest. I had booked the hunt with Pat after being lucky enough to draw my preferred tag in the Arizona lottery. I arrived in Tucson, Arizona and was picked up by Pat at my hotel the following morning. He took me on a scenic drive on the way to deer camp.
Camp consisted of a main trailer for cooking, and a bunkhouse for the guides. Another large army-type Cabela’s tent was set for the hunters. Inside the tent were army cots, a trash bag, and a lamp. Additionally, there was a wash-up area, a portable privy located in a discrete area not too far away from our tent, and a fire ring for nightly camp fires and conversation. Dinner the first night was hearty, steak, potatoes and beans. Overall, the camp was comfortable, and well prepared for a successful hunt.
When we finally broke camp, all three hunters had successfully tagged out. It was a milestone for each of us. I had completed my deer slam, another hunter had harvested his first deer, and our third hunter had returned for his second successful Coues deer hunt.
After taking two flights from Portland, Maine I knew I had to re-sight my rifle. A few shots at 200 yards proved I was right-on. My Leupold scope is a long-range scope that also has wire hold-over points for 300, 400, 500 and 550 yards. In Maine, it is rare to shoot anything beyond 100 yards, but when hunting for Coues deer shots can be well beyond 200-yards.