Two Bucks for the Ladies
by Josh Epperson
I have been a hardcore Coues whitetail hunter for as long as I can remember. When my wife became interested in hunting a couple of years ago, I was super-excited to say the least. I knew that having her hunt would allow the two of us to spend more quality time together, share new experiences and create lasting memories. On her first hunt, my wife, Jen, took a respectable Coues buck. The shared experience opened new doors for our relationship.
I have a friend, Jimmy, whose wife hunts as well. This year, we decided to put our ladies in together for an October whitetail tag in our home state of Arizona. We waited to the last minute, but finally submitted the application on their behalf. The ladies were lucky in the draw, and they drew their second choice hunt in the central region of the state. Jimmy and I were excited to share the experience together, and with our wives.
Three weeks prior to the hunt we started scouting hard and found several bucks. With bucks spotted, our confidence was high going in to the hunt. Opening morning welcomed us with a brutal, statewide wind storm. I elected to keep my family in bed so they did not have to suffer through the weather. Our other couple, Jimmy and Jenn, “manned-up,” and were out at first light a few miles away; although they didn’t see much.
When the winds finally died down around 9AM, we headed out to glass a few ridges for Coues bucks. We hiked up into the hills and sat in the sun to stay warm. Quickly, I glassed a couple of small bucks a long way off and several does during the day, but nothing big enough or close enough to go after. That afternoon, we changed locations. Right before dark I glassed up a drop-antlered buck that I had seen during my scouting trips. The buck was just a little too far away in some rough terrain; too tough for a stalk that evening, so we decided to just watch from a distance as light faded.
Saturday morning, Jen, our son, Isaac, and I climbed high on a ridge top to glass the area where we had seen the drop-antlered buck, but from a different vantage point. We eased over the top, glassing carefully as we crested, and we got busted! Two bucks and a doe flagged as they ran up and over the top of the ridge in front of us. That’s just how whitetail hunting goes. Even so, I set up to glass, and shortly thereafter found the drop-antlered buck with two smaller bucks feeding on the opposite hillside from us. The bucks were about a half-mile or more away. Again, the buck was too far away, so we moved to another spot about 150 yards away to glass some new country.
Right away, Jen looks down the hill we were on and says, “There’s a buck right below us!” Less than 100 yards away, a 90-inch 3×4 that I’d seen two weeks before walks out in front of us. The buck knows something is amiss and starts scootin’ down the slope quickly. Right behind the first buck, another buck that we hadn’t seen yet follows. I tried getting Jen behind the gun, but in the mad panic of setting up, the bucks were quickly out to well over 600 yards before we were ready. Frustrated, but still having fun, we continued to glass for a while. I thought to myself—in an hour or so we had seen seven bucks, so we were still encouraged.
After enjoying the views and the morning sun, we decided to go back to where we’d been the day before to glass during the middle part of the day. Our vantage point was situated above a tank that had been getting some action over the last few days. Jen and I sat in the sun, got sleepy and took a nap while Isaac played games on his Mom’s phone. After just a catnap, I was awakened by Isaac saying, “Dad, there’s a snake!” I rolled over to look and saw the small racer putting a sneak on a lizard that was sunning itself on a rock. Needless to say, Isaac had to pester the snake by tossing small twigs at it and eventually it slithered off. Lazily and impatiently, we waited for the afternoon to bring more deer movement.
Eventually, we had a doe and fawn come to the tank, but at 3PM we decided to leave the tank to glass a few other distant ridges. The late afternoon sun was glaring straight in my face, making it almost impossible to glass. However, within a couple minutes of glassing, I found a nice buck facing us a couple of ridges over. Within 30 seconds, the buck bedded in a spot that had I not seen the deer standing, I guarantee I never would’ve seen it in its bed. I will take lucky any day! We had plenty of time to make our way to a position above the buck for a shot, so the three of us took off. Thirty minutes later we were situated in a good spot above the buck, but for the life of me, I couldn’t pick out the buck in its bed in the thick brush. Carefully, we moved closer down the ridge to get a different view. I knew I was looking at the right patch of brush, but I just couldn’t find the buck! Darkness was closing in, and I had a good feeling that we could relocate the buck in the morning, so we backed out. At the end of the day we reconnected with Jimmy and Jenn. They had glassed all day too, had seen a couple of small spikes and a forked-horn, but decided to pass, waiting on a bigger buck.
Sunday morning all five of us decided to go back into the same area and spread out to glass. Jen, Isaac, and I snuck up the ridge where we’d been the evening before. As soon as we could see the opposite slope I spotted the buck feeding alone. We would have to close about 300 yards to get within range for a shot. As quietly as possible, we snuck in and got set up at a distance of 404 yards from the buck. I sat Isaac about five yards behind us, so he could watch. While we set up for Jen to shoot, the buck fed closer to us. As I made a few last minute preparations, I told Jen where to place the crosshairs on the buck. Jen’s first two shots just barely missed the buck; over its back. The buck was a little closer, so I told her to put the main crosshair on the buck, and let it rip. POW, the gun goes off, and she had made a perfect heart-shot on the third shot! The buck made it about 30 yards before piling up in the brush.
Jen looked at me and said, “Is it dead?”
I said, “YES!”
At that point, she broke down crying from all the adrenaline and intensity that comes with harvesting an animal. It was an awesome moment shared by our family, especially since Isaac was sitting right there watching his “Momma” shoot her second Coues buck.
We were sitting on the hill replaying the event over and over in celebration when my buddy Jimmy calls me on the radio to let us know that there are two more bucks above us on the same slope where Jen had shot her buck. We grabbed our binos and found the bucks, who were sparring on the ridge. Eventually the bucks stopped their playful fight and bedded. Quickly, Jimmy and Jenn made their move across the big draw, and got set up below us a couple of hundred yards away.
As soon as the other couple got situated and relocated the bucks, we made our way across the super steep drainage to Jen’s big buck. We admired Jen’s second buck and celebrated a bit more. As I was caping and quartering the buck, a shot reported from Jenn’s rifle and surprised us! Quickly, Jen grabbed her binos and watched Jenn make a second shot, which center-punched the buck. Now, Jenn had a Coues buck of her own; her first buck! Jenn had made a heart-shot at 517 yards with Jimmy’s .270!
After Jimmy and I finished the chore of caping and quartering the bucks, we carried out the meat, while the girls carried their well deserved trophies! Way to go girls! Several great memories were made and shared on this hunt between family and friends, and will be cherished forever.