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July 2020
Story by Craig Van Arsdale
State: Arizona
Species: Deer - Coues

With over 20 days under my belt over the last several years chasing Coues deer with a bow in hand, I was more than ready to get out and seal the deal on a nice buck on my 2020 over-the-counter tag. I made it out for a few days in the second week of January, and the rut really seemed to be picking up in the area I was hunting. I had rattled in four bucks one morning to under 25 yards and two as close as 15 yards! Ultimately, though, I had no shot opportunities. Around that time, I packed up and left as I had planned on attending the Wild Sheep Foundation Sheep Show. Part of me wanted to cancel Sheep Show, but I knew I had the last 10 days of the season when I returned, so I stuck with my plan and had a great time catching up with friends and making a few new ones as always.

When I returned to the trailhead, it was pouring rain and the sun had just set. I didn’t anticipate rain, so I was only packing a rain jacket and no rain pants. As you can imagine, I was completely soaked from the waist down by the time I made the two-mile pack in and set up my tent for the night. Good thing it’s Arizona and even our winter nights aren’t very cold. I awoke several times during the night to hear the pounding of rain on my tent. About an hour before daylight, the rain stopped and I pulled on my cold, soaking wet pants from the night before and crawled out of the tent. I was greeted with a layer of thick fog for the first hour of daylight. Deer activity seemed slow from the storm that had passed in the night, but there were a few does feeding nearby. I spotted a buck after some time behind the glass just 250 yards from my glassing location, walking a ridge away from me. I decided to see if I could rattle at him and get him turned around. I hit the rattle bag, and instantly, he switched directions and dropped into the canyon that separated us. I cut 40-50 yards and set up with an arrow nocked, but the buck eventually lost interest and I spotted him feeding away again.

As the morning progressed, the deer activity seemed to increase, and after some more glassing, I spotted another buck with a group of does across the canyon and decided to put a stalk on them. Even with the added quietness of the wet ground, I was still busted by the group at about 120 yards. As the morning was progressing, I decided I better get in a good position to at least put some deer to bed for the afternoon and headed for a large boulder I could get up on and glass from. On my way there, I spotted a good buck cruising parallel to me and headed in the same direction I was. His body language looked like he was on the search for another hot doe, and he even had a slight limp likely due to sore hooves. The big boulder I was headed for was only about 80 yards from me, so I ran up to it, climbed on top, nocked an arrow, got my rattle bag out of my stalking pack, took a couple quick ranges for potential shooting lanes, and started working the rattle bag. After rattling for about 15 seconds, I set the bag down, looked up, and he was on a dead run to me. As if on a string, he came right in and stopped at 40 yards. I sent a perfectly placed arrow through him. For that brief 10 minutes, I almost thought it was September already. It was one of the best call-in harvests of all my hunting years.

Arizona Coues Deer