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The Sombrero Buck

September 2022
Story by Gabriel Ruiz
State: Mexico
Species: Deer - Coues

“You missed just over his back!” I was surprised because I was set up perfectly. The scope was level, the parallax set, range confirmed, and the rifle was fully supported front and rear. Robert, speaking in hushed tones, said, “You better shoot again.”

This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to hunt in Sonora, Mexico with my friends, George Alcorta and Pat Romero, owners of Trophy Hunts of Sonora. The ranch is in the middle of the Sonoran desert, and it’s prime habitat for the diminutive Coues deer.

After crossing the border, the usual stressful, anxious exchanges were avoided through the expertise of our hosts. A couple of pleasant hours later, we arrived at the well-kept ranch which was to be our home for the next seven days. The staff on hand were welcoming and helped us settle into clean and comfortable rooms. I was to be guided by Robert Arroyo. I had met him previously, and he is one of those individuals who lacks pretense and puts you at ease immediately. Beyond that, George said, “Robert is a great man behind the binoculars,” and coming from George, that is no faint praise.

We were up early the next morning. When I got together with Robert, the first thing he said was, “I know a spot.” The first day you are the shooter is always exciting and full of anticipation. We drove out on Robert’s Polaris Ranger and were soon glassing the countryside full of deep cuts, tall ridges, and long fingers. The morning glassing was really slow with us finding only a couple of small immature bucks. I was not worried. I knew that in an instant things change. After a couple of hours, I tired of looking from the spot we were on and was beginning to lose focus. I told Robert, “I’m going to have a look from over there,” pointing to the small knob adjacent to the small hill we were on.

The knob was only about 75 yards away. I did, however, have to drop to an old two-track road that appeared to connect the two hills. As I walked, I thought to myself that maybe I should have brought my rifle. It was not that far. It would be fine. As I reached the area that had the best vantage point, I carefully set up my stool and binoculars and sat down. As soon as I sat down, I saw him. He was the largest framed whitetail I had ever seen alive. He was bedded on the grassy finger about 500 yards away. The buck was quartering towards me as he turned his head to scratch his back. I knew he was a brute of a Coues deer.

I pushed away from the binoculars, got off the knob, and ran to get Robert and my rifle. Now, I was 65 years old and running was best left to those who do it well. By the time I got to Robert, I had one hand on my chest and one in the air trying to catch my breath. Fortunately, Robert knew the game without my saying a word. As we got to the vantage point on the knob, I pointed out where I had seen the buck, but he was gone. I was panicked as I looked up and down the long grassy finger but could not find the buck. A moment later, Robert calmly said, “I got him. He’s high on the finger in the mesquite trees approaching the ridge. You set up, I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Bipod down, bag in the back for support, level rifle, scope dial pending, and parallax set, I asked the range. 680 yards. I go to the range about three times a week, and I practice routinely shooting to 900 yards with a very accurate 6.5mm x .284 Norma. However, 680 yards from a hilltop, excited, is a very long shot. I set the dial on my Nightforce AtacR scope to 14.5 minutes. I aimed carefully, shot, and missed. Robert calmly said, “Just a little high, aim a little lower.”

As I regained my sight picture, I told him, “I’m going to aim about an inch under his brisket.” I fired and missed again. This time, Robert said, “You missed, but you hit exactly where you aimed.”

The deer moved very little and seemed relatively unconcerned. The buck stood broadside with a forked mesquite tree trunk covering his vital areas. I could see his head and his rear, but that fork was in my way. I whispered, “I think I can put a bullet right in the middle of that fork.” Robert responded, “Why try it? Be patient. There is nothing in front of him. He’ll step out.”

After the longest couple of minutes of my life, he did. He was now quartering away but standing very still. I knew I would have to hold back on his body in order to drive the bullet into his chest area. I carefully and calmly pressed the trigger. As I lost my sight picture due to the recoil. Robert jumped up and shouted, “He is down, and he is one hell of a nice buck!” I knew he was good and Robert knew he was good, but sometimes the excitement of the moment deceives you. I was cautiously very pleased.

When we finally got to the area, the slope leading to where the deer was was dangerously steep. We took our time and carefully descended. The deer was huge! It was the largest bodied Coues deer I had ever seen. He looked like a Texas deer with a swollen 22" neck and 20"+ main beams. What a buck!

When we were done celebrating and taking photographs, Robert confided that this deer was the largest he had guided any hunter to. He added, “He looks like he has this big hat on his head.” With that, we christened him “The Sombrero Buck.”

When we finally arrived back at the ranch house, I told the story over and over to anyone who would listen. I was pleased beyond description and was blessed with a beautiful animal in the company of like-minded individuals. Special thanks to George, Pat, Robert, and the entire crew of Trophy Hunts of Sonora.