Close Search

We Have a Problem Here!

June 2020
Story by William Evrage
State: Arizona
Species: Deer - Coues

In 2017, I reconnected with a good friend of mine, Paul Baird, from college whom I had not seen for 30 years. We both graduated from New Mexico Military Institute and received our commissions as 2nd Lieutenants, US Army back in 1987. We both love the outdoors and enjoy hunting as often as our families and careers allow us. I have enjoyed hunting mule deer, elk, and Barbary sheep in New Mexico when I get lucky and draw. Paul, on the other hand, routinely applies for hunts in Arizona, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico and offered to add me to a few applications. I had never hunted anywhere but a few areas in southern New Mexico, so I was a little nervous about what to do if we drew out and how I was going to afford hunting out of state.

Paul applied everywhere he had accumulated points, and we got lucky with an antelope hunt in Wyoming and a Coues deer hunt in Arizona. Some of my local friends schooled me up on antelope, and I started researching how to hunt the “Grey Ghost,” the smallest, most elusive, and difficult deer to hunt. I remembered reading an article in the Huntin’ Fool magazine highly recommending using a guide when hunting in unfamiliar areas and animals, so we enlisted the help of A3 Trophy Hunts. Our guide, Dan Hiegel, set up a nice campsite in unit 23, and we met him there.

Dan immediately loaded us up and took us to a lookout point not far from camp. He broke out tripods, spotting scopes, and some really large and high-powered binoculars. To be honest, this intimidated me some as all I had was an old pair of 10x50 binos that I had used for years. It wasn’t long before Dan spotted a couple of Coues about 800 yards away. We watched them until it was dark and then went back to camp to plan our hunt in the morning, which was opening day.

About an hour before first light on day one, we set out driving as high as the road would take us and then hiking to a ledge that provided an amazing view of the mountains and valleys reaching out for miles. I ranged the closest hill straight across from us at 520 yards, and I knew then that I was in for a difficult hunt. We scouted all morning but saw no deer. We went back to camp for an early lunch, and Dan shared a photo of a really large Coues buck taken by a trail camera back in August, but he hadn’t seen the buck since. Hunting conditions were pretty tough as we had clear skies, a full moon, and warm temperatures during the day. Dan reassured us that the deer were there and they often get up and walk around from noon until about 2:00 p.m. We set out again and glassed the mountainsides for a couple of hours, and then Dan said, “I see a couple of bucks.” I couldn’t believe it; Dan had spotted this little deer about a mile and a half away, but there was nothing more we could do this day.

On day two, we went to a different mountain range where we experienced another awesome view out a couple of miles. We saw several big bull elk and even a large black bear in the morning but no deer. We came back again in the afternoon and evening but still no Coues. That evening, Dan was pretty quiet sitting by the campfire. I asked him what he was thinking, and he replied, “Do you have a red lens flashlight?” Paul and I both said yes and then Dan told us to get some sleep as we were going to gear up and hike up a very rugged mountain in the dark and get into place before the sun came up. We were going back to find the two deer he had spotted on day one. This was well over a mile and a half beyond where we had previously hiked.

We packed everything we needed that night and were up and hiking an enormous mountain range the next morning at 0430. Having served 27 years in the Army (mostly combat arms), I am pretty familiar with hiking at night under a red lens, moving slowly and quietly. The terrain was steep and rugged, and after an hour of creeping up the mountain, the early light of sunrise slowly exposed the mountains around us. About the time I could see pretty clearly, I heard Dan say very quietly and calmly, “There he is. Get ready.” Paul and I crawled up and peeked over the huge boulders in front of us and said, “Where?” Dan pointed to a small open area across the canyon about 600 yards away. Paul and I quickly got situated for a steady long shot, and Paul called out the range at 560 yards. I set the turret on Paul’s Gunwerks 6.5 Creedmoor with Nightforce 3x10 at 530, took aim, and fired. Dan whispered, “A little high and right.” I reloaded, centered the crosshairs, and squeezed off another round. Dan again whispered, “Shot was right over the top of him.” I reloaded my third and last round, aimed just a little lower, exhaled nice and slow, and then lightly touched the trigger. The shot surprised me just as it should. Dan whispered again, but this time he said, “He’s down. Great shot!” I think Paul was more excited ranging this big buck and watching me shoot than I was taking the shot. He waited until I was done to take aim at the other buck that was hanging back, waiting for his buddy.

I geared up and set out, heading up the jagged hill through some really thick and prickly brush, and then I went across the canyon while Paul and Dan kept watch. As I approached the deer, I called them on the radio and said, “We have a problem here!”

“What’s that problem?” Paul replied.

“This is not a little Coues deer. He is as big as a mule deer!” I said.

Paul and Dan made their way across the canyon, and as they approached, they were ecstatic to see the “monster” Coues buck that Dan had captured on his trail cam several months earlier. Dan said this was the one. This was the buck every guide and hunter he knew was looking for and I got him. Now the fun part was over, and the work began. I loaded the four quarters, backstraps, some neck meat, head, and cape in my pack and started down the mountain.

We had an amazing time with Dan from A3 Trophy Hunts, and I would definitely recommend them to anyone. My buddy, Paul Baird, is the nicest and most generous person that I have ever known. I am grateful and blessed to have such a great friend and hunting buddy, reconnected from our teenage years. I will remember this first Coues hunt for the rest of my life and hopefully get to go again someday.

New Mexico Deer Hunting