Author Topic: Arizona Coues Whitetail  (Read 436 times)

Offline SilkOnTheDrySide

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Arizona Coues Whitetail
« on: October 27, 2021, 03:11:44 PM »
I met Brian Bitter two years ago in the fashion most people meet these days…the internet!

I first contacted him to thank him for his interest in my upcoming (at the time) book, and he mentioned he recognized me from a TSP (government 401k) group. From there, our conversations revolved around retirement and Coues deer hunting.

Admittedly, hunting Coues was nothing more than check mark on my greater goal of finishing my deer slam.  Brian seemed like a normal dude and had offered to help Scott and I fill our tags.

So we spent a year or so planning, messaging back and forth, and lining out the hunt.

Brian has a regular day job, but guides sheep and deer in his downtime with his friend Cory Hill.  Between these two, I don’t know if there’s a more knowledgeable duo when it comes to finding, judging, and killing Coues Whitetail.

Even though I knew Brian guided deer, I wasn’t expecting to be treated like a client since we were down there as friends.  But he’s such a consummate professional, he couldn’t get away from acting the role.

We stayed in Brian’s Casita (guest house) and were treated to home cooked meals from his wife Tiffany.  Everything was easy going and relaxing.

Arriving in Arizona turned out to be an adventure for me as the airlines canceled my flights two days in a row and I had to standby helplessly as Scott proceeded to punch his tag on a nice buck three hours into opening morning.  He described a team of people glassing hillsides to locate bucks.  I was jealous and frustrated to say the least.  I was jealous because Scott described a cast of characters that fit right in with our personality style and frustrated because part of what makes hunting with Scott so fun is being there share in each other’s success.

Finally I was able to get out of Pasco.

I arrived in Tucson just after noon on Saturday, and was greeted by Brian’s wife Tiffany who was kind enough to make an extra trip to pick me up. 

Arriving at the Bitter’s house began to ease my anxiety.  Scott was there with a grin, a Coors Light and a skinned out skull.  I met Mike at the house (Mike left 5 minutes later), who’s son had killed a buck the previous day as well.  We finished unloading and then hopped in the truck and went to glass. 

We found a few deer, and had some excitement when we glassed up some illegal immigrants being apprehended by border patrol as they attempted to navigate the mountains into the US.  We didn’t find any bucks, but I did get a chance to meet Dale, Sidnie, and Brian’s guiding partner Cory who all showed up with giant glass to help little old me fill my Coues tag.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about glass.  Hunting Coues is effectively 90% glassing and putting deer in their beds before making a stalk.  Big, clear glass is essential to success.  Scott made the comment that he had never felt as “under glassed” as he did during this hunt when almost everyone was running green eagles (Swarovski). 

It made a difference.

I made mention earlier, but I’ll give another plug here.  Brian’s wife Tiffany is an exceptional cook, and I continued to ask her for recipe after recipe each night. Eating well was certainly not a concern.

The next day found us bouncing around to a few locations, only spotting a few does and a small two point.   The evening found us bidding goodbye to Dale and Sidnie and changing tactics a little when we hiked into a pocket basin Brian and Cory knew held a ton of deer.

A ton of deer is right!

We saw over 50 does and 5 bucks (only one shooter that gave us the slip…for now).

It should be noted, I count myself a fairly decent glasser, but Brian and Cory live in another dimension when it comes to this particular skill set.  My primary job was confirmation on deer (meaning verifying buck and doe) in between gridding out my own sections.  Brian and Cory were literally spotting deer faster than I could verify.  It was a humbling experience, and I asked plenty of questions about tactics when it comes to glassing.  Yet, tactics aside, the hard fact is that you have to spend a considerable amount of time in your target species environment learning how to find them.

The one shooter buck that gave us the slip was rather entertaining.  Brian spotted what looked like an “antler” at 500 yards and we all spent time staring at it for hours while it didn’t move and we all agreed it was a stick.

Well, that stick decided to vanish after four hours of not even twitching.  Clever little buck.

Spirits were high after seeing a ton of deer, we retreated for the evening with hopes of relocating the buck in the morning.  Based on his one “stick antler,” the buck was a shooter. 

Neither Scott, nor I had expectations of killing a 100” Coues Whitetail (awards level for Boone and Crocket—-akin to a 180” mule deer).  We just wanted a representative buck and a good time.

We didn’t leave disappointed.

The next morning found us (Brian, Cory, Scott and I) hiking into the same basin before light, and settling into the glassing position just as the gray light began to hit.  We began to grid, and immediately all four of us began calling out deer.  After about an hour, and twenty or so does, Cory calls out “buck!”

We all turn to look down below, trying to pick out the buck.  Everyone finds him immediately, except me. 


“He’s small,” Cory comments.

“There’s another, and another.  Shooter!” Brian responds, and Cory agrees.

Then Brian adds, “It’s the stick buck! I recognize that right side!”

I’m struggling to get on these deer, find a shooting position and get my ballistic app prepped.

The bucks are at 250 yards and I wasn’t as ready to shoot as I thought I’d been.

Scott reminds me “under 300, .5 MIL.”

And my brain, attempting to process twelve things at once snaps into focus.  .5 MIL is a 250 yard zero and theoretically “good enough” out to about 350 yards without significant bullet drop.

I quickly rotate my dial to the appropriate yardage and then begin the arduous process of locating the bucks as they move.  Brian is calling out yardages while Scott and Cory keep track of the appropriate buck.

“350…425…510…630…when they walk into the next opening, they will be at 740,” Brian says.

I turn to my chart again, dialing for the yardage and finally am able to settle in on the deer who had calmed down when reaching the timber on the far ridge.

Settling, I squeezed off a shot.

My brain saw the splash of the bullet and immediately I thought miss.  But I was wrong.  The buck was hit, and hit hard.  He stumbled and finally laid down in a bed as the rest of the bucks scrambled up and over the top of the basin.  Bright red blood began to appear through the glass as I stayed on him with the rifle.  Despite the blood pouring from his mouth, he wouldn’t tip over, and when he tried to stand up, I attempted to slip another shot in.  I couldn’t tell if it was a hit or not, but he jumped up, bounded once downhill and fell dead.

High fives and fist bumps were had all around and Brian and I started over to my buck while Scott and Cory hiked out to the trucks to move them around the basin since it would be easier to pack my buck out on the other side and down.

Walking up on that deer was a bit surreal.  My elk season was rough, when I failed to punch my Blue Mountains Quality Tag, and so finding success on the elusive Coues Whitetail was a bit of a relief.

He was a beautiful 3 point with eye guards and the exact buck I had been dreaming about when planning this hunt, and I got a bit dumbly (my new favorite word) walking up on him.

I want to thank everyone involved, there’s no way we could have come down here blind and had this kind of success.  Brian warned me that hunting Coues gets into your blood, and chasing the Gray Ghost can quickly evolve from a passing interest into an obsession.

If you’re looking to hunt Coues, don’t hesitate to contact Brian and Cory.  They are exceptional hunters, fantastic hosts, and all around great guys and their hunt costs are extremely reasonable.  I’ll include their contact information below.

Scott and I made lifelong friends on this trip, and checked off one more adventure along the way.

Now to finish off my deer slam next year with a good old Columbia Blacktail!

Brian is tagged below, and his IG is: @bitter24

You can contact him on FB, or I can give you his cell phone if you’re interested in booking a hunt!


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Offline bearhunter99

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Re: Arizona Coues Whitetail
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2021, 04:24:42 PM »
Stud Coues!  They are a ton of fun to hunt but elusive as elusive can get.  It is absolutely amazing how easily they are in plain sight one second and just disappear into thin air.  Congrats on a successful hunt!
RIP Colockumelk   :salute:

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." – Winston Churchill

Genesis 27:3
Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison

Offline WAcoueshunter

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Re: Arizona Coues Whitetail
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2021, 05:04:52 PM »
Stud Coues!  They are a ton of fun to hunt but elusive as elusive can get.  It is absolutely amazing how easily they are in plain sight one second and just disappear into thin air.  Congrats on a successful hunt!

 :yeah:  So fun!

I tried for years to keep up with my friends and their "green eagle" glass (most used 15x56 on a tripod) when looking for coues, and finally had to admit I was outmatched and join the bandwagon. 

Offline SilkOnTheDrySide

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Re: Arizona Coues Whitetail
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2021, 07:20:04 AM »
I realized there was some information that got left out…

While Coues hunting was originally just a check mark.  Hunting these deer, in this environment, has quickly evolved into something more.  These little deer are incredibly fun to hunt, and I can’t WAIT to get back down here to hunt them again.

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