Sorry for the long delay in posting, just been one of those busy times. Some good, some bad, lost a few friends and a family member, but things have settled down a bit now. I finally got caught up at work and felt I could take an entire week off to go down to Arizona for the opener of my Coues deer hunt. The payback is I have to work the entire week before X=Mas to let my other co-workers leave early.
Got down the day before, and got settled into the room in Williams. Thought about bringing the trailer down, but decided that hot showers and color TV sounded better than roughing it. That's more of a Sept/October getaway any how. Hopefully with a Paunsagunt tag next year There were lots of cow elk hunters staying there too, and I think they were all in Unit 10. This top end of Unit 6B and 8 ends at the Interstate, so you have to drive 20-30 miles to even get to the hunting areas. I stopped in the gun shop and asked about the whitetail hunting. Guy told me it was mostly a mule deer area, as they live up top. When I told him I had a whitetail tag, his words were "You're a dumb bastard-you have to go down into the canyons and just work way too hard!" Maybe that's why they can grow up and get old?
Opening morning found me looking into the right places, and thinking maybe he was right. We have hunted elk here a couple times and have named these HellNo, Phuckett, and Stupity Canyons.
Glassed long and hard and finished the day seeing 34 cow elk, 6 big bulls, and 13 mule deer. Found quite a few WT tracks and sign, but none had feet still in them. The tanks are all full, the acorn crop was fabulous this year, and there was plenty of bear and lion sign also. The other great thing about staying in Williams is the choice of food. I figured I had worked plenty hard enough to treat myself to a piece of the Pine Country Inn's famous pie. If you get here, you deserve to splurge on one yourself!
A smaller quick storm blew in that night, and my how things changed in the morning. If you haven't tried walking on Arizona rocks and cactus, when they're snow-covered, man you are in for a treat! The worst of it was in the morning, then the sun appeared and the low and middle canyons melted off and the glassing and hunting began again. Sorry for poor picture quality, but it was a whiteout most of the time, and only cleared up when the wind blew 30 mph! I used the phone instead of the good expensive camera.
Found a lot more of all the animals after the storm, and knew just where I needed to be in the morning. Dropped down to about 10 degrees that night, and we all know how deer like the sunshine after a storm, and freezing cold weather. The next morning was a repeat of the first two, with lots of glassing from high points and overlooks, and seeing plenty of animals moving around. The snow in the big oak thickets made it much easier to see whitetails moving in them since the leaves are all gone, and soon I had a pair of does coming up one side of my canyon, around the head of it below me, and on to the yellow grass and sunshine opposite from me. It is a little early for full blown rutting activity I figured, but that was certainly what was going to happen next.
About 20 minutes after the does came thru I glassed up a big buck working his way up the canyon in my direction. I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't one of the mule deer I had been seeing, because his rack was huge! Nope, silver gray, petite body, white circled eyes, and nimble prancing gait - definite whitetail!!!!! He never stopped once, all the way up the trail the girls had taken, and I lost him down below me in the jungle of laurel and tall manzanita. That stuff hides an elk pretty easily, and whitetails just flat disappear.
I had been preparing for these long shots all Fall with the big 300 Ultra Mag, and had the utmost confidence in it. I had been knocking down coyotes out to 400 regularly, so I figured the distance would be OK. What I couldn't figure was how to get him to stop. He never did, so I glassed ahead and picked a straight portion of the trail where he would line out and slow down. When he walked into the Zeiss scope, I put the cross hairs directly between his shoulder blades, and gently squeezed off the round. I heard the solid whop of a direct hit immediately, and as I came down from recoil I saw him hunched up and dashing into the laurel thickets. Now the fun begins.
If you haven't ever hunted by yourself, you just don't know how important a spotter is, when you have to go across a deep canyon. I found myself being cliffed out, so had to move a long way around to get down through the rocks. Then when I got to where I had marked the deer, I couldn't find hide nor hair of him. After an hour of futile searching, I climbed all the way back up, marked my shooting spot, and re-ranged to the shot and location where the buck ran. I had been about 100-200 yards off the entire time! Went back down and spent almost another hour looking in the right location. before finding him. He had died and fallen about 4 feet down off a rock ledge, between a sheer face and a laurel bush.
Absolutely world-class Coues whitetail deer. What a monster. There just aren't enough big words to describe hime, and he is everything I knew he would be.
I just had to get a picture in here with the "Dr. Death" hat, for my son's sake. He was unable to come down due to work commitments and was just sick he had to miss it.
After some photos, caping him out for mounting, and boning the entire thing, I loaded it into my backpack and was ready for the climb out.
It's always nice to be packing out, the sun setting behind you, and see the shadows of big antlers bracketing your image. Love this game we play!
As I got out of the canyon, I realized I was getting close to a trail and some flatter ground. Took the time for a "selfie", and then walked on to the trail head and the truck. First time I have ever kissed a Toyota and liked it. Chugged two bottles of Gatorade after loading all my gear in, and began the long trip back to town. What a happy hunter.
More to follow: