Laurel's Arizona Coues Deer Hunt

Young lady bowhunter goes on an Arizona Coues Deer hunt with Ward's Outfitters while her husband watches the moment of truth.

Sponsored by:Ward's Outfitters.

I have lived in Arizona four years now but have loved to hunt my whole life. When I was a child my Dad would spend days bow hunting whitetail on the east coast. I was always fascinated by what would drive my father to sit for hours in a tree stand regardless of the weather. I was formally introduced to bow hunting just a few years ago by my husband Derek, for he too shares a passion for the sport. That’s probably why my father and him hit it off so well. Several months after meeting each other they were off hunting together for days. Derek has shot an elk with my dad and a black bear, both with his bow. I was jealous; I wanted to know what it was about, this sport that the two most important men in my life loved. So I made Derek buy me a basic starter bow and I started shooting. From the moment I let the first arrow fly I was hooked. Something about how precise you must be and having a methodical system that you can repeat over and over again regardless of the situation was addicting. I shot every chance I had trying to shoot the smallest spot on the target I could pick.

Ever since I moved to Arizona Derek told me how he hunted with some of the best guides in the state, Wards Outfitters. Whenever he would archery hunt for elk or deer in this state he called Steven Ward. So after two years of practice and hunting a bit on our own Derek and Steven started talking about how I could get an opportunity to shoot my first buck with my bow. The first thing we did was to get me a new bow that can shoot faster while still pulling only 53 pounds; a PSE Ex Force SS. Steven told us if we wanted an opportunity to shoot a good buck we should come to Southern Arizona and hunt Coues Deer in the rut out of ground blind’s. So by September I had my new PSE dialed in and I started shooting from a chair in my back yard every day. We had booked time with Steven in Mid January when the rut is typically in full swing. So when the time came we made the 3 hour drive from Phoenix down to meet up with Steven Ward.

We were hunting out of ground blinds Wards Outfitters had set up along some heavy traffic trails and near scrape lines. Hoping we could catch them as they passed through. Traffic was not a problem, the first day in the blind hunting with Steven we saw 15 deer, but all does. The second day we saw 25 more deer 20 does and fawns and 5 bucks! The first buck was a nice 3 by 3 with nice eye guards. We watched him chasing a doe about 80 yards away. Sadly he never came in any closer than that. When the next set of does came through there was a nice heavy fork horn with them. He was a big 2 by 2 but had a lot of character. He came right into a doe that was only 35 yards away. As I got ready to draw another 3 by 3 buck came charging in and chased him off! After that we saw 2 more small bucks but they never came close enough for a shot.

On day three we switched spots and we had not been in the blind 10 minutes when a spike walked in and was trying to chase the does only he was so little they were chasing him!! Just as it looked like he was going to come close enough to give me a shot all the deer got a bit jittery. I looked to my right and saw a bobcat creeping our way 75 yards out. Immediately our goal of shooting a Coues deer turned to shooting a bobcat! Unfortunately the cat never came inside of 50 yards to give us a shot. The amazing thing was that in the end, one of the big does actually charged at the bobcat and chased it away. Regardless, the rest of the deer left and were not coming back for a while.

The next day started out much the same although my husband Derek and I were now hunting together. We saw a bunch of does with really no bucks until midday. After lunch we had 2 spikes walk in and start sparing with each other. It was really exciting to see them confront each other. They were trying to rub trees, chase does and challenge each other. Unfortunately, again we just never got a good opportunity on these deer.

On day 5 Derek and I hunted a new spot where Steven said they had seen several good bucks. This blind was set up again on a trail, which passed through a nice meadow area. There was a few does that passed through at around 9 am and they bedded down just 100 yards from us. These same does continued to come and go all day long. Around 3:30 pm had been typically when the deer stopped moving and so far in 5 days we had seen no deer after 3:30. So as the hour approached my heart sank, another day without a shot. As I tried to remain hopeful, I looked over at my husband and he was fast asleep! Clearly anticipating another slow evening.

At 4:30 one of the does that we thought was gone popped up out of her bed with her fawn and wandered back along the trail in front of our blind. She lingered around with a fawn for about 15 minutes and then I herd it. A grunt, a good grunt. So I leaned to my left to peer around the corner of the right window of our blind to see if I was hearing things and my heart stopped. There he was, sneaking in on this doe, a huge mature Coues deer. A big tall perfect 3 by 3 with tall eye guards.

He came right in after this doe, I was shaking so bad and my heart was pumping through my chest. I could swear this deer was going to hear my heart beat. 19 yards in front of me was the largest Coues deer I had ever seen. I knew I had to calm down, I looked at Derek to ask him to range the buck and I saw he was shaking too!! This did not help, I was hoping him being cool and relaxed would help me get it together but he was so excited he could not even range the buck! Luckily we had ranged several spots earlier so I knew he was about 20 yards away with the doe he was after in between him and our blind. I tried to compose myself as the buck came in after the doe and as he turned broad side I drew.

I was still shaking and I knew I would have to calm down or I was not going to make a good shot. Just then the buck turned to face the doe, which meant he was facing us. I told Derek I was going to let off and get set to draw again and I could sense his frustration. Having shot many deer with his bow himself he knew I was not going to get many opportunities at this big buck. But I knew that I had waited 5 long days in a blind for this opportunity and I was not going to blow it because I took a shaky or otherwise risky shot. I wanted a good shot on this handsome buck.

The buck turned broadside again and I drew, just as I drew he turned to face the doe again I held on him for a minute and he never turned back. So I let off again. Then came the toughest three minutes of my life. The buck walked away. I blew it, I missed my opportunity! My heart sank and I was devastated. But the doe was still in front of us. She had not left. Derek told me the buck would come back as long as she was still there. So we sat hopeful. 3 minutes later the buck was back, on a mission. He was so focused on that doe it was amazing. So I gave myself a little lecture on not being a girl and set my mind on shooting this deer. That buck turned broadside one more time and I drew my PSE super short for the third time and let my Vortex broad head fly.

I new it was a good shot and my husband and I jumped for joy. I know you are supposed to be quiet after you shoot a deer but I could not help it. I looked at Derek and the look on his face was irreplaceable, pride and joy. I started crying and hyperventilating. I could not breath. I started screaming and waving my hands in a truly girlie fashion. Shouting: “Call Steven, Call Dad, Call Everybody I just shot a huge deer!” Derek thought I was going to pass out from sheer excitement. This is why I started bow hunting. I have never been so excited (or so nervous) in my entire life. The rush was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. And the fact that I got to share it with my husband who taught me to shoot my first arrow 3 years ago was priceless. This is a memory we will remember and share for the rest of our lives.

I shot the buck late in the afternoon so we decided to wait until the next morning. So I prepared for a long night I had 2 glasses of wine, a big dinner and took and Ambien but I still could not sleep. I sat staring at the ceiling all night long. Finally daylight came and we got back out there. Steven found the blood trail and a little while later there he was, my buck. It turns out he had taken a step toward me at the last second so I hit him on an angle from one lung into the liver but that Vortex broad head did the trick! I had killed my first Coues deer with a bow!

Growing up watching my Dad bow hunt and now hearing Derek’s stories I knew that to shoot any white tail with a bow was a huge challenge. So many things can go wrong. In my dads lifetime he has killed 10 Pope and Young white tails and every one is a hunt he will remember forever. I have been trying to shoot a deer with my bow for a few years now, just to get one under my belt.

My husband Derek took me down to hunt with Wards Outfitters and five days later I had my shot. I knew I was very fortunate to have my first deer turn out to be this guy. He scored 87 inches, A Pope and Young Coues deer! The first of hopefully many bow hunts I will remember forever. I had this opportunity with a little luck and lot of practice, but mostly the help of Wards Outfitters. They knew where to go and how to hunt these deer. Hunting Coues deer for them is a passion. So archery hunters like myself can have opportunities to see and hopefully get a shot at these amazing deer. I am thankful to my father and my husband Derek for introducing me to this incredible sport and to Wards Outfitters for the hunt of a lifetime.

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