Desert Whitetail [Coues] Odocoileus virginianus couesi
Legendary big game hunter and outdoor writer Jack O’Connor once eloquently said, “If someone should conduct a beauty contest among the game animals of the Southwest, I have no doubt the Arizona whitetail would win hands down. The Arizona whitetail is an exquisitely lovely thing.” Mr. O’Connor also proclaimed the Coues deer to be “the most difficult of all deer to kill” due to its extreme wariness and the inhospitable habitat this deer can live in.
Coues deer (Properly pronounced “Cows”, but nearly everyone says “Coos”) are also known as “the Arizona whitetail”. The core of the Desert Whitetail deer range is in southeastern Arizona where there are vast areas of Forest Service and BLM land, and they are found also New Mexico and Mexico. This deer has developed such a reputation for being able to vanish from view in the smallest amount of cover that it is frequently referred to as the “Grey Ghost”.
Adaptation to the desert habitat has made Coues deer one of the smallest deer in North America – 28-32” at the shoulder, 56” from head to tail, a large buck would be 80-90 lbs., does about 65 lbs. Despite their tiny body size, Coues can carry proportionally impressive racks for their size. However, to meet Boone and Crockett record book status antlers are still considerably smaller than all other white-tailed deer. Currently, to make the all-time record book, a Coues whitetail needs to score 110 typical, or 120 non-typical. All other white-tails recognized by Boone and Crockett need to score 170 typical or 195 atypical
Many people consider Coues deer to be the most challenging big game animal to hunt. Some even refer to hunting Coues deer as the “poor man’s sheep hunt” because of the harsh terrain and the high adventure in hunting them. This is the desert, plain and simple. Rugged dry and hot, where the cacti and brush thickets seem sparse to the average eye, but offer ample cover to hide these elusive deer.
Arizona and Mexico offer the most hunting opportunities where you can hunt public land without a guide. Arizona Coues deer hunts are “draw” hunts and Mexico’s private ranches require a guide. In New Mexico, resident & non-resident hunters can purchase tags online from NM Fish and Game. Hunting strategy – prepare for long range shooting (250-400 yards) with a flat-shooting caliber from .22-250 to .270 Heavier than that is not necessary. Bow, Crossbow and Muzzleloader hunters should prepare for the ultimate challenge both from their elusiveness and the small size of the target. Water hole hunting is often the most profitable for the bow hunter. Guides want rifle hunting clients who are able to make long shots because quiet stalking is sometimes impossible and long shots with critical placement are the norm. Bring your best optics, because spot and stalk tactics using premium optics from a high vantage point are common, and bring you’re “A-game” on this once in a lifetime adventure in your quest for the Coues deer. It is one of the most memorable and wonderful hunting experiences on the planet!
Breeding occurs from December to February with the rut peak in January. They are much the same as other whitetails across North America with bucks becoming more vulnerable to hunters from the increase in daylight rut activity.