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Mark Hanson’s Best Coues Deer


The biggest Coues (whitetail) buck I've ever taken was a buck that scored 90 inches. I grew up back in the East, and I was well acquainted with hunting whitetails from a tree stand. Especially in the early archery season, I prefer to hunt from a tree stand. On this day, I was about 30 minutes late leaving town for my hunt. Once I reached the area I planned to hunt, I knew I had about a mile walk to get to the spot where I had left my tree stand. I hunt an area about 75 miles east of Phoenix. 

I was going to my tree stand about 7 a.m., walking parallel to a fence line about 25 yards away. I heard a sound like a cat purring - only louder. That kind of sound is hard to pinpoint. The only thing I could think of that would make that kind of sound was a mountain lion. As I looked down the fence line, I spotted a gap in the fence with a mountain lion standing in that gap. Every year when I buy my tags, I always buy a mountain lion tag, because mountain lions know where deer feed and water. Since venison is one of their favorite meals, they sometimes appear where you expect to see a deer. I quickly nocked an arrow and drew my bow. But before I could get off a shot, the cat walked into the Manzanita (a brush that grows in the high desert country in the West) and disappeared. 

I continued on toward my tree stand and saw a herd of javelina. Then I understood why I had encountered the mountain lion. He must have been stalking that herd of javelina, hoping to have some spare ribs for dinner. The brush was pretty high where I was, and I didn’t want to spook the herd of javelina. So, I backed out, circled the javelina and continued on toward my stand. I had to go to the top of a ridge and then drop down off the ridge to reach my stand. Before I even got to my tree stand, I’d had an interesting hunt. As soon as I got in my tree stand, I saw a spike Coues buck following my trail right up to my tree stand. Then he walked about 10 yards past my stand and looked around as if to say, “Where did that trail go?” 

These Coues deer are much like eastern whitetails. They make scrapes, go into the rut and have licking branches, just like their bigger eastern cousins. An old logging road went down the top of this ridge, and a little scrape was about 25 yards from my stand. I stayed in my stand until well after noon. At about 2:30 p.m., a doe and a little buck came off the ridge, walked by the scrape and walked right under my tree stand. The doe stood still for a minute, and the little buck wandered off in front of her. Then she started looking back in the direction she had come from, which was behind my stand. So I turned around as quietly as possible, and I saw this 4x4, 90-inch Coues buck 25 yards away. 

There was a tiny little scrape behind my stand that I hadn’t spotted before. That buck was on the backside of the scrape chewing on a limb that hung out over the scrape. The sapling covered up his vitals. To get a shot at the buck, I knew I’d have to lean out and shoot behind my stand. When he stepped out from behind the tree, I aimed right behind his shoulder and took the shot. At the sound of the bow firing, he dropped down to jump. I hit him a little high in the back, but he only took 10 steps before he went down. Because he was a little Coues buck, I just sort of folded him up, put him in my pack frame and carried the whole deer out of the mountains. Field dressed, that buck probably only weighed between 95 or 100 pounds. I told my friends, “He came out of our hunt whole.” 

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book, “How to Prepare Venison Jerky: The Ultimate Snack Food,” from

Day 4: Mark Hanson’s Best Coues Deer

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