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The Elusive Gray Ghost The Biggest Challenge in the Hunting World


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After an hour of glassing a hillside in the brush we finally saw some movement. First we saw a couple of does grassing in the meadows, after focusing some more on the area we saw a big rack of antlers rise just behind a tree and into the brush. We had a split second to look at the buck and at first sight we could see that we were seeing a very big one but not sure how big. The time was about 10 a. m when the buck went into the brush, so we decided to get a bit closer to take a better look. After stalking for about 250 yards, we just waited for him to get out of the brush. We waited for about three hours with out moving so much because their where a couple of does and small bucks just 80 yards away from us, so any sudden movement would spooked them and would have spooked the big one as well. About 1 p. m we started seeing some movement in the trees, and suddenly a big antler was peaking out of the brush. “Get ready" I told the hunter. When he finally pops out of the trees he was indeed a monster buck.

The Coues deer also known as the gray ghost for his ability to disappear in a second, it is a subspecies of the whitetail. The hunt of this species is a very challenging adventure; do to his intelligence and the kind of habitat they live on. The Coues deer and his life stages play and important role on the hunting period. Also will covered important points of a complete Coues deer hunt. The 6 most important points to a successful hunt are: the outfitter, the guide, the hunter, the optics, the rifle and the weather. Is important to have these areas covered to take on the challenge. This point will be covered later on. A little about the species, The Coues deer, (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) is the smallest of the whitetail species but his lack of size compensates in brains, is the smartest of the whitetail and has a great sense of smell. Do to his color it is easy to get lost in the terrain background or disappear in the brush. The habitat of this species consists of rocky Mountains, steep hillsides and thick brushy draws; therefore it makes it a hard and challenging hunt. According to Moors (n. d) stated that “the Coues deer is the oldest of the deer species, according to fossil records in North America, it shows over 3 million years ago. "

The life stages of the Coues deer are the breeding, antler shed, and the fawning stage. Breeding normally occurs in the month of January this is where the Coues deer is more vulnerable; do to his interest in the doe without even spotting danger at close ranges. In the antler shed stage is where they normally shed the antlers and grow new ones. This happens every year; every time they shed their antlers they will grow bigger antlers the next season and so on. This normally occurs from April when the drop start until September, when the growth of the antler is done. At this time the antlers are covered by silky hair which eventually they will peal of by rubbing their antler on trees. The fawning stage occurs on July and August; most does will give birth to twins. Every fawn is born with white spots that will eventually disappear in the first two months of their lives.

The first point for a successful hunt is the outfitter. The outfitter plays a very important roll in every hunter's quest for the Gray ghost. Who is the person that will provide the hunting area, the guides, food and lodging and in some case will provide the firearm. He has to be an outfitter that has a good reputation among Coues hunters and has the credibility to sustain a good camp and produce trophy hunts in his area. In many cases the outfitter must advise and scout the area before a hunter arrives; so hi can advise in where and when the bucks are at the moment, and what area has the best percentage of a trophy buck. The outfitter must contract the best guides he can get and have all needs in camp; first aid, 4x4 vehicles, ATV, quick access to camp and out of camp, on camp taxidermist and clean cooks.

The guide is a crucial part of the hunt. The guide first responsibility is to take and bring the hunter back safely to camp. Among other responsibilities, is to spot the animals and decide the stalking method of the hunt. Advice on shots; and at no time the guides authority should be question. He has to have the knowledge on size and distances for every buck they see as well as information on surrounding animals they might approach and how to deal with them.

The hunter has to have a least some experience in handling firearms, and a little bit of knowledge on hunting. He is the one carrying the firearm and is up to him if he makes the shot or not. He needs to be able to recognize moment on the brush and hill sides and have some kind of hunting sense. For many it comes to crucial decisions at peak time, and can have take good quick decisions.

The optics is the most important tool of the hunter as well as for the guide. The hunt of this species requires a good set of binoculars and a good spotting scope. For the difficulty in finding these animals; clarity in the optics is very important. The binoculars should be minim a 10x42 to a 10x50, more powerful binoculars will be to heavy to carry in a long days hunt. That is why a spotting scope is used; to classify and judge deer's that are too long to see well with the binoculars. The spotting scope should be at least 25 to 50 powers. The spotting scope is used to judge the size of the animal from far and decide if it is worth to start the stalk.

The rifle; as any other tool is what will help secure the hunt. There are many types and calibers. To choose the right one it needs to be based in distance and accuracy. The 270 Weatherby Magnum is the best rifle for this hunt, provides power and accuracy besides it haves great distance coverage. Is also important to have a bipod to maintain a steady pulse.

The use of the weather is the most important natural factor in hunting. Is known that the Coues deer hunt is better in cold days and early in the morning. The deer will move more when the weather is cold; but when is windy they will bed, and it becomes very difficult to spot. When a snow storm hits; the next day will be an exceptional day to hunt. Days when is to hot the deer will typically wont move as much. When trying to move on to a deer it is important to go against the wind; they tend to have an exceptional sense of smell, so walking with the wind will carry the human sense to them and spook them away.

The Coues deer can be the most challenging and interesting adventures in the hunting world. Is by far the most versatile and intelligent deer of the family. It has been stated that the Coues deer is similar the sheep hunt because of the hiking required and difficulty in spotting them. For many, the hunt for any kind of animal is cruel and inhumane, but it is an important part to maintain the ecosystem balance. Of course it needs to follow certain rules, like permits and tags for the hunt, without exceeding the limit of permits per year according to the census. If any species would overpopulate they would suffer more because of the diseases they might get and the lack of food and water. Hunting is a vital part of the life and preservation of the species. Hunting has been a part of life for a long time. Many use this skill to provide food for their families, others do it for sport. The reasons may be endless but to preserve the species it must be some kind of control to avoid overpopulation and convert in a plague. That is what hunting is about.

Reference Page
Author, Moors, A (n. d). Life Stages of the Coues. Retrieved March 03, 2008, from
Author, Moors, A (n. d). Coues Deer Habitat. Retrieved March 03, 2008, from
Ojo Caliente Outfitters [no author]. (n. d). Hunting for Coues deer. Retrieved March 03, 2008 from
Deer Country [Craig Boddington, Petersen's Hunting]. (2008). Retrieved March 03, 2008, from
Photo by Bob Campbell

Ernesto Beall


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