Colorado Parks and Wildlife is placing an emphasis on improving West Slope deer herd numbers, which for several years have not been optimal. Some Game Management Units (GMUs) are below management objectives, while other areas are doing well. Colorado deer are beginning to recover from the devastating winter of 2007-2008, which decimated the herds with an estimated 50 percent fatality rate.
Harvest statistics seem to be pretty constant over the past five years. In 2014, 33,018 deer were taken, for a statewide hunter success rate of 44 percent. What follows are some of the top areas, by region, to consider when pursuing deer in the Centennial State this season.
The northeast region is composed of prairie and agricultural terrain from the Kansas border to the foothills and high mountain ranges above 14,000 feet to the continental divide, mostly north from Denver. Deer population density varies within the region, and large plots of private property hinder access in many areas. Chronic wasting disease is found in this region as well.
The Red Feather herd, which ranges the mountains northwest of Fort Collins, is in good shape and growing. Licenses here may increase slightly this year. This herd and the South Park herd offer the best public land accessibility; however, success rates in these GMUs tend to run below the state average. The South Park herd tends to range the high elevations in the park. West of Denver-Boulder area, the deer are largely high-elevation herds as well. Early-season licenses usually produce better success rates.
To the east, deer populations are good, but private land encompasses about 99 percent of deer habitat. Numerous SWAs, some state parks, and the vast Pawnee Grass Lands provide public hunting access there. Mule deer are found ranging throughout the region, whereas whitetails tend to be found near the agricultural plots.
Over the years, northwestern Colorado has been a very popular area for deer hunters. Even though total numbers may be down in some areas, big bucks are abundant today. The northwest region is blessed with plenty of public hunting access. Brad Petch, CPW senior terrestrial biologist, said although the 2007-2008 winter decimated deer numbers, survival rates have improved. Some areas, such as the far northwest corner and the White River and Yampa River herds are still below optimal management figures. While the White River numbers have been down a little, the buck ratio is quite high. Petch noted the high buck to doe ratios throughout the region may lead to an increase in the number of buck licenses this year while some units may see a decrease in licenses.
He said the Middle Park herd is “rock and roll.” CPW reports seeing significantly more deer in GMUs that had modest harvest rates in 2014 — 18 and 28. Other areas he considers good options are the units in the Colorado River valley around the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in GMUs 12, 15, and 24. Also, numbers look good in the Upper Colorado River — GMUs 15, 35 and 361. GMU 40 has had a high harvest success rate, averaging around 65 percent over the past few years.
Colorado’s southeast region has terrain as diverse as almost anywhere, with elevations ranging from around 4,500 to 14,431 feet. Colorado’s legendary monster bucks, both mulie and whitetail, inhabit the entire southern and southeastern region. River bottoms with limited softwood forests provide cover, and interspersed agricultural fields provide forage to attract heavy-racked whitetails. Big mule deer also prowl these areas, but they seem to be more attracted to the prairie grass and sage hills or cedar break cliffs and brushy ravines cutting through the rolling hills.
East of I-25, there is a lot of public land mixed in with large plots of private land. The success rate in each of these GMUs varies little from 48 percent to 59 percent. Several State Wildlife Areas (SWAs) are spread throughout the region, giving public land hunters many small to large plots of prime deer habitat. Some of the SWAs restrict hunting. The huge, historic, and fascinating Comanche National Grassland is comprised of some 464,000 acres of excellent public hunting access. Unfortunately, the vast majority of good deer habitat is on private land.
According to one highly-successful outfitter, Jack Cassidy, the public access points are overcrowded, which serves to diminish the hunting experience. In his opinion, mule deer numbers in the southeast are growing slightly. Whitetail migration from Kansas is increasing while also expanding across I-25 to the west. Cassidy reports some have already reached as far west as Canon City.
West of I-25, the terrain begins to elevate rapidly. GMUs 511, 512, and 581 consist of about 50 percent public land. Searching the high pockets among the very rugged peaks in GMU 86 may yield your monster mulie, and there are lots of deer in the lower brushy bottoms. Jim Aragon, area wildlife manager, said deer numbers are growing slowly, but are a little below objectives in his region. They are spread down the timberline slopes of the Collegiate Range across the semi-arid juniper and pinon hills east of the Collegiates.
Although some large bucks may haunt the oxygen-deprived alpine tundra of these 14,000-foot peaks, most of the deer will be found lower. Winter comes early here, and deer will migrate down toward the east side of GMUs 56 and 561. Aragon said some big bucks may be taken in GMUs 82 and 86. If you are obsessed with a true trophy and a hunt with high success rates, an Internet search will locate several outfitters and provide detailed information on their hunts. These hunts will usually be on private land across thousands of acres of prime habitat. Your chance at a real trophy here are very high, especially east of I-25.
Like every other region, the mild winter had a major impact on deer in the southwest region. The harvest was about average, and the survival rate was very high. As a result of the 2007-2008 winter, when 50 percent of the deer herd perished, deer numbers are still down, but recovering. However, in most areas, the buck to doe ratio is approaching record levels. Fewer licenses will be available as a result, but those who have enough points and draw a license will have a really good chance at wallhanger bucks in many units.
Joe Lewandowski from CPW told me that those who hunt hard and well should have no problem finding deer. Big deer are being reported throughout the region. He said if you want to tag your buck, hunt slowly on foot and hunt hard all day. Use the ATV to retrieve, not hunt, your trophy.
Lewandowski expects to see really good hunt results this fall in several GMUs. In particular, he mentioned the west side of the San Luis Valley in GMUs 68, 681, 80 and 81, climbing up from around 7,000 feet through sagebrush hills to above timberline. Buck to doe ratios are very good here, and there are several reports of big bucks as well. Units 68 and 681 experience very good success rates. He also suggested looking into GMUs 77 and 78 north of Pagosa Springs. The deer numbers are growing here, and there are plenty of big buck reports.
Farther southwest, the area formed by a triangle from Montrose to Cortez, to Durango, where the deer population has unexplainably languished recently, is rebounding. Lewandowski said this area is also inundated with big buck sightings. GMUs 62, 65, 70 and 73 all have average to above average harvest numbers and minimal to no preference point requirements.
Chris Parmeter, CPW biologist, said deer population is growing and above management objectives north/northeast of Gunnison. Last year’s harvest was low, and a mild winter ensured a good survival rate for deer. One can anticipate good hunting in GMUs 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67. Parmeter recommended hunting the rugged GMU 55, if you are in good shape, in early season. Later in the season, deer will move south toward Alder Creek and the sage brush hills around Pitkin and Ohio City. Unit 54 offers good hunting as well, but access is more difficult, with private land and wilderness areas. These units require points, some in double-digit range, especially for non-residents and third rifle season. Lewandowski said the prospects here are good enough to pass up decent bucks to look for better racks — he thinks this opportunity is good enough to warrant expending your hard-earned preference points.
GMUs 53 and 63 west of Gunnison have excellent kill rates. Area 53 has very difficult terrain, up to 12,000 feet in the West Elk Wilderness. When snow hits, deer will migrate to the western edge of these units, particularly into area 63, and down into abundant private property west of Highway 92.
On the Uncompahgre Plateau, GMU 60, 61, and 62 are expected to produce well despite being below population objectives. Early-season success can be found in the aspen and oak brush areas. As weather changes, deer will migrate down into the pinon and juniper growth.
GMU 681 is worthy of consideration. It has a very good buck to doe ratio. There are fully mature bucks available in this high-altitude area with plenty of public access.
Farther south, a stable deer population with good buck/doe ratio portends good deer hunting in the early season in the Piedra, Florida, and Los Pinos drainages. Deer numbers are high in GMU 78 southeast of Pagosa Springs also. These deer tend to begin migration to winter range in mid-October. Their winter range is largely on private land or tribal properties.
Despite being below management objectives in many areas, Colorado’s deer herds are in generally good health across the state. Buck/doe ratios remain excellent, foretelling increased 2015 buck license numbers in some units and increased chances of meeting your trophy buck.
The high country is full of good news for 2015. Idaho is home to a vast amount of public hunting land, and wildlife officials there anticipate having a very good 2015 deer season. In Montana, the mule deer herd is rebuilding, and the whitetail numbers are increasing. Wyoming, which also is expected to have a good hunting season in 2015, offers high hunter success. Experts in each of the three states noted above offered their top few picks for high-country hunting opportunities. If you hunt in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, you should be able to find a variety of locations that offer a great shot at filling your tag this season.
Cooperative weather could mean bigger deer totals in the Gem State this season, local officials reported.
“Idaho is expecting a really good deer season in 2015, after three mild consecutive winters and very few winter die-offs,” said Bruce Ackerman, Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist. “We have good populations of both mule deer and whitetails and expect to harvest about the same number of deer in 2015 as in 2014 — a total of more than 60,000.”
About 67 percent of Idaho is public lands. Resident and nonresident hunters can buy deer tags over the counter for mule deer and whitetails. Although the deer tags numbers have been limited for the last few years, Idaho hasn’t sold out of deer tags. The state has a drawing between May 1 and June 5 for the 17,000 limited entry hunts, where hunters take a specific number of deer. Not all these limited entry areas contain trophy deer, but many do.
In 2014, Idaho sold 157,457 deer tags, and hunters took 31,880 mule deer, with about 2100 taken by bow, 29,000 by rifles and 600 by muzzleloader. For a trophy mule deer, Ackerman recommends a hike into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, located in the middle of Idaho.
“Game Management Unit (GMU) 27 is mostly wilderness with light hunter pressure,” Ackerman emphasized. “Many hunters fly in, are dropped off at an airstrip and hunt from there. Also GMU 39 near Atlanta has good mule deer bucks but requires a good amount of hiking to reach its remote locations.”
Michael Elmer, game data coordinator for IDFG, reported that to see the most mule deer, also visit GMUs 69 and 76 and consider a controlled hunt on GMU 45 for trophy mule deer and GMU 54.
The total whitetail harvest was more than 28,000, with 1,100 taken with bows, 26,472 with rifles and 610 with muzzleloaders. You can hunt trophy whitetails in any of the GMUs in the northern part of the state, with not one GMU better than the rest. The mixed agricultural land and forests of the Clearwater region produce big whitetails as well. For the most whitetails, go to any of the Panhandle and Clearwater units, specifically GMUs 1, 8 and 10A.
At fishandgame.idaho.gov you’ll see the 10-year harvest report by GMUs, regulations for each unit and the drawing odds to hunt the controlled units for last year. The site includes a hunt planner to help you navigate the information to hunt Idaho. For instance, you can indicate that you’d like to hunt the third week of September and have a good chance to harvest a deer. The hunt planner will help you determine which units are open hunting during that time, tell you the GMU with the highest deer success rate and provide a list of outfitters, hotels and the availability of public lands.
Some of the best news coming out of Montana this year, according to Ron Aasheim, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP), is that, “Montana is seeing a rebound in our mule deer population and our herds of whitetails increase.”
In 2011, Montana had a bad winter with icy, snowy weather increasing the winter kill on mule deer. When the high country gets heavy snows in October and November, the mule deer will move down the mountains and won’t be nearly as hard to hunt, since they’re concentrated at the lower elevations. Montana had a relatively mild winter last season, and the mule deer harvest wasn’t very high.
Eastern Montana, which has the most mule deer, has rolling hills like those found in the Missouri Breaks. Moving west are some small mountain ranges. In the west/central section of Montana are the Rocky Mountains, big, rugged and heavily timbered. Probably the best way to choose any area you want is to go to the Montana website atwww.fwp.mt.gov, and click on “Hunting.”
“If you’re looking for a trophy mule deer, I suggest the back country of the wilderness areas,” Aasheim explained. “Look for places where the mule deer feel the most secure and are least likely to encounter hunters. The deer there can survive longer and grow bigger antlers and heavier body weights.”
The hunters who are in the best shape and are willing to cross several mountain ranges may have the best opportunities to take a trophy mule buck on the western side of the state where elevations may reach up to 10,000 feet and access is limited. If climbing isn’t your style, but you still want to harvest a trophy mule deer, hunt the eastern section of the state with an outfitter who has permission to hunt on private lands.
“Montana in 2011 had an outbreak of EHD, resulting in the loss of numbers of whitetails, especially in central and eastern Montana,” Aasheim reported. “In some areas, 85 percent of the whitetail herd died. However, the whitetails are much more resilient than the mule deer, and we’re seeing the numbers of whitetails statewide on the increase.”
To answer the challenge of the decreasing herds and enable the herds to grow, MFWP has decreased the number of deer and antlerless deer that hunters can harvest. In past years, hunters were allowed to take one buck and five does in some regions. Today, hunters generally only can harvest one deer, usually a whitetail or a mule deer buck.
Aasheim said to hunt for a whitetail, “I’ll probably go to northwestern Montana. Although that terrain is much more rugged than other sections of the state, the whitetails there haven’t experienced an outbreak of EHD. Or, I’ll hunt the river bottom country in central and eastern Montana.”
Go to the MFWP site for harvest information and a hunt planner that will tell you everything about hunting in Montana. You also can get the latest harvest information for 2014, which wasn’t available at this writing, by viewing the harvest surveys.
“In 2014, the mule deer harvest was 26,086, and the whitetail harvest came in at 13,828,” Al Langston, information specialist for Wyoming, reported. Wyoming has 157 different hunt areas.
The deer tags for Wyoming are on the draw system, unless some areas are undersubscribed in the initial drawing. Then they’re sold on a first come, first serve basis. In situations where hunters need to cross private land, the landowners sometimes charge a trespass fee for that privilege.
In Hunt Area 82, located in the south/central part of the state close to the Colorado border, 1,374 mule deer were harvested in 2014. This hunt area encompasses some of the Medicine Bow National Forest near the town of Baggs and includes some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land as well as some private lands.
Historically this region has been a very good area for hunting mule deer and is considered by many as the top mule deer region in Wyoming. Also good numbers of mule deer are taken from the Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming, the private lands around it and the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming. However, hunters have to apply to hunt many areas by the end of May each year, since there are no over-the-counter tags for sale for these places.
For hunters who seek trophy mule deer, the Bridger-Teton National Forest has produced some in the past and has good potential. However, Wyoming has a preference point system for drawing a tag for this area. Only 25 percent of the quota to hunt this area is given out on a random draw.
“If you’re a first-time hunter wanting to hunt here, you’re as likely to get hit by a meteorite as you are to draw a tag to hunt the Bridger-Teton National Forest,” Langston noted.
For many of Montana’s trophy mule deer areas, a hunter may have to have five or more preference points before getting to hunt them. Even if a hunter is lucky enough to draw a Bridger-Teton tag, they may be a little intimidated by the formidable mountain terrain throughout the area. When hunting there, it helps to be in good shape.
Many biologists consider the Black Hills National Forest the best public access for the highest concentration of whitetails. Hunting Area 2 there borders private lands and produced 2,456 whitetails in 2014. Whitetails are scattered throughout the state in eastern Wyoming, but a pretty large number of whitetails live on private lands. The Black Hills and Wyoming’s private farm and ranch lands produce a good number of trophy whitetails.
Langston reported that Wyoming has had some sporadic outbreaks of EHD from time to time, lately in the northeastern quarter of the state.
“This past year Wyoming had a very mild winter,” he said, noting that winter kill can be bad in some sections of the state but not in others. “But in 2013 and 2014, due to the mild winter, we’ve had very good fawn production for both mule deer and whitetails. I expect us to have a good hunting season in 2015,” Langston reported.
Wyoming’s hunter success ratio has been high over the last few years. In 2014, the mule deer harvest hunter success ratio was 54 percent, with the whitetail hunter success ratio 59.4 percent.
All Wyoming nonresident deer tags are on a draw system, and there are limited quota areas in the state where both residents and nonresidents are on the draw system, with no preference point system for residents. Wyoming strives to manage its deer herd for a quality hunting experience. Residents don’t have to draw for a deer tag if they’re hunting a general license hunt area. However, in the limited quota regions, both residents and nonresidents have to draw for those licenses and only are allowed to take one deer.
Check out the Wyoming Game and Fish Department site — wgfd.wyo.gov, — to learn all you want to know about hunting Wyoming. As always, double check your local regulations wherever you plan on hunting before heading into the woods.
With many great hunting opportunities throughout the high-country, hunters should have little trouble finding a location that offers a good opportunity to fill their tag this season.
If you hunt New Mexico this deer season, you’ll have the opportunity to pursue both Texas and Coues whitetails as well as mule deer. Arizona offers both mule deer and Coues hunting, with state hunters having about a 21-28 percent success rate each year, and mule deer making up 60 percent of those harvested.
Everyone knows how tough Coues are to hunt. One of my friends, Mike Deschamps of New York, recalled when he was on a quest to take a Coues buck in Arizona for several years. Once he finally took his first Coues buck on public land near Payson with his bow and arrow, he calculated that he’d spent the equivalent of going on a polar bear hunt to take his first Coues.
New Mexico doesn’t have very many Texas whitetails in one location, because New Mexico is the farthest west of the deer’s home range. Texas whitetails are found in about 12 counties in the eastern part of the state, with concentrations in about eight of the eastern Game Management Units (GMUs).
In the northeastern section of the state, Texas whitetails live in canyons, river bottom and creek bottom habitats and around agricultural areas. This portion of the state is primarily privately owned, although there are some U.S. Forest Service lands, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and state lands.
The southeastern part of New Mexico features rolling hills and sand where the Texas whitetails live along drainages and the edges of agricultural fields. You’ll find them at GMU 34 around Cloudcroft, where there’s some mountainous terrain. Also look into GMU 31 near Hobbs. Generally the Texas whitetails will be found in the lower elevations. This area of the state has GMU lands, quite a bit of BLM land and U.S. Forest Service property, especially in GMU 34.
Ryan Darr, a deer and pronghorn biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, said the Coues deer bucks, which usually stand just over 30 inches at the shoulder, rarely weigh more than 100 pounds. They usually will live in higher elevations and more rugged terrain, with dense brush and tree cover and prefer not to be in open areas.
“We tend to see Coues more in the southwestern part of the state where there’s not much agriculture, and they’re generally more isolated than the Texas whitetails,” Darr reported. “The majority of our Coues populations will be in GMUs 23, 24 and 27 and some in GMU 21. Silver City and Lordsburg are nearby towns where you can stay and get supplies. You’ll have to drive some ways out of these cities to find the more rugged terrain where most Coues deer like to hold.”
The greatest concentration of mule deer will be in the southeastern section of the state in GMU 30, which includes the Guadalupe Mountains all the way up to the town of Hope, and GMU 32, which is located around Roswell. Most of the terrain will be open plains and rolling hills, except on the southern end of GMU 30’s rugged Guadalupe Mountains.
“Most of our bowhunters drive a lot in their vehicles, using their spotting scopes to pinpoint the deer, before stalking in close enough to get their shots,” Darr explained. “In the mountains, bowhunters can set up along waterholes and trails and may have a better chance of taking a mule deer using this tactic than stalking them.”
New Mexico’s bow season is in September and January, depending on the area you’re hunting, he said.
“In some places, you’ll only be able to hunt in September, and in other areas only with a bow during January. Yet in some regions, you may be able to hunt both seasons. Check the regulation book for the season in the GMU that you’re hunting.”
Some other regions to consider for mule deer include GMU 57 and GMU 58, in northeastern New Mexico. Although many private lands are in these two units, you may be able to get permission to hunt some of these private lands. GMU 23 and GMU 24, mentioned earlier for Coues hunting, are also productive areas for mule deer and have an extended bowhunting opportunity, if you’ve drawn a forked antler tag for a mule deer or a Coues deer. If you hunt during the general forked antlered deer season for mule deer or whitetails, you can return to a special unit near Silver City and take a doe, if you’re not lucky enough to harvest a buck during the general archery season.
Special Archery Hunt
Hunters holding a valid archery deer license for Units 23 and 24 and who did not harvest a deer during their hunts will be allowed to hunt for antlerless deer within the Silver City Deer Management Area (as determined by the NMDGF) from Jan. 16 to Feb. 5, 2016. Qualifying hunters should contact 1-888-248-6866.
Trophy Deer in New Mexico
When asked about taking a trophy buck, Darr noted GMU’s 2B, 2C or 4 in northwestern New Mexico for mulies. “These areas produce trophies because they have really good habitat, and the state has managed these places as trophy regions. Too, there’s lower hunter numbers on them. The state tries to keep a tighter buck to doe ratio to produce more trophy bucks, especially in GMU 2B in the northwestern corner of the state and somewhat in GMU 4, which serve as wintering areas for bucks migrating into New Mexico from Colorado due to Colorado’s heavy snows and chillier climate. They have better accessibility to food on the ground in New Mexico.”
Darr also recommended GMU’s 57 and 58 in the northwestern corner of the state for Texas whitetail bucks scoring in the 140s and 150s on Boone and Crockett. But don’t expect to find many of these deer like you’ll see in Texas or the Midwest.
To take a trophy Coues deer, Darr said he’ll hunt GMU 23 and the Burro Mountain Hunt Area that has been set-up to produce trophy deer — both whitetails and mule deer. That is a much harder tag to draw than for the GMU 23 hunt, though. High-quality Coues deer trophies — scoring in the 120s on Boone and Crockett — are also in the Peloncillo Mountains. The all-time Coues record for the state was 134 4/8 B&C. At one time, that buck held third place in the world record book for Coues deer. A trophy mule deer must score 220 points or more on the B&C scale, and the most trophy mule deer have been taken in Rio Arriba County.
Dennis Fogle, the big game habitat specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said Arizona has Coues whitetails and mule deer, considered Arizona’s principal game animal.
Fogle explained that the best place to see numbers of mule deer and big mule deer will be the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona at the 12A West Unit, bordering the Grand Canyon. Most of these lands are U.S. Forest Service lands. Be sure not to go into the Grand Canyon National Park where no hunting is allowed. The Kaibab has outstanding winter habitat for mule deer. During the summer months, the mule deer will move up to about 9,000 feet elevation and move down to about 5,000 to 6,000 feet in the winter.
“Our department has done a lot of habitat improvement to expand the mule deer wintering range in this unit,” Fogle emphasized. “We have done redevelopment and new development for water catchment, since this area is really dry and doesn’t have much free standing water.”
The deer are very reliant on manmade ponds and water holes, he noted, and this region doesn’t get much snow or rain.
“Water is the biggest limiting factor for our deer in Arizona,” Fogle said. “At the Kaibab, our area manager has set-up watering holes about every 3 miles throughout the range, so our deer shouldn’t have to travel more than 1.5 miles to reach water. We’ve also been removing many junipers to restore more of the unit’s historical habitat. Plenty of mule deer on this unit will score 200 inches plus on Boone & Crockett.”
Until about 7 years ago, hunters could buy archery tags over the counter to hunt the Kaibab. But today tags for the Kaibab are on a lottery draw system for both archery and rifle seasons, with generally about 1,000 permits available for archery hunters. Although most archery hunts start in August, the hunts on the Kaibab may not begin until September (exact dates were not available at press time). The Kaibab is also one of the only units in the state where antlerless deer are harvested, usually during the youth season.
If you’re searching for a trophy mule deer, Fogle suggested hunting Units 13A and 13B, known as “the strip” and adjacent to the Kaibab Plateau. Both units have plenty of good habitat, and the harvest of mule deer there is restricted and managed for quality mule deer.
Arizona’s Coues Report
Generally any of the southern Arizona wildlife units provide good opportunities to find numbers of Coues deer and record-quality Coues. The deer populations in the southern part of the state are very strong due to the abundant habitat for deer there. Usually bowhunters will find plenty of tags to hunt the southern region of the state.
“However, some people don’t want to hunt these units, because of the border issues with Mexico,” Fogle noted. “So, these units don’t receive as much hunting pressure as our northern units do, although the quality of the hunt is outstanding. I hunt these southern units every year, and I’ve never had an issue. People crossing the border illegally and drug traffickers don’t want to cross the border where deer hunters are. Do be aware of your surroundings when you hunt there. The Coues whitetail likes to live in mountains, and there are hundreds of mountain ranges located in southern Arizona.”
Any of the hunting units south of Tucson provide outstanding Coues deer hunting, due to the plentiful deer habitat, including grasslands, rolling hills, mesquite, ocotillo and 8,000- to 9,000-foot mountains. Many bowhunters hunt at waterholes or along trails leading to waterholes to take Coues with their bows. The other option is glassing for these deer with binoculars on tripods. Many Coues hunters watch bucks until they bed down and then attempt to stalk in close enough to get shots with their bows.
Fogle emphasizes that a Coues deer hunt is nothing like an eastern whitetail hunt. Because the bucks often are spotted from a mile away, during gun season, a rifle hunter may take a shot out to 600 yards. Most bowhunters will take Coues deer from 50 yards.
Due to most of Arizona’s archery hunts for Coues taking place in August and September, hunting over watering holes seems to be very productive for bowhunters. Tags can be bought over the counter for most units in the state. There is also a late- season hunt for archery. Depending on the unit that you want to hunt, that may run from mid-December through the end of January. You’ll find Coues deer in the rut at this time of year, and you can buy these tags over-the-counter, just like you can for the early season hunts.
With great areas for pursuing several species of deer, Arizona and New Mexico offer a variety of options for hunters. Anyone looking for a deer hotspot in the Southwest this season should be able to find a good location not far from home.