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Spot and Stalk Gila Coues

2014 started off with a bang for me. Well, more of a whack. The whack of a broad head into the side of a Coues Whitetail. This was my first time hunting Coues Deer. I have only hunted whitetail deer a few times (being from Utah) and everything I had heard is that they are even more elusive. That proved to be true. My tag was for the first 2 weeks of January, archery only. Since this story is on Hunt Addicts, obviously this was DIY public land. My father and I had drawn tags for southern New Mexico. The 12 hour drive was, I would find out, a good warm up for this cold weather hunt. Being from the west I am more accustomed to spot and stalk hunting. The thick cover and elusiveness of the Coues lent more to a sit and wait strategy. New Year’s Eve we got into town and met our friends who we would be staying and hunting with. In the morning we would be heading into the Gila National Forest.

There were a few inches of crusty snow that made sneaking difficult. We hunted down a few ridges, and saw some deer sign in the snow. After a couples stands with the grunt tube and rattling antlers we jumped a couple does. They were only 50 yards away, but their tiny bodies made them look much further away. With a flash of white they disappeared into the thick brush. I wanted to go look off the hill where they ran to get the “lay of the land.” I was quickly turned back. The brush was so thick I could barely push through it. When I did make it to the where I would normally be able to see down a ridge, I was only met with more brush.

Still hunting our way back, we jumped a legal buck. However, the bushes in the way and his quick retreat made a shot not possible. We made it back to the vehicles and went to a different drainage. As we were climbing the ridge we jumped a nice mule deer. Our friend Wayne had a mule deer tag and missed a tough up-hill shot. We made a couple more stands to no avail and headed home for the night.

The next day we hunted a little lower, out of the snow. The basin we were in afforded slightly more visibility, but still not a ton. From one side, however, you could glass the other side about 350 yards away. I set up in one part of the basin and my father set up in a different one. He had action in the middle of the day as a nice buck was pushing a doe in front of him. He nearly had a shot, but it didn’t quite work out. The rest of the day was uneventful. I was surprised about how only 150 yards away he could be in deer while I was not. That activity prompted us to hunt the same place the next day. We set up in the same places as before as the sun came up on the junipers. The earth is completely blanketed by them down there.

A little later in the morning my friend Adam and I moved about 100 yards from our initial location where we could get a little different view. It wasn’t very long and I spotted a doe being pushed by a buck close to our original location. They covered the distance to the far side of the basin almost instantly. Another buck appeared and will milling around at the edge of the basin where the doe had gone. I decided I wanted to go after them. We quietly hurried in their direction and snuck up the hill to where we had seen them last. A nice 8 point buck jumped and started away from us. I stopped him with a grunt. The buck was locked on us about 35 yards away directly though a large Juniper. Everything is directly though a large juniper in southern New Mexico. Our standoff seemed to last a long time, but really was only a few moments. I knew he was getting ready to run. I shifted 2 steps to my right to try and sneak and arrow under a large branch, but the buck wasn’t waiting around. He started up the ridge at a brisk pace. Not so quickly that he acted truly spooked. I followed him and busted him one last time before they disappeared of the south facing side and into the super thick growth. We reunited and talked about the stalk. I said I was going to go sit on that doe’s trail. Thinking maybe a buck would follow it at some point in the day.

After about an hour a buck appeared on the far side of the basin and started tracking the doe. I could tell he was going to come right to me. When he went behind a tree at about 200 yards, I moved to an ambush position under, you guessed it, a large juniper. I had a clear view of the path the doe had taken and I quickly ranged a few trees to know my shots. I didn’t want to overestimate the range on the small-bodied deer. The buck materialized directly below me. It caught me by surprise because he had left the trail I had thought he would travel. I remained still and drew as he passed a clump of grass. At 10 yards I let the arrow fly and it found its mark. He never knew I was there. I had got both lungs and he only went about 20 yards. I signaled the “fist pump of success” to Adam and he returned the gesture. It was settling in that I had actually sealed the deal on one of the gray ghosts.



Return to the Sage: Wyoming Antelope

Getting so close a few weeks ago and coming home empty handed changed our plans for the rifle opener. Initially we were planning on scouting for 2 days, and rifle hunting the rest of the week. But after tasting the challenge that spot and stalk archery hunting provided, we modified our plans and headed over 4 days earlier, hoping to get the job done with archery tackle. We’d then have a day or two to pick up our rifles if needed.

Wyoming Desert Sunrise
In this sage country, cover is very scarce. Our tactic consisted of driving and hiking into canyons and draws, looking for bucks that were in stalk-able locations. We each had multiple stalks every day — some better than others. It wasn’t an issue of getting within range, but being close enough, and letting an arrow fly are much different things in the bowhunting world.

Buck through the brush

Dad came and met us after a couple of days, and a good friend, Jewkes, also showed up the Saturday before the rifle hunt opened. We spent a lot of time driving, walking, and glassing bucks to stalk.  Cole showed up Sunday afternoon. He would only be rifle hunting, but came out a couple of days early to get familiar with the unit and look at some bucks.

Jewkes came about 3 inches shy of killing a buck on Sunday, but the buck had moved a few steps farther than he had though and he shot just under its belly. The young buck dashed off and quickly learned to keep his distance from Jewkes-sized predators.

Running Pronghorn Buck

Monday morning we headed out to check on a few of the bigger bucks we’d seen. We were hoping to find them in their usual haunts, so we could be there at first light on opening morning. But we couldn’t locate any of them. We checked a half dozen different areas, and none of our bigger bucks were to be found. Disheartened we decided to head to another part of the unit that we had visited just once over the past 4 days.

Glassing for Bucks

I’d like to say that we put on a difficult stalk, but that wasn’t the case. As we were arriving in the other area and had barely driven onto a strip of public land, we spotted 8 bucks feeding from the truck.  We managed to get the truck pulled off the road without spooking them too much, and Jewkes made a short and effective stalk to within range.

I was sizing the bucks up, trying to pick the largest one. They all looked to be about 2.5 year old bucks — none significantly bigger than the others. They all lined up in a row and looked our way as they had caught our movement. The third from the left, however, did have a pretty hook and was a bit more appealing to my eye. I was looking through the camera eyepiece whispering “Third one from the left…third one from the left.”

The arrow flew, the herd jumped and scattered, and the third buck from the left ran off untouched. The second buck from the left, however, had taken an arrow to the spine and dropped on the spot. The shot was a little high, but the buck was down and expired quickly. It was done. We had a pronghorn buck down — spot and stalk style with archery tackle. We were all on cloud nine as we took a few moments to let it all sink in, snap some photos, and then headed back to camp. Tag 1 of 5 was notched. Rifle season started in the morning.

Jewkes' Archery AntelopeJewkes' Archery Buck Closeup

With pronghorn, an inch makes a big difference. In this sense, antelope hunting differs quite a bit from most other hunts as we looked over dozens of different bucks every day, trying to judge an inch here, and an inch there.  The majority of the bucks we would see were around 13 inches tall or smaller with small to average prongs and not much mass.  As the day wears on and the desert warms, heat waves make discerning inches at distances over 300 yards nearly impossible, even with good optics. We made the decision to split up opening morning. Cole and Jewkes went one way, while Ben, Dad and I took the other truck down into the canyons where we had seen several good bucks on multiple occasions, hoping that they would be back for the rifle opener.

Pronhorn Buck on Skyline

They weren’t. We drove through the usual haunts of several different bucks, only to find them empty. We did find several 14+ inch bucks early in the morning, one in particular had sweeping horns, but we decided that only 10 minutes into the rifle season, he could live a little longer.

We covered a lot of ground, and finally found a solid buck that warranted a stalk, but he was a mile away and two draws over. We consulted the GPS (thanks to GPS Hunting Maps) and found a road that would bring us close. After a bumpy drive and a stalk of a few hundred yards, we eased our way over the edge of the ridge. The herd had moved several hundred yards west and had us pegged. I rushed to find the buck, rested over a large sagebrush, checked the range, and took the shot. I hit low and the buck trailed his fast moving girlfriends across the draw and up the canyon. I had an incorrect range, and must have picked up some brush somewhere between myself and the buck and missed low because of it.

We made our way back out of the canyons and onto a big flat that always holds good amounts of antelope — they lived there because they could see for long distance so getting close to them was tough. We found several herds, and Ben and I were able to stalk up a draw, passing several bucks on the way, but ultimately not getting the bucks we were after.

Ben Watching Buck through Scope

We returned to camp to find Cole had killed the first buck he saw that morning. His luck paid off big time as his buck was big and had character. We exchanged high fives and stories of the morning, grabbed some lunch, and headed out to find some more bucks.

Cole's Big Character Buck

Trek Tent Camp

We found another nice buck, who managed to elude us and were driving back past camp, when we spotted a herd on backside of the ridge above camp, close to where I had one of my closest archery stalks several days prior. This looked to be the same buck and I decided I’d make a stalk. Ben took Dad south to try and find another buck, while Jewkes followed me with the camera as we made our way back to camp and up the draw. Hoping we could sneak around the ridge and find the herd within range.

I left Jewkes when I thought we were close and he stayed back with the camera, as there was very little cover. I had to use the topography of the gradual ridge to make my way towards the herd. I crawled forward and saw a doe, she was moving up the hill so I backed off, looped uphill and crawled forward again. The buck was standing next to a doe at about 200 yards, and for a long time either she was in front of him or he was in front of her so no shot was offered. I studied the buck, trying to decide whether I wanted to fill my tag. The doe cleared and he turned his head to look up the draw, his ivory tips glinted in the sunlight and he made up my mind. I grabbed my pack (which I had set behind me) and laid on my back as I pulled it across my chest to use as a rest. The buck caught my movement and looked my way. He stared me down, as I lay flat on my back in some very short grass. After what felt like an hour (more like a minute) he turned and fed. His lead doe was getting nervous and turned, looking to go around the ridge from me where I wouldn’t be able to see them. The buck was following but turned back. I abruptly sat up and shot. His does raced uphill, quartering towards me as they hurried to the top of the ridge. The buck turned downhill at first, then whirled back and I shot again, but the first shot had found its mark.

Brad's Pronghorn Buck

Brad's Buck side view

Brad's Wyoming Buck

Dad and Ben were coming back past camp, so we called and they came up to take a few more photos. They then headed back south of camp to look for a couple more good bucks. Ben found a buck that evening that had a pretty curl, great mass, and good prongs. He put on a very long stalk to within 70 yards in tall sage brush, capping it off with a short shot and tagged out. His buck is 13″ but will likely score the best of all the bucks due to his mass and strong cutters.

Ben's massive hooked pronghorn buck

We capped the night off with some rice and fresh backstraps, enjoying good company, tired companions, and reliving memories of the day. The next morning Dad, Ben and I headed out to try to find a buck for Dad. We drove down onto a large flat where we had gone the morning prior. The bucks make their way across this flat as they move from water each morning. We spotted the sweeping 14″ from the morning before and Dad decided he wouldn’t pass on him twice. With a short stalk his tag was punched and we had tagged 5 bucks in 36 hours.

Dad's sweeping antelope buckDad's Buck Closeup

I’ve long believed that antelope hunting is a great first hunt — but ultimately, it just makes a great hunt whether you’re new to the sport, or a seasoned veteran. The North American Pronghorn truly is a unique and amazing animal, hunting them in the sage deserts of Wyoming is hard to beat.

Morning Glassing for Antelope

Wyoming Horned Toad

Product Review: Lumenok

In anticipation of an Archery Elk hunt this year, I had a chance to test out the “Burt Coyote Lumenok.” I was not planning on hunting with them because I didn’t want to adjust my bow with only a few days to go until the hunt started. I was already dialed in and didn’t want to take any chances. However, those plans went out the window one evening as I was practicing as the sun was going down. I was shooting 30 yards and under and decided to put a Lumenok on to see how it worked. Needles to say I had them in my quiver while I chased bugling bulls a few days later. Here’s what I found: (Ratings are based out of 10 possible points)


Overall Rating: 9/10

Function: 9. The Lumenoks were easy to use. I was shooting Gold Tip Hunter XT 5575 arrows. Installation was as simple as removing my other knock and pushing the Lumenok into place until the knock lit. Then gently pulling the knock back to where the light turned off. I shot the Lumenoks several dozen times in the limited amount of practice time I had using them and never had a failure. They were especially fun to shoot as the evening light was fading. The arrow path could easily be seen, and it was easy to see where I hit from upwards of 60 yards away.

Design: 10. Lumenoks come in red, green, and a new man favorite; hot pink. They are made in different models ranging from 24 – 30.6 grains in weight. They do not require any special tools, or even any glue to install. They will fit most arrows without any modification. These knocks are designed to also help with arrow and game retrieval depending whether the arrow passes through, or stays with an animal.

Their innovative design uses the conductive qualities of the arrow to close a circuit, causing the light to turn on. Store your arrows with the knocks pulled pack, just far enough that the small wires don’t make contact with the arrow itself. When you are ready to shoot, put the arrow on your string, pull back, and release. Upon release the knock is forced forward – closing the circuit and turning the light on as the arrow flies towards your target. This design is very cool, and they are more fun to shoot than I thought they would be.

Quality: 10. As far as knocks are concerned these seemed great. Battery life is boasted at 40 hours. And they should be re-usable as long as they don’t break on impact. In dozens of test fires, I had zero failures – and the knock stayed lit in the target until I removed the arrow and turned off the light by sliding the knock back until the small wires were not touching the arrow. I did not shoot any errant arrows that struck hard objects and would be interested to see the results.

Price: 7. I wish they were a bit less expensive. While these are an innovative item: they do run close to $10 per knock. That is more than my arrows and broadheads. However, they do have electronic parts and batteries included which do increase manufacturing costs. There are other lighted knocks on the market, but their prices are very similar. Luckily these knocks shoot groups with my other knocks and I will have a couple in the quiver for shots in low light.

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