We have all seen the Facebook sites, hunting outfit flyers and magazine advertisements promising the hunt of your lifetime. My question is, what really makes a hunt successful? Is it bringing home a bigger buck than your closest hunting buddy, just filling your freezer with enough wild game that will last a year, maybe shooting the ever elusive 400 lb. hog or just getting your limit on ducks before you freeze to death?
I often think about this after I have been on a hunt and came home empty handed. In May 2014 fellow Diva, Trish Jorrey talked to me about joining her on a Coues Whitetail Buck hunt in Arizona. I thought about it for maybe sixty seconds and decided I would love to go! We applied for our tags and the wait was on and then the email from the State of Arizona finally came, WE GOT OUR TAGS!! I did some research on which firearm would be better to shoot out to and beyond 500 yards, what gear to take and then on the hunt. I found out that this particular whitetail deer is one of the hardest deer in the US to hunt and is only legal to hunt to two of our 50 states, being New Mexico and Arizona. The deer have a very hard life because they live in the mountains at around 5,000 feet elevation and there are mountain lions that love to have deer for dinner. Many hunters go on exotic hunts around the world, but the one animal that they likely do not have is a Couse Deer Buck because they can be very difficult to hunt. So to prepare for this trip I needed to shoot at some long distances and I really needed to work on my mountain climbing legs.
Our Trip is finally upon us, it seemed like it took forever for November to finally roll around. We made out trip from Texas to Arizona and met up with another female huntress from California, and continued our trip from the Phoenix airport to the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge. The car ride was fun, we talked about the hunt and how excited we were to have the opportunity. We made a couple stops to see some sites, took pictures to commemorate our trip and then we had to drive through a couple Boarder check points. We were getting really close to Mexico and the excitement was building because our first hunt was just a couple hours away.
We made it to camp, introductions were made, the tent was set up for four days of camping with no electricity or running water, our backpacks were packed, our rifles were ready and we had plenty of water, it sure was hot for November! We take off on our first hunt, we walk and walk and then we climb and climb up a mountain named Mildred. The climb was rough, the mountain is very steep and rocky. We climbed to around 3,000 feet the first afternoon and then night fall was getting close and we headed back to camp. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of women who were at camp when we returned, I felt like I fit right in. Dinner and stories around the camp fire were fun, but early to bed for me, 3:00 AM comes really early. Over the next few days we would get up at 3:00 AM to be on the mountain before the sun came up and deer started moving. The climbs were now to 5,500 feet and it was very challenging for us but, we did it twice a day each day were there. Exhausted and freezing by night and up with a smile on our face to do it again each morning at 3:00 AM.
While out on each hunt we could see the Coues deer and would hike down a mountain and up another to get closer for a better shot. We would spend time sitting in the shade glassing from one mountain to another trying to find a buck that was in range for us to take a shot on. The closest we came to bringing a deer home was a nice Coues deer that I have in my rifle sites at 600 yards and just could not get the shot off in time. It was a particularly long hike down off of Mildred that afternoon for me… the last afternoon of our hunt. I would be going home without my Coues Whitetail Deer.
I was upset with myself because I didn’t take that 600 yard shot. I started thinking on my way off of Mildred, What really makes a successful hunt? I honestly don’t think it is what most people think it is. The biggest Buck or hog, the banded Teal or full freezer are all nice but, I am sure of one thing, my Coues Whitetail hunt was very successful. I have gained knowledge about hunting in the mountains, learned more about how my rifle shoots, I have watched Coues deer from one mountain to another, I now know how far I can push myself physically, climbing that mountain was brutal, I made amazing new friends and memories to last a lifetime and I was able to go to go sleep and wake up with nature which is one of my favorite things in the world to do. If you have never been able to see the sunset and sunrise in the Arizona Mountains you should add it to your bucket list! They are stunningly beautiful.
As I reflect back on this hunting trip it goes down as one my most successful hunts and I am hoping that I will have the luck of the draw again this year so I can return to Arizona to chase Couse Whitetail deer again.
Article by Kimberly Manuel