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  • Tanner Kemp

Conquering The Coues: Unit 21 Early Rifle Deer

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

Watch the film from the hunt here.

The Coues is one of the hardest subspecies of Whitetail to hunt. Due to their exquisite eyesight and very skittish personality, the terrain they live in is very unforgiving and treacherous. Getting the opportunity to take one is an amazing feat but to take two on the same hillside on the same day is just unheard of!

A beautiful October in Central Arizona kicked off the general Coues hunts. The start of the hunt was very quiet. I spotted a few bucks in the 70+ inch range and countless does. Hardly any shots were heard the first 2 days of the season. At the end of the second day it was decided to change location and hunt in an area where we had previously seen deer. I sat down with my younger brother, Cole and start glassing at first light. A few movements were picked up on top of a hill. There were four bucks working their way down to the edge of the canyon. I put my spotting scope on them I realized that there were 4 bucks! Two pushed the 100-inch mark. Cole and I sat there and tried to plan our approach. The deer made their way down the hill into the canyon when three gunshots went off. Bang! Bang! Bang! The deer we were previously trying to stalk were getting shot at by fellow hunters. We pulled up our glass to watch the deer and see where they would go. Once we located the deer we realized that none of them had been hit. There was a hunter sitting on top of the ridge about 600 yards away. Our minds went in several directions on how this scenario could have played out. This was too good of an opportunity to let slip away. We ultimately decided to go to a canyon that we had luck hunting in previous years. We sat there and glassed for the rest of the day and turned up a few small bucks but nothing to pursue. Darkness started to set in, ending our hectic day.

Monday rolled around and I felt very disheartened. The need to re-energize and repair mentally was an unwelcome distraction as I settle back into day-to-day home life. On Monday night the decision was made to go out early the next morning. I sent a text to my good friend and fellow hunter, Dillon Currie to see if he was willing to join us for the day. Dillon had the day open and agreed to join us. In the twilight hours of morning we headed out. The road was rough but the fellowship was energizing. It was decided we would head to a different part of the unit. This was an area that was not as familiar to us but we knew it had the potential for a good buck. We started at first light, glassing to the east. Not able to turn any deer up to the east I started to glass to the west and turned up two deer instantly. I look through my Vortex 15's and I could tell they were 2 does. They dropped into a cut. I took the Vortex Viper spotting scope and headed up the hill to see if I could look down into the cut they had dropped into. I was anxious to see if there were any other deer with them. I was able to spot the two does immediately. I patiently sat there watching every tree praying for a buck to step out. Ten minutes went by and Dillon and Cole made their way up to me. At that point I decided that I should start glassing other areas. I scanned the hills around me until I picked up movement. It was small speck about 2 1/2 miles away through my 15's. I quickly got over to the spotting scope turned it up to 60 power and picked up the small speck. To my surprise there were three buck feeding up this hill! At this point a game plan was developed. Dillon and I would hike closer and get a better look at them and Cole would stay in place watching their movement. We snuck in closer. Once we were about a mile out we decided that they were bucks that were worth taking. I called Cole on the radio to have him start heading in our direction. We patiently waited for him to make his way to us and we descended down the canyon as soon as he made it.

We reached the ridgeline where we thought we could make a shot. We picked up the 3 bucks as they were feeding towards the skyline. They were 150 yards out of range. A mad dash was made to get set up before they crested the ridge. Cole and I were setting up while Dillon picked them up with the binos and walked me in with the rifle. I settled the crosshairs as Dillon called 342. I steadily started to squeeze the trigger and my nerves got the best of me. I pulled my shot high and right. I quickly racked another one into the chamber. Dillon, once again walked me in to where they were. I found the deer I wanted to shoot and touched off my second round. The shot connected and dropped the deer, which then rolled out of sight. At this point the other two bucks were in shock just standing there. Cole quickly jumped on the tripod and got the deer in his sights. He took his first shot and missed high left. His second shot way left. He proceeded to take three more shots, all misses. The deer were trying to take cover. We were able to get a little closer and Cole took two more shots, wide left. I gave Cole my gun since his wasn't cooperating. He got the sight on the bigger of the two deer and touched it off. The deer took a couple steps and finally fell over. The three of us sat there in shock! Taking 2 Coues, in the same day, on the same hill, just minutes apart are uncommon. Both Coues taken were mature animals. What an experience. ​

Then came the fun part, having to hike with 2 deer and all our gear 2 miles back to the truck. It was a slow walk, going up and down hills. Once we made it to the truck we thought we were done with the strategizing. We were mistaken. When we drove in earlier we didn’t realize how sharp of a turn we had made. It took us two hours to maneuver out. Once we got back to the pavement we met my grandpa. He had driven over from Mesa with a cooler full of ice for cooling down the meat and capes. What a great opportunity to share with him. We wanted to see the green score on both our bucks. Cole’s was a typical 2x2 that taped out at 76 inches. Then we taped mine a 4x3 at 86.5 inches. We were blessed on this hunt to have Dillon along. We had the opportunity to bond as brothers. It was an amazing feeling! We are so grateful to our families for their support of our hunting addiction. This is one story that will go down in the Kemp history books and will not be soon forgotten. It will be shared for generations...the season when brothers, Tanner and Cole conquered the Coues within minutes of each other in the Fall of 2015.

To see more of our experience check out our video…​

This story was also featured in Earned The DIY Journal January/February 2016 Issue.



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