All About Coues Deer

Rob J. from North Carolina writes to ask about the Coues deer (pronounced “cows”). “I keep reading more and more about how tough the Coues deer is to hunt. Where do you hunt these deer and how do they differ from whitetails.”

Dr. Dave Samuel and a Coues buck.

Actually the Coues deer is a subspecies of the whitetail. They are found in the Sonoran desert hills and other dry, grassland habitat in southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and in the Mexican States of Sonora and Chihuahua.

The Coues is smaller than our deer, and his horns do not grow very large. One that scores over 100 inches is a dandy, and one over 90 inches is very respectable. The minimum for Pope and Young (the archery record book) for a typical Coues deer is 65 inches, and there are only around 200 listed in that record book. That gives you an idea of how tough these guys are to hunt.

The reason is that the Coues deer is extremely wary, and since they are found in relatively open terrain, they are extremely challenging. I’ve got some friends who have done quite well bowhunting them in December over waterholes. But, they usually water at night so that isn’t a sure thing either.

The Coues deer may be nervous because mountain lions prey on them a fair amount. Combine all these factors and you have a very tough animal to gun or bowhunt.

In fact, world-renowned bowhunter Chuck Adams, in his excellent book “Super Slam,” says, “the diminutive Coues whitetail is America’s most difficult big game animal.”

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a deer question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of‘s content at

Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 30 years.

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