The Coues deer is a sub-species of the Eastern Whitetailed Deer and is common in the southwest United States. Coues, correctly pronounced “cowz,” was first described by naturalist Dr. Elliot Coues in 1866.
Many people refer to this species of whitetailed deer as the Arizona whitetail or a “fantail” deer.
Coues Deer Native Range
Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico are your best options for the best Coues deer hunting. Both Arizona and New Mexico have limited natural populations of Coues deer.
In Mexico, the range of the Coues deer is bigger, and the population is larger.
Arizona Coues Deer Ranges
Coues deer are primarily found in the southeastern part of Arizona. As you move north toward the Mogollon Rim and west toward the Colorado River, the population of Coues deer begins to thin.
However, if the terrain, cover, and water situation are right, scattered populations of Coues deer can be found in these northern and western areas.
New Mexico Coues Deer Ranges
The New Mexico region with the highest population is small and limited to the extreme southwest portion of the state. The best populations of Coues deer are usually found along the Arizona border.
Hunting south of the Blue Range south to Mexico is usually the most successful.
The San Mateo mountains do have some scattered populations of Coues deer. The northern Black Range is also home to some Coues deer.
This range extends through the Gila National Forest. Hunters occasionally report small herds of Coues deer in isolated pockets north of these areas.
Mexico Coues Deer Ranges
If you want to travel to Mexico for a Coues deer hunt, you should focus on the Mexican states of Sonora and western Chihuahua. Smaller populations of Coues deer are known to inhabit portions of Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Durango.
The areas known in these Mexican states to hold significant populations of Coues deer are remote and rugged.
If you are considering a hunt in Mexico, we highly recommend contacting a reliable, professional guide service to arrange your hunt.
This is a handy pocket guide you can bring with you to the field. It will take you step by step on how to field dress big game animals
Habitat and Territory
Coues deer are native to the arid southwest regions of the United States and Northern Mexico. Their small size is related to the harsh territory they prefer. The Coues deer prefers elevations above 2,500 feet and below 10,000 feet.
This type of terrain in the southwest United States provides the Coues deer with various habitats and vegetation. The most notable cover varieties are scrub oak, Manzanita, mountain mahogany, juniper, and pinion pine thickets.
Coues deer are most numerous in areas with mixed juniper, evergreen oaks, and pinion pine. However, Coues deer are also known to inhabit the Sonoran Desert plains and some semi-arid grasslands.
In New Mexico, Coues deer can sometimes be found in ponderosa pine forests.
The Coues deer’s ability to utilize the sparse cover is well known. Coues deer have a reputation for being able to disappear as quickly as they appear seemingly. Many avid Coues deer hunters refer to this species as the Gray Ghost.
Habits and Needs
Hunting the elusive Coues deer requires a sound knowledge of their habits and needs. Coues deer have three basic needs, food, water, and space.
Coues deer inhabit areas that provide these three factors in ample supply. If you want to find Coues deer, look where the deer find their basic needs nearby.
Coues deer are browsers, so vegetation cover must include shrubs. Coues deer will choose an area with a wide variety of different vegetation on which to feed. They prefer diversity rather than an area with only one or two vegetation types.
Coues deer prefer forbs. If you aren’t a horticulturist, forbs are flowering plants and shrubs. Typically, these plants are found in semi-arid areas.
Forbs grow along the edge of juniper or other woodlands. Forbs are often accompanied by medium to long stem grasses.
Coues deer need a ready supply of fresh water. The best Coues deer ranges will have several permanent year-round water sources.
Some research suggests that the highest Coues deer populations are found where water is plentiful. One year-round water source per square kilometer provides the best area for Coues deer populations.
Some areas can sustain a healthy Coues deer population with a reliable water source every 2 to 3 square kilometers.
Research shows that the square quarter of a mile around the water source is used more by Coues deer than the other area combined.
With plentiful and diverse vegetation and reliable water sources, Coues deer need space to establish their ranges. Coues bucks have a normal range of about 2 – 4 square miles.
However, though they will defend this large territory, they rarely spend much time out of their territory’s core of one-half square mile.
Bucks will center their core area around a water source in most cases. If they can find a reliable water hole on a north or northeastern slope, all the better. Heavily wooded creek bottoms are also a favorite spot.
Coues deer tend to be creatures of habit. They will use the same trails and paths when moving from water, deeding areas, and bedding locations.
If disturbed, they may abandon these known routes and locations for a brief period. They will usually return to their known territory in a few days.
Coues deer will avoid livestock such as cattle. Some varieties of whitetailed deer will often be seen grazing with cattle. Coues deer avoid livestock whenever possible. The Coues deer will not be there if livestock is in the area.
Finding Your Coues Deer
Hunting Coues deer is a challenge. These small deer are elusive, hard to spot, and they live in some of the most extreme terrains you can imagine.
Their uncanny ability to hide and move makes them even more elusive. Good scouting and knowledge of your hunting area are key to your success.
For more information about Coues deer hunting in Arizona, click here.
You can get information about hunting Coues deer in New Mexico at this link.