Coues Deer vs Whitetail Deer

Coues deer is not a separate deer species but one of the subspecies of white-tailed deer living in most parts of North America.

Coues deer shares certain characteristics with whitetails as their subspecies, but it also retained a few of its own.

Coues deer may stand out more than others among many white-tailed deer subspecies not only because of their small size but also their habitat and behavior.

Body and Antler Size

Coues Deer vs Whitetail Deer

Whitetails from the northern parts of the continent are known for their big sizes. However, even the small whitetails are usually bigger than one of their smallest subspecies, Coues deer.

Although the average weight of an adult whitetail buck would span from 150 to 300 lbs, some specimens reach over 400 lbs. Does are usually smaller, reaching weights from 90 to 200 lbs. 

In comparison, the biggest Coues deer bucks reach just over 100 lbs and does weigh around 65 lbs on average, very rarely reaching over 80 lbs.

Whitetails can grow up to 42″ tall at their shoulders, while Coues deer can only reach 32″. It is the biggest and the easiest-to-spot difference between the two deer.

Another thing that differentiates them in their size is their ears and tails to body ratio.

Living in the hot climate, Coues deer adapted in a very interesting way – their ears are bigger in comparison with the rest of their body. 

Large ears help the Coues deer regulate the temperature of their bodies during hot days. The blood in the ears cools down and then circulates back into their bodies, lowering the body temperature.

A similar situation is with their tail length to body ratio. Coues deer appear to have longer tails compared to the rest of their bodies than the “regular” whitetail.

The reason for their long tails is to better warn the rest of the deer in the neighborhood about the danger. The white underside of the Coues deer’s tail stands out in big contrast from their surroundings and is easily visible to the other deer. 

Their waving white tail is the reason many hunters call them fantails.

Due to the body size difference, there is naturally a difference in the antler size.

The world record of Coues deer is 196-2/8, with a typical rack reaching 144-1/8, whereas their big cousins can reach 333-7/8, with a record for a typical rack of 213-5/8.

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Most whitetails behave similarly to one another, with small differences depending on their habitat and how many predators are there to get them (including hunters).

Coues deer are called Grey Ghosts for a reason. They often blend in with their surroundings and stay under the cover most of their time. 

Most importantly, they are very skittish and run for cover at the smallest disturbance, even gusts of wind. Due to their biggest natural predators being mountain lions and coyotes, Coues deer learned to be always on high alert.

Most whitetail would be rather skittish, as they all need to be alert to survive, but there is something about Coues deer that makes one think they are more skittish than others.

Hunters find hunting Coues deer by spot and stalk with a bow extremely challenging.

There is also a small difference in the bucks’ rutting behavior. Coues deer seem more aggressive than other subspecies while fighting for the right to mate.

Range and Habitat

Coues Deer vs Whitetail Deer

Whitetail deer range spans from Yukon and Northwest Territories in the north to Peru and Bolivia in the south, and from the east side of the Rockies to the west (except for Colombian whitetail in Washington and Oregon states) to the Atlantic on the east.

The range is distributed between 26 subspecies of whitetail deer, from which the most commonly hunted in Canada and the US are 

  • northern whitetails (O.v. borealis)
  • Dakota whitetails (O.v. dacotensis), 
  • Rocky Mountain whitetails (O.v. ochrourus), 
  • Kansas whitetails (O.v. macrourus), 
  • Texas whitetails (O.v. texanus),
  • Virginia whitetails (O.v. virginianus).

Their range spans the majority of the US and southern Canada.

Coues deer take only part of the whole whitetail deer’s family range. Their habitats lie in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, usually at higher elevations (from 2 500 to 10 000 feet). 

Coues deer’s habitat differs from most of their cousins. While most white-tailed deer prefer temperate or even tropical regions with woodlands, shrublands, savannas, and open prairies, Coues deer take into the rocky deserts in mountainous regions. They also live in mixed pine and oak woodlands in the mountains of the south.

Although some other subspecies of white-tailed deer live in higher elevations and even share their habitat with mule deer and elk, they don’t inhabit hot, arid places.

Hunting and Meat

Whitetails are one of the most commonly hunted large game animals in North America. There are many styles of hunting whitetails depending on the habitat they live in and the hunter’s preference. 

Most whitetails can be hunted by spot and stalk, from a stand (on a tree or the ground) or with dogs (only in a few states in the south).

Hunting for Coues deer by spot and stalk is very challenging because of their small size and how well they blend in with their surroundings. One minute you glass a buck, and seconds later, he is gone from view. 

As timid animals, Coues deer are challenging to stalk, especially for a bowhunter. Any slight noise or whiff of a scent they are not familiar with, and they are gone. 

A Coues deer hunt is considered one of the most challenging hunts, often requiring longer shots from a bowhunter. Rifle hunters have a little bit easier task since they don’t need to close the distance so much.

The hunting season for Coues deer is also a bit longer than most other whitetails, extending their bowhunting seasons until the middle of February in Mexico and the end of January in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Hunting seasons for most other whitetails usually end around the end of December. 

Many hunters believe that Coues deer tastes better than their bigger cousins, whitetails. The meat is very tender and much leaner than other whitetails. It is often compared to a mix between veal and lamb.


Although very similar at first glance, Coues deer and their larger cousins, white-tailed deer, have a few differences by which you can tell them apart, like the size of their bodies, habitat, and behavior.

Not many people know that the Coues deer is the only subspecies of whitetails recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club.

Coues deer are also the smallest whitetail subspecies you can hunt, considering that the smallest, the Key deer from the Florida Keys, is under protection as an endangered species. 

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