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4 Tips for Glassing Coues Deer That Will Help Glass All Big Game

September 1, 2019

4 Tips for Glassing Coues Deer that Will Help Glass All Big Game

The Gray Ghost. It wasn’t by happenstance the Coues deer acquired this nickname. They are true masters of their environment and notorious for melting into their habitat, leaving hunters scratching their heads.

Appearing and reappearing is an art form for the Coues deer. These uncanny animals are so keyed up it’s sometimes funny: I once watched a herd of Coues get spooked by a gust of wind. Like scared cats, they jumped straight in the air as the wind rushed past. Their small stature, gray coloration, and wily nature make them not just hard to stalk, but also difficult to spot in general.

Learning to glass for Coues can make you better at glassing any big game.

Learning to glass for Coues can make you better at glassing any big game.

Glassing for Coues deer is like going to the hard knock school of glassing. Going through the process can be somewhat painful in the beginning, but when you graduate? Now, you’re better equipped to glass for all types of big game, not just Coues deer. Here’s a few things I’ve learned and have helped me elevate my glassing game by way of the Gray Ghost.

Use the Right Tools

In order to glass Coues deer effectively, we’re gonna’ need the right tools. Years ago, I never gave good glass the time of day. But when it comes to spotting Coues deer, it’s just not practical to have glass that isn’t up to the task. Hours upon hours will be spent looking through optics, so quality is important. Not just for a crystal-clear image, but to keep those nasty headaches out of your business. Personally, I like the 10×42 Vortex® Razor® for scanning country. They are compact and fit on my chest for quick access. I can also look through these literally all day with no issues. For many hunters, though, the 15×56 is king in Coues country.

Just having a good pair of binoculars isn’t going to do it: Taking those binoculars and mounting them to a tripod will push you light years ahead. You can eliminate hand shake, which in turn lets you spot movement better. Even the subtle shake of our pulse or our breathing influences steadiness. With a tripod, that’s a non-issue. Plus, when you do spot an animal, you can lock those optics right in place.

Boots on the Ground and Eyes Behind the Glass Scouting

When it comes to scouting Coues deer, I lean towards a non-intrusive approach. Coues are high strung as it is, so avoid disturbing their natural flow. E-Scouting is huge today. Between Google Earth and several different mapping apps, we can gather quite a bit of intel before even lacing up our boots. A hunter can only do so much from Google Earth though, so spending time putting boots on the ground is huge.

Picking out high vantage points to spend my mornings glassing is going to let me watch everything as it is; I’m not walking around and bumping deer. It’s me letting the glass do the walking and giving me the ability to watch deer act like deer. This is vital especially if one is planning to set up an ambush spot come season.

Give yourself the best chance by finding a high vantage point, whether that’s a mountain or a treestand.

Give yourself the best chance by finding a high vantage point, whether that’s a mountain or a treestand.

A hunter could also apply this technique to hunting whitetails. While there might not be big mountains to get on top of to glass from, they could set up an observation stand. A treestand where they could, again, watch deer act like deer. The only way to know if deer are utilizing a certain area or not is to get out there and look for them.

How much time I spend in each area glassing depends on how much area I’m looking at. If it is an overwhelming amount of country, there’s a chance I won’t move from that spot all morning. I’ll just spend that whole morning burning up the hillsides with my binos and picking apart every nook and cranny. If where I’m glassing is smaller, spending about an hour on each glassing knob has really proved fruitful for me. Until you spot deer, this method is great and breaks up the monotony a bit.

I glass all day. Morning time, my focus is on sunny hillsides and afterwards, I’ll transition to shaded hillsides. During the rut especially, I’ll do this all day long, as bucks are constantly on the move. Once I do find a buck, I’ll either make a stalk if he’s in a good spot, or I’ll just simply watch him. Take note of his patterns and possibly put together a plan in the future with this information for an ambush spot. This unaggressive approach can work for all animals. The more you know about a certain animal, or even group of animals, the better prepared you will be to outsmart them come gameday.

A Grid Within the Grid Glassing Technique

Glassing Coues deer is a meticulous affair. It requires patience and thoroughness. The number one tip that I can give for glassing up the gray ghost is……ready? SLOW DOWN. In the city, our lives are very quick and structured. The hustle and bustle as we like to call it. This is not the mindset one should take with them into Coues country or any country for that matter. These astute little deer don’t move at that pace. They don’t have alarm clocks set to make sure that they fold their laundry or take the turkey out of the oven on time. Surviving is the only thing on their list of to do’s.

I’m sure that you’ve probably heard about grid searching country with your binoculars. This is done by panning side to side/up and down to cover every inch of landscape out there. That is a fantastic way to glass country efficiently. However, with Coues, I like to take things one step farther. Each time I pan in my grid search to an area that’s new to me in the glass, I’ll stop. From there, I’ll grid search with my eyes within that small window. This does two things. It will let you spot movement even better, cause the optics are locked down. On top of that it will force you to slow down.

Stay On Em!

If I had a dollar for every time I found a Coues deer, looked away, and lost them, I’d have a nice side business going. They are the Houdini of the desert. Because of this, once you glass one up, do not take your eyes off them. This might sound funny, but I’ve heard of folks even taking a leak right there at their binos so they didn’t look away from the deer. Gotta’ do what you gotta’ do! I’m not saying you must take it to that extreme, but I would look away as little as possible, especially if you’re watching a buck for a friend as they make their stalk. Don’t be the one to tell your buddy, “well, I don’t know where the deer is now….” Stay on em!

Once you spot ’em…stay on ‘em! Coues bucks tend to fade into the landscape unless you keep them glassed.

Once you spot ’em…stay on ‘em! Coues bucks tend to fade into the landscape unless you keep them glassed.

Final Thoughts

A hunter is doing their glassing skills a favor by setting their gaze on Coues country. Not just because of the beautiful yet rugged landscapes these deer call home, but the test that comes with actually finding them. Like a chameleon, they have a way of truly becoming one with their surroundings. Seeing “what cannot be seen” will elevate your glassing game to great heights and give you the skills to be successful at glassing for all big game animals.

Taking your Coues spotting skills to other big game will likely leave you feeling pretty good about yourself. Glassing all animals can be hard but comparing looking for mule deer and elk to Coues deer is not a lateral move. You’ll find that other animals will “pop” a lot easier in the glass after taking on the Coues game.

I will warn you though. Once a hunter lays eyes on the gray ghost, things aren’t the same. Whether in the field chasing other animals or lying in bed at night, they will haunt you and leave you yearning for more.


Josh Kirchner is an outdoor writer and avid backcountry bowhunter living in the southwest deserts of Arizona. He loves inspiring other people to chase their goals and embrace the whole experience that comes with hunting. His favorite adventure partner is his wife. When we are not exploring the mountains, we are spending time with our two herding dogs and mischievous cat. Read more at Instagram: @dialedinhunter

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