Named after Dr. Elliot Couse, the naturalist and ornithologist who discovered them, Couse deer are a diminutive subspecies of whitetail deer. Nicknamed the “grey ghost” for their seemingly supernatural ability to appear and vanish like smoke, the elusive little deer is one of the most challenging species of all North American big game animals.
Volumes have been written about Coues deer; however, much of the available Coues whitetail deer information is incomplete or inaccurate. Commonly mispronounced either “cows” or “coos,” Couse is properly spoken “kouse,” as in replacing the “h” in house with a “k.”
Coues Deer Geography
Couse deer have one of the most restricted ranges of all species of whitetail deer. Inhabiting the mountainous regions of the desert southwest of the United States and the mountains of northern Mexico, Couse deer are not found in low-lying valleys like their larger cousins of the northern United States. Living at elevations from 3,000 to 10,000 feet, Couse deer primarily inhabit southwest New Mexico, south and central Arizona, California along the Arizona border and almost all of Sonora, Mexico.
Coues deer do not migrate and have a limited individual home range of less than 1,000 acres. During the morning hours Couse whitetails are found feeding on southern hillsides and then bedded during the day, under trees or in tall grass on north facing hillsides in the summer months and southern facing slopes during the winter.
Coues Deer Biology
Aside from their smaller physical size, Coues whitetails are no different from their larger relatives. Larger only than the key whitetail deer found in the Florida Keys, Coues whitetails stand between 24 and 32 inches high at the shoulder. Male deer weigh an average of 125 pounds with the does averaging approximately 80 pounds.
Coues whitetail antlers have the same configuration as other whitetails, with points typically growing upwards off one long main beam; females do not have antlers. Matching their smaller body sizes, Coues deer antlers are also much smaller than standard size whitetails with the largest antlers on record scoring 144 1/8 points, compared to the overall world record whitetail with an antler score of 213 5/8 points.
Coues deer forage in thickets of acacia, manzanita, mesquite and scrub oak. The deer’s diet also includes the fruit of cacti, Ceanothus, mountain mahogany and various forbs and grasses.
Coues Deer Hunting
In the U.S., only Arizona and New Mexico hold hunting seasons for Couse deer. Because of the terrain they inhabit, a combination of traditional whitetail hunting methods and western hunting techniques used for mule deer and elk work best when pursuing Coues whitetails.
During morning and evening hours, when deer are feeding, setting up at the top of a south facing slope and glassing below can be highly productive. During midday, when deer are bedded, glassing with binoculars or spotting scope and stocking with range is the best option. Because most of the west is so arid, setting up by an active watering hole is highly productive. Unlike other species of whitetails, Coues deer are generally vocal throughout the day, making them susceptible to calling into range with snort and grunt calls. During the rut rattling antlers can be effective.
If seeking further Coues whitetail deer information, consult credible sources such as state fish and game departments.