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The Biggest Coues' Deer Ever!

This subspecies of whitetail deer make a living in the arid, mountainous regions of the America’s Desert Southwest and south into Mexico. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in sheer toughness and adaptability. And their racks can range from dainty to downright devilish. 

Coues’ deer (pronounced cows) are found much further south than their bigger-bodied—and bigger-antlered—cousins. Odocoileus virginianus couesi is named after the U.S. Army surgeon Elliot Coues who was stationed at Fort Whipple in the Arizona Territory. The Boone and Crockett Club has recognized Coues’ deer as a separate record category since 1932. 

For record-keeping purposes, the official northern boundary of Coues’ deer is I-40 from Albuquerque west to California. The southern boundary extends far into the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora and east to the Rio Grande River. The stories you’re about to read include the background on a couple of mystery “pick ups” as well as the story of Peter Chase—a guy who didn’t hunt, but he did want to spend time with his friends. Then he killed the second largest Coues’ deer ever recorded.

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Number 1—Apache Buck 

B&C Score: 196-2/8 points
Location: Graham County, Arizona 
Year Found: 1971
Owners: D.J. Hollinger & B. Howard 

Legend has it that this buck was killed by a relative of William “Bill” Shanta around 1971. According to Boone and Crockett records, this relative was a member of the Apache tribe, and the buck may have been killed on the San Carlos Reservation in Graham County, Arizona, around Mount Turnbull. While the details are few, the points are not. The 11x15 rack boasts a 152-3/8 typical frame and nearly 44 inches of non-typical growth. In 2003, the antlers were purchased by an antler dealer and then sold to another antler dealer.

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Number 2—Chase Buck     

B&C Score: 186-1/8 points 
Location: Hidalgo County, New Mexico 
Year Taken: 1941
Hunter: Peter M. Chase 

The tines on this buck look like the creepy elongated fingers on a villain from an old horror flick. The only thing scary about this buck, though, is the fact that Peter Chase almost never went hunting in the first place. In fact, this is the only deer Chase ever killed. In 1941, he was invited to go hunting with some friends in New Mexico, and he borrowed a 30-30 Savage and four rounds of ammo. After he split up with his buddies, he spotted a deer, drew a bead at 60 yards, fired, dropped the buck, and realized he didn’t bring a knife. Thankfully, his friends heard the shot and came to check things out. One of them even had a knife. They packed out the rack and the meat. For years, the buck hung in Chase’s drugstore in Lordsburg, New Mexico, where it watched kids drink malts and eat banana splits. One of those kids was enamored with the buck and became a local hunting guide. He had expressed so much interest in the buck that Chase finally gave it to Billy Darnell in 1985. He got the buck officially scored in 2001, and the buck still hangs in Hidalgo County, New Mexico.

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Number 3—Zellner Buck 

B&C Score: 177-1/8
Location: Sonora, Mexico 
Year Taken: 2009
Hunter: Gary A. Zellner 

With brow tines that look like flames shooting from its bases, Gary Zellner’s buck is a sight to behold. While hunting in Sonora, Mexico, Zellner and his guide Cheno would still-hunt the hillsides in the early morning and late evening. During the day, they would post up near waterholes. As they nearly crawled into a waterhole on the third day, Cheno pointed to a buck in an area 50-75 yards away. They watched the buck as it nodded off to sleep. The men then worked around to get a better look, and Zellner later wrote that, “I could tell he [Cheno] was very excited as he was telling me to shoot.” There was a good reason to be excited. At the time, Zellner’s deer was the largest Coues’ deer entered into the records in nearly four decades.

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Number 4—Pick Up

B&C Score: 158-4/8 
Location: Santa Cruz County, Arizona 
Year Taken: 2009 
Owner: Boone and Crockett National Collection 

For a die-hard quail hunter from Boulder, Colorado, stumbling upon a World’s Record rack after a day of bird hunting is, well, a pretty good day afield. Walter Pollock and his friends came to the Patagonia mountains in southern Arizona to chase Mearns’ quail in 1988. As Pollock walked behind three English Setters and one pointer, he spotted something on the ground. It was the carcass of Coues’ deer, but Pollock recalled the antlers being rather small. To be fair, he was accustomed to seeing mule deer racks in Colorado. Regardless, he packed them out. Each time the dogs flushed a covey, he dropped the antlers to the ground to shoot. He threw them in the back of the truck where the men proceeded to stack firewood around and on top of the antlers. Eventually, the rack was given to someone who knew what they were looking at. Once scored, the rack was crowned king of the Coues’ deer for roughly a decade. Currently, it’s on permanent loan to the Boone and Crockett Club and displayed in the National Collection of Heads and Horns. If the concept of found deer antlers making its way into the records has you scratching your head, take a moment to read the Club’s policy on found and picked-up trophies. 

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Number 5—Pick Up 

B&C Score: 155-7/8
Location: Sonora, Mexico 
Year Taken: 2018
Owner: Devin Beck 

The most recent Coues’ deer entry to make it into the top five is a pick up from south of the border. According to Boone and Crockett files, these antlers were found in July 2018 on cattle ranch near the town of Querobabi in Sonora, Mexico. Eventually, those antlers found their way to Devin Beck, a big fan of Coues’ deer. In fact at the 28th Big Game Awards, he was honored with harvesting the largest typical Coues’ buck for the awards period. Not to be outdone, his wife Jody holds the World’s Record for largest non-typical Coues’ deer taken with a muzzleloader, according to records kept by the Long Hunter Society. So when a friend of his mentioned that a big Coues’ deer rack was found south of a ranch Beck had hunted a couple of times, he was more than interested. He had never purchased a trophy before, but this deer became his first. “I entered it [in the records] knowing it’s one of the biggest Coues’ deer ever,” he wrote. “I felt it should be in Boone and Crockett as I’m a big fan of the records they keep and provide. Only reason my name is associated with it is because I own it.” This incredible Coues' deer is part of the 31st Big Game Awards trophy exhibit.

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The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt