"Secrets of Hunting the Grey Ghosts"

Marcy Harris

Regal, elusive, and petite describe the Coues Whitetail Deer, while rugged, rocky and steep portrays their home.  They are often called the Grey Ghost of the Desert and for a good reason.  They can appear to crawl out from under a rock on a hillside you glassed for hours, only to again disappear so quickly without a trace. 

This mid-November hunt in New Mexico was brutally cold and windy.  My companions on this hunt were my husband, Ralph, and my youngest son, Toby, only 10.  We have learned over the many years of hunting these incredible creatures, that glassing from a high vantage point is critical.  So we spent hours upon hours glassing from one ridge to another.  We were seeing a lot of deer, but not the mature buck I was looking for.  I had harvested a respectable Coues’ deer the prior year, so I had set my goal a little higher this year.  As we decided to move once again to another ridge, we suddenly bumped a couple of bucks.  One of them was definitely what I was looking for.  I tried to hurry and set up for a shot, but he never presented one as he ran through the thick cover. We rushed over to the edge of the ridge where they had gone and started glassing.  We spotted the smaller buck he was with, but could not locate the large one.  We watched as the smaller buck bedded down way across the canyon and we continued to glass for about 2 more hours.  Since we knew that Coues’ Deer are habitual, we decided to back out and come back the next morning to try to locate him again. 
                The next morning was just as cold and windy, but knowing that buck was in there made it less noticeable.  We made our way back to the same ridge slowly, glassing along the way.  Right away we spotted the same smaller buck along with another small 2x2.  We glassed and waited.  Suddenly, the big buck stood up from behind a cedar tree.  He began to feed around along with the other 2 bucks.  I set up to take my first shot at 400 yards.  This shot anchored him as he went down under a nearby Juniper.  We moved up closer and decided I need to make a follow-up shot.  At 257 yards, I made the second and final shot.
                We hiked over to the buck and we were all pleasantly surprised at his beauty.  Now the work would begin.  It was time to prepare the meat to travel home to the dinner table. 
                14 years ago, I knew nothing about hunting.  I had never even fired a gun.  I had a love for the outdoors and enjoyed competitive athletics while growing up.  While first dating my husband, he invited me join him for a day on his deer hunt.  Although we never saw a deer that day, somehow I knew that this was right up my alley.  The steep and difficult terrain was a great challenge while the beauty of the outdoors engulfed me.  To this day, each expedition has been about, not the trophy brought home, but the experiences and memories gained.  Each time that I push myself beyond my expectations, I feel such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. 

                I have learned over the years, that there are ways to make the experiences more enjoyable.  I have found that proper equipment is among the most important.  When I first got into to hunting, it was very difficult to find gear that fit women.  Whether it be your clothing, backpack, boots or even firearm, having the perfect fit can make or break your experience.  Let’s start out talking about the choice firearm.  This could be a topic all of its own, but let’s sum it up by saying you shouldn’t start out trying out your husband’s 12 gauge shotgun with 3.5” magnum shells in it.  If you can take the time to visit your local sporting goods store, they can help you get fitted for the rifle or shotgun that fits both you and your particular hunting situation.  The same goes for a bow.  You need to be properly fitted for the correct draw length and draw weight and it would be a great idea to sign up for a few lessons to get started on the right foot.  Countless women have tried archery during high school P.E. only to never pick up a bow again because they hit their arm and had a bad experience.  A good instructor will teach you how to have good form that will prevent that from happening.

                During my experiences, I have tested a lot of equipment out in the field and gained the knowledge to make educated recommendations on what works and what doesn’t.  Women really aren’t built like men; therefore equipment designed specifically for women really does make a difference.  Take for instance my Coues’ deer hunt.  Although the weather was very cold and windy, I was prepared for it with She Outdoor’s Cat Skinz base layers and Prois Jacket, vest and accessories.  Not only do they fit right, but they have technical features such as inside pockets to put hand warmers in the Prois jacket.  I look for these kinds of features in the gear I test. 

                We now have the gear we need so the possibilities are endless.  I challenge those of you who have not hunted to give it a try.  The exhilaration you can feel is amazing when you have climbed that mountain you thought was too high, or confronted that fear you thought you couldn’t shake.  I also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that I am helping to supply my family with some of the healthiest meat available.  I guarantee that this meat hasn’t been injected with anything and is as lean as it gets.  For those of you who know just what I am talking about, I challenge you to help other women get started as well.  Whether it is helping other women get involved or collaborating with other veteran huntresses, I am sharing the passion and passing the torch.  So if you need advice and can’t find a local huntress to converse with, feel free to get a hold of me at marcy@gilaoutdoor.com.