Ever since I was 12 years old I have always wanted to complete the Grand Slam of Deer in North America. As a young man I watched Roger Raglin in the movie the Quest for the Grand Slam. In this film he showed all five species of Deer being harvested. I always told myself that was going to be me one day. The Coues Deer of Arizona always stuck out in my mind as being one of the most iconic deer of North America.
Fast forward 26 years later this challenge was about to come true. I had what you would call a banner year for archery hunting for 2018/2019 hunting season's. I started off in Alaska by harvesting a Sitka blacktail buck with my bow. I then came back home in Northern California only to miss the largest Mule Deer of my life. I rushed my shot at 50 yards and watched the arrow fly over his back. This was heart breaking but at least it was a clean miss. Not even two weeks later i packed my bags and headed to Deer camp in Oregon. I was lucky enough to harvest a strange looking non typical 5x4 Mule Deer on the last night of my hunt. This journey was just far from over. In October two of my buddies and myself went to Western Oklahoma for archery Whitetail. The second afternoon of my hunt the arrow found its mark on a decent 8 pt Whitetail Buck.
My buddies and I returned home back to Northern California. My one buddy called me and said hey do you want to go to Arizona in January. This was a dream come true. I told him of a guide I knew named James Dudley. I told him anyone that has harvested a 130+ in Coues Deer with a bow is an awesome guide. January came rolling around and once again we were on the road headed for Arizona. Neither my friend nor I have hunted this state. 14 hours later we arrived in a small town in AZ. Our guide James contacted us and said if you guys are up to it lets go scouting. Of course we went season was open. We made our way up to camp. After meeting James, and his guide Trevor we started glassing. Trevor found a really nice 4x4 desert mule deer for my buddy. I was more into the Coues Deer hunt. That night was sleepless since we started our hunt the next day. Day one presented a broken horn Desert Mule Deer which i past and a couple of stalks for my buddy. No Coues Deer found do to the high winds. My guide James said "Dave don't worry tomorrow morning we will take you into the honey hole". The alarm went of and once again we were out hunting. My guide James, his buddy Bryan and Myself headed out in the side by side. We arrived at to our first canyon just after sun up. I had no clue what I was looking for since I have never seen a Couse Deer in person. Bryan spotted the first doe then a younger 2x2 with eye guards showed up. I was chomping at the bit to get my first stalk on. James said that is not a good spot lets move on. Trusting my guide we finally made it back to our canyon. As we walked in we jumped a spike, he shot down the hill like a rocket. This country was open just like an alpine hunt for Sitka just more brush and cactus. We made it to the glassing rock. One of James's guides and his father already had Deer in the spotting scope. We just took our packs off when an absolute giant Coues Buck showed himself. This buck was over 7 plus years old an had evaded many of hunters. James had showed me pictures. We waited until the buck pushed his does down the hill form us. It was time for me to make a move. I eased my way down the ridge to where we last saw the buck. Not wanting to push this giant I took my time. I made it to the second glassing rock with no buck found. After sitting glassing for around 3 hours and only turning up a couple does James headed my way. We regrouped and figured he was in the last part of the canyon. We made our way to the last rock. We weren't there five minutes when James said don't move. I have deer below me. I was finally able to crawl back to my bow on my hand and knees. I worked my way out to the edge of the rock cliff. Sure enough there was a spike about 50 yards below me. I glassed for a couple of minutes when I picked up movement coming from behind a Juniper tree. There he was the giant from earlier. I had him at 50 yards. He stepped into the opening, I told myself this is my only shot. I went to draw back and noticed brush in front of him. Upon closer inspection there was to much brush to shoot trough. I was heart broken. The doe he was chasing went form 50 yards to 90 in a short time. He followed then they bedded down. We watched for a bit and I made my stalk. Just as I was getting into range the wind switched and they blew out of their beds. I once again was heart broken. I made my way back to the rock and James. We made a plan to sit since there was more deer moving in this canyon. All of the sudden James spotted a spike heading our way, then another deer showed up. This was another shooter buck. We watched then he up and vanished like the grey ghost they are. Finally time was starting to run down. I told James I am going to walk off the spine and head down to see if the bigger buck bedded down below us in the Juniper tree and if he was was home i was gong to kill him. I headed down for the stalk off the right hand side of the ridge. I found my land marks and started back up into the area i last saw him at last. I started looking at shooting lanes and found one through the center of a burned out juniper tree. It had a perfect 2 foot plus hole in the center. I told myself this was the lane. I made a couple side steps when all of a sudden the trees above me exploded. Here was my buck trotting up the hill. I went to full draw and got him to stop by given him a quick bleet with my mouth. The buck stopped right in the hole and looked back. I didn't have time to range so I figured he was 50 and settled the pin the best i could on his shoulder. I sent the arrow and to my surprise i watched the arrow find its mark. I heard the tell tale sign of a loud crack and watched the buck drop his front end. He ran about 40 yards to the other side of the canyon stood for about 5 seconds and tipped over backwards into a cactus patch. I was able to get a hold of James to let him know the buck was down. I sat down from where I shot in disbelief that my slam was finally done. With the sun in my face I broke down and tears filled my eyes. Here I am a Emt/ fire fighter from a small norhern california town and my grand slam was complete. I thanked the big man up stairs and the buck for an epic hunt. James and I meet up at the sight of impact. I knew it was a short tracking job since the buck never left my sight. I was on still shaking from the adrenaline rush from the stalk. We recovered my buck and took lots of pictures. He was in the back of the canyon and it was a long up hill climb out. We finally made it back to camp at around 11.00 pm that evening. Hunting these little Grey Ghosts of the desert mountains is a very humbling experience. I was fortunate enough to have a beyond top notch guide. James Dudley my hats off to you sir for one of the most epic hunts of my life. Thank you David Robb
“I book a lot of hunts with different outfitters every year. When looking for a good outfitter I look for good references, good communication with the outfitter, and overall experience. James Dudley’s operation hits all of those points. I had the opportunity to shoot a giant Arizona Coues deer with James Dudley and I couldn’t have asked for more from his operations. James was very good about communicating with me before the hunt to make sure everything was lined up. During the hunt he made sure everyone in camp was well taken care of from sleeping arraignments to food. The hunting was very good, but that’s only because of the work he and his crew put into scouting the areas all year round. If you are looking for a true adventure hunt on public land in Arizona for deer or elk, I wouldn’t look anywhere else.” -Andrew Howard
Just a quick note about the great hunt I had in 2018.
After several years of attempting to draw an elk tag in Northern Arizona, I finally drew. I got a 7 west tag for late rifle season.
After doing a few back flips, and calling my hunting buddies, I figured I had better go scout the area. I went up there with a couple of friends for a weekend. A few hours into the scouting trip, I realized that this is big, rugged country, and I know nothing about it.
I started thinking about hiring an outfitter. I have never hunted with a guide before, so I didn’t know where to start. A friend referred James, and I am glad he did.
I called James, had a long conversation with him. I asked every question I could think of, and he couldn’t have been more informative. His passion for hunting shows right away.
He stayed in contact throughout the year, occasionally sending trail cam pics, and reminding me to get to the range!
When I arrived in camp, I was introduced to Brandon, and Josh. These guys are the best hunters I have ever had the privilege to hunt with. I learned more in a few days hunting with them than could have asked for. We saw elk every day of the hunt, just not bulls.
On the 4th day we decided to hit an area not easily accessed. We hiked in a mile or two, and came across bull tracks in the snow. We followed him around the hills for a few hours. This is the first time I have tracked elk and it was super fun. We glassed a bull across the canyon and decided to try for him.
I had been practicing at the range on 300 yard shots, so when Brandon got me to 30 yards I was shocked.
I dropped the bull in his tracks. A few cold hours later we were heading back to camp with meat and antlers.
I will continue to put in for Arizona tags, and when I draw again, I will hire James Dudley!
Dave Stark, Alpine Ca.
Hello fellow hunters. I grew up in Northern Missouri and began hunting squirrels and rabbits at a very young age. When I left home at 18, that was still the only game to hunt. When I was in my 30's, Missouri began to reintroduce turkeys and deer to the state in what has become one of the most successful conservation efforts in the Midwest. As a 62-year-old hunter, I have bagged 50 to 60 whitetail deer and numerous other big-game animals...but no bull elk. During my 30's, 40's, and 50's, I have probably gone on at least a dozen elk hunts somewhere in the West. I have seen plenty of monster elk, but never had the chance to fling an arrow or shoot at one because the opportunity usually came to one of my hunting buddies while we all were cow calling.
After applying for 5 years for a bull elk tag in Arizona, I finally got drawn for a tag. One reason I got drawn was because I put in for a unit (7E) which is not known for big bulls and where hundreds of tags are issued each year. But since I have never hunted the area, I thought it would be a good idea to hire a guide. James Dudley was recommended to me, so I gave him a call. He let me know that I would be the only person he would guide on the 2016 late-season elk hunt. So I decided to take a chance with him.
About 3 months before our hunt, James scouted our hunting unit and placed a number of game cameras in areas of the unit where he thought we might find nice bull elk. He sent me photosof bulls photographed on his cameras before the hunt which started to get me excited about our upcoming late-season elk hunt. I drove down to Arizona from Missouri the day before Thanksgiving and James took me out to potential hunting spots and we began glassing for bulls. On the 2 days before our hunt started, we saw 7 or 8 bulls and only a few cow/calves. I thought things were looking up. We came across a nice 6x8 bull that was bedded down on a ridge on Thanksgiving Day and also saw a 400-inch class (estimated) bull on one of Dudley's game cameras that he set up in a strategic location. As we were driving back to camp late afternoon, James says, "Now you have a real dilemma...which bull do you want to go after?"
After much thought, I said let's go after the 6x8 bull because we knew where it was bedded down and the 400-inch class bull hadn't shown up on his game camera for over half a month. When we arrived on the ridge we wanted to hunt opening day, other hunters had taken our spot. In fact, after Thanksgiving, hunters began to show up everywhere. Needless to say, our first day of hunting plans got foiled by a surprising number of hunters that showed up exactly where we wanted to hunt.
The next day we decided to go after the big 400-inch class bull in a different part of the hunting unit. James had 3 of his guide friends come to help and they went out in the dark to get a good position on the mountain for glassing. At dawn, they had located the bull we were after. He bedded down with two other very nice 5x5 bulls. Trevor, one of Dudley's guides took me out to locate the group of bulls on foot. With a snow storm forecasted to hit that evening, winds swirled all over the mountain. As soon as we would get within 400 yards of the bulls, we would have to retreat because of a change in wind direction. After 8 hours of trying to move in on the bulls we finally got within about 200 yards, but got busted by one of the smaller bulls. From the opposite mountain, Dudley directed us to make a move on the bulls.
After a fast walk in the direction where we thought the bulls might be, we spotted the two 5x5 bulls standing broadside to me about 150 yards away. They saw us and quickly ran away. As we kept walking, I saw a couple of antler tips protruding above a 6-foot-tall knoll. The big guy had bedded down again. We made a move on him and I had to shoot at him on the run. Luckily my first and third shots put him down. I would never have had a shot at this bull had I been hunting alone or with a couple of buddies the way I had always hunted in the past. If it wasn't for James Dudley and his three long-time hunting friends who help him guide, Trevor, Scott, and Brandon, I can tell you that I would never have found and harvested this magnificent 390-inch (actual) bull.
Stubbornly, I always refused to hire hunting guides because I always felt like I had the skills to do it myself. Well, after all these years hunting on my own, I finally realized that Dudley's style of spot-and-stalk hunting is far more effective and efficient than anything I have ever tried. And so, at the ripe old age of 62, I can pass on this tidbit. If you have hunted elk for a number of years without any success, swallow your pride and hire James Dudley's Dream Team. They use the best scouting optics, cameras, and electronics to optimize the hunt. They collectively have decades of hunting experience between them. And most of all, I found them to be an all-around great bunch of guys. If you hire them you'll most likely get your first bull elk, or whatever big-game animal you're after, before the age of 62 like me. Happy hunting!.
I had the pleasure of hunting deer with James and Trevor in January 2019. I first heard of James’ hunts listening to some podcasts of his giant Coues buck he bow killed a few years ago. After listening a couple times, I gave James a call. Talking to him was like talking to a buddy who was into hunting as much as I am, and this made the decision to head to Arizona easy. We kept in touch all summer and fall, with James sending trail cam pictures of some of the bucks (and Bulls) he had coming to water. Finally, January arrived and of course, plans changed. The area James planned for us to go got hit by a big snowstorm. We ended up going to a unit a bit further south than the original location, but James still had everything in order when I arrived.
The first evening Trevor and I went out to glass close to camp. Trevor picked out a couple of mule deer does on a ridge to our right that we watched for a bit to see if a buck was with them. No bucks showed up, so we continued glassing. Right at dusk, Trevor found a few Coues deer way out on an open grass flat. They were too far away to tell for sure what they were, and it was way to late to get much closer anyways. So, we packed up and headed back to camp.
Day 1 arrived with a ride in the side by side to another location with James. Parking at the gate on the trail, we had a short hike to the glassing location. Before even getting there, James spotted a couple Coues does in the canyon below us. We continued to the glassing spot, and James went to work. He spotted multiple deer relatively quickly, with a couple small bucks up cruising for does. Eventually, a good buck showed up with a doe, and a group of does and a small buck below them. The buck and doe bedded, and I took off. Before I got there, the buck got up and pushed the doe down into the canyon. With all the other deer down in the canyon, he began to push her back up and towards me. As they got closer, I was trying to get into some cover when the doe busted out into the open at about 45 yards. She immediately spotted me kneeled down and began a stiff leg walk right at me and then turned above me. The buck popped out at the same place as her, and he also saw me. He began walking right at me, while the doe hooked around above me. The doe was about 12 yards away when the buck decided he had enough. He was facing me at 25 yards, and as he turned to take off, I drew. The doe snorted and the buck and doe blew out over the ridge, only to come back a few seconds later. The doe peeked over the ridge to look at me but the buck never appeared. Deer 1, bowhunter 0. By the end of the that day, I got another stalk on a buck but the doe he was with got up before I could get there and they went up and over a ridge, never to be seen again.
On day 2, we had some rain in the early morning, then went to a different location. Trevor had glassed in this area yesterday and had seen a couple good bucks. We hiked into a glassing spot and almost immediately Trevor finds a decent buck. He walks a good distance straight across in front of us and beds a couple hundred yards out from James. We make a plan and I take off. I get to the buck pretty quickly, and within bow range, but have asmall finger ridge between the buck and me. Somehow, the buck picks up on something and stares my direction for a long time. He finally gets up and trots up hill and over the top. Deer 2 or 3, bowhunter 0. More rain comes in and we head to camp to dry out and and regroup. That afternoon, we go back close the location we were at that morning. The sun has come out and as soon as we sit down to glass, deer start showing up everywhere. A good buck appears with a doe a good ways out and then we lose sight of him. I take off, hoping to be able to find them in the canyon they disappeared in. I get over to where they could be and can’t find them. Eventually James spots them going back up the canyon where they originally were spotted. I drop down and dog them until dark, and can’t catch up. Deer a lot, bowhunter 0.
Day 3 comes cool and a bit foggy. Trevor and I headed to a different location. We spot a small buck walking in, and then Trevor spots quite a few does early but no bucks. Eventually we turn our attention further out and Trevor spots a buck and doe a looooong ways out. I pick the deer up in my binos and all I can tell is it’s a different colored object laying next to a bush. We hike back to the truck and drive down the road that was between us and the deer. Trevor re-locates the buck and I head that way. This area is pretty rough compared to what we had been hunting in and it took quite awhile to get onto the same ridge as the deer. As I get within about 125 yards, the deer get up and began acting nervous. They are walking down the canyon below the ridge I’m on. The doe gets below me within range, but the buck is still a bit behind her. Trevor alerted me that another small buck had showed up and that is what got these two deer up and moving. All of a sudden, the doe runs down hill to the bottom of the canyon and back up the slope across from me, taking the bigger buck with her. The smaller buck, now realizing he doesn’t have a chance with these two, continues to move and heads towards a saddle near the top of the ridge I am on. I work my way towards the saddle, trying to cut him off. It works and I get within range. He realizes something is wrong, but he stops one last time to look back. It was his fatal mistake and I had an arrow on its way. I didn’t see the arrow hit for sure, but the sound was good and as the buck turned, could see the exit wound and figured he wouldn’t go too far. I waited for Trevor to begin trailing, and once he is there, we follow a decent blood trail up and over the ridge, and back down about another 60 yards to my buck, piled up into an old burned juniper. Unbelievable!
These deer are crazy spooky but with enough opportunity, even I got a shot. James and Trevor can find plenty of deer and give you those multiple opportunities that it may take to be successful. They have the knowledge, equipment, and attitude to stay in the field and create the atmosphere for success. I won’t hesitate to hunt with James and Trevor again, and look forward to going back into Coues country with them soon.