Deer Hunting


Does the Club go deer hunting?  Does the Club hunt hogs for food, or is the intent just to kill them and leave them?

The Club rarely goes on day deer hunts.  As a lot of day leases are over hunted, I, as I’m in charge of big game hunts, only arrange day deer hunts with people who I know (and who let me know that they’re willing to let us hunt on their land).  Since 1988, we’ve only had five semi-guided day deer hunts.

Most of our deer hunters are either on season or year-round leases, so they’re not interested in also going on day deer hunts.  They’ve invested a lot of money in stands, feeders, corn, and maintaining their lease, so they have no interest in paying to hunt a place somewhere else that has worse odds (because they’re over hunted) than the places that they’re season or year-round leasing.

We require hunters to take home the meat that they harvest or donate it to the needy.  In our history, we’ve only had two hunters who didn’t want the hogs they shot, but other hunters took the meat home.  The following is in our Rules of Conduct – “Participants agree to: Never kill or shoot at birds or animals that they do not intend to eat or are not doing so to assist in wildlife depredation (e.g., shooting at sparrows and dragonflies.”

My son and I have never been deer hunting and were hoping to go this winter.  I do not see any events on your calendar for this.  Is that correct?  If you do not have a deer hunting event, where do you recommend going for beginners?

We don’t have much demand for deer day hunts.  In our 31-year history, we have had five deer day hunts.  The vast majority of the guys in the Club who deer hunt are on season-long or year-round leases.  A problem with day hunt ranches is a lot of them are over hunted and, therefore, you don’t see many deer.

Here are four websites that advertise leases (including day leases):

And here are six Facebook Groups that advertise leases (you must join the groups):

  • Texas Hunting & Deer Leases
  • Texas Hunting and Deer Leases (they ripped off the first site’s name)
  • Texas Hunting Leases and Day Hunts
  • Texas Hunting Leases and Outfitters
  • Texas Hunting Guides & Outfitters
  • Texas Cheap Hunts and Fishing (this site tends to focus on day hunts)

Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific ranch/outfitter that I can recommend to you.  My advice is to find ones at the locations that you want to hunt in (or the distance that you want to travel) and within your price range and Google reviews on them.  If there have been bad experiences, people are quick to let the world know.  Generally speaking, South Texas has the biggest-racked deer and is the most expensive, Central Texas has the most deer, and West Texas, East Texas, and the Panhandle have the fewest deer North Texas comes has the second most deer.

Fort Hood allows deer hunting, but with quite a few strict rules, as one would expect on an Army base, such as you can’t go beyond sight of your blind while looking for a wounded deer and they will pick you up at a specific time (and you had better be where you’re supposed to be at that time).  Hunters hunt from box blinds.  See https://fthood.isportsman.net/.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers also offers deer hunts on some of their lakes.  See https://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/lake/SWF_Hunting_Guide_Final_2020_2021.pdf.

I’ve also read about good hunts on the Caddo/LBJ Grasslands.

Marc Ritter reports that the Safari Club International had/has? a youth hunt program with land owners to cull does.  For example, here’s an article on a ranch in Michigan that allowed youth hunters to harvest deer – Legends Ranch Hosts Special Youth Challenge Hunts for SCIF Youth Pathfinders.  Tom Hewitt reports that SCI clubs in Texas supports youth hunting organizations.  The Dallas Safari Club, not affiliated with SCI, also supports youth organizations.

Jim Bradley reports that the Texas Wildlife Association and the TPWD have Youth Hunting Programs.

Tom Hewitt reports that Operation Orphans actively offers children in homes the opportunity to be outdoors at host ranches.

Kevin McConnell reports that he has been a hunt master for the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) for over 20 years.  The Austin Woods and Waters club runs the largest youth hunt in the world every year out of Cave Creek, near Fredericksburg.  See http://TYHP.org to register and apply for the hunt.  It is usually the first or second weekend of January.  Let him know if you have any questions at kmcaustin@gmail.com.  Tom Hewitt reports that the TYHP is the largest in the USA.  Allen Hansen reports that TYHP does over 100 hunts a year.

My son lives in Seattle and wants to hunt deer and elk.  He wants some advice and any possible leads you might have for a good gun to use.  Do you recommend new or used?  What’s a good all-around gun with abundant and cheaper ammo?  30-06?   Plastic or wood stock?  Best reasonable scope?

Here are a couple of articles that will get you started:

I haven’t updated the first article since 2009, so the prices for those guns are higher now.  Also, there are different versions of the manufacturers’ rifles or they offer new rifles entirely.  For example, Browning now offers an X-bolt, which is basically an A-bolt on steroids.

I updated the second article on 9/10/20.  I will eventually update the first article.

As to calibers, since elk is in the equation, I’d recommend at least a .270 or 7mm08.  I’d definitely go with the more popular calibers, especially right now, as there has been a substantial ammo shortage and your odds of finding ammo for a .280 Remington (for example) will be lower.  They’ve been making .30-06 since 1906 and it comes in bullet weights from 110 – 220 grains.  I’d use 150 – 165 grain on deer and 180 grain on elk.  The 6.5 Creedmoor has become a very popular caliber and I see several boxes of it every time that I go to Academy.  It’s supposed to be a flat shooter.  But it’s only 0.2559, which would be iffy on elk (a .270 Winchester is actually .277).  My order of preference would be .30-06, .308 (very available ammo and just slightly less performance than the ’06), and .270.

I’d go with a bolt action, as I’m a traditionalist.  However, I recently bought an AR in .300 Blackout for hogs, and if the riots come to my neighborhood.  For years I despised them and called them “toy guns.”  But I’m starting to like it and upgrading parts and adding things is fun.  The problem with an AR is most are chambered in .223/5.56 which was designed for varmints (but they make a few deer capable bullets for it).  .300 Blackout is a short-range cartridge.  The 6.5 Grendel is very hard to find and expensive.  The ammo is very hard to find.  .308 would be your best bet but those AR-10’s are expensive.  Remington makes an AR with typical deer calibers but it’s very expensive.  Pumps aren’t as accurate.  Neither are lever actions with the exceptions of the Browning BLR and the Savage Model 99.  Lever actions have mostly short-ranged calibers (with the above exceptions).  All of the bolt guns in my article are accurate, reliable, and similarly priced.  The Remington will be the most readily available.  I have a Model 700 BDL but if I were buying today I’d buy the CDL with the box magazine.

As to where to find one – I’m seeing more rifles show up at Academy.  I’ve also had good luck on www.gunbroker.com  I’ve bought five guns there and sold three.  It’s like eBay.  There are auctions and “Buy it Now.”  You must have the rifle shipped to an FFL dealer (my son is now one, in Liberty Hill).  Gunbroker has a list of FFL dealers per state.  They all do the same service, so I’d go with the cheapest one.  For example, Ryan charges $20 to receive a gun.  Find the rifle you want and shop.  It doesn’t take long to find the best price.  Just know that what guys are asking for on gunbroker is often not what the going rate is.  Some guys ask a high price and are counting on guys who don’t like to shop or are impulsive.  Follow/watch some auctions that are going on for the gun you want.  When it sells it will show you what it sold for.

I bought a Browning Gold shotgun on eBay for $480 several years ago.  The going price at the time was $750.  The reason that it was cheaper was it came only with one screw-in full choke.  After I receive it I bought two new chokes (Improved Cylinder and Modified) at Academy for $20 each and had a complete gun for $520.  But I was patient – I looked for around six months to find that diamond in the rough.

I’m not averse to buying a used gun, although I’d avoid used AR’s.  They’re often shot to hell and back and you just never know what’s about to break.  There aren’t too many things that can break on a bolt-action.  If you use gunbroker you’ll get it in the mail, unless you can find one where they’re selling it where you live and allow it to be picked up.  Texas Gun Trader is 100% face-to-face exchanges.  So, if you buy a used one from gunbroker make sure that the ad allows an examination period/return policy. You might need to send it back if it is not in the condition that was advertised.  Good sellers will post several pictures of the gun they’re selling.  Beware of stock photos unless it’s new.  If you see that a new rifle is only $50 or so more than a used one buy it as you’ll get the warranty.

I’m a wood and blue steel guy but have come to appreciate synthetic.  For rifles, it doesn’t change the point of impact from the weather changing, which wood is notorious for.  So if you get wood make sure that the barrel has been floated (you should be able to slide a dollar bill all the way down the length of it).  I’m also a big fan of 2.5 – 3.5 lb. triggers.  Most factory triggers are set at 7.5 lbs. to avoid lawsuits.  A trigger job makes a rifle much more accurate.

I go into copious details in my Choosing a Rifle Scope article.  As he won’t be hunting hogs a 3-9X40 will be adequate.  I really like Vortex and Burris.  They both have forever warranties.  I have a Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X50 with an illuminated V-bright dot in the reticle on my deer rifle.  It cost me $209 new.  Optics Planet is a good place to get optics.  As is Midway USA, Natchez Shooting Supply, and even Amazon (which has competitive prices).  Find the scope you want and shop.  As with rifles, it doesn’t take long to find the best price.

What binoculars do you recommend for deer?

FCS doesn’t have an article that specifically addresses binoculars, but if you Google “Best Binoculars for deer hunting” I’m sure that several articles will pop up.  The important things to keep in mind are they should be waterproof/fog proof (if they fog up they’re of no use to you), weight (think light), and magnification/objective lens (8 X 42 or 10 X 42).  I own Vortex Sidewinders and Nikon Prostaff.  I got the former used on eBay for $80 and the later new on eBay for $90.  They both come with a lifetime transferable warranty.  They are both 10 X 42.  Go to a place that sells them like Academy.  Try out several pairs.  Read some distant signs in the store with them.  See which ones enable you to read the sign the best and are the clearest.  You certainly can spend a lot more money than I did, but I don’t see a compelling reason to.

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