Deer Hunting Gear That Survived a West Texas Field Test – A Gear Roundup
Last year I had the opportunity to hunt with a small, family-owned and operated outfit in West Texas, Hargrove Hunts, which specializes in reasonably-priced, semi-guided whitetail hunts near Raton, TX. This November found me right back there again — field testing some cool new deer hunting gear.
This year’s hunt was typical of what goes on here. In this area, we saw the rut starting to crank right up, with bucks lip-curling, snort-wheezing, and posturing morning and evening. The weather was funky, with the first two afternoons in the 90s, lows in the 50s, but the final two days saw lows in the low 30s, highs in the upper 50s. And of course, the ever-present West Texas winds kept the dust levels irritating.
To make a long story short, the four hunters in camp – myself, Alaska writer Rikk Rambo, and Trijicon’s Eddie Stevenson and Josh Layall – were done in 2 ½ days, all taking solid bucks aged 5 ½- to 8 ½-years old, and seeing many others. After the deer were down, some after-dark hunting produced opportunities at wild hogs and coyotes. We were deer hunting both from elevated shooting houses and ground blinds.
I wasted no time this year, shooting a 5 ½-year old 8-point the first evening. The buck came cruising through with a buddy, rubbed his antlers on some shin oaks, then strolled within 120 yards before I decided to give him a ride in the truck. Josh took a very nice 6 ½-year old 8-point the next morning, Rick a battered warrior 6 ½-year old tall 7-point that evening, and Eddie punched out with an 8 ½-year old crab-clawed 8-point the last morning.
These hunts are a bit of the antithesis of DIY, spot-and-stalk hunting. It’s Texas, there are corn feeders, and everything is pretty controlled. Still, you need optics that will perform at the cusp of daylight, rifles and ammunition that will group tightly, and bullets that will perform. We used a variety of calibers – myself and Rikk the classic .270 Win., Eddie the timeless .308 Win., and Josh the new kid on the block, the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Binky Archer, guide David’s bride, will kill you with her cooking? Best bring those pants with a skoosh more room, just sayin’ …
Here’s the deer hunting gear that we field-tested on our hunt.
Rikk, Eddie, and I shot Strasser Rifles’ RS 14. Austrian-built Strasser rifles are new on the American hunting scene and have proven themselves to be sweet as strawberry pie. With a straight-pull bolt action, interchangeable barrels, integrated Picatinny rail, and 26 different caliber choices, these are sweet-shooting, extremely accurate rifles. (Talk about cool deer hunting gear)! The adjustable trigger features Strasser’s low-friction “Diamond-Like Carbon” DLC-coating, which assists them in being a trigger that breaks clean and crisp every time. Detachable box magazines are standard. Beautiful wood and functional synthetic stocks are available. Both Rikk and my rifle were chambered for .270 Win., and both put two shots within ½-inch of each other at 100 yards off the bench. Eddie’s .308 was equally accurate.
Eddie, Rikk, and I used Norma Ammunition, a deer hunting gear brand I have used for hunting deer and other game off and on for more than three decades. It is premium-quality hunting ammo from Sweden that’s long been known for consistent accuracy and premium hunting bullets. These days Norma has six lines of hunting ammunition, all based around a specific bullet. They are: BONDSTRIKE, featuring a bonded core bullet designed for extreme long-range accuracy and perfect terminal bullet performance at all ranges; ECOSTRIKE, featuring a lead-free, polymer-tipped bullet; TIPSTRIKE, a polymer-tipped bullet designed for deep penetration and a jacket reinforced with a mechanical lock for immediate stopping power; EVOSTRIKE, a lead-free bullet designed for small and medium game with dual cores made from tin, with a front core designed to fragment and the rear core to remain solid; AFRICAN PH, large-caliber cartridges loaded with Woodleigh bullets; and Norma WHITETAIL, loaded with a classic flat base, lead core jacketed bullets designed for controlled expansion and consistent accuracy. Rikk and I used Norma Whitetail ammo with a 130-grain bullet on this hunt. My buck was quartering slightly to me at the shot. I drilled him through the left scapula, and the bullet passed completely through him. He went all of three feet before piling up.
Riflescopes — deer hunting gear musts — for hunting don’t get any better than those from the company that, in 1987, revolutionized combat scopes with the introduction of the ACOG. The Marine Corps adopted the ACOG as its Official Combat Rifle Optic (RCO) back in 2004. Since then, many other military contracts have been awarded. That same rugged precision goes into all the company’s hunting optics. On this hunt, I used a 4-16×50 AccuPoint, a model I absolutely love. This scope line features advanced fiber-optics and tritium aiming-point illumination that both helps speed up target acquisition and extends available shooting hours. The dual-illumination system automatically adjusts aiming-point brightness to existing lighting conditions, with a manual brightness override that allows shooters to easily adjust the reticle to suit their preferences. It’s built around a 30mm tube and an aircraft-quality, hard-anodized aluminum body. Quarter-inch clicks are precise, and tool-free windage and elevation adjustments are awesome. A side parallax adjuster is also featured. A multitude of reticle options are available.
Muddy Prevue 3 Ground Blind
GPO Passion 10×42 HD Binocular
I am an admitted binocular snob, having used just about every make, model, and description over the last 50 years. Good glass is critical deer hunting gear! For the last couple of seasons, I have used a GPO Passion 10×42 HD glass, which I have found to be an excellent all-around hunting bino. Why? Company president Mike Jensen is a serious mountain hunter who worked at two of the high-dollar European optics makers for many years. He brought that knowledge and experience to GPO, where his goal is to offer the same quality at a mid-level price In this the company has succeeded. GPO optics have been built using the highest-quality components with superior glass that has extremely high light transmission thanks to the proprietary GPO bright lens coating that is applied to every optical surface, making them a fully multi-coated binocular. Their magnesium body and center-focus locking diopter are components found in other super-premium European optics. They are worth checking out.
Double Bull Surroundview Double Wide Ground Blind
An amazing deer hunting tool. They feature Double Bull’s super-rugged construction and quick set-up and takedown, quiet door and window adjustments, and window shapes and sizes that work well for both gun and bowhunters.
Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3
This fast-adjusting tripod shooting stick that allows one-handed adjustment has quickly become the most popular in the business.
Bob Robb has been a full-time outdoor writer since 1978, and a contributor to, and the editor of, several prominent hunting magazines down thru the years. He also lived 15 years in Alaska, where he held an assistant hunting guide license. The best part of his job, he says, is it allows him to be in the woods between 120-140 days a year; what could be better than that?