West Texas Deer: No tags to draw, reasonable cost, 100 percent success on free-range whitetails; what’s not to love?
One frustrating thing about hunting the West has been my inability to consistently draw tags. So, I am always on the lookout for relatively inexpensive options that allow me to hunt annually.
Enter Texas, this year, West Texas deer. Because whitetails are abundant and most all hunting is done on private land, there is no tag draw. The downside is you have to “pay to play” to hunt West Texas deer, but the non-resident hunting license required to hunt deer costs only $315 – a bargain compared to many other states – and they are available over-the-counter.
This season, I found a small, family-run outfitter that offers West Texas deer hunts that are first-rate in every respect. Hunts are for low-fence, free-range whitetails, and mule deer. Their hunts run virtually 100 percent success on bucks ranging between 120-140 Boone & Crockett points, which is typical for the region. Although, I did see several bucks that would push a gross 150-plus on my hunt after I had punched my tag, of course – and feeds you to the point of excess. Both outfitter Craig Archer and his brother, David, are serious hunters and shooters and pride themselves on setting up the hunts as if they were the clients and not the guides.
Located near Rotan, Texas, Hargrove Hunts has been in business for 12 years. They hunt 30,000 acres, take a maximum of six hunters at any one time, with 22 feeders and shooting houses to choose from, as well as several food plots. They rotate where their hunters focus their efforts every week so that no one area of the ranch is overhunted. Trail cameras on each feeder tell you what’s happening at any given moment, and Craig and David check them constantly. The shooting houses are easily the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in (David, a master cabinet builder by trade, custom makes them), and are large enough for two to sit together comfortably. In addition to the shooting houses, you also hunt from a high-rack truck, and this is how I saw so many large bucks after I filled my tag.
West Texas Deer Hunts
Unless you request a guide, these are semi-guided hunts, in that you are dropped at a shooting house morning and evening and hunt on your own. The goal is to kill mature bucks, though there is no penalty for taking any buck you want, nor is there any upcharge for killing large bucks, as is the case on many Texas ranches.
“Our goal is to create a family atmosphere where even new hunters or kids will feel comfortable and have fun,” Craig Archer told me. “We want to create successful shot opportunities, and our track record – in 2017, 2018, and 2020, we ran 100 percent, while in 2019 only one hunter did not take a buck, but he passed several older bucks looking for a monster. The average antler score in 120-130 B&C, with 140-plus bucks taken pretty regularly,” Archer continued. “So far, our top whitetail has been a 185.”
Whitetail deer hunts run four days, the cost $3000, which includes lodging but no food; the house, where you stay, has a full kitchen for your use. If you want meals provided, Archer charges you the cost of the food plus $100/day for the cook. Mule deer hunts run $3500. On both hunts, wild hogs and coyotes – and they are prevalent –can be taken at no extra cost.
I was part of a group of five hunters on this West Texas deer hunt, there to field test Trijicon Huron riflescopes, and all five of us took nice bucks, all aged at 5 ½-years of age or older. Mine was a heavy-antlered typical 8-point that scored right at 140, taken on day two. We also shot a pile of wild hogs, saw tons of deer, and left the ranch making plans for a return trip. Archer has a very nice population of wild bobwhite quail and wild turkeys, both of which can be hunted in season, as well as a few free-ranging Aoudad that can also be hunted.
Tag draw? Like you, I still apply for lots of hunts all over the West. Texas is another world, where you can whitetail hunt every year OTC on managed private lands. When you find a nugget like the Archer brothers, it’s hard not to make this hunt a regular priority. West Texas deer hunting, give it a try.
Trijicon Huron Riflescopes
The first thing to know about Trijicon riflescopes is that 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’s a testament to unparalleled quality. The Huron line was designed with the same precision and high-quality glass to provide a value-priced optic for deer and big game hunters, all perfect for West Texas deer. Four models of these second focal plane scopes are available – 1-4×24, 2.5-10×40, 3-12×40, and 3-9×40. The 2.5-10×40 and 3-12×40 models have 30mm tubes, while the 1-4×24 and 3-9×40 models feature one-inch tubes. I chose the 3-9×40 with standard Duplex reticle model to mount on my old Remington Model 30 bolt-action rifle, built back in 1929 and chambered in .30-06.
In a nutshell, both on the range and in the field, this riflescope performed flawlessly on this West Texas deer hunt. The .25-MOA click adjustments are precise, the glass allowed me to see everything I needed to see on the cusp of daylight, and repeated battering in the field and at the range did nothing to affect its performance. In truth, I have some high-dollar European scopes on other rifles, and for my aging eyes, this “everyman’s” Trijicon scope performed just as well. My hunting companions used the 3-12×40 version on this West Texas deer hunt, and each had the same praise.
Huron riflescopes carry an MSRP of $650-$699.
For more information, visit https://www.trijicon.com/products/subcategory/trijicon-huron-hunting-riflescope.