The regular gun season on deer opens Saturday, Nov. 5. You know as well as I do that the opener will be here in a flash, and with that in mind I’ve put together a top five list of things to do before one of the most anticipated hunting days in Texas is here and gone.
3 No. 1: Get a gun. Believe it or not, Nov. 5 will be the first time afield for hundreds of rookie deer hunters. With that comes the purchase of a new rifle. Notice I said new. In most situations a new, as opposed to used, rifle is definitely worth the expense. It’s the one piece of hunting gear that’ll be with you forever, unlike camouflage clothing, deer stands, feeders and even binoculars.
So which is the best rifle for a first time deer hunter? First of all consider this – the most popular rifles for Texas whitetails are a .270, .30-06 and .243. The 7 mm magnum has risen in popularity over the past couple of decades, but it’s a big gun that is overkill in most situations, unless you’ll be hunting in South Texas where many of the heaviest bucks are tagged each season.
What caliber is best for you? That’s a tough question. I like a .30-06. It’s got a lot of knockdown power and is also a good rifle for shooting other big game like mule deer, elk and exotics. But it’s got a good bit of recoil. For the younger hunters, especially kids, a .243 is perfect.
If you’re not sure what to buy, go to a reputable gun dealer and start asking questions. One of the best in Southeast Texas is Leger Shooting Range just west of Beaumont. That’s where you’ll find knowledgeable folks behind the counter. They will not only answer your questions but also sell you a gun, mount it with a scope and put you on the gun range out back.
3 No. 2: Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Practice makes perfect. That’s big-time true when holding the crosshairs on a deer shoulder at 150 yards. If you’re new to this game and are looking to buy a rifle, always couple it with the best scope you can afford. Randy Leger told me years ago that, for the money, a Leupold rifle scope is tough to beat. It’ll cost a little more than the average scope, but is not super expensive either.
The more shooting you do, the more accurate you’ll be in the moment of truth. Here are a few quick tips. Start the season with a clean rifle. Always practice using the same ammo you’ll be hunting with. Make sure your scope mounts and screws are snug. When you’re on the range, don’t blast away. Take your time, get a good rest, and slowly squeeze the trigger. Make a few shots and let the barrel cool off for at least several minutes. If your rifle is shooting all over the target, get it checked out at a good gun shop.
3 No. 3: Next to a rifle, a good pair of binoculars is the best thing you can have for hunting deer. The worst thing you can do is use your rifle scope to check out deer. That’s not only cumbersome and noisy but also dangerous. Buy the very best pair of binoculars you can afford. I’ve got a pair of Steiner marine grade binoculars that are more than 20 years old. They have put me on numerous deer and no telling how many flocks of distant gulls hovering over reds and trout on Sabine Lake.3 No. 4: Clean up your box blind before opening day. I’ve always been amazed at the number of critters that call unused box blinds home during the off-season. They include raccoons, possums, skunks, bobcats, owls, rats and insects. Always open the blind door with caution. You never know what’s going to come running or flying out of one.
Don’t forget the long-distance wasp spray. Wasp nests are pretty much guaranteed in box blinds. Ditto that for spiders. There is nothing creepier than to be leaning back in a comfortable blind chair and suddenly have a spider drop down and suspend 2 inches off your nose. That’ll wake you up like right now.
Make sure you’re blind is safe. I did a story a few years ago about a hunter that was going up his wooden ladder to his stand. He fell and broke his neck. When in doubt, replace old steps and rebuild dry, rotted blinds.
3 No. 5: If you’ll be hunting around a feeder, make sure it’s actually working and still upright. I went to fill some feeders at a friend’s ranch last week and one of his cows had pushed up against a leg and collapsed the whole thing. It was a cow’s dream come true – corn galore.
All kinds of things can go wrong with a feeder. Most of the time it’s a motor malfunction, dead battery or loose wire. It’s usually best to attach a varmint guard around the feeder motor.
The best and most popular feeders will hold about 200 pounds of corn. The most user friendly-feeders can be raised and lowered with a winch.
If you’ll be hunting in multiple tree stands, the little 6-1/2 gallon feeders that hang from a tree limb are perfect for setting up along game trails. They will hold about 40 pounds of corn and will run for a few months on a single six-volt battery.