Story, photos and videos by: Austin Legg
Being from the West and primarily hunting high country mule deer, I’ve been blessed with some great experiences that end with even better high country trophies.
There is no doubt that Mule Deer are my passion but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hunting other deer.
In December of 2020, I got the opportunity to hunt Whitetails in South Texas. Who wouldn’t be excited at that? Over the years, I’ve had a few opportunities to hunt Whitetails and had some success along the way. More than anything, each time I’ve hunted Whitetail, I gained an appreciation for these wily creatures that peaks my anticipation for the next hunt.
It's common knowledge almost all hunting in south Texas is done on privately owned ranches. This hunt would be no exception. Growing up hunting public land out West, I had some trepidation about hunting a private ranch. That thought quickly faded when I learned this ranch encompassed 5,000 acres of thick Texas brush whitetail thrive in. Adventure happens everywhere you look for it and I knew this hunt would be a lot of fun.
The night before my flight took off for Texas, I took my Allterra Arms 6.5 PRC to the shooting range to check the zero. This rifle has a custom Kryptek Obskura Nox finish and is without a doubt my favorite in the gun safe. True to form, it drove tacks that evening. I finished the range session with a 3-shot group measuring less than ½” at 100 yards. I was set
I arrived at the ranch outside of George West, Texas around 2am the night before the hunt. I only had two and a half days to hunt and the pressure to find a buck was already on my shoulders. With the short hunt window, I decided to hunt the first morning and forego a morning range session to verify my rifle zero. After all, I had packed my rifle in a Pelican case with three layers of foam. I couldn’t imagine how anything could affect the rifle’s zero in such a case. On top of that, I also knew any shot I would take on a Whitetail in the thick Texas brush would be reasonably short range. I was confident my rifle would get the job done when the time came.
At first light on the first morning, I got to witness something I’d never experienced in all my years of hunting. We were absolutely covered in deer. They seemed to be everywhere and not just deer, many of them were fantastic bucks. Back home in Idaho, I’m used to a buck to doe ratio of around 19:1. On this morning, the ratio seemed to be closer to 1:1. It was fascinating to me. There were bucks everywhere and many were up close and personal. I have never seen so many bucks in one place.
With so many bucks around, my trigger finger was getting itchy but my friend and guide encouraged me to wait for one of two bucks on his hit list to show itself. Finally, on the second evening and with just a few moments of legal shooting light remaining, one of the target bucks walked out of a Mesquite thicket right in front of us. We took a few photos of him on the hoof and then I settled my rifle against the wall of our box blind and located the buck in my scope. He was only 100 yards away. A chip shot for my 6.5, or so I thought. One slow squeeze of the trigger… BANG. The shot broke and the deer scattered. Including my buck. He ran full tilt back into the Mesquite trees he had come from.
I looked over at my guide. He looked back at me. We both had a black look on our faces. “What happened?” I asked. “Did I miss?” He responded, “Oh yeah….you missed.
I couldn’t believe it. The deer was gone without a scratch. As the darkness fell, I was sick to my stomach. It felt like I had blown my only opportunity at a nice Texas Whitetail. Of course, I started to question everything. What happened? How could I miss at 100 yards? The only explanation I could come up with was something must have happened during air travel and I had neglected to verify the zero before the hunt.
Unfortunately, I only had one morning left to hunt and there was no time to take my rifle to range. Luckily, there were a few rifles at the ranch available to me and I decided to use one of them on the last morning of the hunt.
That last morning, I sat in the blind trying to remain positive, but it was hard to shake the negativity. I knew this was my last chance at a buck and now I had a rifle in my hands I had never fired. After about an hour, our target buck re-emerged from the Mesquite thicket and gave me a shot at redemption. Again, the distance was around 100 yards and I waited until he was broadside before settling the cross hairs on his vitals. The familiar crack of a bullet making impact was a welcomed sound. A relief actually. I watched the buck violently kick his back legs upwards and then dart into the brush. I knew exactly what had happened. This blood trail would be short.
Following the trail about 30 yards into the brush, I found the biggest Whitetail buck I’d ever taken. Excitement was high and my emotions were a strange mix of relief and gratitude.
This turned out to be a fantastic hunt. I was able to fill my tag on a beautiful buck and also learn a valuable lesson. Always double check your rifle after travel. That is a mistake I will only make once. After all, you don’t always get a second chance.
Sure enough, when I finally got to shoot my rifle again it was about 3 feet high, and 3 feet left. No wonder I missed. I can’t help but wonder what happened to that gun case during my flight.