A Mule Deer to Remember

Little did I know at the time how important that tip would be, and the similar lesson I would learn later? We saw at least 100 young bucks, and several does. “Take another shot.” The deer stood there. I set up the second shot, and “Whap.” “You took a tine clean off!” exclaimed Mike, and that buck just shook his head like, “What the heck?” At this point, I checked the scope again. Mike quickly set up the rifle on the sticks, about 100 yards from the deer, and I took a shot. After field-dressing the deer, and putting it into the walk-in freezer at the ranch, we took the Magpul rifle back out to the range. Eric examined the scope, declared something in the elevation adjustment had broken. Always bring a back-up gun on an important hunt, if possible. Thankfully, my guide had a trusty Remington 700 with him, and now that gun has another notch in its stock – my first muley, aged about 7 years. When I look up at it, I’ll think of that first foray into Texas desert muley hunting, and how it really could not have been any better.

I’ve been hunting whitetail deer for several years now, and frankly, although I remember all the hunts, some of the details have faded over time. I don’t think the details of this hunt, my first mule deer hunt, will ever leave. It started strangely and as you’ll see, ended in a way I could never have imagined.

Remington Outdoor Company’s PR and PA person, Jessica Kallam, and I traveled deep past the heart of Texas for this hunt last December. I flew into Atlanta, met Eric Poole (editor at Guns & Ammo) and Jessica, caught a hop to El Paso, and rented a Dodge Charger – a fun car to drive, but a poor chariot to take us on the 4-hour trek into a Texas-style blizzard. After a long drive on rocky country roads, we eventually made it to the A.S. Gage Ranch, in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, after passing through a border patrol checkpoint.

AS GAGE ranch inside
Check out this view from inside the main ranch house.

It turned-out to be worth the drive, as the accommodations, food, and most importantly to us, guide services seemed primo. Operated by Wildlife Systems, Inc., this ranch is part of a network of outstanding hunting ranches in the state. In fact, Jessica and I had bagged our limit of doves at another ranch in the system, back in September, near San Angelo.

sighting in sleet AS Gage ranch
Here I am with the Remington 700 Magpul model, braving the sleet and cold to get my shots on target. (Jessica Kallam photo)

After a delicious steak dinner (and really, is there better beef in the world than Texas beef?) we asked our guides if we could sight in our rifles, even though the clock showed it closing in on 10 p.m. Although the guides looked at us like maybe we were a little crazy – since now we had a sleet storm blowing icy particles horizontally and dropping the temperature – they agreed to set up the 100-yard-range, and pointed the headlights of their trucks downrange at the targets.

Remington 700 Magpul
Without the can, the Model 700 in the Magpul version.

We would be shooting Remington Model 700 Magpul rifles with AAC silencers – yes, believe it or not, we’d hunt with cans – the SR7s; Eric chose the one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, which left the 2 chambered in 308 Win for Jess and me.

This Model 700 comes with a carbon steel barreled action, tactical bolt handle and threaded muzzle with thread protector. It offers a super crisp trigger, and right away, the former Marine (aka, Eric) liked its form and function. It has the wonderful Magpul Hunter stock with an aluminum bedding block, which is adjustable. Finished in black Cerakote, this is a gun to sling and then, reach out and touch what you want to touch on Western hunts, such as this one.

We shot Barnes VOR-TX ammo (130 grain tipped TSX BT) and worked with our Leupold VX-5HD scopes. After I was able to 3 rounds that produced a 1 inch group – within record time for me, fortunately – Eric gave me a great tip and told me to photograph the scope’s elevation and windage settings with my cell phone – just in case the scope got bumped or reset somehow. Little did I know at the time how important that tip would be, and the similar lesson I would learn later?

I also made a note on my phone to myself with the scope’s settings, too.

Muley Hunt

The next day, my guide and I crawled around the ranch in a huge Ford truck, traversing what felt like most of its 190,000-acres, looking for a buck at least 5 years and preferably 7 years old, since this was a managed hunt to cull the old guys. In frigid, below freezing weather, we slipped along icy roads that made for an interesting day with lots of glassing.

Mike guide at AS Gage
Mike glasses to check the ages of bucks on…
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