Hunting season is in full swing, and whitetail deer are starting to go into rut across the state. If you are looking to get into deer hunting or maybe you’re considering slimming down your gear to the basics, then I have written this just for you.
I have been hunting deer in Texas for 14 seasons, and have a minimalist mindset when it comes to my hobbies. I’m not a gear hound or early adopter, I go with the tried-and-true basics of what you need to get out and hunt.
But what do you really need? High resolution trail cameras with cell access that ping your phone any time a critter walks in front? Scent-Lock clothing with built in carbon filters? The latest in optic technology? It’s easy to overdo it when pursuing big game, there are an untold amount of accessories, tools, equipment and clothing options available – but the truth is that you really don’t need all that much when it comes to hunting deer in Texas.
Here is the bare-bones list of essential gear for hunting deer in Texas:
In order to hunt deer in Texas you need a hunting license. It can be resident or non-resident, but you do need a license either way, and it will come with deer tags for both whitetail and mule deer.
You also very likely need Hunter Education certification to hunt deer in Texas. This is a one-time course that you must take and pass, and then you’re good to go for years to come. The only exceptions for needing Hunter Ed is if you were born before Sept. 2, 1971, if you are under age 17 and accompanied by an adult with Hunter Education, or you are 17 and up but have elected to take the one-year deferment and are hunting with an adult with Hunter Ed.
Means Of Take
You will need to choose a method to harvest an animal. This can be as simple as a longbow, or as complex as a modern semi-automatic rifle. There are also restrictions on time of year for each of these, by both species and location, so be sure to study the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual for the county you’re hunting in.
Your options for means of take are:
- Bow (traditional or compound)
- Rifle (centerfire only)
- Shotgun (buckshot or slugs)
- Black Powder Rifle (muzzleloader)
Land Access & Permission
You will need a place to hunt, and your options could be vast or limited based on your land ownership, your relationships, leases, luck or nearby public land opportunities.
Texas does not have a lot of public land in terms of percentage, especially when compared to the western states, but there is a lot by total land mass. Over 2 million acres, in fact.
There are lots of different governing agencies, so check out our article on Hunting Deer on Public Land in Texas for more detail on that.
If you are hunting your own private land, make sure to check your regulations by county. A good rule of thumb in Texas is that you can do whatever you want with 10 acres or more, but I have known hunters to take good deer on 5 acres or less with a bow. The right 5 acres can be better hunting than the wrong 100 acres.
If you are hunting private land that is not yours, make sure to get your permission in writing. It can be a very simple agreement that defines a start and end date for your access, along with some basic terms (don’t leave gates open, drive on the edges of fields), and signed by both you and the landowner. If there is every any dispute that involves law enforcement like local deputies or game wardens, you will be in the right if you have proof. I have been in this very scenario, where I showed up to hunt and some poachers were on the land. Having paperwork on hand sorted the situation out quickly, and everybody was able to go on their way without any trouble. This goes for both leases and handshake agreements.
You will also need a way to clean your deer. You can have a full on kit that has specialty blades for skinning, gutting and deboning, or you can just do what I do and use a trusty Buck model 110 folding knife that can do everything you need when handling your deer.
That’s all you essentially need to hunt deer in Texas! Here is a list of bonus essentials that will make your life much easier, and increase your chances of success:
- Flashlight and Head Lamp (with red light mode)
- Camouflage Clothing (head to toe)
- Waterproof Boots (insulated for cold weather, snake proof for warm weather)
- Base Layer
- Good Gloves (light weight for warm, insulated for cold)
- Face-mask, Paint or Eye Black (if you have pale complexion)
- Scent Attractant and/or Scent Cover Spray
- Trail Tape (for tracking a blood trail)
- Zip Ties and Duct Tape (for tagging your kill)
- Deer Drag (fold-up straps for dragging deer to your vehicle)
I made a video about everything I carry for our pals at LakeHub: