Chris Mitchell, Director TYHP here. I had an interesting call form a Lead Huntmaster while driving back from a hunt. The Huntmaster wanted to know if TYHP had a limit on the maximum rifle caliber on a Youth Hunt. The short answer is no, but the discussion on the topic I believe would be a great way to kick off what we will call the “TYHP Staff BLOG”.
TYHP will use the Staff BLOG for instances like this or other circumstance when an interesting topic comes up. Of course, if the audience has a topic or question we can certainly address that too.
The caliber question comes up frequently, but usually the question revolves around which of the calibers, less than .30 caliber, are good or authorized. TYHP follows Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, which states that rimfire ammunition is prohibited for white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, and desert bighorn sheep. In other words, a center-fire caliber must be used for those species. We defer to landowners and Lead Huntmasters on the minimum caliber. Some landowners want the .243 or larger and others start at .30 caliber or larger. The quarry is important too. Thin-skinned animals like whitetail and the like are easily harvested, quickly and cleanly with .223, 5.56mm, .22-250, .243, .270, 6.5mm and on up the scale to .30 caliber. It is largely held, you can ethically harvest any North American Big Game Animal with the wide variety of .30 caliber rounds.
As mentioned above, TYHP has no policy prohibiting calibers over a certain size. We do believe you should hunt with a rifle and ammunition matched to the game size and the size of the shooter. Safe, Legal and ethical are the priority. There is no need to add risk by shooting a very large caliber or one intended for long range (beyond 300 yards) on most TYHP youth hunts. We do not have empirical data on TYHP Harvest ranges, but I would be willing to wager most animals are taken at 100 yards or less on TYHP hunts.
TYHP also does not prohibit the platform a hunter uses. Again, landowners and Lead Huntmasters make that call. I believe the modern sporting rifle should not be excluded. I believe we fall into the anti-gunners trap if we decide or behave as if an AR style is not a hunting rifle. Some Lead Huntmasters prefer not to have semi-automatic rifles because of safety concerns with ejected cases in the confines of a blind.
Why does TYHP regularly recommend the .243? First, in our inventory of loaner firearms TYHP has more .243 rifles than any other caliber. Second, it is a great caliber for new shooters or people with small body size and it quickly and cleanly takes whitetail deer.
It all boils down to shot placement and marksmanship. Both of these, are achieved, maintained and improved with practice.