Setting Sights on a Texas Trifecta

A trip to the Texas Panhandle puts three models of EOTech sights through a series of dawn-to-dusk field tests for predators, turkeys and aoudad.

Setting Sights on a Texas Trifecta

If you watched the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (think Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, not Capt. Kirk), the characters often visited the holodeck, a large room with black floor, walls and ceiling, plus bright-yellow gridlines spaced throughout. In this setting, members of the Starship Enterprise could engage in virtual reality environments. The experiences on the holodeck were limited only by the user’s imagination. 

During an early May hunt in the Texas Panhandle with 4F Outfitters, I didn’t have to rely on my imagination because the three wild turkeys approaching my ambush location from behind were 100 percent real — and VERY loud with their gobbling. Though I wasn’t experiencing this hunt via a holodeck, in a moment I’d drop two of the three longbeards (I had two turkey tags) thanks to an EOTech holographic sight on my shotgun — a combo that’s also deadly on predators. 

Don’t confuse a holographic sight with a red-dot sight. There are two types of red-dot sights: tube red dots and reflex sights. A red dot of either type uses a low-power LED emitter to project its reticle onto glass, which is then bounced back to the shooter’s eye because the glass is coated. Magnification is 1X, meaning objects are not enlarged. 

Holographic sights such as the EOTech XPS that I used in Texas use a laser diode and mirrors to project a holographic reticle back to you without using the front glass; the reticle appears to float on your target in front of the sight housing itself. One significant difference to the shooter is with a red dot you must choose whether to focus on the target or the red dot because they are on different planes. However, with a holographic sight, your eyes will focus on both the reticle and target simultaneously. 

Other advantages of a holographic sight over a red dot include:

Minimal parallax distortion; no matter where the reticle appears in the sight housing, if you place the reticle on the target as you pull the trigger, you’ll hit the target.

It continues to work if the front lens is partially obscured by mud or snow, or even broken.

It works better with a magnifier. The precision center dot of a holographic reticle doesn’t increase in size with an increase in magnification.

For stealth, holographic sights have a non-reflective sight window. 

The specific EOTech holographic sight I carried in Texas was several years old and had been used and abused by guide Cade Ferguson for predators and turkeys. The current model that replaces it is the EOTech HWS XPS2 (HWS stands for holographic weapons sight); MSRP is $575. This sight measures 3.8x2.1x2.5 inches and weighs 9 ounces. It’s powered by a single CR123 lithium battery, which provides 1,000 hours of continuous use at a middle-of-the-road setting (12). The XPS2 offers 20 daylight brightness settings. It mounts to a 1-inch Weaver or Mil-Std 1913 rail and features 0.5 MOA per click windage and elevation adjustments. Note: EOTech also makes holographic sights powered by two AAs, and battery life is even better. For example, on setting brightness setting 12, an EOTech HWS 512 sight will run for 2,500 hours with two AA lithium batteries and 2,200 hours with alkaline batteries.

An EOTech holographic sight mounted on a shotgun excels for close-range turkeys and coyotes.
An EOTech holographic sight mounted on a shotgun excels for close-range turkeys and coyotes.

It’s important to clearly see a scope’s reticle under a variety of lighting conditions. When the sun was still below the horizon, I dialed the EOTech holographic sight’s brightness to a dim setting so it wouldn’t overpower my view; I could control my sight picture perfectly. As the day brightened, I simply pressed the up arrow until the reticle hit the desired level. For example, when waiting on a coyote at high noon, when the Texas landscape under a bluebird sky were so bright I needed sunglasses, I bumped up the reticle brightness to a much higher setting. 

With a red dot, it’s important to align your head directly behind the sight to ensure your point of impact doesn’t shift. This is the parallax distortion I mentioned previously. I didn’t have to worry about that with the holographic sight. My shotgun pellets would fill the ring of the sight’s reticle, no matter whether I shouldered the shotgun perfectly or not.

 

Texas Two-Step

When the three gobblers finally circled our ambush position at 18 yards, they were walking single file at a steady clip from left to right. I slowly raised Cade’s loaner shotgun and the EOTech’s reticle came into view like I’d been shooting this firearm for a lifetime. I placed the center dot on the largest tom’s red head and tracked him, pulling the trigger without stopping my barrel swing. The gobbler hit the ground hard, and because I had two tags, I pumped the Remington 870 and then found another tom. I focused on keeping the fleeing bird’s moving body within the reticle’s outer ring, but I failed to swing the barrel as I pulled the trigger, sending a swarm of pellets into his tail feathers. Cycling my third and final shell (Cade still had a plug in his shotgun from waterfowl season), I tracked the sprinting tom in the reticle’s outer ring and rolled him at 30 yards.

As I walked up to the birds, I remembered what Cade had told me the night I arrived in camp and was looking over his shotgun/sight combo. “On a running coyote, just swing the barrel and keep the coyote’s head or chest in the outer ring of the reticle as you pull the trigger. Dead coyote every time.” It’s clear the same system works on a running turkey.

 

A One/Two Punch for Coyotes

Guide Cade Ferguson is a seasoned coyote hunter even though he’s only 23. His dad, Cal, hosted a predator hunting TV show for many years, and Cade began appearing in episodes at an early age. “We run a two-gun system,” Cade explained. “One guy carries a shotgun and sits low, about 25 yards behind the electronic call and decoy. The second shooter has a rifle and sits with me at a higher elevation; we’ll be 50 to 75 yards behind the shotgun. I’ll run the electronic call with a remote and switch between various sounds. Each sound will start out low, then ramp up, then I’ll lower the volume before changing to another sound. I’ll run the call for 10 to 15 minutes before we try another stand. 

“This is important, especially for the shotgun hunter who won’t be able to see quite as far as me: When I spot a coyote, I’ll reduce the volume to a consistent low level. You’ll still hear it, but it’ll be soft. I want the coyote to search hard for the source of the sound and spot the decoy, too. If you suddenly hear the call volume decrease, get ready!” 

As Cade explained the system, I assumed the rifle shooter would get most of the action. No so. “Believe it or not, we kill 80 percent of our coyotes with a shotgun,” he said. “That’s the goal, to have a coyote charge in tight to the call and decoy. I’ll tell the rifle hunter to shoot only if the coyote hangs up and looks like it won’t come closer, or if it starts moving away.”

Freelance writer and firearms instructor Frank Melloni, who shared camp with the author, made a running shot on this Texas coyote with help of an EOTech holographic sight.
Freelance writer and firearms instructor Frank Melloni, who shared camp with the author, made a running shot on this Texas coyote with help of an EOTech holographic sight.

When we set up for coyotes, I hiked low to place the electronic caller and then sat down 25 yards from it with a rock or bush behind me to break up my silhouette. Cade sat higher with Jacob Fambrough, who is the director of digital marketing for EOTech. Unfortunately, due to hot midday temperatures and strong winds, we didn’t experience much for coyote action during the dozen stands we attempted. (The best times would’ve been during the cool mornings, but we were chasing turkeys instead.) 

We had one close call. At sunset, a coyote came charging hard from the distance; I first spotted it from 300 yards and readied my shotgun. Thirty seconds later the big coyote appeared in front of us from a draw at 60 yards, but it turned tail immediately due to sudden wind change. “Take him,” Cade commanded to Jacob, and I giggled as a handful of bullets kicked up dirt in a zig-zag pattern as the coyote headed for the horizon. It lived to hunt another day. 

During our predator pursuits, I carried Cade’s shotgun with the EOTech holographic sight. I adjusted the reticle brightness as needed for the conditions and told myself to expect a running shot. I sat with the shotgun resting on a raised knee so I could quickly swing the barrel side to side without interference from a shooting stick. 

Jacob carried an AR-15 with an EOTech 1-8x24mm SFP Vudu scope. The company offers this scope in both first focal plane (FFP) and second focal plane (SFP) options. Most hunters are familiar with second focal plane design; the reticle doesn’t change size as you change magnification. In contrast, the reticle on a first focal plane scope does change size as you change magnification. The FFP choice is sometimes preferred by shooters who use the reticle as a measuring tool to determine shot distance. 

The EOTech 1-8x24mm SFP Vudu features a daylight-visible illuminated quadplex BDC reticle that will run approximately 500 hours with the included CR2032 battery. Measuring 10.6 inches long, the scope weighs 21.3 ounces and has a 30mm one-piece tube. It has ultra-clear HD glass and fully multicoated lenses, protected in a tough single-piece T6 aircraft-aluminum tube. My favorite feature is the throw lever, which makes it a snap to make fast magnification adjustments. MSPR for this scope is $1,399. 

As I looked through this Vudu scope on the range at camp, as well as in the field during one coyote stand when Jacob carried the shotgun, I couldn’t help but think about how well this 1-8x24mm model would work on two of my bolt-action whitetail rifles. Because I most often deer hunt in forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the 8X setting would satisfy any medium-range rifle shots and having the option of dialing down the power to 1X or 2X would be welcomed when faced with a 20- to 50-yard shot from one of my many stands set up for bowhunting-close opportunities.

 

Aoudad Adventure

When planning for this trip, I never imagined I’d be crawling across rimrock in pursuit of aoudad. In the Texas Panhandle, the story goes that a rancher released 19 aoudad and through the decades the population has exploded. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department doesn’t consider aoudad a game animal in this region, so it’s up to the landowners to control the population.

On this ranch, because outfitter Cal Ferguson leases the hunting rights, the landowner leaves it up to Cal to conduct aoudad hunts however he wishes. “I don’t get many clients who book an aoudad-only hunt,” Cal said. “Most of the time, a guy adds an aoudad after he’s successful shooting a pronghorn or muley early in his trip. Here’s the deal: I want to manage the herd by removing a couple more ewes. Each year on this ranch, we kill six to eight ewes. It’s a challenging spot and stalk in rugged terrain, and it’s Cade’s favorite animal to hunt. He knows which age class of ewe I want removed from the herd. If you want to pursue one, go for it.” 

Asking if I’d like to spot and stalk aoudad in the rimrock is like asking if I want ice cream for dessert. Yes, please! 

It was a pleasure learning about aoudad behavior and herd structure from Cade as we glassed the rimrock from various vantage points. After a couple of stalks that ended with animals busting us before I could get into shooting position, and one close-range (100-yard) encounter with a too-young pair of ewes, we were finally sneaking toward a group of 15 animals. Cade was sure there were several old ewes in this pack, and my excitement level grew with each inch gained. 

Finally, we could spot the group sheltered from the sun, across a canyon, at 260 yards. I tried aiming from a sitting position with the gun resting on an attached bipod but couldn’t get comfortable on the steep slope. Though I was controlling my breathing OK, the scope’s center dot floated from the target ewe’s chest to rump; no good. 

“I’ve got to go prone,” I whispered to Cade. He lowered the rifle’s attached bipod to its shortest setting and then waved me forward and to the left. We slithered up and out of the rimrock and onto the pasture above. Now I was lying flat on the ground, aiming slightly down toward the aoudad. 

“They’re 239 yards,” Cade advised. “See the ewe on the far right? That’s the one we want.” 

In the prone position, I was now rock solid; my sight picture barely moved. “On her,” I said. “She’s slightly quartering away, feeding, correct?” 

“Yep. Put it on her shoulder.” 

We’d sighted in the Savage .308 Win. bolt action to be dead-on at 200 yards, so there was no reason to complicate matters for 239 yards. I placed the scope’s center dot on her shoulder and pressed the trigger to the rear. Not a second after Cade said “shoulder,” the canyon echoed the rifle’s report and the ewe dropped in her tracks. 

Still looking through the scope, I cycled a second cartridge and waited for her to stand. After 10 seconds, Cade said, “She’s not getting up. Aoudad are tough, but you hammered her.” 

For medium- to long-range shots on predators and big game, the Vudu 3.5-18x50mm SFP is up to the task. This second focal plane (SFP) scope has EOTech’s XC High-Density (HD) glass and a lightweight, aircraft-grade aluminum 34mm tube. The scope features covered tactical turrets, side-mounted parallax adjustment, illuminated reticle and removeable throw lever for quick magnification adjustments. Measuring 14.8 inches in length, the scope weighs 31 ounces. MSRP is $1,599.

It's tough to make precise long-range shots with scopes that max out at 9X or 10X. The author relied on an EOTech Vudu 3.5-18x50mm SFP riflescope, killing an aoudad with the power dialed to 15X.
It's tough to make precise long-range shots with scopes that max out at 9X or 10X. The author relied on an EOTech Vudu 3.5-18x50mm SFP riflescope, killing an aoudad with the power dialed to 15X.

I had the magnification dialed to 15X when I took my shot, and even though the ewe was tucked in deep shadows, I had no trouble precisely placing the red center dot on the aoudad’s reddish-brown coat. From long-range coyotes to western big game, this versatile scope is an ideal choice for any open-country pursuit.

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