September 22, 2023
West Texas’ Chihuahuan Desert isn’t a location that first comes to mind when a hunter thinks of elk. However, after being eradicated in the early 1900s, the elk population was restocked in the ’60s and has been steadily growing in numbers ever since. In Texas, elk are considered an “exotic,” which means they can be hunted year-round.
Arguably, the best time to hunt elk is during the rut, which is when bulls venture out in search of a cow for a mate. Since the bull’s motivation to mingle often overrides his sense of self-preservation, this period makes for ideal hunting conditions.
During mid-October 2022, the elk were rutting in West Texas. By the morning of the third (and final) day of an elk hunt guided by Wildlife Systems, I still hadn’t pulled the trigger. We saw plenty of decent bull elk, but nothing mature enough that I was prepared to tag and remove from the area.
This region was once hunted for its buffalo and elk by Comanches, Lipan Apache and Jumano Native Americans. Though exotics are often controlled by high-fences, there are plenty of free-range elk on private ranches near Marathon, Texas, and some allow access to Wildlife Systems.
Some Native American tribes referred to elk as “wapiti.” So I immersed myself in the West Texas culture, and sought to take my first elk in this region. My guide was Sawyer Harris, and he applied his knowledge of the area’s elk and terrain to improve my odds. Optimism still abounded on Day 3 as we traversed a winding mountainous road with our eyes peeled and ears straining to hear.
As Harris stopped to glass, we heard the unmistakable bugle that triggers our predatory senses. The bull was close, so we quietly moved toward the sound on foot. The first time you hear the bugle of an elk up close, you realize that the experience is nothing short of majestic.
Slung over my shoulder was a Remington Model 700 rifle chambered in .300 Win. Mag. I borrowed it from my friend and Texan Eddie Stevenson who owns Driftwood Media, and once worked for Remington Arms Company. In 2016, he used this rifle with a 2.5-12.5x42mm AccuPoint to take a grizzly with G&A Editor Eric Poole in Alaska. Atop the rifle now is a Trijicon AccuPoint in 3-18x50mm.
The AccuPoint is a second focal plane (SFP) scope that was developed for hunting and launched in 1998 — 25 years ago! To that point, Trijicon was known for its rugged ACOG gunsights and coveted military contracts. The AccuPoint expanded Trijicon’s use of its fiber-optic and tritium technology by incorporating it into 3-9x40mm riflescope. By 2000, the AccuPoint line included a 1.25-4x24mm low-power variable optic (LPVO) aimed at safari hunting, but transcended tactical and sport-shooting markets. Though the AccuPoint is still an important product, Trijicon’s lineup now includes battery-powered scopes using other illumination principles. I would encourage you, though, not to lose sight of the battery-free AccuPoint.
There are nine magnification ranges in the AccuPoint line with five to eight options for each. The AccuPoint in 3-18x50 comes in five models, each built on a 30mm tube. The TR34 model I used features a do-all MOA Ranging Reticle with green aiming dot. There’s also a Duplex reticle with green aiming dot, as well as an illuminated triangle-on-a-post reticle available in amber, green, or red. At $1,872 retail, this scope isn’t cheap, but it’s one you can use for life.
The AccuPoint offers exposed elevation turrets to dial adjustments. Once you establish zero during sight in, you can remove the turret cap and set it to zero. The return-to-zero feature is great for those of us who make a habit of storing rifles zeroed out when not in use. Also, customized turrets are available to tailor the scope to a specific rifle and load. This eliminates the need to convert clicks to a known distance. Simply range the target, dial to the yardage and take the shot. Kenton Industries supports Trijicon’s custom-turret service.
Prior to my elk hunt, I had confirmed zero and was left impressed with both the clarity of the glass and the simplicity of Trijicon’s design. The green aiming dot lived up to the “brilliant aiming solutions” mantra. Though the AccuPoint is battery-free, the reticle is always on; it’s illuminated by fiber optic and tritium. As conditions change, the fiber optic naturally adjusts with ambient light.
While we crept through the hilly, rocky terrain, Harris occasionally bugled or used a cow call to pinpoint the bull’s location. The wind shifted back and forth, which complicated matters.
At one point, we heard elk trampling the ground as they moved in our direction. I was prepared for a quick off-hand shot, but it wouldn’t be easy. The elk had caught our scent and were aware of our presence, evidenced by a cow and a spike running past. Fortunately, an occasional bugle told us that the bull we were after was still out there.
Some 800 yards ahead, we spotted him climbing a hillside. As slow and quiet as possible, we zig-zagged from tree to shrub to tree, concealing our approach. It was a painstaking stalk that took about 3 hours. Eventually, the desert monarch bedded down. I lost sight of him, but Harris somehow managed to keep eyes on the antlers protruding from the shrubbery.
Even though I was armed with a rifle and scope capable of long-range success, we closed as much distance as we could and managed to avoid spooking the bull. I made it to a flat rock and ranged him at 269 yards. I sat down and braced the forend of the rifle on a shooting stick. Mentally, I began preparing myself. If I missed, there might not be another opportunity.
At about 11 o’clock, the sun was bright and overhead. I stared at the animal through the scope, which was easier to see through than looking past the gun. The scope’s coatings and anti-reflective glass really make a difference in minimizing eye strain and maximizing comfort. I slowly zoomed in for what I presumed would be the best view of the animal’s vitals when he was ready to move.
Harris blew a cow call, which made the bull stand to investigate. Almost immediately, he began quartering away from left to right. There was a tight window to shoot before my view would be blocked by the trees and shrubs. With the green, pinpoint aiming dot overlaid against the elk’s vitals, I pressed the trigger. Harris whispered excitedly, “Shoot!” just as the shot boomed. I didn’t hear it. When the rifle settled, the elk was out of view. Still, I cycled the bolt, but there was no need for a follow-up shot.
The bull was killed cleanly. He fell 10 feet from where he’d been hit. Though he was only a five-by-five, his antlers were thick, and we were impressed by its size.
Everything came together perfectly, and Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X bullet from a box of Precision Hunter ammunition played a part. Success is usually born from the combination of a quality rifle, scope, bullet and a hunter’s skill. During this hunt, I would also credit Harris’ ability as a guide to get us close. The West Texas landscape made this elk hunt a different kind of experience, and just as satisfying. Grateful, I went home with a freezer full of fresh meat.
At the airport, I got a text from a fellow hunter. The picture he sent showed that Trijicon’s next-generation (and more affordable) Credo riflescope can get the job done just as well. Using a Credo HX in 2.5-15x42mm ($1,358), he had brought down a nice six-by-six elk. Regardless of power source or budget, Trijicon’s optics are rugged enough for field use.
In fact, all Trijicon optics must pass a series of stringent durability tests. For “Alaska to Africa” temperature testing, performance is measured in temps ranging from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 140. The Solid Zero test ensures a riflescope functions flawlessly through 5,000 rounds, and drop testing confirms durability. Shock and vibration tests prove Trijicon’s scopes will withstand recoil and vibrational stress, while immersion testing proved the riflescope’s internals will remain dry.
Even after a quarter century of production, the Trijicon AccuPoint doesn’t disappoint. The pinpoint reticles are precise and simple to use, as are the turrets. Taking my first wapiti in West Texas was an experience I’ll never forget — and one I hope to eventually repeat.
Trijicon AccuPoint 3-18x50mm
- Power: 3X-18X
- Objective: 50mm
- Tube Diameter: 30mm
- Elevation Adjustment: .25 MOA per click
- Windage: .25 MOA per click
- Reticle Options: Duplex (tested), MOA ranging, triangle/post
- Length: 14.8 in. Weight: 1 lb., 11.1 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.4 in. to 4 in.
- MSRP: $1,872
- Manufacturer: Trijicon, 800-338-0563, trijicon.com
Enjoy articles like this?
Subscribe to the magazine.
Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine