Axis Deer Hunt in Texas
I visited family in the City of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas and was amazed by the great amount of deer in this San Antonio suburb. There were white tail and axis (chital) deer within the city limits every day. Texas has about four million deer, which is more than any other state in the U.S. Pennsylvania is in second place with about one million deer. White tails may get bigger in other states, but Texas has more of them. Some properties in Fair Oaks have electric fences to keep deer out of their gardens. No hunting is allowed in the City of Fair Oaks Ranch, but it is great for photography.
Axis deer were introduced to Texas in the 1920’s and are native to India, the land of the Bengal tiger. In the Texas hill country, Axis deer roam free. In other parts of Texas, they are found only on high fenced ranches. Axis deer have brown coat with white dots and a white throat. Mature bucks typically have forked antlers with very long main beams and eye guards, but an atypical buck can have eight points (Eastern count, including the eye guards), known as a 4X4 locally. The largest axis can weighs up to 300 pounds. Axis meat is excellent eating. A hunter from out of state needs a five-day special hunt license, which costs $48. This is good for exotics, such as feral hog and axis deer. Axis can be hunted all year long, but it is best to ask the landowner. Most Texas hunting is on private land, since there is not much public land there. The Axis deer rut can be at different times in different locations. Typical shooting ranges vary widely.
I have hunted the Texas hill country before and I was planning on returning. The first year I flew to San Antonio with my son, Mitchell, but I did not like how the baggage carriers threw my rifle around, or the extra airline charge for the meat cooler on the return trip. TSA also did not reseal my meat cooler with fresh tape, which did not please me at all. I would rather drive 21 hours by car and avoid those hassles. This time I was driving from Miami, Florida to the Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, which is near San Antonio. I have never seen Texas so green, the result of plenty of rain this year. My wife came with me, so that I would not have to drive alone. In Fair Oaks, we would stay with family.
The day after arriving, I went to Bandera, Texas to sight in my rifle at 200 yards at the Bandera Gun Club. I noticed my rifle was a little off. The next day Faris, my nephew, went with me to practice shooting at a friends place before he went to work at his afternoon job. I had taken three rifles with me and I liked the way my 7mm Remington Magnum rifle was shooting, so I chose it for the following day's hunt.
The next day was a Wednesday, a good day since other hunters probably would not be around. The landowner knew I was coming and what blind I would be using. No one would be meeting me at the hunting property, since I knew my way around. No bait would be needed, as there was plenty of natural deer food.
I woke up Wednesday morning thinking that my cellular alarm had gone off. I got dressed and went to have a cereal breakfast. While I was eating, I noticed the clock on the wall. I had gotten up an hour and a half too early, so after eating I went back to bed. I was hunting alone, since my nephew had to work in the afternoon.
I drove to the hunting ranch near Ingram, Texas. After getting to the hunting property, I left the main road and followed a single lane road that led to a stone bridge over a creek. The water was flowing over the bridge, but it was only about three inches deep, so I kept driving. Texas has flash floods, so one has to be careful crossing flooded roads.
On the other side of the bridge was a dirt road that led where I wanted to go. It was already first light when I arrived. I parked my mini-SUV outside a low fence and walked to the blind. It was May 19 and the temperature was 69 degrees, with heavy overcast clouds and a 15 to 20 mile per hour wind. I was looking for a (new to me) blind that had a view of two fields, but I did not see it. Instead, I walked to a ground blind located between the deer bedding area and a creek. I had used this blind in other years. It has a good view of one field. En route to the blind I saw fresh deer tracks and droppings. Twice I saw deer fleeing from me, a hopeful sign.
After waiting in the blind for 40 minutes, I saw a large Axis buck about 125 yards away. This buck never stopped walking, so I watched him through my scope as he disappeared behind some trees. I held my fire, because I did not want to miss or make a bad shot and have to track a wounded deer.
About 45 minutes later, I saw an Axis buck with long antlers. He was standing broadside to me, feeding in the field. I estimated the range at 275 yards. I aimed seven inches high and squeezed the trigger. I lost sight of the buck when the rifle recoiled and afterward he was nowhere to be seen. However, the weeds in the field were about a foot high and could be concealing a downed deer. I waited 15 minutes before walking out to check. He was dead where I shot him. I was happy, but the bullet had not hit him exactly where I aimed. I realized that I had not allowed for the crosswind. However, the 160 grain Nosler Partition handload had done a great job. God had blessed me, because if I had been in the assigned blind, this deer would have been facing me and I would not have been able to shoot him.
I walked to the landowner’s house to get someone to take a picture of me with the deer and help me load it into my hitch cargo carrier. I paid the landowner his fee and his brother was able to take the picture and help me load my deer. While I was gone, a vulture ate one of my deer’s eyes, so there was lots of blood on one side of the deer’s face. The brother said that my shot was 250 yards. I will take his word for it. The deer weighed 180 pounds.
I dropped my deer at the Bernhard Meat Market in Kerrville for processing and was on my way back to my nephew’s house by 10:00 AM. This was the shortest hunting day of my life.
In a week, my processed venison was ready. The butcher packed my meat in a large cooler with enough dry ice to keep the meat frozen until I got home. I started the long drive home that same morning. As I was leaving Fair Oaks I saw a herd of Axis deer that included a buck with longer antlers than the one I had shot; what a beautiful sight. I had made a 250 yard shot, a first for me, and before 7:30 AM on my first day of hunting I had shot a nice buck. Things could not have gone better.
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