Here’s what you need to know about axis deer hunting.
The journey from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to Texas is a long one, but Axis Deer made it and once they did, boy, did they ever make the most of it. This arguably most beautiful of deer has done so well in its new Texas environs that it has virtually pushed out the native whitetail in some parts of the Lone Star state.
Imported in 1932 to a game ranch, the axis quickly multiplied and jumped the fence, literally, to spread to other areas. Now there are around 40,000+ axis deer, or ‘chital’ or ‘spotted deer’, in Texas, with around 6,000 of those animals on public land.
A little more opportunistic in diet, a flexible breeding cycle, and without the Bengal Tiger to help keep a ceiling on their population, axis deer have taken off like rabbits in Australia. Now, all you need is a hunting license and you can harvest axis venison anytime of year and with no bag limits.
They are beautiful animals. Adorned in a chestnut to reddish-brown hide, speckled with white spots in chaotic rows, with a white underbelly and a black dorsal stripe running from head to tail, they are striking. They look somewhat similar to a whitetail fawn in adult form.
Adult males range in height from around 30 to 40 inches at the shoulders and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 250 pounds. Females are considerably smaller. The headgear of the bucks is regal and more than a little interesting.
Antlers are taller and more sweeping than those of whitetails, with two to three tines in addition to the main beam point. They usually consist of a brow tine and another tine halfway between the brow and the end of the main beam. Normal antler length is 22 to 28 inches, with trophies running 30 to 36 inches.
The interesting part of axis deer antler growth is that bucks follow their own biological clock as to when they grow and shed their antlers. In a herd you can have male deer in the beginning stages of antler growth, some in velvet and others if full hard horn.
This also hints at their flexible breeding cycle. Does come into heat at various times throughout the year, with each period of estrus lasting around three weeks. In this regard their breeding cycle is very much like domestic cattle. Bucks with hardened antlers will fight in typical whitetail-like battles of clashing antlers, but bucks in velvet will often fight with their feet, standing on their hind legs, face to face, and duke it out with hooves flying.
Axis deer are a herd animal. You will not normally see a single animal, but rather several. They are also, as mentioned earlier, less choosy in their diet. They can subsist on a wide variety of vegetation, eating forbs and woody browse such as oak, sumac and hackberry, but can easily move to grazing on mature grasses once browse is depleted. This gives them a leg up on the competition – whitetails – whose diets do not include mature grasses.
Axis deer do not favor rough terrain, geographically speaking. They tend to prefer flat or hilly land with plenty of brushy cover combined with open grazing areas.
You can hunt axis deer with any of the traditional methods, by stalking, still hunting or with a feeder and blind. A conventional blind adjacent to a feeder is a popular method, and generally allows you to see many more animals than you otherwise might.
Axis deer are also day feeders as opposed to nocturnal feeders. They are most active for a few hours after sunrise and a couple hours prior to sunset. Setting up during these times of day should prove successful. Their meat is also exceptional, being much leaner than normal venison and without the ‘gamey’ taste sometimes associated with whitetail meat.
As a sporting animal, the axis deer provides an excellent trophy in antlers, hide and meat.
At Ox Ranch, an experienced hunting guide will be able to situate you according to your desired mode of hunting.