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Axis deer

I was at work, dialing into a conference bridge, gearing up to talk technology, whilst wearing khakis when my phone buzzed on my desk. I looked down to see a text from my dad that said, “Mom and I just saw 15 Axis by the back fence line.” I let out an audible four letter expletive right before my desk phone beeped to let me know that I was live on a conference bridge. A close call by any other name…

The reason for my outburst is simple really. Axis, also known as the Chital is one of the tastiest forest creatures out there. They were introduced in Texas less than a hundred years ago and have flourished in the Edwards Plateau where my family’s ranch resides. Unfortunately, while the areas around Rocksprings, Leakey, and Uvalde have got Axis by the bushel, the area around Fredericksburg and Kerrville hasn’t been as lucky. They’re out there, but not in as plentiful numbers as whitetail. In fact, I’ve spotted them on precisely 5 occasions in the last 13 years. I’ve shot 2. One, an enormous buck that field dressed at 190 pounds. The other, a young spike that I got a few years back that field dressed around 145 pounds. Both were bigger in the body than the largest whitetail I’ve ever taken at our ranch.

And folks, let me tell you, Axis is good eating. It is far more akin to beef than anything else. Deep red, flavorful, and mighty tender. While I normally grind most of a whitetail into sausage, I wouldn’t dare do such a thing with an axis of any size. A thick cut Axis ham cooked to medium rare over an oak fire is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The jerky requires very little in the way of seasoning and is ultra tender. But chicken fried Axis backstrap is one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen.

One of the coolest things is that the state of Texas considers Axis to be exotic, and therefore falls under the same rules as common varmints. They can be hunted with any means or methods at any time of day with any weapon necessary during every day of the year. And while preservation is a little harder during August in Texas, it is possible. So pray for me readers. Maybe my next trip to the ranch nets a big, tasty, spotted deer.

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  1. Question to Tyler,
    Ok so these bad boys are running around free like hog. What else in Texas falls under this type of exotic designation? I ask because unlike California, in Texas you can take varmints without tags. Even feral hogs here in CA require paid tags.
    It is interesting since if you have a “things to do while in Texas” knowing what you can take and when is important.
    Oh now I am hungry and drooling all over my desk BTW!

    • AFAIK, in Texas, pretty much anything that’s not native can be taken year round, no limit, no tags. Hogs, of course, Axis are common, and there are large flocks of Aoudads in far west and north Texas. Nilgai antelope are pests in some areas of South Texas. Fallow deer, mouflon, and sika deer are pretty common too. Those are just some examples. The elk in West Texas are also considered non-native by the state (it’s somewhat controversial), because they are a subspecies that was introduced after the native elk were extirpated.

      • According to the Game Warden you just need to have a hunting license that isn’t expired, otherwise you are good to go with whatever means, hours, and methods you choose to hunt exotics.

      • Before we get swarms of hungry shooters from all over the US, I have to point out that you need a place to shoot these suckers, and the average farmer is gonna want a bunch of money before you can hunt on his property. Make some plans, and have a concrete idea what you’re doing before you start tossing guns into the pickup.

        • I was just reading about these deer. The site I was on says that you can expect to pay between $1500 and $3000 for a trophy buck, $2200 average. That’s $10 to $20 a pound.

  2. Wanna swear? Fall down a small embankment, lose your spare key to your locked patrol car, and stand around in body armor, wool shirt & pants and wait in the SoCal heat for the tow to come and slim jim your car. All the while contemplating bashing in your own window on the running car and hoping to God your buddies at work don’t discover your predicament.

  3. You showed a great level of self restraint. Under similar circumstances I might fein the onset of a terrible cold
    and then phone in the rest of the day sick. Un-dock the laptop and be out in a blind the next morning.

    My manager likes venison so getting the time off approved wouldnt be too tough.

  4. Shot an Axis a year ago in Texas and you’re right, he was delish! Made a nice mount too even if he sits a little lower on the wall than the other beasts.

  5. I’m not a hunter, but I understand hunting, I think. The broader issue of wildlife management. Fewer deer crashing through windshields and killing people. Crops protected from overpopulating herbivores and livestock protected from predators. Plus, meat for the table. The hunters I know are also the greatest conservationists I know. It’s all good. Until you write something like…

    ” I’ve spotted them on precisely 5 occasions in the last 13 years. I’ve shot 2.” So they aren’t exactly an overpopulating menace, at least not yet. Perhaps that’s because…

    “They can be hunted with any means or methods at any time of day with any weapon necessary during every day of the year.”

    And so, rather than enjoying the species as part of the wonderfully diverse fauna in your area and allowing them to reproduce, you CURSE OUT-LOUD at the realization that you missed an opportunity to reduce the population.

    There are things about hunting (or maybe just certain hunters) that I don’t understand.

    • Um, Curtis, I believe he was cursing because he missed the opportunity to obtain a year’s worth of delicious food.
      Locally sourced, grass fed, free range, organic food, no less.

      That is easy to understand.

      And, we don’t really want them to reproduce. They’re an invasive species. Like the carp y’all have up there.

      • If you’ve ever tried eating carp, you wouldn’t mention it in a conversation that includes the words “delicious food.” Anyway, if you don’t really want them to reproduce, and hunt accordingly, then your supply of delicious food will disappear with the population. Sounds like somebody wants to have it both ways.

      • Texans (and others out West) think grass fed is something that means quality/taste. I don’t understand how this bit of foolish nonsense started/was spread. Some serious marketing brainwashing. Grassfeed = overlean = taste like whitetail roadrat (carp). Find some well marbled aged corn fed beef. Even in Chicago you have to look for a decent steak.

        Come to Iowa. please, and shoot every damn Whitetail in the state. Mostly corn fed and bumper tenderized. Feed to your dog if Fido is really hungry.

    • A little earlier in his article, he commented that they are plentiful in other areas, but haven’t spread in large numbers to his area. 😉

      My friend has a ranch near Uvalde, and they are covered in Axis.

    • Great question and I probably should have done a better job explaining.

      To add a little clarity, there’s also a small family of black buck antelope on my ranch that I haven’t touched even though they’re equally delicious, able to be hunted the same way, and I see them all the time. The difference being that the antelope are slow to reproduce and small in numbers, but they won’t jump a low fence and they’re staying put. So I’ve just go to wait them out.

      Axis run in big herds for the most part and are incredibly mobile. So picking off one out of a herd of 15 isn’t really detrimental to the herd as a whole, and that herd moves through our place a few times a year.

      Further, the Axis population IS growing despite my two kills in the last 13 years. So I feel confident that if I get an opportunity to shoot, it will be OK.

  6. “But chicken fried Axis backstrap is one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen.”

    GREAT! Right before I need to decide what to eat for diner – now nothing sounds good! Thanks!

    PS. – thanks for changing the font. Its much easier to read.

  7. Good luck! I’ve had it, but haven’t had the pleasure of hunting them. I was hunting on a ranch near you last year and saw several, but didn’t have permission from the landowner for axis (he pretty much keeps those to himself).

  8. Just returned from TX hill country motorcycle trip. Stayed in Luckenbach. Saw 4 Axis feeding outside my cabin one morning. After hearing similar remarks about Axis meat and hunting from a friend in TX, I can’t wait to return to hunt there.

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