My life of hunting started in my home state of Texas. First hunt was for Hog at 6 years old with a .22 long rifle. Since then I was hooked! We have always owned hunting ranches since I could remember and the following year I killed my first deer at 7 years old. It’s not unusual in Texas to hunt exotic game and most hunters from the state have basic knowledge of the exotics that are taken. It wasn’t until I joined the military that I noticed a change in hunting culture and that I was almost alone in my world of what I know. I have learned that there are many different hunting styles and techniques that differ from my life in this sport and my upbringing. I have met some really great people and they have become very close friends of mine.
I have learned much more about hunting by living at my current location in South Carolina than I originally thought possible. The deer are much harder to hunt and you have 3 basic game categories to hunt, Eastern Turkey, Whitetail and Hogs. One great friend of mine here in SC, Carl, has taken me to his place and allowed me to manage it as my own. Carl told me he has has always wanted to hunt Texas, so I jumped at the chance to make that happen. Shortly thereafter we made the 21 hour drive to my home hunting ranch in Mt. Home, Texas. Carl was lost, he must have thought we were on a safari in some remote land as we drove up and down the hill country with the different game animals such as Sika, Zebra, Oryx, Fallow, Axis, Black buck and more along with some of the best Whitetail in the country.
We finally made it to our family ranch where we have Whitetail, Axis, Catallina, and Black buck. We settled in for the night and woke up early the next morning to sit with my Grandpa in an elevated blind. Not long after the sun came up we hear the Axis start their song. Hearing an Axis Buck call is an adrenaline rush in itself. Exotics do not have a hunting season in Texas because their numbers are regulated by the Ranch owners. Even exotics that free roam from ranch to ranch are fair game. Axis do not have a yearly rut like a whitetail, they rut at different times throughout the year as well as their antlers cycling through velvet so you will always hear their long and drown out repetitive calls. Axis are like turkey… They sound like they are 50 yards away and can be 400 yards away out of sight. Still, every time you hear it you say to yourself, “Come on in big boy! Your does are waiting for you.” When you see him it is like no other… Their pelts are some of the most beautiful hides imaginable with a rich reddish brown and white spots like a whitetail fawn. They are all the more magnificent at a distance because you see their antlers from a long way off but, judging one can be deceiving. The first couple of days the only things we saw were the Black buck herds and Whitetail. Axis by nature are much more elusive than Whitetail and can be harder to hunt. Let’s be real here…they’re use to being hunted by tigers. After a few days of patient hunting, Carl shoots his first Axis and is ecstatic!
He experienced a whole new adrenaline rush with his Axis.. Taking his time, making slow movements and waiting for the perfect shot. In SC he is accustomed to thick pines and making a quick reaction to get a shot on an animal. Texas is a bit different, it tests your patience and creates a challenge of accuracy. The next day, out of the corner of my eye, I see 2 Axis, one with a trophy worthy 36″ spread and a small one running in their typical head up, antlers back attitude smelling the air for any does in heat. I throw the gun up and waited for a clear shot because I refuse to wound one of these animals. I was shaking uncontrollably and so was Carl out of the excitement in the situation. The Axis didn’t stop and we ended the day with a great story to bring back to dinner.
The next morning we got to the stand and saw nothing. I could hear Axis bucks calling all around me but no Axis in sight through the Mesquite and Cedars. At 9:30am, I’m hungry.. I had it set in my mind to leave and get something to eat since there was still work to be done at the ranch. Before I could say the words “you ready to go?” A herd of Axis does start filtering in. “I know this Buck won’t be far behind!” Sure enough, a buck comes rolling in with his head down. I put the gun out of the window to get a good look and I made up my mind. At 25” spread he wasn’t the monster we saw the day earlier but it was the last day before our trip back to South Carolina. I was shaking uncontrollably. I waited for an additional 30 minutes before I was able to put a good shot on this buck. When I squeezed the trigger my round hit its mark and dropped the Axis in its tracks. I jumped out of my chair and gave Carl a high five. After all the excitement calmed down we headed back and got the Axis skinned out and packed up. We packed our clothes and guns and left my family ranch with meat to take back home. Deployments and TDY’s make it hard to spend time with friends and family. The memories of hunting with friends and family definitely makes for times well spent together and almost makes up for the time away.
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