Among the many exotics found in Texas, the most striking and probably the most globally recognizable, are the Axis. Transplanted from India over seventy years ago, Axis have thrived in the warm Texas climate, and their herds have increased in large numbers. They have many quirky characteristics that make them unique, probably the reason they are so popular among exotic hunters. Hunting a trophy Axis deer truly stands out as a one-of-a-kind pursuit, and bagging a mature male is an accomplishment of “global” proportions.
Axis deer travel in herds that may range from 10-80 animals. Axis females are not limited to one annual mating cycle and may go in and out of heat throughout the year. This most likely contributes to the fact that Axis herds are comprised of both males and females. Trophy Axis deer with hardened, mature antlers travel within the center of herds, surrounded by females and their young. As different females go in and out of estrus, the mature males quarrel amongst themselves for breeding rights, bellowing and posturing to attract females as well as repel competing suitors. This perpetual herd behavior is far from random as Axis have many predators and use strength in numbers to beef up security.
In their native region of the world, trophy Axis deer have considerably more predators than in North America. Thousands of years dodging tigers, leopards and crocodiles have instilled in Axis a nervous, flighty disposition, making them incredibly difficult to approach with stealth. Due to the physical structure of their herds, mature males are less likely to fall to predators than the females and young with which they surround themselves. This means that trophy Axis deer have observed and survived numerous predators and are therefore the cagiest and most wary within the herd.
Serious exotic hunting enthusiasts gravitate towards trophy Axis deer for the challenge they present and the unique hunting tactics that must be employed to gain an advantage. In fact, so advanced are the Axis’ senses of detection and avoidance that they are known to form bonds with certain types of monkeys in India as sort of a tag-team security force. Axis herds follow these monkeys from tree to tree, both groups relying on the other’s keen senses of detection for a warning call that will allow both to elude whatever potential predator is within sight. This evolved behavior speaks to the intelligence of trophy Axis deer and their elusive nature that draws so many hunters to pursue them.
Hunters of all ages are especially drawn to pursue Axis in central Texas, where the steep topography and sparse vegetation allow hunters a means to counter the constant vigilance of large groups of Axis deer. In this region, Axis hunting can be done by glassing adjacent valleys, identifying trophy Axis deer from a distance and then choosing an approach that gives the hunter the best sight, sound, and scent advantage. This “safari” style approach to spot-stalking is especially exciting when approaching the herd. The bellowing and barking of both male and female Axis deer make for an especially suspenseful stalk, and even veteran exotic hunters reference the thrilling nature of every Axis hunt.
Trophy Axis deer sport towering, tri-forked antlers and make for truly awe-inspiring mounts. But they are pursued by veteran hunters for more than their magnificent hardware and even more than the delicacy of their venison. Axis hunting is an exhilarating venture that will redefine the nature of “Texas deer hunting” for hunters of all ages. It is a rare, enriching opportunity to embark on a hunt that started on the opposite side of the world.