August 30, 2018
The summer of 2012 was a game-changer for me as a bowhunter. At the time, I was just more than a year into my tenure as the Associate Editor of PETERSEN'S Bowhunting magazine. For a guy that grew up hunting exclusively in Central Pennsylvania, getting the chance to chase various critters across the United States was nothing short of unbelievable. But then one opportunity was presented to me that I simply didn't know how to take — a June axis deer hunt deep in the heart of Texas.
I thought about the time of year. To me, it certainly wasn't a "bowhunting month." I thought about the heat. Nope, that didn't seem like "bowhunting weather." I thought about the animal. Honestly, going after an axis buck didn't get me excited in the least like a whitetail, elk or bear adventure would. In fact, you could probably substitute any other game animal in there and the statement would still be accurate.
With that kind of excuse making, I probably would've been better off declining the hunt all together. I went, however, and what I got was probably the best thing for my erroneous attitude at the time. A giant — and I do mean giant — axis buck presented me with a 19-yard chip shot, one that I felt like I could make in my sleep, and I proceeded to put an arrow directly over his back. Looking back on it, I probably deserved that fate.
Since that evening, I was determined to get back to Texas, put some serious work in and redeem myself for a wasted trip. I instantly had a newfound love and respect for an animal that I simply hadn't thought much of before. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Three years later I tried again, but was never presented with a shot during that hunt. But those two disappointments bring us to June of this year, and away we go!
Back to Texas
Fast forwarding to today, not much is exactly as it was when I took that first stab at an axis deer. Today, I work solely on the digital platforms for all of our Outdoor Sportsman Group hunting titles. And as it turns out, axis deer have now turned into one of my favorite game animals to hunt. So, when longtime industry friend Tim Kent invited me to Texas in June with FeraDyne Outdoors, it didn't take me long to accept and start my preparation.
Our objective was simple: to test and give a bit of feedback for some of the new product offerings from the company — including the innovative IQ DEFINE Rangefinding Sight — and fly home with some of the best wild game meat that there is. For me, there was also that proverbial monkey that I badly wanted to get off my back!
Morning one at Canyon Ranch — outfitted by SOE Hunts — got off to an extremely promising start. From my perch in a brush blind just above a commonly-used waterhole, I watched a plentiful number of axis, in addition to several whitetails, a few stags and even an impressive blackbuck antelope. My sights were set on one particularly mature axis, who never quite made it down to my location after a couple rambunctious stags decided it was time to clear everything out to make their own personal drinking space. Regardless, we were off to a great start and I was very optimistic for the days ahead.
Over the course of the next two days, I watched critter after critter scurry around my waterholes — including a few decent bucks where I simply couldn't create safe paths to their vitals. With the wind wreaking havoc at my location on the second evening — it had already got me winded twice — I decided that this would be the perfect sit to take an opportunity for a doe if the Texas air would allow it.
Nearly an hour before the sun was scheduled to set, two does cautiously worked their way to my location. I drew my Mathews HALON, triggered my IQ DEFINE, and was set for a 22-yard shot before the wind caused both animals to start a retreat. Before this, I wasn't quite sure how much of an advantage having a rangefinding bowsight would be. Without a doubt, this was its shining moment. With the doe on high alert, the only way to get a shot off was to stay drawn, quickly hit the button for a new range (which was now 34 yards) and send my arrow on its way. Just like that, my first ever axis deer was on the ground.
With one morning sit remaining, the only thing left to do was to locate and put an arrow through the elusive axis buck before heading back to San Antonio for a flight home.
Sure enough, the morning was an exciting one from the get-go, and it didn't take long for the opportunity that I had been looking for to come to fruition. Putting my infamous 19-yard miss from six years earlier behind me, I settled into position at an even shorter distance than that one — about 14 yards — and finally made amends (with myself more than anything). Different attitude, different outcome — and one that was a long time coming!
Just Do It!
So, why hunt Texas for axis deer?
First and foremost, it's an absolute blast due to the numbers game. If you're at the right place — like the Canyon Ranch — you're going to get a shot opportunity. It's that simple. What you do with that chance is up to you.
Secondly, to make sure you're ready for the moment of truth, you're going to have to get your bow out much earlier than you normally would to prepare for a fall elk or whitetail season. This can only encourage productive spring and summer shooting sessions, which will hopefully pay dividends as the season progresses.
And finally, it'll only take one bite of grilled axis backstrap to make you want to go back. For my money, it's the single best wild-game meat that you can find anywhere. If you've eaten it already, then you certainly already know. In fact, your mouth may be watering as you read this. If you haven't, it's time to get to Texas and find out for yourself!
As always, confidence in your equipment can make or break a hunt. The following products put a lot of meat in my freezer during this hunt, and they would do the same for you. Don't take my word for it though — go check them out for yourself!
Bow: Mathews HALON
Arrows: Carbon Express MAXIMA RED SD 350
Broadheads: Rage Hypodermic/ Muzzy Trocar HB-Ti
Sight: IQ DEFINE Rangefinding Sight
Rest: QAD Ultra-Rest
Lighted Nocks: Nockturnal Strobing Universal FIT Nock
Boots: Danner Sharptail Snake Boot
Quiver: TightSpot 5-Arrow Quiver