Off-Season Hunting Adventure: Stalking Axis Deer In Texas

Want to hunt deer in the spring and summer? That dream is sweet reality in the Lone Star State.

by Josh Honeycutt

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Josh

Want to hunt deer in the spring and summer? That dream is sweet reality in the Lone Star State.

Those who meet spring and summer with a saddening case of depression likely fall into that pit of despair because deer season is nowhere in sight. It’s a long time until fall. And the allure of an adventure-filled whitetail hunt pulls stronger as it gets closer and closer. But it’s still months away, and that’s unfortunate.

But is it? Often, most hunters forget about axis deer. These animals are native to India, but they were imported to Texas in the 1930s. Other exotics were brought, too, and they’ve thrived there ever since. Each year, hunters flock to the Lone Star State to chase these cagey, unusually tasty critters.

If you plan to hunt axis deer anytime soon, it’s wise to brush up on some axis hunting know-how.Axis6 900Learning Axis Tendencies. Like other species in the deer family, axis have their own tendencies. Some of these are synonymous to whitetails (including the young velvet buck shown above), and others are unique to the species. For example, axis are crepuscular animals, which means they move most at dawn and dusk. However, they do seem to move more than whitetails throughout the day. If it isn’t too hot, they’ll alternate between bedding and feeding.

Furthermore, they like flatter terrain. These animals are also located in the hill country, but if given the choice, they’ll generally head for lower elevations. These are lowland animals.


Axis eat a wide variety of foods, but they prefer browse, grasses and forbs. Given that feeders are so prominent in Texas, they’ll also eat corn and protein. They practically abandon the supplemental stuff if vegetation is green and receiving plenty of rain, though.

They also love the water. If creeks or rivers are present, you’ll find virtually the entire herd along these waterways. The same holds true for ponds, watering holes and troughs, too. Hunting close to water is typically a surefire tactic.Axis15 900Mastering Tactical Approaches. Understanding how axis deer behave is one thing. Knowing how to target them is another. There are some basic approaches to keep in mind. The first of these are the two most-classic whitetail tactics—treestand and ground blind hunting. Positioning these along known bed-to-feed patterns is a good way to get within range of passing bucks. When setting an ambush be sure to tap your HuntStand app to ensure you’re on the downwind side of trails, fields, food plots and feeders. And if using an outfitter it can be huge to work with them to save offline maps of your hunting area in HuntStand, so you always know exactly where you are on the property whether you have service or not.

Those who don’t like stationary hunting tactics should consider spotting and stalking along food sources and other open areas. This is best done the first and last three hours of the day. Outside of that, on most days, it gets too hot for deer to move far from thick cover.

The remainder of the day, try still-hunting through bedding cover, staging areas and other thickets. Move slowly, though. You’ll likely spot a twisting rack, turning head, or twitching ear before anything else. Look for small movement. A good rule is to spend 10 times as much time glassing as moving. Perhaps, move even slower. Do that, and you might spot them before they see you.Axis5 900While the previous tactics are best used during the pre- and post-rut, hunting the rut is another option. Axis bucks are very vocal during this timeframe, and it’s quite easy to hear them. Use this against the local bucks by tracking their vocalizations to ease into position. This is a foreign concept to most whitetail hunters, but turkey hunters know what to do. For out-of-staters, a fair warning as you attempt to stalk into position: Most everything in Texas, it seems, is ready to stick, poke or prick you, so it pays to come prepared with knee pads and leather gloves.

Given that these animals are so vocal, if they’re in the right frame of mind, it’s fairly easy to call them into range. Learn how to call, stay downwind, and you’ll likely have a solid opportunity to fill your tag.

Finally, get in shape as you prepare for your trip. And don’t underestimate the wariness of these intelligent animals. As you’ll read from the recap of my recent axis experience, this is no easy hunt—especially with a compound or crossbow.Axis3 900My 2021 Axis Adventure. A few weeks ago, I took my own advice and traveled to central Texas with several friends and acquaintances. The plan was to test out the AXE Ax405 crossbow (https://www. and Rage X-Treme NC Crossbow broadhead on big axis bucks. And thankfully, that’s exactly what we did.Axis1 900Upon arrival, we sighted in and gathered gear. I played a little pool with the guys, and then learned how to play shuffleboard. I’ll admit, having never played, I originally thought that game was meant to keep the kids quiet while the real men chased Billiards glory, but it isn’t. It demands a unique skillset. After getting my butt kicked at both, everyone picked bunks, and hit the hay.Axis9 900The next day, I settled into a box blind overlooking a feeder and watering hole. Numerous whitetails and Rio Grande turkeys walked in and out of view, but only one axis deer eased within crossbow range—the lonesome doe pictured above. The hunt ended an hour or so later.

The forecast showed light rain from mid-morning to mid-afternoon—ideal still-hunting conditions. So, a friend and I eased through a big block of cover. An hour in, a mature buck suddenly stood up from its bed and looked in our direction. Standing just 30 yards from us, a wall of cedars provided cover, but it wasn’t enough. After a 30-second standoff, the heavy-bodied brute turned and walked off, offering no shot opportunities.Axis8 900That afternoon, whitetails and turkeys alone served as entertainment. But no axis deer. And the second morning hunt was the same. After a day and a half of hunting, I’d yet to flick off my crossbow safety.

Thinking I’d have to shake things up, I decided to spot and stalk for the remainder of the trip. On day No. 2, around lunchtime, we spotted four bucks in a bachelor group. One was pretty small, but the other three were nice, including a big velvet deer with deep coddles, a nice velvet buck with giant brow tines, and a 30-inch, hard-antlered buck with respectable representations of both.

They were up feeding when we first noticed them. So, we went back to camp, grabbed a quick lunch, and returned to their last known location. With the wind in our face, I and my friend, Curt Jochen, glassed the area. We eased through cover, and slowly inched toward where we originally spotted the bucks. Eventually, we caught a glimpse of them, and began the stalk.Axis12 900As mentioned, axis deer like flatter terrain, and we had little topography to use to our advantage. With their heads down feeding, we eased closer to them, crawling on our bellies, hands and knees most of the way. This was life for the next few hours.

Of course, when they did bed down, it was always at the highest elevations in the given area. Acting much like mature whitetails, the oldest bucks bedded down with the wind at their rear, and looked downwind. The others bedded down and looked in other directions. Basically, they were covering every direction with their eyes, and one with their nose.

Because of that, we had to halt our approach every time they bedded down. This happened three different times, and during each occurrence, we’d just closed within 100 yards. After bedding for an hour or so, they’d stand up, and feed off at a rapid pace, ultimately erasing the ground we’d gained.

This kept happening on repeat. Eventually, we decided to circle them, and use a crosswind instead of keeping it in our face. Once again, the bachelor group moved too fast, and continued to stay ahead of us.Axis14 900Finally, after many miles and hours, they bedded down once more. This time, they took the high ground, but had enough foliage around them that we could belly crawl within 60 yards. Using groups of trees as cover between us and the bedded bucks, Jochen and I made our move. Slowly, we crawled the last few hundred yards across the flat, mostly open ground.

Finally, we crept as close as we could. With no more cover to shield us, we set up about 60 yards from the bedded bucks. I settled into a seated position with a good rest for my crossbow. The bucks rose from their beds and repositioned twice, but stayed in the same clump of trees.Axis16 900After still another hour of waiting, the group stood and started walking in our direction. First, the small buck. Then, the hard-antlered deer. They slowly fed to our right at a 45-degree angle. Waiting for the perfect shot, I held off on taking the quartering-to opportunities the big fellow kept presenting.

After a couple of really long minutes, the hard-antlered buck walked all the way to within 20 yards, turned broadside, and looked me dead in the eye. I took a deep breath, settled the crosshairs behind the shoulder, and pulled the trigger. The Rage blew through the vitals before exiting the opposite side at rapid speed.Axis17 900Of course, Jochen and I celebrated, but not until after we recovered the buck. It ran about 75 yards and tipped over. The hunt for a big axis was complete, and we’d done it the best way I knew how—stalking across hard, unforgiving ground. From first sight of the deer to final recovery, the hunt had spanned seven hours and five miles—with two of those miles on hands and knees.

Axis18 900What a way to bridge the gap between whitetail seasons. I’d never filled the freezer with venison in May, and I was elated. And if I have my way, it certainly won’t be the last time I set aside a few days during the “off-season” to spot-and-stalk a big Texas axis buck.



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