While searching for a lost cow the other day, I came across a sight that caused me to make a classic double take. Before me stood a large Axis deer with a truly impressive set of horns. I had never previously seen an Axis buck or any other Axis deer on my ranch. These deer also go by the name of Chital which means spotted in Hindi. Indeed the spots on the adult Axis deer make them distinctive as do the impressive horns on the bucks.
The buck I spotted didn’t appear to be afraid of me or of the truck I was driving. He walked calmly by in front of me, as if searching. I had heard that Axis deer did not jump fences (not true) and wondered how in the world he found his way into my pasture. This surprising visitor caused me to research the topic which I found interesting enough to share with you, the reader.
Axis deer were introduced into the Hill Country of Texas in the 1930s as an exotic animal for hunters. They also exist in parts of Australia but the largest populations exist in the Asian subcontinent. This variety of deer originates from India but found the Texas Hill Country to their liking. The terrain in the Hill Country is similar to that from whence they came. It did not take long for Axis deer to escape from the hunting ranches in Texas and populate this area. Axis now compete with our native White Tail deer.
Axis males are from 150 to 250 pounds and are about the same size as White Tail deer. Nevertheless, when meeting at a feeder, the Axis deer will run off the White Tail deer. White Tail and Axis do not interbreed given that they represent different species. Axis deer browse and graze and live in herds typically up to about fifteen individuals. They tend to vocalize much like an elk although not quite as loud.
Many Axis deer in the Hill Country were killed by the severe ice storm experienced last winter (see previous blog piece for description and pictures). Obviously this big boy escaped harm which may explain why he is wandering about alone and perhaps searching for a herd of Axis deer to join. The ice storm may be one of the rare risks in Texas for this species of deer. We have no wolves in the Hill Country and mountain lions are fairly rare. Packs of coyotes may present a risk for Axis deer, as they do for White Tail deer.
The meat from Axis deer is said to be the tastiest of any wild game. Also being an exotic, no season exists for them and they can be hunted anytime. The open season for Axis deer is like that for feral hogs who are far more damaging to property and fences. The general advice has been to shoot Axis deer, as they are slowly out competing our native White Tail population. Actually we are so over populated with deer in the Hill Country that the hunting season for White Tail deer keeps getting extended and hunters are urged to shoot Axis anytime they come upon one.
I must admit that the beauty of this large buck left me momentarily mesmerized. Not being a hunter, I would find it difficult to shoot anything quite so magnificent as our recent visitor.