10 Tips for Hunting Axis Deer

10 Tips for Hunting Axis Deer

Use these tactics to close the distance on the best-tasting deer on earth.

Deer hunters oftentimes enter depression from February to September. There are few critter hunting options during this window, producing sad times for those who enjoy the chase. But most hunters forget about the one option they do have — axis deer. Native to India and some surrounding regions, they were brought to Texas in the 1930s, along with other exotics such as audad, blackbuck, fallow, sika, etc. Since then, these animals have proliferated, spreading across the Lone Star landscape.

Recently, I took my own advice, and hunted axis in central Texas. Hunting with several friends, we were testing out Axe crossbows and Rage broadheads to see how well they fared on 200-pounds of delicious red meat. I’m happy to report that I returned to Kentucky much heavier than I left it, but the challenge was bigger than expected. For those interested in chasing these wily Deep South cervids, consider using the 10 tips listed below.

1. Get in Good Shape

Axis deer might appear lazy on the surface, but they aren’t. They move around a lot, and have pretty large home ranges, with the average being approximately 1,500 acres. They use that acreage, too, and can cover ground rather quickly.

While this is no elk hunt, it’s very important to be in good shape. Sure, you can hunt these animals from stands, and even with a rifle. But if you plan to hunt with a bow, and aren’t keen on stationary hunting tactics, you’d best shed some poundage prior to going.

2. Understand Their Habits

Like whitetails, axis deer are crepuscular animals, and are most active at dawn and dusk. That said, they tend to be more active throughout the day than whitetails, and alternate between bedding and feeding, especially near known bedding locations.

Also, axis deer like flatter terrain. The hill country has these animals, but axis are generally more common along the lowlands. Keep that in mind, especially if having a harder time locating deer.

After covering five miles over the course of seven hours, the author finally got a shot at the big axis buck. (Honeycutt Creative)

3. Be a Grub Guru

These animals eat a wide range of foods. But focus on browse, grasses and forbs. Corn works, too, but only when it’s really hot and dry. If the area has had recent rain, and everything is green, corn likely won’t work well.

4. Still-Hunt Bedding Cover

Because axis tend to alternate between bedding and feeding during the day, it’s oftentimes a good idea to still hunt through bedding cover. Keep the wind in your face and slowly push through the thick stuff. This is a great tactic to use from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Choosing the right gear for the job is an important step in success. (Honeycutt Creative)

5. Spot and Stalk Near Food Sources

Those who don’t want to hunt stationary at dawn and dusk might consider the spot and stalk method. When deer are actively feeding, use this method near food sources. Stay just inside of the cover with the wind in your favor, glass out into the open, and ease along the perimeter of feeding areas.

6. Love the Water

Axis deer love water, and actively hang out around it. They spend even more time around water than whitetails, and other Texas species. This is in part due to their nature, not just due to the dry tendencies that Texas oftentimes offers.

7. Hunt the Rut

Axis deer can typically rut at any time of year, which leads to two different antler growing phases. Some shed their velvet in the fall, while most do so in late spring. Despite all of this, there is one window where the bulk of the rutting activity occurs, which is late May to late June. Those who want to see the craziest action should take a trip during that period.

Many hunters chase axis deer with rifles. For an added challenge, use a crossbow instead (Honeycutt Creative)

8. Use Sonar Against Them

It’s possible to call in axis deer, but simply listening can be enough. Turkey hunters use the sounds of gobbling turkeys to move into position. Axis hunters can do the same. During the rut, these animal will sound off every few minutes, and this can help track their location as the hunter slips into range of the unsuspecting buck.

9. Learn to Call

If merely listening isn’t enough, learn the vocalizations made by axis bucks and does. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, trick that stud into thinking it’s missing the party. Use its testosterone against it, and fill that tag.

10. Don’t Underestimate Them

Finally, don’t underestimate these animals. My recent hunt is proof enough of that. I spent the first day and a half hunting over feeders, which didn’t work. Whitetails came in by the dozens, but not a single axis buck did.

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. They alternated between bedding and feeding, and the entire process was painstakingly slow.

Finally, after about 7 hours and 5 miles of stalking, they bedded down once more. This time, we were able to belly crawl within 60 yards. Once in place, and after another hour of waiting, they stood up and started feeding in our direction. The hard-antlered buck walked all the way to within 20 yards, and I got my shot.

All things considered; these animals are no pushover. Don’t underestimate. Be prepared. Know what you’re getting into. It’s fun, but challenging, and that’s the best part of a spring or summertime axis hunt.


By: Josh Honeycutt

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