This Axis hunt was my first hunting trip in 2020 and my second time hunting Axis ever. It was a short hunting trip, but the duration didn’t change the fact it was yet another wonderful experience. From a gear perspective, I ventured out with the deer hunting load out plus a few other items I decided to include at the last minute. As per usual, there were lessons learned during this experience as well.
A hunting buddy and I loaded up the truck and travelled to the hunting destination located in a remote property somewhere between Kerrville and Rocksprings in the great state of Texas. The drive was filled with anticipation and discussion about our hopes and expectations from this hunt. It was a new location for us. A relatively small low fenced ranch promising exotic game, hog, and predator opportunities. Based on the trail camera footage the property owner shared with us we were both primarily hoping to harvest some Axis.
After arriving at the property, we unloaded gear and quickly settled into the lodging accommodations on the property – a camping trailer. We then proceeded to confirm the contents in the hunting packs and load the hunting rifles. Then we waited until later in the evening to head out to the blinds for the first hunt.
The first hunt was a night hunt, which was also my very first night hunt. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and how it would work since I was unfamiliar with the night vision equipment loaned out to me by the property owner. More on that in a bit.
The blind I was assigned to provided three distinct possible gathering spots to monitor for game activity. To the left was a protein feeder approximately 85 yards away. A timed corn feeder and water tank were straight ahead at about 55 yards away. To the right was another water tank about 95 yards away. I confirmed the distances to the gathering spots and scanned them frequently with the Vortex Optics Fury HD rangefinding binoculars until sun down.
It was a hot and humid, yet beautiful evening where I had the opportunity to observe all sorts of birds and several whitetail deer who still had velvet on their antlers before sundown.
After losing visibility with natural light, I equipped the Fierce Arms Fury LR rifle with the night vision equipment supplied by the property owner. I should have asked the property owner about the equipment details so I could share them, but I didn’t. From what I remember and a bit of internet search magic, the night vision equipment consisted of a Wicked Hunting Lights A48iR infrared light and a BestSight DIY digital night vision camera and portable display screen.
The night vision setup worked pretty well. It was fairly easy to identify wildlife with good fidelity and confidence. The only thing I struggled with was adjusting the focus on the camera when zooming in and out with the scope. Every time I changed the magnification the camera would lose focus and I would have to adjust it. When the scope was set to its lowest magnification and the camera was focused, the reticle was sharp on the display and could be used to make an accurate shot. At higher magnifications with the wildlife in focus, the reticle went out of focus and was not usable to accurate shooting. Given I have no experience with night hunting or any integrated infrared/thermal optics, I have a hard time formulating an opinion on this set up. I will only say that it was fun to hunt at night and now I’m intrigued by night vision devices.
Several more whitetail deer were observed throughout the night. Along with a raccoon, a fox, a couple of house cats, and an opossum.
One observation about the attachable night vision solution was that it was very heavy and not something I would like to shoulder for hours on end. I found the BOG Deathgrip Tripod to be indispensable to keep the rifle in a position to scan between the gathering spots and ready to shoulder should an opportunity to harvest arise.
We called it quits around 2am and headed off to bed.
The second day started before first light. Given only a couple hours of sleep, it was hard to get going. Nevertheless, I managed to refill the hydration bladder in the pack and restock the consumed Clif bars before heading back to the blind.
Having left the night vision solution mounted on the rifle, I was able to start scanning for Axis again until daybreak. Unfortunately, only more whitetail deer were observed before there was enough light to see and removing the night vision solution.
The morning yielded observation of more birds and more whitetail deer. About an hour after first light, I spotted a deer with what appeared to be an Axis pattern on it behind the brush by the protein feeder on the left side. However, there was too much cover to identify the gender or estimate its age so I let it pass hoping it would come back around where I could get a better view. Several minutes passed with no activity. As I started to lose hope that it would come back by, a very skinny whitetail doe came into view. The ribcage was very pronounced and started to think that what I saw wasn’t an Axis at all, but a whitetail fawn. Several more minutes later, a fawn with the pattern I thought was an Axis showed up next to the doe.
While disappointed to learn it wasn’t an Axis, I was reminded that I made the right call by letting the fawn walk on by and not talking a shot before I could properly identify it. Due to the density of the brush it would have been pretty difficult to accurately place a shot in the vital zone making the shot unethical. Furthermore, harvesting the fawn would yield very little meat and a felony charge for hunting whitetail out of season. None of that would have been good. Remember as hunters we are responsible for every shot and accountable for every hit, there is no excuse for taking a shot without properly identifying an animal.
The day got hot quickly and activity slowed down approaching 10am. As such we called off the morning hunt and headed back to camp for some chow and a good long nap.
The late afternoon ended up being a few degrees cooler than the day before so we started the evening and night hunt a little earlier than the previous day. With the remaining daylight, I observed even more birds and whitetail deer. Even with the noticeable pattern, we continued to hunt.
At nightfall, the night vision solution came out again. About an hour into the night, the property owner brought us some Aoudad steaks to the blinds for dinner. It was quite a treat for me since I had never tasted Aoudad before. The steaks were a little tough and very lean but had a magnificent flavor. While I attempted initially to eat with my hands, I found the steak to be very difficult to consume that way. However, I was glad I threw an Esee Izula into the pack at the last minute and used that to cut the steak into bite size pieces that made it much easier and less messy to eat. That little knife has come in quite handy several times now.
The evening continued on with the observation of another raccoon, most likely the same opossum from the night before, and more whitetail deer. We carried on again until about 2am before calling the night hunt and heading back to camp for another short nap.
The final morning hunt started before day break again – just like the morning of the second day. Biggest difference is that some rain from hurricane Hanna was making its way to us. While I was hopeful that our luck would change, I was expecting the same pattern of observing whitetail deer and birds was what we had in store.
Sure enough, it was all whitetail before daybreak. This was followed by a cloudy sun rise and a few birds. The activity was abruptly scattered by the howls and yips from a coyote pack that just had a successful hunt. Shortly thereafter the rain arrived. The rain consisted of a few short lived, but heavy showers that started just after day break. It was cold and heavy enough to keep the game activity from resuming.
We called it quits around 10am again and headed back to camp for more chow and another nap before packing up and heading home empty handed.
While it’s disappointing concluding a hunt with nothing more than a cooler full of ice, I still prefer an unsuccessful hunt to not hunting at all. I personally find a little solitude in nature to be refreshing and does wonders to relieve the compounding stress from daily hustle. These are also opportunities to learn and practice other essential skills such as game identification and age estimation. It’s also a chance to reevaluate equipment and gear selection.
This experience gave me an opportunity to experience hunting at night and try out a night vision device. The experience with the device has me thinking a lot about what I would like in night vision devices and what I want to avoid in them. For example, I didn’t like that I was sweeping game animals with the rifle muzzle in order to scan the area. Yes, it was down range and safe for the people on the property. However, it goes against what I’ve learned about muzzle discipline since I was pointing the muzzle at several game animals I had no intention of shooting. This has me thinking that if I decide to acquire some form of night vision device for the hunting rifle I will also want to purchase a separate night vision device to scan with (the equivalent of binoculars).
I’m also thinking about making summertime exotic game hunts an annual activity at the very least. While I considered this type of hunt a possibility in 2020, I’m fairly certain it will be a planned activity in 2021. My hunting buddy and I are looking at the possibility of attempting another exotic game hunt this year assuming we can find an opportunity that fits within our available resources.
I’m looking forward to the next deer hunt.