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by Kim Ralston a.k.a. KRal Last updated: 2009-01-29 16:40:22
I had been dreaming of an Exotic hunt in Texas for quit some time. So, after a couple years of rat-hole’n some folding money, I had enough saved up to go on my first Texas hunt. Now, I just needed to find a place that I could afford and enjoy. I didn’t want a “canned hunt” but, a challenging hunt. After a couple months of researching, I decided on The West Kerr Ranch in the Texas hill country. After talking to the owners/operators, they suggested hunting Axis between May and August for this would be when the majority of the bucks would be in hard horn and in the rut. I decided on June 17, since this was half way, to put odds in my favor of hunting rutting Axis.
The first evening my camera man and I hunted from an elevated stand location overlooking a waterhole. Our first objective was to get some meat for the grill but, we would not pass on a trophy opportunity. One guide told us that several Sika does were using this waterhole so, away we went. After killing and removing several Red wasp and nest, we settled into the blind. Not long after settling in we started seeing game. It seemed every type of animal on the ranch was looking for a drink. We seen Rio Grande turkeys, Axis does, Whitetail bucks and does, wild hogs, rabbits and then after about two hours of watching game, a beautiful Sika doe came in. While the camera was rolling, the doe finally presented me with a good 40 yard shot. I squeezed the trigger on the Encore and “BOOOOM!!!!” the bullet found its mark on the front shoulder. She went about 100 yards and piled up. Now we had groceries for the rest of the hunt.
One thing I learned on the hunt is that exotics are some tough animals. I was using the Thompson Center Encore chambered in .308 Win for this hunt. I had some 125gr Nosler Ballistic Tips and 130gr Hornady SP’s loaded with a max charge of W748. I felt comfortable with this combo out to 250 yards. These load’s did work but, if I had it to do over again, I would shoot some 150’s or heavier for this hunt. Shots that were taken on these exotics would have put any whitetail down right were they were standing but, as I said earlier, “exotics are some tough animals.”
The next morning we hunted from a blind over looking a large draw where a hunter had seen a big Axis buck with a harem of does a couple weeks prior to our arrival. We never seen him but, a buck came to within 100 yards screaming his lungs out. We figured since he was the only one screaming in the area, he was probably the dominant buck in the area.
The next morning we returned to the same stand location well before day light. We were not in the stand 20 minutes when he screamed not 60 yards but, still we could not see him because of the thick cover and low light. With heart racing and breathing out of control, we waited for any sign of movement. The next time he screamed he was around 300+ yards away and the next time even further. After a hour of silence I decided to leave the stand to do some glassing. From atop the hill (mountain) we were on, I spotted two Axis' about a mile away on another ridge. I could tell one was a small buck but, could not tell about the second other than it had a large body. The wind was right and blowing about 10 mph, so I returned to the stand to get my camera man to try a stalk for a better look.
After reaching the area where I thought the deer were, I could not find them. So I decided to peak through a thick cedar break into a small grass opening on the ridge. While looking for deer and not looking where I was stepping, I stepped on flat rock that kicked up under my foot and you can guess what happened. The small buck wasn’t 15 yard away and he barked and ran out across the ridge in front of us. I could not see the other buck, but my camera man seen him bound out at about 30 yards from us and went over the ridge. I could tell from the look on his face it was a good Axis buck. After spooking the deer we decided to leave the area and come back later that afternoon and try another stalk, if we could locate him.
We returned to the stand location at 5:00 p.m. to listen for him screaming. After about 30 minutes of waiting we heard him. Again, we had a good head wind, so we started the stalk. After moving about 300 yards, we stopped to listen again, because we thought we were close, and did not want to spook him again. After about 10 minutes, he screamed, and he was a lot further away than we thought so, we closed the distance again. Once we were within what we thought was 200 to 300 yards we stopped to listen again. Immediately once we stopped he screamed again, this time we got a good location on him, so we made our move.
Once closing the distance to what we believed to be 75 to 100 yards, he screamed and about knocked us off our feet. The buck was less than 50 yards but, we could not see him. About this time we spotted a doe grazing off to our left in a small opening and figured she was going to the buck, so we started glassing through the cedars for the buck. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the buck stepped out of some thick cedars to our right just 20 yards away. He did not know we were any where in the world, so I pulled my T/C Encore, got a steady rest on my shooting sticks and waited for a good shoot. After walking quartering away from us, he stopped at 45 yards and I took the shot, hitting him in the left shoulder. The big Axis hit the ground, sliding on his front end and then, ran through the thickest cedar thicket you could imagine. After waiting a few minutes, we went to retrieve my trophy. To my surprise, there was no blood to be found, anywhere. There was no sign of a hit where he was standing or the direction he went. We were sure he was probably piled up in the cedar thicket because, it was just too thick for him to make it through, so we thought. The cedar thicket was so thick, I had to belly crawl in and use a flashlight to look for blood (June 19) and the sun was still shining bright…Nothing, no blood, no hair and no Axis.
After coming out of the thicket and pulling thorns from everywhere you could imagine, I started to get that “weak stomach” feeling. I was starting to think the worst: Did I graze him? No, couldn’t have, didn’t find any hair… Did I hit him bad in all the excitement? Well, he dropped, and the shot felt good…but, why can’t we find and sign? After getting my stomach under control, we decided to spread out and comb the area. I started on the back side of the thicket since he had to have come out. That’s when I seen it, a glint shining in the sun, just over the tall grass. I grabbed my binos and… “OH YES” it was an antler.
He’d only went about 80 yards and piled up. Every thing happened so quickly the last few seconds, I did not realize how big he really was. But, I knew he was well worth the 1 ¼ mile stalk.
He net scored 137 ¼ ROE (Record of Exotics) scoring gold medal….. not bad for my first Axis and as of 2004, he was the second largest Axis taken with handgun. Not bad at all for my first Axis hunt.
The West Kerr Ranch is an 11,000 acre high fenced ranch in the Texas Hill Country. It borders the famous Y.O. Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. If you would like a challenging fair chase hunt for exotics, contact Ashley or Kelsey Kana at www.westkerrranch.com.
West Kerr Ranch
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