Velvet Axis
By Steve Mahurin

One night while my wife, Shirley and I were relaxing in my trophy room and planning an impending trip to the Records of Exotics awards dinner in Kerrville, Texas, she turned to me and said," I think I'd like for you to kill an Axis deer in velvet, because I want it mounted for me." Now of course,I said whatever you want. Anything for you. Okay guys! When your wife, whether she's a hunter or not requests that you go hunting, who are we to refuse them Right!

So it was, now March 21st 1992 and our first day of hunting. After attending the awards dinner, the night before, our guide L. R. Castleberry, picked us up at our motel and we headed toward our destination off highway 41 in the Texas hill country, home to many exotic species, including the Axis. The Axis Deer is almost universally thought of as the most beautiful of the wild deer. With its white spotted, rusty colored coat and long beamed, barrel shaped antlers it makes a beautiful trophy. It's also one of the best on the dinner table as well.

We were scheduled to hunt the 14,000 acre Priour Ranch, a well-known spot to hunt for quality exotic trophies. My guide explained to me that it wouldn't be easy to find an Axis in velvet period, much less one of trophy quality. As we entered the gate we gazed with pleasure at a small herd of American Bison. As we passed through different areas of the ranch we were able to enjoy the sight of a number of endangered species, such as Elds Deer, Red Sheep, and Pere David Deer.

Thanks to ranchers like Dale Priour many such animals, including these on this ranch and to the demands of hunters and their willingness to spend their hard earned money for hunting them, these and other species have grown to huntable populations in many areas of Texas. In many cases a species may be more numerous in Texas than in it,s native land. As we entered a part of the ranch called the Axis pasture, around a thousand acres, there stood 4 very pretty, but not quite big enough Axis bucks. No velvet ones either.

About a mile down the road we came upon a big hill covered with Cantaloupe sized rocks. There stood a herd of about 60 Axis. As we tried to get a little closer than the approximate 1000 yard's distance, they all disappeared over the brow of the hill. We circled around the hill and would you believe it, not an Axis in sight. How they disappeared so quickly in the few minutes it took to circle the hill, I don't know We drove thru the area over and over again, seeing many other species of exotics as well. Maybe 150 Axis. All of them either to far away and running, too small, or not in velvet. We spent the whole day like this with nothing even resembling a chance at a shot.

The second day dawned bright, hot, and dusty and we were back at our quest again. It was another day of hard work with our Jason binoculars. We drove, sat, walked and whatever, but no luck. We did spot a likely looking buck about mid afternoon and walked, stooped, and crawled over a 1/2 mile and got within 100-150 yards, but just couldn't get them to stand still long enough for a shot. About an hour before dark we saw a herd of about 30 or so drifting through a screen of open trees and knee high brown grass. We sat and checked them out with our binoculars. Most of them hung around as the shadows grew long and the fiery sun started its decent in the western sky. Alas not a one of them was what we had come for. Then back to our motel for a well-earned rest and a refreshing shower.

Our third day dawned with us back at the spot we had started out at two days earlier. The hill. Wouldn't you know it, there stood what looked like the same herd of Axis we had seen on our first day of hunting. They made the same move and disappeared over the top of the hill. We decided to circle the area again, only in the opposite direction and much farther out.

As we crept back into sight of the backside of the hill, there they all were milling around in confusion. As we came closer they got spooky and started moving away in all directions. We saw a real nice buck in velvet standing about 300 yards away in the middle of a large patch of boulders. My Remington Model 700, 30\06, loaded with Remington 180 grain soft nosed bullets, with a Weaver 3 - 9 scope on top, barked once and the guide said he's hit good. The buck took off in a frenetic death run. It fell after about 100 yards in the middle of a jumble of big rocks. I said, oh lord, there goes the velvet. The boulders were so thick that just walking to the buck was difficult. When we got to him I held my breath as we lifted his head for an inspection. Whew!. Just a small skinned spot on one side.

He was a dandy and appreciated even more because of the hard hunt we had for him. Also because I was able to fulfill the request made by a long suffering and supportive special lady. MY WIFE. The buck had 33 inch main beams and qualified for a gold medal in the record book.

Written by Steve Mahurin on February 19, 1998.

Velvet Axis

Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

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