Axis Deer: The Perfect Summer Bowhunt

These free-ranging exotic deer provide a target-rich environment—and some of the best steaks you’ll ever eat

Last month, I bowhunted axis deer with Mike Stroff's Southern Outdoor Experience in Sonora, Texas. I admit I was a little leery at first about hunting an exotic species, thinking that it might be a little like shooting deer in a barrel, but it proved to be an exciting off-season hunt with a perfect summer payoff—medium-rare steaks on the grill.

Axis deer are native to India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and were brought into Texas and Hawaii in the 1800s as a game animal and meat source for European settlers. Their numbers have exploded across both states, and they now provide a target-rich, exciting summer hunt. These deer breed year-round, like cattle, but the peak of the rut tends to run across June and July. You’ll see hard-horned Axis bucks breeding does and rag horns shedding velvet all in the same herd. Bucks have 3x3 antlers whose main beams can grow to 30-inches or more. But the real trophy is the meat.

After I put a Muzzy through a nice buck, we let the deer hang in a cooler for a while and then got to work butchering. We kept part of the ribs attached to half of a backstrap to make tomahawk chops, and on my first night back home, I cooked them to a perfect medium-rare using a reverse-sear method, which is detailed in the video below. After chowing down on that meal, I’ve got big plans to hunt Axis deer every summer from now on.