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Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Trophy Axis Buck that did NOT Get Away!

With the acorns still falling at Escondido Ranch, Jon and I knew we had to hunt hard to find the trophy axis buck he had yet to harvest in spite of his many years of deer hunting. With little chance of a trophy size animal walking up to a deer feeder, the evening after Christmas, we started our hunt at a stand overlooking an area in a nearby canyon where live oaks were adjacent to an axis deer bedding site.

As expected, the feeder went off and not a single axis deer, or deer of any type, for that matter, came to the feeder. The live oak grove 400 yards away, however, had axis does and whitetail does feeding on an abundant acorn crop.

We slipped out of the blind and stalked closer to see what else was feeding beneath the trees. Glassing over the area, we could see bull elk and cow elk, whitetail bucks and whitetail does, fallow bucks and even young axis bucks, but no trophy size axis bucks. With daylight nearly gone, we headed to the main lodge for some rest and Betty's fine cooking.

By the following morning, the temperature dipped to a very frosty 19 degrees. After a night of trying to stay warm, the axis deer were likely to fill up on oats, rye grass, and perhaps even hit a feeder or two. As a result, for that morning's hunt, we settled on Rattlesnake Blind located on an oat patch. From the blind's perch, we could keep watch over a known axis bedding spot located across the river as well as the nearby oat patch and the feeder.

As soon as the sun began caressing the top of the tree line, axis deer and blackbuck antelope began moving across the river valley. But, alas, no trophy class axis deer in sight. Even though, axis deer hunting requires patience, ours was running low as the cold began to seep through the multiple layers of heavy clothing.

Finally, we spotted a young axis buck peering from out of the brush. In spite of the shivering cold, we set still. Finally, after about twenty minutes, the young axis buck moved out into the open field. With an axis deer now feeding in the open, we felt more confident that other axis would soon join him. The added confidence also boosted our resolve to weather the cold.

The sun began to peak from just over the hill, when suddenly, a group of axis bucks appeared out of the canyon and directly into the morning sunlight. I squinted as I glassed over the herd of axis bucks and whispered to Jon to get ready his rifle. As Jon brought his gun up towards the window, he accidentally tapped the inside of the blind and the resulting noise resinated in the cold air causing the ever-alert axis bucks to start moving towards the cover along the edge of the field.

I continued to scan the group of animals, and that's when I saw a wide, trophy axis buck in velvet. With excitement and anticipation, I directed Jon's attention towards the trophy class animal. Jon quickly found the axis buck in the scope. I gave him the go-ahead and moments later a shot shattered the morning's stillness. Through the binoculars, I saw the axis deer stumble as if hit, before it disappeared into the heavy brush cover. Now, we had to wait. Even though I was certain Jon hit the axis buck, it is always better to be patient and if necessary allow the deer to bed down and expire.

After thirty anxious minutes, with Jon questioning his 150 yard shot into the sun, we descended from the blind and walked over to where the axis deer was standing at the time of the shot. To our astonishment, we could not find blood, hair or any indication that the axis buck had even been hit. We scoured the frozen ground for any signs. Jon's excitement quickly morphed into concern.

After a thorough, localized effort, we finally decided to expand our search on a deer trail away from where we thought the axis buck had entered the brush. As we stepped onto the trail, to our relief... there it was, the axis velvet buck... stone cold dead! It was an awesome axis deer with an unusual spur off his main beam and an extra point on each of his eye guards.

From the Hunter:
I would like to thank you, your wife and Escondido Ranch foreman for the best hunting experience of my life. The accommodations and staff at your ranch were the best I have ever seen. You all made my trip a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I appreciate the kindness shown to me by all of you and hope to come visit you all on a future hunt. If you ever need any references, I would recommend you and your ranch to anyone looking for a quality hunt and exceptional staff.

Thank You for the hospitality, you and your wife have a lovely home, and I appreciate your kindness in allowing me join you for the weekend.

You all were the best.

Jon L Tanner
Houston, Texas

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