Axis Deer Are On the Move Near You
Axis deer, or chital, or the large white spotted “fawn-looking-but bigger” deer are usually found behind high game fences—but not always. The axis deer is originally from India and was imported to Texas around 1932! This beautiful red coat with white spots and large white throat patched cervid grows antlers just like our familiar whitetail, but each antler typically only has three points per side! The beams are long and may extend upward nearly three feet off his head with a top tine creating a fork and a long brow tine jutting straight out near the head similar to an elk. Only the males have the antlers but both sexes’ coats looks the same. Seeing axis for the first time, many folks think they look like a giant whitetail fawn based on their familiar camouflage pattern.
Today, axis are found in more than 92 of Texas’ 254 counties and their numbers reach into the hundred of thousands and are considered the most abundant exotic ungulate in Texas. There is a huge population held on high fenced ranches but realize the low fenced populations have exploded in recent years—including those in San Saba County.
Axis deer prefer lowlands and bottoms, especially near and along watersheds but will certainly venture into rougher country to seek shelter if needed. Axis deer are gregarious herding animals meaning they stay in large groups for safety. Herd counts of 75-150 animals are not uncommon. They are classified as both browsers and grazers, meaning they will eat the tender leaves and tips of bushes and trees when available but can and will also consume various grasses, unlike our native whitetail deer. Axis deer are larger than whitetail deer with mature females weighing up to 150 pounds and mature males exceeding 250 pounds! The males produce antlers depending on their birth dates because axis breed year around. It is common to see bachelor groups of bucks with some males having just shed their antlers while some are in soft velvet and yet others are in hard antler. Axis bucks, or bulls, emit a bugle-like bellow as they gather females in their harem and both sexes emit alarm calls and high pitched barks when they feel threatened.
The gestation of axis deer range from 210-238 days and single fawns are normal and twins are rare. Because they are herding animals, the group helps to defend and raise the fawn, meaning axis deer have excellent survival rates, unlike whitetail deer that try to raise their fawns on their own.
Axis deer can be aggressive around feeders or water sources against whitetail deer and especially in large herds. Whitetails are shy by nature so as the axis deer population grows and expands, the whitetail population suffers.
Axis deer are beautiful animals and even better table fare. With only 1% body fat, the venison is tender and sweet and highly preferred in fancy restaurants and by hunters alike. Axis are not regulated by any government agency, may be hunted year around and day or night (with landowner permission of course) and there are no seasons or bag limits.
Posted in: Exotic Animals