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June 20: Dave Reisner & John O'Dell

“What to do between the deer seasons”

Every year like many other bow hunting fanatics Dave and I are looking for something to chase with our PSE archery equipment between the whitetail deer seasons. I had heard about hunting Axis deer in Texas during their rut which occurs in June and July. They are originally from India but are one of the largest non-native species in TX, they have big antlers, they have a beautiful hide that is brownish red with white spots, and from what I understand their meat is some of the best tasting venison you will ever eat. During their rut they will roar much like an elk bugles and are extremely aggressive.

So my hunt began by doing much research to find the right outfitter to hunt these magnificent animals. My search led me to Mike Stroff with SOE Hunts  in Texas. Mike has access to some of the best hunting the state of Texas has to offer in both the Hill Country and in South Texas. The ranch we would be hunting was the Canyon Ranch which is a 20,000 acre low fence ranch near Sonora. Mike said that we would be hunting in tree stands over water holes. He cautioned me that these animals are extremely wary and challenging to harvest but he thought we would have a good chance to take some quality animals. So the date was set for mid-June 2012.

Finally it was June 20th and I was picking up Dave at the San Antonio Airport. Then we made the 2.5-3 hour drive up to Sonora and then to the Canyon ranch gate where we were met by Randy one of Mikes guides. Mike met us at the lodge and we quickly prepared for the evenings hunt. When we arrived at the tree stand there were already Axis deer drinking at the water hole. Fortunately for us it was really windy and they were on the opposite side about 150 yards away. We carefully climbed up into the double set in the live oak trees and arranged in our gear.

I am not sure that I can explain in words how incredible the next few hours were. We literally and figuratively had a front row seat to a parade of animals. We saw turkeys, whitetail deer, hogs, raccoons, and most importantly lots of Axis deer. The bucks were roaring off in the distance and then the sound would get closer and closer and it reminded me of hunting over a water hole for elk out West. I was also amazed at just how awesome these animals look when you see them materialize out of the brush and then watch them drinking at the water hole. The only challenge I was having was filming in the heavy winds I had eluded to earlier as the tree I was in was literally blowing from side to side.

Well I was jolted from just enjoying/filming the parade of animals by my favorite words as Dave said “Big Shooter”! I looked over to where Dave had his trusty Nikon binoculars focused and sure enough there was a big mature Axis buck working his way toward the water hole. I started filming and hoping that he would come into bow range for Dave. After what seemed like forever he finally worked his way to about 22 yards. I gave Dave the all clear to shoot and he released his RAGE Xtreme tipped Bow Madness arrow from his PSE Dream Season Evo. We felt like Dave hit the buck well and his reaction was priceless as it was as excited as I have seen him in a while after shooting an animal with his bow. Well we did not have much time to celebrate as another great ancillary benefit on this hunt is that you get to shoot an Axis buck, a doe, and unlimited hogs. A doe was already coming to the stand a few minutes later so it was game on! Once again the beautiful doe worked in perfectly and Dave made another fatal shot with his PSE bow. At that point we were really stoked but we were not done yet! After some close encounters but no shots at hogs Dave finally did get a shot right before dark on his first ever Texas pig. Wow is all I can say!

Let the tracking begin. So were recovered Dave’s buck, then his doe, then his pig. The good news was I was up to bat next. The only bad news was that I would only have about 2 hours of sleep before the next morning’s hunt.

The next morning we decided to go back to the same set due to all of the mature bucks we had seen. The strategy paid off big time! When we had just climbed up into the tree we heard bucks roaring in the distance all around us. Then right after first light we had several immature bucks come in to drink right next to our stand. A short while after they left I looked up and saw a big shooter buck. His antlers seemed really tall and wide. He walked right to the water’s edge. As he was walking in I carefully ranged him with my Nikon rangefinder and prepared for the 33 yard shot. Fortunately for me the PSE Dream Season Evo found it’s mark and I had my first ever big Axis deer on the ground! I would later find out that he had over 32” main beams and was almost 30” wide. A true Axis trophy for sure. I had not even put an arrow back on the string when a bunch of hogs came running in right under our stand to drink. I picked out the biggest one and again my PSE along with my two blade RAGE Xtreme broadhead did all of the work.

I hunted that afternoon and although I did not get a shot at an Axis doe I did bring home the bacon so to speak as I shot 2 more wild hogs for the freezer!

What an incredible adventure!! This hunt far exceeded any expectations that Dave and could have ever had. Combine hunting for big mature bucks that are in full rut in June, with great people, great food, and great accommodations and you have the recipe for the perfect hunt to do between the seasons!

A huge thank you goes out to Mike Stroff and all of our guides big Mike, Randy, and Rudy! Dave and I can’t wait for the next time we are all in hunting camp together!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!
John and Dave