June 28: John O'Dell

Well this story actually began back in June 2012 when Dave and I were fortunate enough to be the guests of Mike Stroff and SOE Hunts for free range Axis deer on a 20,000 acre ranch near Sonora Texas.  Axis deer are not indigenous to Texas but they thrive in certain parts of the state.  They are super cool animals with a gorgeous coat, big antlers, and they are the best tasting venison you will ever eat!  They are also an extremely challenging quarry.  Mike had explained to Dave and me that the Axis deer on his ranch rut really hard each year in June and they are roaring a lot.  It is also really hot in June in Texas, so the Axis deer need to drink water several times a day.  This makes it so you can effectively bow hunt the Axis deer out of tree stands or ground blinds over water.  Well our hunt could not have been any better with Dave harvesting a really nice Axis buck and a doe for Bow Madness TV on the first evening of our hunt.  I followed that up the next day with really great Axis buck as well!  We saw over 25 bucks in one sit, as the bucks were just pouring in to drink water just as Mike had explained.  It was literally a parade of animals at the water hole as we saw turkeys, hogs, whitetail deer, and Axis deer aplenty.  Needless to say Dave and I had a great time hunting with Mike and the rest of his guides and so plans were made to hunt again with SOE Hunts in 2014.  Only this time we were going to do a two part hunt for the abundant Rio Grande turkeys and Axis deer that reside on the ranch. 

So fast forward to March 2014 and Dave and I were back near Sonora hunting with Mike again.  We hunted 3 days and I had an awesome hunt and I was able to take a couple of really nice Rio Longbeards with my PSE DNA.  Dave had Murphy’s Law in full effect and had only encounters of the unfortunate kind and to cap things off he missed a nice Axis buck on the last evening of our hunt.  We both watched as his Rage tipped PSE Bow Madness arrow with a bright green Nocturnal lighted nock went sailing over the bucks back.  The good news was that I would be back in June with Bow Madness and Drury Outdoors Team Member John Frank.  Surely our luck would change….

Indeed our luck changed, but not for the better!  The ranch had several inches of much needed rainfall and so everything was turning green and there was water everywhere on the ranch.  That was great news for Texas and for the ranch but, not so great when you are trying to sit over water holes with your PSE in hand waiting on a big Axis buck to come in for a drink.  On the first morning of our hunt John had a great encounter with a couple of up and coming Axis bucks.  Then later in the day the wind really picked up,  so we improvised and did some spotting and stalking.  For anyone that has ever hunted Axis deer you know how hard it is to get in effective bow range of these wary animals.  That said, after a few hours we found a nice buck all by himself and we were able to stalk within 25 yards of the mature Axis buck.  Unfortunately, Big John Frank could not close the deal when the buck stood up to stretch, posed perfectly for the camera, and turned broadside for a shot.  After a swing and a miss our bad luck continued.  Later that afternoon, we were sitting on a secluded water hole for hours and had not seen anything, when all of sudden one of the biggest Axis bucks I have ever seen on the ranch surprised us both at about thirty yards.  When he got to twelve yards John accidentally made a noise in his tree stand and the giant buck bolted out of our dreams and into his nightmares.  Axis deer don’t allow for any mistakes as their senses are super keen and they are always on alert.  I filmed John for the entire hunt to no avail. 

So with that, Mike and I talked and I decided I would come up to hunt one more time in the end of June. We were both hoping that the rain would subside and then the water holes would once again become more of an Axis deer magnet.  Well it was not meant to be for me in 2014, as Mother Nature just kept brining the rain to that part of Texas (which is great for that area and has been much needed).  So after a day of not seeing anything at the water holes besides turkeys and whitetail deer, I decided to spend the rest of my hunt with PSE in hand trying to spot and stalk these awesome animals.  So we hunted very similar to how you would hunt elk.  We would listen for the bucks to roar and then sneak toward their location while glassing with our Nikon binoculars.  If and when we could get the bucks in sight, we would try to use the wind and cover to get into bow range.  The first stalk I had started out perfect.  We had spotted a large group of bucks and does and had worked in to maybe fifty yards.  As we were settling in with the camera a turkey putted which spooked a whitetail doe that ran, you guessed it, right through the middle of the herd of Axis deer.  I watched helplessly as they took off like they were shot out of a cannon.  You can’t make this stuff up!

Finally on the second and final morning of my hunt we came upon a lone mature Axis buck.  We had the wind in our favor and he had not seen us.  We quickly worked into position and miraculously the buck was feeding right toward our location.  We hunkered down and I started ranging cactus and brush in my anticipated shooting lanes with my Nikon pro staff 7 range finder.  Finally the buck stopped at around forty five yards, but I made the mistake of trying to range him one last time instead of just drawing my bow before he stepped into the clearing.  Amazingly he caught that movement and began trotting away.  I bleated to stop him and for some reason it worked.  I guess the distance at around 55 yards, took careful aim with my trusty PSE Omen Max, and sent my Rage Xtreme tipped arrow its way.  I did not make the best of shots, but luckily for me the combination of my Rage and PSE put him down quick and we watched him fall on video!  Let the celebration begin!  It was one of my most challenging but also rewarding hunts that I have been on recently.  I was super excited to harvest such a great animal and to finally get the Bow Sadness Axis buck curse off of the Bow Madness team!

A huge thank you goes out to Mike, Randy, Jacob, and all of the people at SOE Hunts that helped bring this hunt together!  I already can’t wait to go back and do it all over again!

Be safe, happy 4th of July and good hunting!