I was at work, dialing into a conference bridge, gearing up to talk technology, whilst wearing khakis when my phone buzzed on my desk. I looked down to see a text from my dad that said, “Mom and I just saw 15 Axis by the back fence line.” I let out an audible four letter expletive right before my desk phone beeped to let me know that I was live on a conference bridge. A close call by any other name…
The reason for my outburst is simple really. Axis, also known as the Chital is one of the tastiest forest creatures out there. They were introduced in Texas less than a hundred years ago and have flourished in the Edwards Plateau where my family’s ranch resides. Unfortunately, while the areas around Rocksprings, Leakey, and Uvalde have got Axis by the bushel, the area around Fredericksburg and Kerrville hasn’t been as lucky. They’re out there, but not in as plentiful numbers as whitetail. In fact, I’ve spotted them on precisely 5 occasions in the last 13 years. I’ve shot 2. One, an enormous buck that field dressed at 190 pounds. The other, a young spike that I got a few years back that field dressed around 145 pounds. Both were bigger in the body than the largest whitetail I’ve ever taken at our ranch.
And folks, let me tell you, Axis is good eating. It is far more akin to beef than anything else. Deep red, flavorful, and mighty tender. While I normally grind most of a whitetail into sausage, I wouldn’t dare do such a thing with an axis of any size. A thick cut Axis ham cooked to medium rare over an oak fire is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The jerky requires very little in the way of seasoning and is ultra tender. But chicken fried Axis backstrap is one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen.
One of the coolest things is that the state of Texas considers Axis to be exotic, and therefore falls under the same rules as common varmints. They can be hunted with any means or methods at any time of day with any weapon necessary during every day of the year. And while preservation is a little harder during August in Texas, it is possible. So pray for me readers. Maybe my next trip to the ranch nets a big, tasty, spotted deer.