I had always viewed hunting for exotic species as a "second class" affair, not worthy of the attention of DIY mule deer and elk hunts. However, I decided to put my pre-conceived notions aside and head down to Texas for a welcome respite from the Midwest winter and try to do a bit of hunting.
As an added bonus, the hunt was planned so that both my son and my dad could tag along. A long weekend hunt at a lodge seemed like a much more feasible undertaking for this three-generation crew as opposed to living 2-weeks out of a backpack.
From the first evening, I could tell that this hunt would be more enjoyable than I had ever imagined. Sure, it was not the same as scaling sheer cliffs in search of mule deer above timberline, but the camaraderie of spending time in the blind with my son and my dad was irreplaceable.
After pointing out different species of deer that were coming past the blind to my young son, and encouraging him to watch out the window rather than read a book or play games on a handheld, the time was nearly at hand. All of a sudden, at nearly sunset, a regal spotted stag appeared amongst the trees. As it was our first night, we hadn't really discussed expectations, or who would be first on the trigger. Given my dad's hesitation, and the fact that an axis deer was my primary target on this trip, after some deliberation, I reached for my weapon and silently slid the blind window open.
I waited for what seemed like hours as the magnificent axis buck cautiously approached our setup with one of his less experienced compadres in tow. The smaller buck provided several nice opportunities at broadside shots, while the larger stag waited patiently back in the brush. With the last minutes of daylight starting to fade, the large buck finally emerged from the shadows. However, he took his position immediately in front of the smaller buck, not presenting an ethical shot. Trying to block out my son's repeated whispered urges of "shoot him!", I waited for the regal axis deer to clear his lesser partner. Finally, with only moments of shooting light to spare, the buck took two steps forward.
With a nearly breathless indication of "I'm going to shoot", I warned my companions that the time was at hand. With darkness nearly upon us, I gently squeezed the trigger and upon recoil saw the magnificent trophy harvested only a short distance away.
Some quick high fives and congratulations followed as we notified our guide of our success. This was not the most hard-earned trophy, but having my son and father there to experience the whole endeavor may have made it one of the most rewarding.
This type of hunt certainly can't replace the effort and intestinal fortitude needed to conquer many free range species across the mountain west. But it sure is a heck of a lot of fun, and much more enjoyable that sitting around and waiting for the snow to melt.
Although not for everyone, I thought this hunt was a blast. If you want further details about the outfitter we used, please PM me, everything was top notch. In fact, we are already booked for next year, when I hope to take on a similar adventure with only archery equipment at my disposal.
We did chase hogs spot and stalk with the bow after harvesting the axis, but no luck. That's now at the top of my son's list for next year.
It can be a great, low pressure, much fun had, off season hunt.