Beautiful Behemoths

Beautiful Behemoths

Andy Dear | Monday, 17 January 2022

Jack and I wrapped up the 2021/2022 deer season in spectacular fashion this evening. Tonight's stalk was a textbook lesson in why I love fishing and hunting so much....and it has little if anything to do with the harvesting of an animal.

  Many decades ago there were several non-indigenous species introduced into the state of Texas. The local biologists refer to these as "invasive" species, but they have been here so long and now roam in free ranging herds, that I consider them to be just another part of the local fauna. One of these species...the Axis Deer or Chital as it's called in it's native home of India has become quite the sought after species here in Texas. Not only do they grow much bigger than the resident Whitetail Deer, but they are also unquestionably much better table fare as well.

  For the last several years Jackson and I have been on the hunt for a trophy bull Axis buck. We've had some fleeting encounters and millisecond sightings of these majestic creatures, but nothing that presented an opportunity for a humane, ethical harvest. About 4 hours ago, that came oh so close to changing. As we entered the property that we hunt on, we noticed there were three large bodied deer in the oatfield adjacent to where we park. I busted out the binos, to glass the field, and OH MY GOD.....there stood the largest bull Axis buck along with two does I have ever seen. To add to the majesty of this buck, his antlers were still in fresh velvet.

  We quickly initiated a stalk to the edge of the field where they were grazing. During that time all three deer had casually relocated to just a few feet on the opposite side of the field, and continued to graze in a small wooded area. They were visible, but not anywhere near being close to having a clean, ethical shot. After much discussion, Jack decided he wanted to pursue this beast, so we decided to wait....and watch and wait and watch and wait. For over an hour we observed this absolute STUD of a deer and his two female companions. It was a real test to see which of us was going to flinch first. Ultimately neither one of us did, and they finally decided to casually retreat to the wooded ridge behind the field and bed down for the night.

  The reason I bring this up is that I never cease to be amazed by the maturity with which my 13 year old son conducts himself in these situations, some of which would rattle many grown men. He's able to make sound decisions based solely out of respect for the animal's welfare, and the honor and integrity involved in a fair chase hunt. 

  I am totally convinced this is the result of the hundreds and hundreds of hours he's spent pursuing record size Redfish with a fly rod in the Laguna Madre. Over the past three years, he's had shots at multiple fish well over 40" and on most occasions has executed the cast and presentation to a very high degree of precision. On one occasion we actually hooked one and lost it. Last year just before the big freeze, we had an encounter with a Redfish in the Laguna Madre that Captain Freddy Lynch estimated at no less than 50lbs. It looked like a torpedo coming through the water, and was FAR bigger than anything the three of us had ever witnessed in more than a combined 100 years of fishing saltwater. Unfortunately, it didn't present an opportunity for a cast, so the three of us just watched in awe as this beautiful behemoth slowly glided across the flat and out of sight.

  As we all know...wild animals, whether they are swim in water or dwell on land, don't get to be this big by being dumb. And to be honest, this is what makes these games so great....even when you lose and come home completely empty handed. To observe these rare specimens that are in the far upper echelon of their species that have navigated both environmental and predatorial pressures over a very long period of time and lived to tell about it is nothing less than an honor and a privilege, and is the drug that keeps all of us who play this game coming back for more.

Hope you're all staying safe and healthy,