Editor’s Note :: These numbers are based on several past census count. The authors statement there are over 6000 free range axis and over 40,000 on conservation ranches is correct. The key word is OVER. We do acknowledge, based on our latest census OVER 25,000 free range statewide and OVER 100,000 on conservation ranches
The chital, or axis deer, is recognized by its white spots and reddish coat. You’ll find the abdomen, throat, inside of legs, ears and tail to be all white with a black stripe running along its backbone. They are from India and Sri Lanka and therefore, nonnative to the US. Axis are beautiful deer with long antlers. When you ask most hunters about the axis deer, they say how beautiful they are, how great the meat tastes and that the males look fierce as heck!
Here’s what you need to know about the axis deer.
- By the numbers: The axis deer is the most common exotic in Texas. It is reported that axis deer are confined on 463 ranches in 92 counties. There are over 6,000 free-ranging axis and over 40,000 on private ranches. What you may not know is that they also free-ranging in Hawaii. Its estimated that there are currently 30,000-50,000 axis deer on the island of Molokaʻi, 10,000-15,000 axis deer on Lanaʻi and currently 30,000-50,000 deer on the island of Maui with significant growth expected over the next several decades. There are some disputes about the numbers in Hawaii. While some resources show a much smaller number than what’s listed here and saying Texas has by far the most. They are said to be the most numerous and widespread of introduced deer.
- History: The most common story you hear is that axis deer were brought to Texas in 1932. Yes, that is true, however, in the 1860s, axis deer were introduced to the island of Molokaʻi, Hawaii. They were then introduced to Lanaʻi island and then Maui in the 1950s. They really have no predators in Hawaii so their population is growing at 20-30% each year.
- Antlers: The antlers sweep backwards and with an upward curve and have three tines off one long main beam, although a 4th tine isn’t uncommon. An interesting fact is that axis bucks can be in hard horn any time of the year. They grow and shed antlers on their own clock so in one herd there may be a newly shed buck, a hard-horn buck and a buck in the velvet. The all-time record trophy axis occurred in India at 41 inches!
- Game meat: People say axis deer are the best venison you’ll eat. If you are reluctant to eat game meat, try axis venison first. It’s tender with a mild flavor. It has less than 1% fat, which means it’s technically fat free! The Exotic Wildlife Association actually voted it as the best tasting game meat.