Free-range Axis deer are rutting right now in central Texas. Here’s a little info on the interesting animals.

Native to India, Axis deer were introduced into Texas in the early 1930s, and now occur in some 30 central and southern counties. Free-ranging herds of Axis are most populated in the Hill Country, where the terrain and semi-open habitat are similar to that of India.

In India, Axis are known as “chital,” which means spotted deer. Bucks and does have chestnut coats dotted with vibrant white spots. These are gregarious animals.  Herds are comprised of males and females of various age groups throughout the year.

Mature chital bucks have tall racks with 3 points per antler. Interestingly, you can see bucks with either velvet or hard antlers in any given month. Each buck seems to have a rutting cycle of its own, which may or may not be synchronized with that of other bucks in a herd. When some bucks are coming into rut, others are going out, or not yet ready to breed. Does have varying estrous cycles, too. While the Axis rut can be all over the place, peak breeding occurs in June and July in the Hill Country.

One of the best Texas outfitters for Axis deer is Hunter Ross’ Desert Safaris. I shot this velvet-racked beauty with Hunter on a recent hunt in May.