Free-Ranging Exotics In Texas

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This shot shows the classic spiraling horns of a mature blackbuck. Notice the section of horn that has been damaged. Blackbucks spend much of their time defending their territory and sometimes dozens of females from other males. They are in a “rut” state of mind year-round when it comes to females and space.

The rich hunting heritage and ample wild game opportunities and sheer population numbers make Texas one of the go-to states for hunting year round for exotics. No matter what you are hunting in the African game and other exotic game realm here in Texas, you won’t have to draw tags, worry about bag limits or even what season it is when you hunt for them right here in the Lone Star State.

One of my roles in our industry is sourcing exotics like axis deer for ranches looking to stock them in their high fence properties for hunting and other purposes. I find it absolutely amazing the amount of axis deer on public and private lands of our state. There literally seems to be no end to their population in the free-ranging land terrain and, unlike our beloved feral hogs, very few people seem to complain about them. Other deer species you might find are the fallow and sika deer. Sika can be divided into a couple of different subspecies and fallow can come in three colors: chocolate, spotted and pure white.

Axis deer are found in many different landscapes and, being that they are native to the sub-continent of India, it is no secret that they can adapt to many different environments and that there are undoubtedly thousands upon thousands of these deer here when compared to their home land range. The Blackbuck Antelope has a similar story of having more numbers here than where they originated from. The same is true for the Barbary sheep, more commonly known as the Aoudad. Down in South Texas, you are likely to find Nilgai, which are native to Africa, and have an excellent meat yield and table fare quality.

Native to India, axis deer run free in the Texas Hill Country.

Finding these species on hunting terrain is usually not difficult. Like other exotic species in the woods and in the water, exotics like the Axis, Aoudad and Blackbuck usually find a way to intermingle with native big game species like the whitetail deer and they usually get along well. Some critics of big game exotics say that they will displace a native species, leaving fierce competition for food, water, and other resources. While this is true to some degree, very few people I have encountered who enjoy the outdoor sporting traditions complain about the beautiful mane of an Aoudad, the incredible taste of Axis meat or the stunning view of the Blackbuck shoulder mount on their wall.

The exotic animals discussed here are just examples of the multitude of exotics that are out there roaming free on Texas terrain. How did they get there? Good question. Some broke free from high fence ranches over the years such as in flooding where fences were breeched. Others were released by land owners over the years to give their lease hunters and others a different kind of hunting opportunity than just to shoot whitetail deer and feral hogs on their hunting adventures.

With all of this in consideration, one thing is certain. Exotics are here to stay and my personal view is that they greatly enrich the hunting landscape and meat harvest of hunters in our great state. In most cases the prolific breeding opportunities, lack of predators and low hunting pressure is what helped these numbers increase through the years. There is not another state in the nation or country in the world the offers what Texas does in both free-ranging terrain and elsewhere.

There are many guided hunting adventures and ranches that host hunts for free-ranging exotics and the best place to find these and reviews on each one is through a little research on places like Facebook groups and Texas Hunting Forum. You will find me frequently posting hunts for ranches I work with on these two platforms. Whether you are looking for a rugged terrain West Texas Aoudad hunt to test your skills with a guide or a free-ranging Axis hunt in the Central Texas Hill Country, there are ample opportunities and many adventures to behold in the Lone Star State.

Dustin Vaughn Warncke

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