John's Journal...

Texas’ Ford Ranch – A Dream Hunt for Everyone

Day 5: The State of Texas' New Hunting Targets – the Axis Deer Invasion at the Ford Ranch

Click for Larger viewA new deer in Texas is causing quite a stir – the axis. This deer has spots like a fawn and antlers that at first glance, may look like a young elk. The antlers are long, round and spindly and grow-up rather than out. "When an axis deer has his head down grazing, if his antlers are above his back, that’s how you know he’s a good axis buck," Forrest Armke, manager of the Ford Ranch near Melvin, Texas, explains. "Because the Ford Ranch covers over 50-square miles, we've had axis deer come in from three-different directions. These deer escaped from exotic game ranches, and because they roam over such a wide area, their numbers have been able to grow rapidly. We’ve had axis deer come into the ranch and establish territory and then stay in the area for 3 to 4 weeks. The next time you see that same buck, he may be 5-miles away from the territory he’s set-up. If these deer are harassed by hunters, they will move. Unlike white-tailed deer, they don't stay in one place very long. Right now there are more free-ranging axis deer in Texas than there are in India, the country from where these deer were originally imported.”

Click for Larger viewArmke had a tremendous infusion of axis deer a few years ago when one of his neighbors built a high game fence all the way around his property. Armke explains that, "There was a ranch between the Ford Ranch and the town of Melvin that was owned by a pharmacist. He high-fenced his property on three sides. The open end of the fence went down to a lake. The pharmacist thought that watching axis deer go down to the lake and drink each day would be fun. So, he brought in two semi-tractor trailer loads of axis deer. When they opened the door on the backs of the trucks, the axis deer ran to the fence and followed the fence until the fence ran into the lake. Then, they proceeded to swim the lake and helped to populate the county with axis deer." Although the release site was several miles from the Ford Ranch, within years, the axis deer began to migrate onto Ford Ranch lands. Today Armke estimates he has more than 100-harvestable axis bucks on the 30,000-acre Ford Ranch property.

Click for Larger ViewWhen hunters come to the Ford Ranch to bowhunt, they have an opportunity to either take a trophy whitetail or a trophy axis buck. One of the reasons that Armke likes having the axis deer on the Ford Ranch is the flavor of the meat. According to Armke, "The meat of the axis is very unique as compared to other exotics and that of the white-tailed deer. The meat of the axis is sweet, tasty and very healthy, because it's so low in fat. If I had an opportunity to pick my last meal before I died, I'd choose to feast on the meat of the axis deer. The meat of the axis is preferred by many people and is even raised commercially in Eden, Texas, not far from the ranch. There’s a store in Eden where you can find axis deer meat for the table. There's another company out of Ingram, Texas, that raises axis deer and ships the meat to restaurants in New York City. We've had axis deer here at the Ford Ranch for about 12 years.

“One of the reasons axis deer are so suited for arid areas like Texas where droughts are common is because the axis deer have a completely-different metabolism than the white-tailed deer. Click for Larger ViewA whitetail can stand waist-high in dry grass and starve to death. Whitetails can eat short grasses like wheat, oat and native young grasses, but they can't consume tall grass like we often have here in Texas. Even if they were to eat the grass, their bodies can't digest it. However, axis deer have slower metabolisms and can eat that tall, dry grass and get fat on it. If you see a small axis deer, the deer is small because he hasn't had enough birthdays to get to be a big deer, not because he doesn't have enough grass to eat. Really and truly, axis deer are better suited for Texas than our native white-tailed deer. There are no tagging requirements for the axis. You don't have to tag them when you take them like you do for the whitetail.” When hunters first started seeing axis deer on the Ford Ranch, they got really excited about them. An axis deer will live to be about 8- or 9-years old, depending on how much food it has to eat, and whether it’s hunted or not. Estimates of the population of axis deer will continue to grow, and because of the management practices at the Ford Ranch, Armke expects that the number of axis on his ranch will grow even more.

For more information about the Ford Ranch, you can call (325) 286-4572, email, or go to

Check back each day this week for more about "Texas’ Ford Ranch – A Dream Hunt for Everyone "

Day 1: John E. Phillips Made His Weirdest Bow Shot Ever at a Ford Ranch Texas Buck
Day 2: Texas’ Ford Ranch – a Great Place for Beginner and Expert Deer Hunters
Day 3: Quaker Boy Calls’ Chris Kirby Takes His Dream Buck at Texas’ Ford Ranch
Day 4: Texas’ Ford Ranch Offers Many Trophy Deer for the Taking with Quaker Boy Calls’ Michelle Kirby
Day 5: The State of Texas' New Hunting Targets – the Axis Deer Invasion at the Ford Ranch


Entry 591, Day 5