For the past several years I have been involved with companies that sponsor the Extreme Huntress contest which puts seven women hunters through their paces to find out who is the best Huntress for the year. This year I was informed I would be going on an Axis cull hunt while I was in Texas while supporting the show. I’ve never hunted an Axis but was beyond excited as I have heard the meat is amazing.
Related Stories: Binge Watch All Episodes of Extreme Huntress 2018 Season
Several years ago Chris Barrett, President of Barrett Firearms, told me he couldn’t buy the perfect hunting rifle so he decided to build one. I didn’t think much of it at the time since I only owned one hunting rifle. When I was told I would get to hunt Axis, I put in a call to Chris and his awesome team in the produced me a Barrett Fieldcraft rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. Chris was good enough to sight it in using their state of the art test facility. The rifle was shooting sub-moa to the point I won’t actually put what the group measured — if I missed it would be 100 percent my fault.
I have heard people throw the term around “perfect rifle” my entire life. Usually it’s not said by a man who runs a company respected around the world for building rifles. The M82A1, M107, MRAD, and REC7 are used in the harshest conditions by men who know what a good rifle is. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be awesome! Chris pulled from the rack a stainless and grey rifle and handed it over. I immediately grinned from ear to ear. Everything just felt right when I brought the Barrett Fieldcraft rifle to shoulder.
Related Stories: Top 8 Hunting Boots for the 2017-2018 Hunting Season
My Barrett Fieldcraft (really someone in the Barrett’s Marketing Department’s) in 6.5 Creedmoor weighed in just a hair over 5 lbs., topped with the Leopuld VX-3i that weighed 11 oz. The entire package was balanced perfectly. Chris advised the 21″ barrel is lighter than #0 Contour. All I know is that it’s really light, points great, and shoots like a laser. The barrel was crowned at 45 degrees — a threaded barrel is an option. The barrel was designed by Barrett engineers and are made on the same machines as the MRAD sniper rifles.
The Barrett Fieldcraft action, which is scaled to the caliber is a bit smaller than the Remington 700. The bolt handle was light, which I normally associate with weakness. Chris pointed out that instead of creating weak spots by welding a handle on, the bolt and handle were designed for the handle to be rigidly fitted and pinned. After shooting the rifle I am under the impression this is a rocksolid design. The action is pillar aluminum bedded into the Barrett carbon fiber stock. These stocks were designed along with the rifle and hand laid in house by the craftsmen who build these rifles. Each action is individually bedded one at a time from the action to the end of the for end. This attention to detail means the harmonics are right and this is what allows this 5 lbs. rifle to shoot sub MOA groups.
Related Stories: Top 9 Gear Picks for Mountain Hunts
At the M.S.R.P of $1,799 you are getting a hand built, custom rifle from one of the top names in the rifle business for less than a decent AR-15. It is available for purchase at GunBroker.com. Being that I am a needy customer, Chris handed me two boxes Hornady 143-grain ELDX, a rifle case with locks, and like my ancestors I was gone to Texas.
Exotics In Texas
The Y.O Ranch was one of the first places in Texas to import exotics and helped create the landscape we know today that holds kudu, blackbuck, and axis. Over the years the Y.O was broken apart and sold off, like many of the legendary ranches. With plentiful game and the hills looking much like you stepped out of the truck into Limpopo in northern South Africa. The Y.O Ranch Headquarters sits where the original ranch headquarters has always been. If my notes are correct, the Y.O Ranch Headquarters sits around 10,000 acres with another ranch being hunted next door.
I was amazed at both the game and the staff. It reminded me so much of Africa that I was not surprised when my PH advised that he learned his craft in Limpopo. I was surprised that Kevin worked at DaggaBoy Safari, the outfit that did my hide salting on my first safari. I knew then I was in for a treat. After sitting around the camp all day while the ladies filmed the contest I finally was ready to go.
The ranch itself is not cut up like many of the “preserves” in Texas. I believe there is only one fence that crosses the ranch. It basically separate the HQ and the hunting areas. Once we crossed into the hunting area that was bigger in acres than many towns back east, the hunt was on. Texas and Africa share the same topography to include putting every rock right in the middle of the road. After getting our guts moved around while riding in the ranger we finally got to an area the guides had seen some Axis deer. We stopped every few minutes to glass. In this area there was only a few Axis and a few thousand acres to cover. Dense brush and hills made it impossible to actually get out and just hike. No trip is perfect, and while I was packing the night before I left I realized I had given my tracker in Africa my Vortex binoculars so I was glassless. Much to the dismay of my Hunter’s Ed teacher I was using my scope to spot. Right as Kevin pressed the gas I saw movement. About 650 yards up the hill i saw the rear end of a deer size creature.
I have never seen an axis deer in the wild and I was not even sure I had spotted one. Kevin, who brought along his binoculars, got pretty excited as he said it was definitely a “big’un”. I wouldn’t know a big axis deer if it ran me over and few hours earlier I thought I was just going to cull some does. Kevin told me we were going to take that one. He told me if the Axis spooked we wouldn’t get another chance at it — they run fast and far.
Related Stories: Bear Edge Pocket Knife: An Affordable Workhorse
The spot I saw the Axis and the spot we parked the ranger was separated by a short but steep hill. Once we got about 50 yards from the ranger we couldn’t see the axis and I was a bit worried we would spook him. We started creeping up the hill. I don’t like stalking something I can’t see, I chased too many ghosts in Africa. We started cresting the hill on the other side and that big Axis popped up 197 yards in front of us. We were very still and I knew it was about to bolt. I have never had a hunt go like this one was about to go.
When To Shoot
That axis deer started walking straight towards us, and we were caught flat footed in the open without a blade of grass for cover. He had his head cocked over to the side like he was watching something. At one point Kevin turned to look what the Axis was focused on. We figure he was so caught up in something way over to the left he just wasn’t watching in the right direction. Now during this time camera man Miles was trying to set up the video camera to get everything on film. Miles was very firm that I was not to shoot until he said due to camera. I was on the sticks watching this deer walk right towards me waiting on Miles to give me the ok to shoot. Now this big beast just kept coming and coming. When he broke 100 yards he stopped and began walking towards the direction he was looking. I was for sure he was going to bolt. I don’t know if he heard us or smelled us but started turning and my scope ended up looking right up his backside.
Kevin, our guide, and Miles were discussing the shot and I was just waiting on the angle and the ok. We were sitting right at 97 yards. Kevin made a grunting noise and the axis turned his head and body to the right slightly. Miles and Kevin said shoot at the same time and before the words cleared my bullet was in flight. The 143-grain ELDX did its job and deer dropped into the hard Texas dirt. We slowly approached the animal and while I would love to say I made a perfect shot, I did not. The angle was steep and the bullet broke the shoulder but was a bit far forward. I hate more than anything to not drop and animal dead in its tracks and dislike more hunters that will watch one die for sake of keeping the hide. I put another round into the axis and sent his spirit on.
I was truly impressed by the Barrett Fieldcraft Rifle, the Y.O Ranch Headquarters, and my PH Kevin. What an amazing place to visit and hunt in Texas. This hunt has hopefully filled my Africa fix for the year.