ON OUTDOORS: Shake up the scene

Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2016

While cruising down Highway 12 between Mauriceville and Deweyville my eyes were fixed on the woods as they always are traveling areas like this.

Few things thrill me more than wildlife sightings and this area is a great spot to see hogs, deer, coyotes and a shot of other creatures.

What I did not expect to see were a pair of sika deer bucks standing on the side of the road.
Sika deer are a native of Asia and popular game on high fenced hunting ranches but these were far from a high fence and standing on the side of the road eating away.

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This was 22 years ago and my first time encountering free-ranging exotics. I actually hunt the woods along that stretch of road now and have not seen any exotics but 22 years ago someone’s sikas has escaped.

Exotics frequently escape high fenced hunting and breeding operations and make hunting or simply hiking in the woods interesting for Texans.

Free-ranging exotics are considered legal game 365 days a year if you have the consent of the landowner. It is always illegal to hunt animals in areas where you have no permission but if the managers of your deer lease for example give you permission to shoot exotics that cross onto the property it is perfectly legal. Again, you must have permission and it is best to have written permission.

Many local hunters have reported taking free-ranging axis on their Hill Country deer leases. Rick

Hyman and Nolan Haney both shot axis bucks this year on leases near Fredericksburg and Rocksprings respectively.

Axis are the most common exotic and in some counties their populations number in the tens of thousands. Those include Kerr, Real, Edwards, Uvalde and Bandera.

Aoudad from North Africa are also common beyond high fences but they are rarely seen. Aoudad are super elusive and are more likely to show up on a game camera than in front of a hunter or photographer. Blackbuck antelope, fallow deer and the aforementioned sika deer round out the most common free-ranging exotics.

Over the years we have ran photos on these pages however of red stag, corsican sheep and other exotics taken by hunters.

Visitors to the South Texas coast between Baffin Bay and the Rio Grande often encounter nilgai, a gigantic species of antelope that is second only behind axis in terms of numbers. Almost all nilgai are free-ranging and are hunted on the King and Kennedy Ranches.

Locally in the last five years I examined a road-killed white fallow doe someone thought was an albino whitetail and spoke with a policemen in Jefferson County who saw a free-ranging fallow buck on patrol.

A police officer friend submitted great photos of a young axis buck in Orange County two years ago and I once saw an entire group of potbelly pigs someone released on a dirt road in Newton County.

Most exotic ranchers do a fine job of keeping their animals contained but someones storms blow through and take out fences and when that happens these interesting animals enter the general wildlife populace.

It can make things interesting for those of us who pay close attention to the woods. That deer we are looking at through binoculars might turn out to be a fallow, not a whitetail.

In my opinion that is one of the things that makes living in Texas unique. You never know what you are doing to see in the woods.

(To contact Chester Moore email him at chester@kingdomzoo.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6- 7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)