Two more seconds and I would have gotten a shot. The big buck ran up the hill-side out of sight as I was squeezing the trigger. Darn! It was a dandybuck with wide sweeping horns well over thirty inches. We sneaked up around the hill, hoping to find him again but the thick cedar would make this more than a challenge. Once on top while I was wiping the sweat out of my eyes, Mike slapped my shoulder and pointed his finger at an axis buck hiding in the shade. Could that possibly be the same buck we spotted a short while ago? Quickly I set up the tripod and took a rest. The buck thought he was hidden. Actually, he was difficult to see as he stood motionless just inside the tree line under the dark shadows. The shot couldn’t have been more than seventy yards. I didn’t wait around all day and when the hammer dropped, the buck took a leap and disappeared. Did I really blow that relatively easy shot?
The handgun I was packing on that hunt was Magnum Research’s BFR (Biggest Finest Revolver) in .460 S&W Magnum. The .460 S&W is a serious hunting cartridge and not just any handgun can digest such a round. The BFR is a well-made single-action revolver that handles magnum cartridges with ease. This large frame stainless revolver is intended to accommodate heavy recoiling, mammoth clobbering calibers, including .45/70 Govt., .450 Marlin, and .500 S&W to name just a few of the offerings. At first glance, the appearance of the BFR is impressive with its soft-brushed stainless finish and contrasting black rubber grips. In front of the grip is a large trigger guard that is rounded in the back so it will not deform your knuckles from stout recoil. This 100-percent made in the USA handgun is designed as a magnum revolver, not a conversion by any stretch. It is a large and intentionally heavy revolver with the added weight an asset for shooting cigar-sized cartridges.
It was a slow time of year with little hunting opportunities available when friend Wade Derby of crosshairconsulting.com called with a great option for axis deer. Even though I have taken a few of these beautiful deer in the past, Wade knew I had a weak spot for an impressive, long-beamed axis buck. I consider a mature axis one of the most stunning deer in the world. When Wade informed me there was a good chance for a real monster, I couldn’t resist. The last part of June, I flew to San Angelo and met Mike McKinney, a young, energetic outfitter with a lot of prime hunting property connections.
Our first evening hunt was pretty uneventful.
Before daylight the next morning, Mike and I slipped down a ridge over-looking a large field where the axis normally feed. We sat down with our backs against some trees and waited for the sun to greet our morning. I was hoping a rattlesnake wouldn’t come for a visit. The big revolver was cradled in the tripod that made for a decent rest. Several times we could hear the vocalization of axis bucks. Hopefully, the rut would be to our advantage. When it became light enough to see, one white-tail doe stepped into the field. We watched her feed until I heard a turkey putt to my right. The lone hen finally just walked away when she could no longer tolerate the two strange objects. Later, four axis does came in to the field. They fed for about an hour, but the bucks never showed.
As we were glassing a large wide brushy draw, I spotted a herd working its way up the opposite open hillside. There were probably twenty axis deer in the group. The big guy was the last one out of the brush and I nearly choked when I saw his antlers. His main beam was at least as long as a yard-stick! As I observed this impressive deer meander up the hill, we noticed some-thing odd; most of his left main beam had been broken off. It was almost like he knew he was safe, but come next year someone will probably tag an axis buck that dreams are made of. We searched different areas and spotted a few more deer but nothing that gave us an opportunity.
Later that afternoon, we spotted the lone buck mentioned earlier enjoying the shade under a cluster of live oaks. The limbs obstructed our view of his antlers, but as he took off you could clearly see it was a shooter. He ran for about fifty yards and turned back to look one more time. I had the crosshairs of the Leupold scope on his shoulder and started squeezing the trigger as he bolted up the hill.
It’s easy to see how one could assume we were looking at the same deer when we made it up the hill. That buck thought he was hidden in the shadows. I could clearly see a tall main beam and he was alone, so I thought. As soon as the crosshairs settled I touched the trigger. The deer didn’t show any signs of reaction as he quickly disappeared into the mesquite and cedar. What came as a surprise was the group of axis behind him. Neither Mike nor I had spotted these deer as they ran away after the shot. Another good buck was in the group. We waited for a few minutes before looking for a blood trail. Mike and I both didn’t think the deer was hit, due to the way he ran off and I was second-guessing the shot. As we walked up to the spot where the deer was standing, we immediately found blood. He hadn’t gone forty yards. The big slug had penetrated both lungs. Unfortunately our buck was not the same deer we thought. This buck had broken a part of his main beam on one side during antler development but that just added character. It sure didn’t detract from the challenging experience for me. Stalking any game with a revolver is rewarding and leaves lasting memories. A big axis buck is a beautiful animal and the meat is delightful.
Taking this deer with the Magnum Research revolver was a special treat. The .460 S&W Magnum is an effective cartridge that will handle most big game opportunities and the BFR provides a great platform. Now if I can just wait until the whitetail season opener!–Mark Hampton