My friend Doug Giles met me at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After spending a nice evening with his wonderful family we made our way to Okeechobee, Florida for a two-day hunt on the 2000-acre Brady Ranch. When we got there, I immediately understood why Ted Nugent once traveled all the way from Michigan to hunt in this beautiful part of the country.
Just after dawn, the first herd of Axis deer came walking past the grove of palmetto trees we had chosen as the spot for our morning hunt. After letting several bucks pass, Doug set his sights on a 175-pound Axis deer with 31-inch antlers. Some might say that a .375 H&H is too much gun, even for the resilient South Florida Axis deer. But many hunters using the phrase ?too much gun? simply lack the steady hand needed to guide a 275-grain bullet generating 4600 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Doug Giles isn?t one of those guys.
When we found the fallen beast in two feet of grass, we knew that he hadn?t moved a step from the place where Doug had shot him. When we saw the bullet hole placed perfectly through his shoulder we knew why. The vitals of the Axis deer are further forward than other breeds, calling for much heavier loads than the North Carolina white tails I am accustomed to hunting. Of course, I didn?t know that when I packed my .243 Browning A-Bolt for the trip to Okeechobee.
That afternoon, my guide told me that the shot would have to be perfect to take home a trophy that afternoon. When I saw the 200-pound monster Axis deer come out of the woods for an afternoon snack, I knew that I had found my trophy. I was glad that I had the patience to pass on two others that I had locked in my sights earlier that day. His main beams were only 29 inches, but the nine-inch brow tines and superior width made him an obvious choice.
I was certain that the shot hit him cleanly in the shoulder. But there is more to a successful hunt than a well-placed shot. We kept our cool, to make certain that the Axis remained unaware of the direction of the shot. And then we decided to wait for thirty minutes before descending from the stand. Then Doug and I agreed to extend the wait another 15 minutes after waiting the initial half hour. It would prove to be a good decision, much like the Samuel Adams waiting in the cabin cooler.