Hunting Texas Exotics

Whether hunters want unique trophies, rare species, or special table fare, the reasons to hunt exotics in Texas are numerous. While many hunters don't have the budget to traverse the globe in search of these species, Texas has them all in booming populations at the ready. 

Before dismissing this as nothing more than canned high-fence hunting, realize that many of these ranches are over 10,000 acres. Further, Texas hunting ranches have saved multiple species from near extinction occurring in their native ranges. 

We've gathered together some of the most popular and recognizable Texas exotics -- along with places to hunt and firearms, calibers, optics, and ammo to use for success. 

Axis Deer

Handgun guru Ernie Bishop with his trophy Axis Deer still in velvet. (Photo: Ernie Bishop)

Home Range: India and Sri Lanka, where they are often known as Chital

Why hunt Axis: Ask any hunter, and the odds are good, they list Axis among their very favorite meats. Mild flavor, tender cuts, and that beautifully spotted hide with a tall majestic rack make the bucket list of most deer hunters.

Places to Hunt: Priour Ranch, Mountain Home, Texas

Weapons of Choice: Smith & Wesson Magnum Hunter in .44 Mag, Mossberg Patriot Revere in 6.5 Creedmoor

Optic: Burris Fast Fire Red Dot or Burris Signature Series riflescope

Ammo of Choice: Sierra GameChanger, Federal Fusion

Blackbuck

Handgunner Ernie Bishop with a dandy Texas Blackbuck taken with a revolver. (Photo: Ernie Bishop)

Home Range: Indian subcontinent

Why hunt Blackbuck: The first time I saw a Blackbuck, I knew I had to hunt one. Those tightly spiraled horns and the darkly colored face of a mature buck are one of a kind. Though the critters are small at only 85 pounds, the meat is fantastic. Plus, they’re a thrill to hunt -- fast-moving, bounding quarry in open terrain. 

Places to Hunt: King of Eights Outfitters, Ballinger, Texas

Weapons of Choice: Nosler M48 in 6mm Creedmoor, Ruger No. 1 in 7mm-08

Optic: Vortex Diamondback

Ammo of Choice: Sig Sauer Elite Hunter Tipped, Nosler Ballistic Tip

Water Buffalo

Jerry Hnetynka took down this Asian Water Buffalo in Texas with his S&W revolver. (Photo: Jerry Hnetynka)

Home Range: Southeast Asia; Flat-horned Water Buffalo have now become prevalent in Australia

Why hunt Water Buffalo: Any hunters seeking the thrill of the largest and most formidable hulky game animals will want to pursue Water Buffalo along with Cape and American Bison. When travel to the Asian continent is prohibitive, Texas fields healthy populations of well-fed, wild Water Buffalo. Anybody who tells you hunting Water Buffalo is like cattle has never hunted one in open terrain. Full freezers and great campfire stories are sure to result from these massive beasts. 

Places to Hunt: Ox Ranch, Uvalde, Texas

Weapons of Choice: Dakota Model 76 in .416 Rigby, CZ 550 Magnum in .375 H&H

Optic: Leupold VX-2 1-4x20

Ammo of Choice: Hornady Dangerous Game; Federal Premium Safari

Ibex

Hnetynka harvested this beauty of a Nubian Ibex in Hondo, Texas, with Richard Muennink’s Action Outdoor Adventures. (Photo: Jerry Hnetynka)

Home Range: Middle East

Why hunt Ibex: While there’s no substitute for climbing after Bezoar (Persian) or Nubian Ibex in their native mountain ranges, those hunts are sadly out of the price ranges and abilities of many hunters. Texas is the next best bet, with many outfitters in the hill country offering rugged rocky terrain where Ibex deliver a challenging hunt and amazing trophy with those swooping horns.

Places to Hunt: Action Outdoor Adventures, Hondo, Texas

Weapons of Choice: Tikka T3x Lite in .270 Win, Savage Ultralight in 28 Nosler

Optic: Leupold VX 3i CDS-ZL

Ammo of Choice: Federal Premium Terminal Ascent, Nosler Trophy Grade

Nilgai

Home Range: Pakistan, India

Why hunt Nilgai: Ask any serious hunters, and they’ll not only list Nilgai as one of the most underrated of all wild game meats but also as a formidable quarry. Those sharply tipped horns are easily weaponized, and the Nilgai is not only one of the most difficult hunts, but also the largest of the Asian Antelope species.

Places to Hunt: King Ranch, where they were first introduced in Texas

Weapons of Choice: Winchester Model 70 in .338 Win Mag, Henry Repeating Arms Side Gate in 45-70 Govt

Optic: Trijicon Credo HX  

Ammo of Choice: Winchester Expedition Big Game, Federal Premium Hammer Down

Markhor

One of the more rare and valued big game trophies, this Markhor was taken in rugged Texas country by Jerry Hnetynka with a well-placed shot from his trusty S&W Magnum Hunter revolver. (Photo: Jerry Hnetynka)

Home Range: Central Asia, including Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

Why hunt Markhor: The better answer is why not, as long as money is no object. I know no hunter who wouldn’t gladly go after Markhor if they weren’t so pricey. For those who can swing it, Markhor is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful game animals in the world. Catching fleeting glimpses of their flowing mane and tightly curled horns moving through the rocky Texas country is enough to get any hunter's heart beating faster. 

Places to Hunt: 777 Ranch, Hondo, Texas

Weapons of Choice: Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon in 6.5 PRC, Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti in 6.5 Wby RPM

Optic: Meopta Optika6 with Dichrotech reticle

Ammo of Choice: Hornady Precision Hunter, Weatherby Select

Red Deer (Red Stag)

Home Range: Indigenous to Europe; Imported to New Zealand; subspecies in Asia and North Africa

Why hunt Red Deer: The Red Stag that defines New Zealand hunting is, in fact, not even truly native to that land anymore so than it is to Texas. Regardless, the Red Deer is one stunning creature. While we’d love to make the trek to faraway scenic highlands, Texas offers some dandy Stags without the hassle of importing/exporting guns, trophies, and meat. Whether you favor crazy non-typical farm-raised or natural-roaming typicals, Texas has it all, and getting close to a Red Deer on most ranches is a legit hunting expedition.

Places to Hunt: Texas Hunt Lodge offers a healthy selection of Red Deer from management to monstrous

Weapons of Choice: Henry Repeating Arms Long Ranger in .308 Win, Magnum Research BFR in .45-70 Govt

Optic: Leupold VX-Freedom Illuminated or Leupold VX-3 Handgun

Ammo of Choice: Hornady Outfitter, Buffalo Bore

Kudu

Though harvested in South Africa by Kristin Alberts, these Kudu are widely available on Texas exotic hunts and make an eye-catching trophy and delicious table fare. (Photo: Stan Pate/Guns.com)

Home Range: Africa 

Why hunt Kudu: Name one exotic animal that is as instantly recognizable, even by non-hunters, as a Kudu. If that’s not reason enough to bump the Greater Kudu to the top of your bucket list of hunts, know that those tightly spiraled horns and lean meat are hard to beat. While there’s nothing like chasing Plains Game in Southern African, if you can’t make that journey, book a Texas Kudu hunt today.

Places to Hunt: YO Ranch, or other outfits in the Texas Hill country

Weapons of Choice: Savage 110 High Country in .300 Win Mag, Remington 700 BDL in .30-06 Spfld

Optic: Bushnell Forge 

Ammo of Choice: Norma Oryx, Federal Premium Sierra Game King 

Conclusion

There are far too many exotic species now calling Texas home to list them all here, but this is a mix of the top managed big game critters that draw hunters from all over the world to the Lone Star State. If you’re building a wish list for your exotic hunt, also consider adding Aoudad/Barbary Sheep, Gemsbok, Scimitar Horned Oryx, Afghan Urial, Fallow Deer, or Pere David Deer. Think Addax to Zebra and every wild game animal in between, and the odds are good, they’re roaming Texas—and Texas is waiting for you. 

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