Once native to Texas, American Bison (buffalo) are now only found on game ranches, and can be hunted as exotics.
Texas is home to a large number of different species of “exotic” game animals – which means they are not native to our state. On different properties, pretty much all private and high fenced – are found axis deer, blackbuck antelope, oryx, kudu, even zebra. In North Texas I have seen camels in a pasture. American bison – “buffalo” are considered exotica because they have not been found in the wild in Texas for many decades – although bighorn sheep are not, probably because buffalo are usually on high fenced ranches, while Bighorns have been stocked in the wild by the state. There are, however, various types of wild sheep and goats available in our state, including aoudad (Barbary Sheep) and Corsican rams. Some of these animals are on the verge of extinction in their native lands, and Texas exotic game ranchers actually export animals back “home” to restock herds in their original habitat. There have been recent laws enacted to “protect” some species, by making it illegal to raise them for hunting purposes. This is a misguided dis-service to the animals, because ranchers raise and keep them on their property as a money-maker, and when the incentive for profit is removed, few will take the time and money to keep them around anymore.
Feral hogs are classified as exotics, which means they are not affected by game laws like seasons and restrictions of means of taking them. Of course, hogs are a nuisance in most areas, but th same lack of restrictions applies to the beautiful axis deer. While an occasional exotic escapes form a game ranch, feral hogs and aoudads are found in the wild. Aoudads, however, are sort of hard to be found anywhere, as they are very secretive animals. A certain celebrity hunter released several on his high fenced property of several hundred acres, and says he has not seen one since, also he sees enough sign to know they are still there. Most hunts for exotics, however, are pay-as-you-go. Not to say they are “canned” hunts, however. I have been told by a fellow who works for a company that culls game on Hill County ranches that axis deer are much harder to find and kill than whitetails – even when hunting them at night with lights. They are also very good eating. Because their are no game animal restrictions, exotics can be hunted at any time of the year, according to the wishes of the landowner – making them a good choice for “off-season” hunts – and many make very impressive mounts. A few years back, my son, Michael, was on a hunt near Del Rio, sitting it a deer stand, and shot two impressive Corsican rams. Nice trophies, and good eating. He certainly believes exotics are good for the Texas hunting scene.