July 20, 2021
By Mark Demko
As we exited San Antonio International Airport, our small group was smacked by the glove of humidity that had settled over the area in recent days. Fortunately for us, we were heading west into Texas’ Hill Country, where temperatures over the next few days were expected to be cooler than normal for mid-May.
As we travelled west on I-10, the climb in elevation brought changes in both scenery and the temperatures, boosting excitement for the days ahead. Leaving behind the traffic, strip malls and suburban sprawl, we were soon surrounded by vast ranches and wide-open spaces that seemed to stretch for miles in all directions. For the next four days, we’d be the guests of the Lazy CK Ranch, a popular destination for bowhunting exotic game species like axis deer, aoudad, blackbuck and fallow deer. Our goal was to draw at least a few of our target species into archery range, allowing us to test the effectiveness and impact of the Axe AX405 crossbows we’d be hunting with.
The energy was palpable as we turned off the two-lane blacktop highway and onto the 7,000-acre ranch. Navigating the dirt roads leading to the lodge, we spotted everything from oryx and impala to white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkeys. First light tomorrow would find us nestled in blinds to start the hunt, but first we needed to unpack, practice with the crossbows, grab our licenses and handle other important prep work.
First Impressions Are Everything
Since it’s a relative newcomer to the market — having made its debut in 2020 — I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from an Axe Crossbow. That being said, it’s absolutely true what they say about initial impressions, and my first take was there’s a lot to like about this rig!
For starters, the AX405 is sleek and compact, making it easy to maneuver and handle (more on that in a bit). Cocking and uncocking the bow is also an incredibly simple process thanks to the built-in crank handle and sliding trigger assembly. To load the crossbow, you simply crank the handle counterclockwise, which moves the trigger slide box forward until it captures the string at the front of the bow (you will hear a click). Next, you manually push the trigger assembly until you hear a second click, which means it’s fully locked in with the string, and you can begin turning the handle in the opposite direction to draw the trigger box and string back into the loaded position.
The integrated handle and cocking/decocking system are designed so that if you leave go of the handle, or your hand accidentally slips off the crank either during loading or unloading, the trigger and string stay locked in place right where they’re at, preventing serious injury or damage to the bow. It goes without saying that there is great peace of mind knowing that there’s a safety feature like this in place on these high-powered bows.
My initial question on the integrated handle was, ‘How might it impact a hunter in the field since it can’t be removed?’ However, during both the practice session and while hunting, I can honestly say the handle was barely noticeable, and it certainly did not raise and issues or concerns.
As far as power, the AX405 is more than capable of taking down a variety of big game. The bow’s shoot-through stock and riser design; reverse-draw, 210-pound split limbs and the resulting 13-inch power stroke work together seamlessly to propel Axe’s .166-inch micro-diameter bolts included with the bow more than 400 fps.
Unlike many crossbows on the market, the bolts don’t sit or travel down a rail. Instead, they’re flanked by carbon guide rods on both sides, with the nock snapping into the trigger assembly and the front of the bolt sitting on a tunable roller rest. FeraDyne Outdoors, which manufactures Axe Crossbows, says this unique, free-floating arrow system enhances bolt speed and accuracy by reducing friction and torque along the entire bolt path.
As a side note, FeraDyne also unveiled the AX440 this year. The new-for-2021 model, which is capable of launching bolts a blistering 440 fps, continues to build on the innovations Axe Crossbows rolled out in 2020, with a similarly compact profile and only slight tweaks in design to generate the faster speeds.
How the AX405 Shoots
After going over the AX405’s safety features and operation at camp, the next order of business was to ensure we could hit our mark with these high-powered crossbows. Since we were on a tight time schedule, the bows we would be hunting with had been pre-sighted for us. That being said, I was still somewhat skeptical that it would be a quick practice session, as it rarely ever is in my case.
Much to my surprise, however, two shots from the crossbow — one at 20 and another at 30 yards — resulted in two bolts right in the bull’s-eye. This was the first time ever I did not need to tweak the scope or setup, even when a crossbow had been sighted in previously by someone else. The bow was also very smooth shooting, without any excessive noise or vibration at the shot. Needless to say, with that kind of impact and result, I was more than comfortable with the bow and excited to head afield the next day.
In the Field
There’s no doubt the Axe 405 is compact, measuring 27.5 inches long with its foot peg closed and 9.95 inches wide from axle to axle when cocked (14.5 inches uncocked). This streamlined profile makes it easy to wield and maneuver the bow when hunting from a treestand or sitting in a blind, both of which we did during the hunt.
The AX405 checks in at around 11 pounds with the scope and quiver attached (9.7 pounds without), but the weight of the bow is well balanced in your hands thanks to the reverse limbs and shoot-through stock and riser.
Other features of the AX405 are a 3.7-pound, zero creep trigger; adjustable butt stock and cheek piece; and a multi-range reticle scope that offers markings for 20-100 yards in 10-yard increments. The scope offers a clear, wide field of view and is both fog- and shock-proof. It also comes with the ability to turn on either red or green illumination points, providing options when hunting during different lighting conditions.
About The Hunt
During my three days afield, I saw a variety of game including Père David's deer, sika deer, Corsican rams, wild turkeys and whitetails galore. However, the two species I had my eyes on had eluded us, despite my guide’s best efforts.
On the last evening, with time running out, the two of us improvised and ventured to a part of the ranch that had not been hunted recently. And although there was supposed to be a stand at the site, the tree it was in had toppled due to either storm damage or old age. Hence, we had to quickly throw together a ground blind from branches and twigs − not necessarily an ideal setup when you’ll actually be hunting that spot just a few minutes later.
Much to my surprise, considering the relative commotion we just made, once the feeder went off, the deer and turkeys began to emerge from the brush. Then, from the far end of the massive field we were watching, a blackbuck entered the picture. Slowly and cautiously, it made its way across the landscape. As it neared, however, I turned my head slightly to get a read on its location. Oof!
The meager branches we haphazardly threw up obviously didn’t offer enough cover, with the animal immediately determining something was amiss. It turned, started moving in the opposite direction and ultimately headed for safer confines.
While I knew I was going home emptyhanded, it didn’t dampen my spirits in any capacity. The week had been incredible from start to finish, with numerous animal sightings, great weather and incredible hospitality thanks to the owners and guides at Lazy CK Ranch. The biggest takeaway from the entire experience, however, was that I can’t wait to try the AX405 crossbow once white-tailed deer season opens in my home state this fall.
- Length: 27.75 inches (with foot peg closed)
- Width: 9.938 inches (axle-to-axle cocked)
- Weight: 9.7 pounds (without accessories)
- Power Stroke: 13 inches
- Kinetic Energy: 138 ft.-lbs.
- Advertised Speed: 405 fps
- MSRP: $1,699.99
- Contact: FeraDyne Outdoors | feradyne.com/axe-crossbows/