Issue 27 September 2021

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Deer in the Cross Hairs

Mark van den Boogart takes his son stalking.

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Shooting|March 2021

Deer are a quandary. Depending on the region they are game, or pest. In some states, they have no real meaningful status at all and so can be killed, by various means on sight at any time.

Like the status opinion varies too. As a Deer hunter they are an integral part of my environment, as a farmer, I’d probably regard them as a weed. Australia has 6 species of Deer, all introduced, though in by no way all considered, or treated equally.

Unlike pig and goat, the release of Deer was intentional, so as to recreate a game species. However, this was many years ago and attitudes change. For me Deer will always be something I hope to hunt with my sons for as long as my body lets me.

My deer rifle is a .30-06 Springfield, it is purpose built for the task and is a far better rifle, than I am a shot.

A fine fallow. Just after dawn we quietly walked into the tree line and soon heard the croaking of Fallow bucks. It sounded like there was at least two in a distance gulley though with the wind on our backs they were effectively out of reach. Spotting a large dead fall we pulled up and continued to listen. With Adrian and Tim facing in the direction of the bucks, I sat opposite and glassed along the face of a steep hill directly behind us.

Hearing something above, we soon realised we had walked in between 3 bucks, with the one above being much closer and up wind of our location.

It sounded like the buck was just over the top of the slope, so I planned my approach. As luck would have it, the base was moated by a tangle of Blackberry so before I could climb, I had to crawl. Spotting a path of least resistance, I crawled below the thinnest patch of Blackberry and somehow avoided becoming entangled. Once under and through I began to move up towards the continuing croaks.

Though I could not see him, the Buck’s croaks helped me gain a sense of his location, and with each subsequent croak, I refined my approach. On reaching a point just below the lip of the slope, I stopped to glass ahead.

In the shade of a large Eucalypt I then heard movement to my left and saw a Wombat casually moving about. Initially worried by the noise I figured that it was a blessing as it gave me a bit of extra cover. During another very loud croak and while the Wombat crashed about looking for breakfast I chambered a round, thumbed on the safety and began to move up and over.

First spotting Does I then caught sight of the Buck under a small clump of trees within the wider flat grassy clearing. The Deer were alert though not on edge so after watching a while I moved into a good firing position. As the clearing itself was bordered by heavy timber and Blackberry I decided on a shoulder rather than the typical heart/lung shot as I didn’t want to lose the buck amongst surrounding cover.

With my scope set at its lowest magnification I thumbed the safety and I waited for a broadside. I continued to keep on target until the buck stopped and turned, providing me with a simple sub 50 metre shot. Firing, the Deer scattered while the Buck dropped into the knee high grass.

Somewhere in between firing and watching him fall I had cycled the bolt and remained ready to fire again if he decided to make a run for it. After a few anxious minutes I decided it was safe to move forward. On reaching the fallen deer I sat down and began to admire what was my first public land Fallow buck.

A hill country Red. Taking cover amongst the rocks Adrian and I glassed our surrounds and then heard the roaring of Red stags. They were still a little too far away so we began a slow Northerly contour, ending up in a shallow, though steep sided drain that eventually plunged off a substantial cliff face. The wind had shifted, now blowing up the drain so we worked our way down towards the drop. As we moved forward the feature became more pronounced and soon we would have to cross or be cut off.

The wind had shifted, now blowing up the drain so we worked our way down towards the drop.

Our side of the drain was sparsely treed and covered with waist high grass, the other covered in heavy timber, and it was from the timber side that came a very loud roar.

We simultaneously went to ground. Sitting in the long grass I checked my watch and noted it was just after 8am. I also noticed that Adrian was slowly pushing himself up against the base of one of the few trees. I decided to do the same so shimmied out of my pack and belly crawled towards the nearest tree. Unfortunately, I was wider than the tree I had picked, though it was all I had so I slowly got behind it, stood up and tried to make myself look tree like.

The stag continued to roar, and finally catching some movement four Hinds came into view. There were moving with intent along the very edge of the feature and followed by another roar, two yearlings appeared. Watching, the yearlings split from the Hinds. Crossing the drain they moved through the grass towards us before cutting away and thankfully not picking up our scent. With my rifle now at shoulder arms another deer appeared, this time a mature hind.

Obviously, something was driving them and heralding his arrival with a roar, the Stag appeared. Moving with complete abandon as only a rutting Stag will do, I waited for my chance. It came with the Stag directly below me at about 50 metres.

I fired and landing a solid hit the Stag went to ground within about 15 metres. With the adrenalin finally under control I moved forward and quickly reached the Stag. He was a good, healthy 4x4 who breathed his last breath in the pursuit a of hareem.Not a bad way to go out really.

A tradition in the making. The next morning, I was up while the others slumbered on. It was foggy and cold so I got the coffee going and just listened to the morning sounds. With coffee in hand, I sat down behind the spotting scope and peered into the gloom.

The fog continued to thin and then close out again and on one such occasion I spotted shapes. As quickly as I saw them, they were gone so I sat attentively waiting for the next break in cover.
It was Deer, and more importantly, Deer with a little bit of timber. With my eldest son and Tim now up and moving about camp I told them I was heading off after deer.
 
Along the way I had to navigate a couple of paddock fences, however the creek line and heavy Blackberry provided ample cover during my approach.


 
Moving between the Blackberry I had my mind set on the next patch as it would give me a great observation point, however making my way towards it I saw three Deer on the move.
 
They were heading up hill and while not moving fast, they would be gone very soon. Dropping to a seated position the Deer stopped and looked me over, however maybe due to my position in the fog they didn’t appear too threatened and continued to look on.  The order was Buck, Doe and trailing buck. Both males carried scrappy headgear, however either wound certainly make a great first set for my son.
 
Playing the odds, I aimed on the trialling Fallow, a, deep chocolate coloured animal.  Firing, I busted his shoulder and while the other two bolted up hill, he stumbled down.
 
Finally coming to rest, I waited to make sure he wasn’t getting back up. Watching the other two, they were now high up and about to cross the skyline. With them out of sight I headed over to the fallen buck. Making sure he was done, I then turned back to get the ute and the others. 
 
My son was full of questions and on sighting the Buck he immediately asked if we could keep it. I said, sure why not, so we took some meat, and the messy antlers, which I would clean up and mount on a shield as a memento of his first deer hunt with Dad.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Shooting|March 2021

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