The last three weeks have been hectic. I had to complete and write-up a number of reviews for the SSAA magazine. I also got in several extended camping-hunting trips. Between times, when at home, I was doing dawn and dusk hunts for wild dogs. Last week, I was successful and did bushwhack a wild dog. It was well after sunset and getting dark when I shot him. Only the excellent light-gathering of the Swarovski z6i scope and its illuminated centre dot made the shot possible. It was too dark for any photos.
Yesterday afternoon I got back from a 5-day deer hunt. My wife and I camped on the very edge of a delightful wetland, right beside a favourite stony ridge where we have taken many deer over the years. Some frosty mornings did not deter us from first light hikes up the rocky slopes to the stony ridge plateau. We missed a few opportunities until we came to terms with the deers’ heightened wariness. In the days before our arrival, the owner and a few friends had conducted a cull of the growing deer numbers. The survivors were on their toes!
The cold dissipated fast as the sun rose. By the time we had stalked the kilometre of ridgeline, over a couple of hours, it was getting pretty warm and we were shedding our jackets by the time we were trekking back to camp. We enjoyed just relaxing in our basic, simple camp, watching and photographing the many birds present before us. Late afternoon we stalked the river banks and other ridges.
After three days we had only a few fleeting glimpses of distant and nervous deer. We lifted our game and were able to very carefully approach a small group of deer on a stony spur off the main ridge. We ever so carefully crept down a parallel spur, looking for a gap in the intervening scrubby trees to place a shot. The breeze was in our favour, and we had been painfully slow and quiet in negotiating our way down the sharp spur top that was a mass of loose surface stones.
Suddenly, through the screen of masking scrub, the deer called in alarm and looked in our direction, but not directly at us. We froze and I whispered a few expletives that made Kathy give me a disapproving look. With a clatter of hooves on the rubbly rock, the deer disappeared over the edge of their spur, to our right.
To my left, on the steep, grass-covered slope of our spur, I caught a flick of movement. It was repeated, closer now. The tips of some red ears were glimpsed, making haste up the slope of the spur, through a screen of scrubby, stunted trees. A large wild dog was loping up the side of the spur, intent on following the deer. There was a narrow field of fire down the top of the sharp spur top. It would need some quick shooting.
I tracked the hints of movement as the dog approached the crest. He broke into the opening, a mere 20 metres from me, without slowing. I swung the rifle and kept the centre dot on his shoulder, and pulled the trigger. The 257 Weatherby Magnum roared in the rocky valley. There was a big cloud of red dust. A termite nest saved his life. He passed behind the half metre thick, concrete-solid mound of cemented mud just as I fired. There was an impressive hole blown in the termite mound – but no dead dog!
The edges of the wetland showed tracks and rootings of wild pigs. One morning a solid boar came ambling along the edge of the water and passed within 30 metres of camp. I had the rifle beside me, in case he came and caused trouble in camp, but it was a camera in my hands. I did not want to possibly alarm the resident deer by shooting a pig. Besides, Kathy was still berating me for shooting at the wild dog that ruined our stalk.
The farm manager called in for a chat and suggested we change to first light hunting of the river edge, as he had been seeing deer in numbers there the last few mornings. We drove over to the river mid-afternoon, to do a little fishing and just enjoy the shady cool of the banks. Just off the track, out in the deep, dry grass and weeds, in the blazing heat of mid-afternoon a deer poked its head up as we drove past. We all deserve an easy one now and then.
By Kathy’s fitness-tracking watch, we had stalked 15 kilometres of steep and stony ridges and spurs in the previous few days. The doe was in great shape, with a thick layer of fat. I carefully edged the car in through the deep grass, up alongside the deer so I could work in the shade and off the back of the vehicle.
The next morning, we drove slowly along the riverside track. I was intently looking to my right, across the couple of hundred meters of paddock between the track and the river. Kathy was busy taking photos of the sun rising through the mist on a crisp morning. “Stop!” she commanded, “there’s a stag on my side.” Faintly, through the mist, with a sunrise behind him was a Chital stag.
I slipped out of the car and snuck over to a roadside tree. He was about 150 metres away. I dialled up the magnification of the scope and took a steady lean off the tree. The 257 Weatherby broke the dawn silence, and the stag toppled. He was big of body, and like the doe the day before was in prime condition and encased in fat. Once more we brought the car in to him for shade and easy butchering.
Yesterday morning we broke camp and then drove to the farmhouse to collect our load of prime venison from the chiller room there. It was mid-morning as we left and headed for home. A few hundred metres from the house a mob of twenty deer ran in front of the car. I had to brake to avoid hitting a couple of them. Kathy and I both laughed. After all the effort, stalking and exploring over the last 5 days, we had very nearly run a couple over!
For the Latest News, Reviews and Stories
Signup for the Aussiehunter Newsletter
In order to keep my readers up to date with the top posts, gear reviews and news I’ve started the Aussiehunter Newsletter. No need to worry about spam and you can unsubscribe anytime. Its easy, just submit your email using the form below.
Lately, I have been having good results in howling-up wild dogs. That means I simulate their wailing call by blowing through my cupped hands, rather than using commercial predator squealers. This morning provides no better example of that. I walked out into the...read more
Before setting foot in the field to go hunting you want to be sure you are loaded up with the best hunting projectiles. Serious hunters put in a lot of time at the rifle range. Even with a faithful old rifle, that shoots a pet load you have not varied in years, it...read more
I use DMT diamond stones for all my knife sharpening. For removing metal quickly, I use the black 60 micron surface. I only do this infrequently, on well-used blades that need to have their shoulder edge cut back, or on badly damaged blades. As described in detail...read more
My hunting knife carry has evolved over the years. When I lived in the territory, I relied on a pair of Filicietti hand-forged custom knives. I used them extensively for butchering buffalo and wild cattle. Until recently, I continued to use these for my deer...read more
Over the last two days I have been busy processing the venison from our hunt. Tomorrow, we will finish off by mincing all the trimings and putting that into meal-sized bags for the freezer. We field butcher our deer and do not leave much for the scavengers. I use a...read more
Straight after my last hunting trip in mid July, I flew south for some weeks of family activities. While I was away I had a few calls from farmers experiencing wild dog attacks on their stock and pets. Since getting home mid last week I have been out and about...read more
This review of the Savage B22 VFSS was first published in the SSAA magazine in early 2018. When I was a young fellow, shooting pests with both air rifle and an old Lithgow single-shot 22LR, I was envious of my cousin and his 22WMR. I cannot now remember what make and...read more
This review of the Weatherby’s Vanguard HSP varmint rifle in 223 Rem was published in the SSAA magazine in March 2018. Weatherby’s Vanguard HSP rifle is available in 223, 22-250, 243, 308, 270, 30-06 and 300 Win. With the smaller cartridges, the magazine holds five...read more
My review of the Bergara BA13 Take Down Rifle was published in the SSAA earlier this year and is re-posted here. The ethos of hunting is the skilful stalk culminating in a carefully placed shot. Nothing epitomises that vision better than the single-shot rifle. ...read more