Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Time away & a mixed bag hunt

A bunch of public holidays have come together and with a couple of carefully planned annual leave days I find myself off for ten days - more than enough time to hunt, spend some time with my girls and get a few things done as well.

Now by writing this, there's a very important chapter I've conveniently skipped - ten days on the chital - however I will come back to that shortly, might as well get on with the new news for now. It's April here in the Great Southern Land. With April comes Autumn, a significant drop in temperatures and with that, the rut kicks off for our fallow and red deer herd. I haven't been out with my father for a couple of years so we made plans to head out to a mate's place - 10,000 acres of rugged mountains towering over the Liverpool Plains.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Getting back into it

My eyes are stinging as the salty sweat pours in. It’s hot. Really, really hot. 43°C kind-of-hot. My morning hunt started before first light peeped over the horizon and I had expected to be done well before lunch. The only relief from the intense heat is the cold shower in the shearer’s quarters; as I tap away I stand under the running shower every five minutes or so. It could be worse, but it could be a whole lot better.

Friday, 27 December 2013

A bad year in review

I feel like a broken record, scratched, repeating, I'm not in the greatest condition, worn out with a load of scuff marks. The last year or so has brought new meaning to the term "...a long day at the office..." and as someone who doesn't shy away from hard work or long hours, I’m buggered! 

I hate to sound morbid or sombre, it really isn't in my nature, but we've had a very average year and amongst many other things, my hunting has suffered. A week off hunting is hard to come by when juggling work, family and the ills and ailments that befall us every now and then. In 2013 I've hardly been able to put together a plan for a hunt, let alone get out there. Even my writing - and there's never been much of it - has all but stopped this year.

Last December and into January saw us busting bunnies very regularly and I found myself at one of my favourute spots almost weekly. With my two little girls in tow, retrieving the warm rabbits I shot which we would later dress for the pot by the holding yards; we had a great summer chasing rabbits.

A mate on the NSW Central Coast has extended an invite a number of times for a spot of rabbit shooting but there's always something on.  

It was last summer that my best pig hunting block, a property I have hunted very regularly since 1997 was sold again, this time to a large consortium who aren't at all interested in some fellow hunting hogs to give himself some time to just "be".  Way too profound for them.  Bring on the poison for the pigs on that block.

The first boar I rolled on this remote cattle station; I was 20 years old. Losing access to this block is truly the end of an era.

In June I was lucky enough to head out to my good mate Sam's place.  Our plan was to hunt chital together and I would stalk pigs and goats as the opportunities presented themselves. We lucked out on the deer, I had an opportunity on day one but I hesitated; that won't happen again!

But I did drop a grand old billy, all skin and bone, going through the motions of a slow and arduous death.  I also rolled a heavy-set boar one morning as he tried to sneak up a steep gully I was stalking for chital. A bit of decent shooting on my parts and a couple of very nice animals as a result.

And that was my hunting year.  Yep, that's it.

Beyond my hunting adventures, we did put a few things to bed that should allow my little tribe to flourish in 2014.  Our development application for a new house was approved after a 3-year ordeal!  What a drama that's been. The boss has had her back operation. I've had my eye surgery.  Surely we're about done?

There's a hunt brewing for the first week of January... let's hope that it's a sign of things to come.

Happy new year hunters.  Best of luck in the field for 2014.


You are all insane!

I love getting feedback about my blog and my hunting.  So when I get something special, I think it's important to share.  This comment popped up the other day to a post I published over a year ago following our 2012 safari. Hope they visit again soon!

"You are all insane. This creature poses no threat. You are. This creature is near extinction. 
To exterminate such beauty is obscene. You are guilty of such a travesty on life."

I thought a response was important...

Hello Anonymous - my name is Dan. So you're not fond of hunting right?  You are most welcome to visit but I thought I should point a couple of things out. You know this is a hunting blog? Mostly about hunting? And guns. Sometimes taxidermy.

Not to worry.

I admire your very passionate yet anonymous post, however I think you are lacking a few facts which would be worth providing you right here, right now.  For next time you visit. Here's the deal and I'll keep it really short.

Humans have built cities and roads and stadiums and borders and shops and schools and factories and telecommunications facilities and movie studios and wet and wild them parks and that has effected where wildlife can exist and to what extent said wildlife can roam its habitat.

As a result, some clever people have set aside large tracts of  privately owned land for wildlife.  They have taken away all domestic stock and internal fences, some have dropped their fences all together.  All for the wildlife. Most of these landowners are looking to make a dollar, even if the sole purpose the funds generated are for the maintenance and paying wages to staff to manage the

Unfortunately these parcels of land (which may be tens or even hundreds of thousands of acres) have a limited carrying capacity.  So the owners of the land and the government wildlife authorities review animal numbers and the condition of the habitat and make some decisions about how many of each species should be removed in order for that land to continue to provided good habitat for all species - a balance for the trees and the grass as well as the antelope and the predators. 


If Anonymous cares to read on, here's the rest of it...

Now we come to the part where those animals must actually be removed.  It cannot be indiscriminate - it must be a highly targeted strategy so as not to remove young or breeding individuals. Options available are:
  1. live capture for translocation;
  2. sport hunting; or
  3. aerial shooting.
Live capture is an industry in itself and where there is a demand for the excess animals, assuming the terrain allows it and that the entire exercise is economically viable, then this is an excellent option.

Sport hunting can generate a huge income and requires a fairly modest operation - a professional hunter, a couple of skinners and trackers, a cook, a vehicle and a simple camp.  It's fairly non-invasive and I expect you would have a very tough time knowing that a hunter had been in the area, even if they were successful. The meat, skin, horns and ivory is totally recovered and utilised. This provides protein for a reasonable price to locals (often at no cost to them) and creates employment opportunities in the many related industries.

Assuming that the quota of excess animals is not shot by hunters, these animals still have to be removed as part of the total management strategy. So in come the choppers. An aerial shooting operation is highly disruptive to the animals on the ground.  The game reserve must bear the cost for the chopper itself, the pilot, the shooter and a large team on the ground if the meat is to be recovered.

Now we come back to the old bull giraffe, as you put it - a species "nearly extinct" - a beautiful animal which I "exterminated" - mostly because I am "insane".

We were hunting a private game reserve that adjoins Kruger National Park. We were possibly the last hunters for the 2012 season and after out visit, whatever game wasn't harvested would be taken off by the choppers; a big cost, with no foreign hunter dollars coming in to offset the expense.

The Game Warden from the Reserve that was assigned to our hunting party was not a hunter himself and had not been hunting before, however he was enthusiastic about the fact that the reserve was earning good dollars in return for the removal of animals that had to go, regardless of how they went.  Our Warden was also impressed with how discriminating and thoughtful we were - I wasn't surprised at all.

Bearing in mind that we hunted the Southern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa), it seems appropriate to provide a response to some of the very emotionally charged language in this comment:

"This creature is near extinction..."

According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the data they have regarding the major threats on this species, I'll let them do the talking:

Major Threat: While southern populations are increasing in abundance, northern populations have been decreasing due to habitat degradation and poaching.

"To exterminate such beauty is obscene..."

Ultimately there's no tip-toeing around the fact that I killed this grand old animal - but totally destoyed?  I don't think so.  There are some positives to come out of our hunt.  We left behind a huge amount of meat for a population greatly lacking protein in their diet.  We left behind some waste and trimmings for the carnivores - both predators and scavengers in the reserve.  And we also left behind cash.  This particular Game Reserve was profitable for the first time in its 15 years of operation as this was the first year they approved the use of sport hunting to remove excess game. Photographic tourists just don't pay the bills. 

"You are all insane..."

Am I and other hunters in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction? Am I seriously mentally ill? My doctor doesn't think so, but if it's a matter of perception, I guess I'll leave that up to you to decide...

Monday, 7 October 2013

M'eye Precious

We’ve had a rough trot in the land of the hunters. Murphy paid us a little visit and he liked it here, so he stayed a while. All is not lost yet, so its very likely that dear Murphy’s hiding in a cupboard or behind the fridge.

But this is a serious post so other than saying that it’s been raining shit in our neck of the woods, I’ll cut to the chase and just get serious. You see it’s my eye. M’eye precious.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Hey trendsetters

trend·set·ter  /ˈtren(d)ˌsetər/ 
     A person who leads the way in fashion or ideas. 

I am what I am, and regardless of what might be the "in thing" at any particular time, I am who I am.

In 1999 I made a dozen dining chairs for our little house on the prairie. Hewn from heavy slabs of Corymbia maculata, commonly known as the Spotted Gum - the chairs are a big two-handed lift, more of a slide really. But they're very well constructed; mortice and tenon joints throughout and a two-part epoxy resin has held the tight-fitting joints in this oily timber together for an short age. Craftsmanship in timber. 

Seat coverings were a tough call for a minute, until my wife had the audacity to call "skins." Goats and scrubbers, fallow and wildebeest, red, chital and kudu made for an interesting menagerie of hunted game that we could sit on. 

Trendy? I don't think so.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

African Hunting Gazette launches online forum!

Hello hunters, wherever you may be.

A few years ago while on safari, I was snoozing at the Southern Comfort Lodge in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe after a meeting with the local pigeon racing club. I had a head full of Savanna and dreams of the black buffalo I would be chasing in the weeks ahead. There were khakis strewn across the room and my Pelican 1750 in the corner keeping the .300 and .450 banduki nice 'n' cosy.  And as luck would have it, just by the lamp, was a copy of African Sporting Gazette...

The last issue of the African Sporting Gazette, and the first issue of the African Hunting Gazette

Years later, Craig and Lesley Hunt are still running the Southern Comfort Lodge and I'm still a mad keen hunter! However the African Sporting Gazette has grown up a bit and become the African Hunting Gazette (AHG).

Just recently, the team at AHG have started a forum about all things to do with the grand adventure that is African safari. The forum is being host at their new site and to register you need to visit their "Create Account" page here

Given the quality of this quarterly publication, the excellent photography, brilliant contributions and top quality print, I hope that the forum membership will be equally mature and passionate about Africa. As they say in techy land, I'll see you in the forums!

And if you're looking for a top quality hunting magazine based in the South Pacific - you cannot go past the excellent publication, also quarterly, Guns & Game Magazine