Monday, 27 February 2012

SCI Down Under: Hunting & Outdoor Show 2012

Quite a hike from Sydney to Coffs Harbour but it turned out to be well worth the trip. I had no expectations from this year’s Hunting and Outdoor Show presented by SCI Down Under Chapter; I thought it would make for a fun weekend with the kids.  My two little girls and I left home at dawn and made the trip up with one fuel stop at Kempsey.  Slim Dusty country.

With the beach a priority on the girl’s mind, I wasn’t sure how much time I was going to get at the show without interruption. Two and three-year-old's aren’t known for long attention spans.

  “Daddy, daddy, daddy, when are we going to the animal show?”

Hmmm. I thought about it for a sec…

  “We are at the animal show love.”
  “Yay! We’re at the animal show! We’re at the animal show!”

They held hands and jumped around in circles – the professional hunter I was talking to smiled and continued talking about tracking elephant between Victoria Falls and south of Bulawayo.  I felt like a kid in a candy store!

It's great that even for our small safari hunting community - small by American and European standards - the Down Under Chapter puts together this annual show and manages to bring outfitters from Africa, the USA, New Zealand and a few of the local lads as well.

It wasn’t a huge show, but certainly worth a casual stroll for a tireless nimrod with a passion for hunting and more than a passing interest in the tools of the trade. The usual suspects were there: Game Council and the Shooter’s and Fisher’s Party both had a table.  The NSW Firearms Registry had three representatives and it was good to see them mingling with some industry people and talking guns, optics and hunting!  The long established Nepean Hunter’s Club also had a team up from Penrith in Sydney’s west.

There were a few highlights for me.  I met Markus Michalowitz at his awesome Down Under Taxidermy display.  He had both local and African game heads on display and the girls loved it!  The scrubber and water buffalo were outstanding trophies and exceptional mounts. Markus and I chatted about taxidermy and I discovered that he also operates guided hunts for Red Deer in the Mary Valley.  A very strong possibility for the 2013 rut!

Next door I met Bob Pretty of Trijicon.  I just picked up a Reflex RX06-11 (just arrived today actually) to fit to the Remington 7600 I bought for the old man - his new pig rifle.  He had a few samples mounted onto rifle stocks that hunters could shoulder and get a feel for; lovely gear. I’m thinking about whether it needs a polarising filter and Bob was kind enough to extend an invitation to his place and try his filter on the rifle and see if it works for us. Thanks Bob!

Matt Graham from Hunt Australia (formerly Bob Penfold’s outfit) spent some time discussing opportunities for deer and buffalo, but more time discussing doubles.  Matt has a very nice Verney Carron in .450 Nitro Express and is looking at getting measured up for a .500 NE.  A man after my own heart.  Love the gun; love the chambering; but double rifle?  Or elephant hunt? Double rifle?  Elephant hunt? Weighing up options… Elephant hunt wins.  Maybe another time then?

Tony from TSE Engineering had a great display of barrels in various profiles and a few different custom guns he’s worked on; one of the rifles he built from scratch – action and all.  We discussed The Hornet Project and together we agreed that I would stick to a stainless steel barrel and probably maintain the barrel blank profile: Ø1¼” at the muzzle.

Around the corner I found the Vortex Optics table; funny as I was only looking at the Vortex Viper scopes last week and hadn’t really heard much about them before. Goran Pehar is a great guy with a lot of knowledge and some excellent hunting stories to tell. We went through the pros and cons of the 4-16x versus the 6-24x. Goran also showed me an excellent set of binoculars and with a bit of scanning out of the windows I decided that they left my Steiners for dead.  Bugger.

Markus from Down Under Taxidermy joined us for a chat – turns out he and Goran hunt together – sounds like the Red Deer hunting up at the Mary Valley is well worth the investment and sharing a campfire with these guys could be a load of fun, whether we drop a stag or not.

We did an extra lap so that the girls could point and shriek at the zebra pedestal mount some more before heading off to the beach.  What a wonderful place.  And if you do head up to Coffs for a couple of days, be sure to visit the Ex-Servicemen’s Club and order the venison from the brasserie.  Unexpectedly perfect!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A sight for sore eyes

I'm just on the way home from the SCI Convention (Down Under Chapter) that was held at Coffs Harbour in the NSW mid north coast. A fair stretch to my place in Sydney, and more so as a 36 hour round trip with my two daughters in tow.

Anyway, the show brought some results with a couple of new contacts made in "red country."

The girls are asleep in the back and I'm busy being alert! These tired hunter's hands are glued to the wheel as the kilometers are slapping away under my Bridgestone Dueler H/P's...

When I see this...

Could it be a sign??? ;-)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tremendous hunting opportunities

And that is by no means an exaggeration! Some times the planets align themselves in the most unexpected ways and good fortune can come to you when you least expect it. So on the back of a couple of years of poor health in our home and plenty of other drama, this was a very pleasant and unforeseen turn of events.

In the last week we have locked in a visit to The Dark Continent. A two week safari with the primary species being elephant, hopefully an old rogue bull that chooses to cross the Limpopo River from his usual haunts in Botswana's Tuli Game Reserve and into South Africa's most northern agricultural region - cropping and orchard country where it is necessary for the local communities and landholders to do some work to control raiding wildlife.

We will be tracking elephant by day and at the same time putting out baits for the other species which are the focus of this safari - hyena. We are going to invest time into both the Brown Hyena and the Spotted Hyena though the hunting of these two species will be in distinctly different areas - the Brown well west of Musina and the spotted just outside Hoedspruit. The success or otherwise of the elephant hunt will somewhat dictate where we invest most of our time.

On our last safari we had excellent success with a very nice Spotted Hyena coming in to our call on the banks of the Matlabas River after 8 days. A very exciting hunt and a beautifully big animal. We spent 10 days dragging baits and hanging them in trees and building hides but we weren't able to create an opportunity over baits even when they were hit by hyena; wrong place at the wrong time! We found plenty of spoor but didn't sight a single Brown Hyena. We did however see plenty of other game during our night time stakeout - aardvark, duiker, honey badger, porcupine and springhare.

And after some months, today I got the call I have been hoping for. I often tell other hunters that you already have the knowledge to access the country you want to hunt, you just need to create the opportunity to hunt through the relationships you have. Today that theory came good with access to 10,000 acres of prime habitat for fallow deer, pigs and goats as well as the occasional red and chital deer. Hoping that we'll have a date locked in by the end of the week... perfect! Should be a great rut hunt this year.

I do believe I will sleep well tonight - quite the Happy Hunter.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Hornet Project's Martini action

I've had my eye on a couple of old Martinis for sale on and; one a BSA chambered in .22 Hornet and the other a Sportco conversion in .222 Rimmed. The .222 looked like it had seen a lot more love, but it was listed at nearly twice the cost of the Hornet. It doesn't take much to miss an opportunity and more often than not when I pass something up it's never there when I go back to grab it,  so I rang the seller and we agreed to a price. 


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I want a double rifle

I was perhaps 16 when I read Wilbur Smith's A Time to Die.  Sean Courtney was cool but I was never going to be a professional hunter living in suburban Sydney. I thought old Capo was the man of the moment. Riccardo Monterro carried the short, ugly, double-barrelled rifle chambered for the powerful .577 Nitro Express.  The ultimate banduki for hunting ndlovu.

Capo had that superstitious ritual of his, the changing of cartridges that he always performed at the beginning of a hunt. He’d opened the breech of his double and slide the fat brass cartridges out of the chambers, changing them for two others from the loops on his jacket.  Quite inspiring for a wannabe dangerous game hunter.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Return to Nitro Express

Although I've never handled one I'm quite a fan of the double rifle. My station in life has dictated that my dangerous game rifle is a bolt-action; none other than the ol' Brno ZKK602.  That aside, there is a small part of me that dreams of owning a Holland & Holland 'Royal' Double Rifle in .500 or .577 Nitro Express.

This is the beginning of that journey.  I don't know when or even if it will ever happen.  Perhaps I'll find a pre-owned rifle? More than likely, if it happens, it won't be a rifle from Bruton Street. Maybe one of the more recent entrants into the double rifle market.

And so begins for this ordinary bloke, the return to nitro express.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

A day out with the Anschutz

A mate of mine has found himself the owner of a very desirable stately residence in the rolling green hills of the Southern Highlands. Amongst Joe's many new responsibilities, which include slashing paddocks and pulling fireweed, is vertebrate pest control.  Joe's most recent acquisition, an Anschutz Model 1730 chambered in .22 Hornet is going to be his primary tool for fox control. The Anschutz and a tin whistle.