Friday, 30 March 2012

Almost time for my 2012 rut hunt

It's been a hellish month submitting tenders, wrapping up projects and getting through an ISO:9001 audit. I've been running on adrenalin on next to no sleep and watching my team and my family come down with all sorts of ailments and sickness and somehow I've managed to come through unscathed.

So as the peak pressure point passed this Tuesday, my body somehow new that the game was up and that it was time to just let go. And so it did. Headaches, coughs, blocked sinuses - its on for young and old and the last thing I feel like doing right now is climbing a great big hill; I'm struggling with the stairs to my office! But press on I say!

The cocky arrowed a thumping big boar early this week and is seeing lone boars getting about all over the place. I'm on the look out for a big mountain hog, it's been a few years since I came across mountain boars up at Stanthorpe.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The duck hunting debate

Some good news from today's papers.  I'm under no illusion that this is a win, but it's certainly great to see this kind of reporting in the media. I guess as the duck season progresses we'll see how much balance the media gives this discussion.  Till then, enjoy the good news!

"Duck hunters can look back on a legacy that will never be 
matched by protesters who have left no such benefit and who 
continue to confuse animal rights with conservation."

Bill Patterson         
Field and Game Australia         

And from the ABC...

An environmental activist has appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court accused of failing to kill an injured duck. Anthony Murphy, 56, tried to save an injured duck after it was shot during last year's duck shooting season at wetlands near Kerang in Victoria's north.

Read that again: "...tried to save an injured duck after it was shot during last year's duck shooting season..."  So, shot during duck shooting season.  Righteo then.

He was planning to take the duck to a vet but it died shortly after being pulled from the water. The Department of Primary Industries has taken action against Murphy under Wildlife State Game Reserve regulations. Outside court, Murphy said the offence had not been enforced for 27 years. He said he believed it was a way of clamping down on protesters. "From the 27 years of the campaign, this is the first time a charge of this nature had been put on us," he said.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Remington 7600 for the old man

In 1996 we lost our Brownings. 

Dad is a Browning Automatic man from way back, and after 30 years behind a BAR and a Belgium A5, my old man just doesn't have the muscle memory to work a scoped bolt gun rapidly and accurately:
  • Double feeds when we get onto pigs in close quarters aren't uncommon;
  • Closed bolts on empty chambers - click - "f#%&@n bastard" he'd mutter in his new-Australian accent as he fumbled empty cases and loaded shells. Meanwhile - boom - I'd bowl over another hog;
  • Inconsistent cheek weld resulting in a poor field of view, and eyesight that just wasn't making scope use a reliable affair for the old man, and finding pigs on the trot was just too hard.

So what's the next best thing for a fella' in Oz, where the rights of individuals are highly controlled by a load of oppressive do-gooder legislation? Tony and Tere at The Stockade made short work of procuring a timber stocked rifle for me and Jocelyn from the Hunting Haven eBay store had the reflex sight I was looking for on the shelf...

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The fox & rabbit make the news

That famous photo - the "fox & rabbit" popped up in the Warracknabeal Herald, a local paper in regional Victoria.  Great to see the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre get some exposure; and a moment captured by a hunter in the bush has some context for the community at large.  I'll have to keep that camera at the ready!

Which cartridge for The Hornet Project?

So I've been doing a bit of research into what might be a suitable cartridge for The Hornet Project. Other than the need for a rimmed cartridge, there are not too many prerequisites.  Of course, nothing "big" as I really don't want to get too close my .220 Swift.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The 'old' fallow stag

Just as an aside - I sent the Coolah cocky a photo of my best fallow stag to date, shot nine years ago. I've not taken another stag since. Not for lack of opportunity, its just that on my patch there hasn't been a better stag for near a decade.

"Couldn't shoot one that small on my place," he says.

Granted, my stag won't win any awards; the beams are a bit light and the brow and trey tines both a bit short with no real hook to them, and far from splendidly thick. Bit clefty on one side and the palms, well, while lovely for the area, they're nothing to write home about.

But he was an old animal, born in poor and rugged country. A real wild deer.

It was early April, the rut of '03. I had found his scrape before he was troating and that morning the urine was wet on the leaves and distinctly musky. I had spotted his huge harem and knew he had to be the big one in the rough patch where I was hunting.

In the previous year's rut, he had staked his claim in a wash-away at the edge of an undulating flat. I had stalked to a spot directly opposite him with nothing but a clear depression between us, but buck fever got the better of me and the branch falling out of the tree behind him was testament to a shot that was too high. The top three points on his left beam where all in line which made that palm look distinctly square, unlike some if the New England stags I had shot in years gone by.

Back to '03. Three days later, on the last afternoon of the last day I'm in the gully where I found the wet scrape and I hear him in the distance "...rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop..." And so it begins.

I must have covered a couple of clicks racing through the bush before he was loud enough that I could decide on a spot to start climbing towards him. I got below the stag's position on the steep face on my hands and knees. His girls were prancing around while he half-heatedly chased them with a stiff gait, neck out stretched, head bobbing up and down as he made small figure-eights, "...rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop..."

Easy to get hooked on this stuff!

There was an ancient fallen tree above me and as made his way down the slope his body would was obscured by it - no shot. Then he'd troat his way up the incline and drop into a small hollow so that all I could see were his palms moving up and down as he continued chanting - troating deeply as he moved in confused circles - "..rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop..."

Those three points squaring off that left palm. Same stag.

I must have been there for 20 minutes; by this time I was on my feet, the Featherweight firing .308 cal, 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips was clamped rather unsteadily against the side of a sappling, swaying. The Leupold VX-III 1.5-5x20mm is an outstanding and versatile hunting optic, however make no mistake, when it's all but dark, a big 56mm objective is the way to go. I would be able to take the shot, but only just, and it had to be now.

I willed the stag to bring his dance towards me. The hinds got restless and made short sprints away from the stag and he increased his circle to gather them up and push them back where he wanted "..rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop, rrrrrroop..." Closer, closer, closer... and then he was out in the open!

My heart was racing. I could feel my pulse in my head, almost affecting my vision with every beat. Physiology can be a funny thing; as my heart raced my breathing got short and noisy. I could feel the heat and sweat around my collar and I held my mouth open to deaden the sound of my adrenalin induced breathing.

It was instinctive at the time. The stag was quartering away when I squeezed off the shot; everything that should have happened did happen as the stag dropped to the ground, tucked his legs up close and kicked briefly before laying still. The rich, red blood indicated a solid lung shot and the bullet busted up the bottom half of his heart. There was a splash of blood along his flank where the flop of organs forced blood out through the entry wound when he fell.

Walking the short distance to the stag, I sat beside him and placed an open hand across his back, till I was sitting in pitch darkness, enjoying the night sounds. This was a wonderful moment to just enjoy.

I field caped the beautiful menil stag and removed the back skin. I was deep in heavily timbered country and it was a very long walk back to the Toyota. I had my old Princeton Tec headlamp - the 1997 model, long before the LED came along - casting a soft and fading yellow light on the obstacles at my feet as I trudged back to the car.

I had my precious stag across my shoulders; life was good. He was a well earned trophy and the hunt a priceless adventure that had cost me nothing other than the willingness and the effort to get out into the hills.

Let's hope that this new country lives up to expectations; maybe I can end the fallow stag drought inside a decade? I don't care much for points or inches, but the hunt for a bigger beast is a demon I have yet to conquer; a strong instinct that compels hunters to get out there. I'll be on my way shortly.