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.
The easy six-hour drive was marred only by a 45 minute wait for coffee at Mudgee, NSW. The coffee was fine, but probably not worth the wait. We said our hellos on arrival and set up camp. Now "camp" in this instance are a series of corrugated iron and hard wood buildings dating back to the 1950s. Hot and cold running water, a fireplace, beds and kitchen with stove and fridge. Like I said - "camp!"
In my February post I mentioned that there are a few goats in the area. Just a few...
Our plan was to hunt fallow in the hope that my father could collect his first buck (first deer actually). If we heard the reds roaring, I'd be up for my first trophy red if we could put a plan together. Pigs, goats, rabbits; the larder was empty so anything we could to to replenish our supply of free range meat would be a bonus.
On our afternoon hunt that first day we found ourselves in a high clearing glassing kangaroos as they moved about for their nightly feed. In the distance a fallow stag caught my eye and he made his way to our little clearing and entertained us for ten minutes, trying to work out what we were.
We stalked higher up the mountain and the old man spotted a lone boar nosing about in heavy timber. A few simple hand signals and he was circling above the timber while I waited in the clearing. If the boar came down hill I would take the shot. The single boom of the Weatherby .270 dropped the boar with a well placed head shot.
As we stalked back to the valley floor the intermittent troating of a rutting fallow buck caught our attention and we followed the sound with the wind in our faces to a stand of timber on an open face. Over a small rise, we came upon a bedded buck carrying a second-year head. He had a nice typical shape and would make a nice trophy in a few years time. We watched him casually stroll into the bush.
A great afternoon was rounded out quite nicely with a juvenile rabbit shot in the yards by the quarters. We cleaned him up and within 30 minutes he found himself in a frying pan, partnered up with a fistful of garlic, fried eggs and tomatoes and a crusty Pane di Casa.
Day 2 had us in the hills, racing to catch up with troating bucks and assess trophy quality. We glassed several bucks and after a few kilometres and some hours of hiking, we were 250 yards downhill and downwind from a very nice buck. The buck was courting a mature doe and paced as he troated, bobbing his head up and down in sync with his calls. Sky-lined on a high saddle, we risked cutting across a sunny clearing to get get a better shot but got busted in the process.
An hour later we were glassing a herd of chital deer bedded across a saddle where we had planned to drop down to the low country. We stuck t the bush-line and made our way down the steep slope to an old strainer post where dad could rest his rifle. In position, we chose the youngest animal in the now nervous group, and as he stood 190 yards above, quartering away from us, sent a bullet half way along the length of his body and lower than we normally would. The Federal Fusion projectile exited high on the opposite shoulder taking out the hear and both lungs in its passage. The meat animal rolled 60 yards down the steep incline before coming to rest against some rocks.
It was a heavy pack out with both haunches and shoulders and two very large back straps to carry as well as the flat skin draped over my shoulders. A very rewarding morning's hunt.
There were a few more days of hunting with many more long hikes, plenty of lactic acid coursing through our legs, more encounters with deer, and a few more pigs and goats harvested. It was great to be away from the city and the office to have the opportunity to hunt such a beautiful part of the world with my father.