|It was 1.30am and I had just arrived home from another hectic night of work at the
Throughout the night I had been eagerly awaiting knockoff time with the anticipation of a great hunt that had taken me what seemed like an eternity to organise, scheduled to take place the following day.
I had offered to take a guy, who I had only spoken to over the telephone and hadn’t actually even met yet, out for a hunt on a local property that I have hunted on often over the years and I had also been given strict instructions from my wife to make sure I was home from work before he arrived!.
Well with the best intentions in mind I had organised with my boss to leave work at midnight so as to honour my wifes request, but murphy’s law reared it’s head and because of the amount of stock we had to cut and the amount of people away from work on this particular night, I was an hour and a half behind schedule.
No problem.....perhaps the guy would be late!?
As I rounded the corner into our street I could see, parked under a streetlight outside our house, a large 4 wheel drive vehicle and realised that nope, he wasn’t late.
another hectic night of work at the local meatworks.
|Over the previous month and a half I had cemented an impression of this stranger in
my mind and was extremely curious to see how close to the mark I was.
I entered through the back door and was immediately beckoned by my wife to "come in here!"
I made my way through to the lounge and was introduced to Dave, the guy I had spoken with over the phone.
Now, here was a bloke who was completely out of character with the impression that I had built up! He was what you would probably expect to find on the set of Peter Jackson’s movie Lord of the Rings!
After the normal pleasantries we settled back with a fresh cup of coffee and talked, and talked and talked.
I had proposed to rise at 4 am, have some brekky, and be away around 4.30 as it was about a 3/4 hour drive to our destination.
Dave hit the sack around 2.30am, and I decided to check out and make final alterations to my kit or tomorrow.
I was actually feeling very tired when I finally made it into bed at 3.30....oh what the hell I thought, it’s not worth even going to sleep at this hour so I jumped up (much to my wifes horror) made another umpteenth cup of coffee and watched a bit of TV until 4am.
|After a quick bite to eat we scrounged up all our necessities for the day ahead and
made our way out to our transport.
I had borrowed a van from my cousin for this occasion with the idea that we'd need plenty of room for a 4 wheel motorbike and hopefully 1 or 2 deer as well.
The time it took to get to our first port of call flashed by very quickly as Dave and I spoke of different hunting experiences and other topics of mutual interest, 40 minutes to be exact.
However, there were no bikini clad babes, or fast food outlets where we were headed, unless you call taking a shot at a running deer fast food!!
I pulled in at another cousins house to load up the Big Bear and our arms were twisted into having a cuppa.
Now, this was one of the main reasons for leaving town so early.....the country hospitality extended is always first rate and I have never been one to offend by turning down a most welcome early morning cup of tea or coffee.
With that warming our insides, we set off on the next leg of our trip, a 10 minute drive further north to yet another cousins place, where we would leave the van.After parking in a nearby paddock, we unloaded the quad and were invited in for yet another cuppa.
I thought that it might be best to give this one a miss as we really wanted to be further out before daylight actually came and as you can imagine it really wasn't that far off.
We were offered the use of a 3 wheel motorbike to save us from both having to ride two up on the quad with our rifles and other equipment, an offer that was graciously accepted.
A quick check of the petrol situation, another quick sort out of equipment and a change of gear and we were off.
The property that we were to be hunting was a 15-20 minute ride away along typically rough tracks and through numerous large football field sized patches of head high thistles.
I took the lead on the quad, wearing one of my new custom made Swazi camouflage jackets zipped right up around my face to help combat the early moring chill.
Reaching the boundary at the beginning of the property we dismounted and glassed the expanse ahead.
I could see a mob of deer about 300 metres ahead, feeding their way down and across a grassy gully.
|We decided that we'd leave the bikes here and stalk our way forward to get a better
look at what was available amongst this mob.
As we slowly made our way to the top of the rise in front of us, we could see many deer spread out along the small manuka sided gully, but most were hinds with a sprinkling of spikers.
No decent stags here.
We watched and waited a while and they moved off over the next rise and up onto a flat.
Normally this particular flat is great to stalk on, especially when kitted out in total camo.
I personally have found the best pattern to use in this area to be Mossy Oak, mainly the "Treestand" pattern. Today however I had "Image Country" camo on, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because these flats that are normally covered in bullrush, were clean and green.
Wriggling forward on his stomach, Dave again glassed the area to see if any decent stags were about, but again, none were present.
I suggested to Dave that as it was so early, perhaps we should take one of the larger spikers for meat, on the off chance that we couldn't find a decent stag. At least the pressure to get meat would be off and if we came up empty at the end of the day it wouldn't be so bad.
The spiker dropped on the spot without moving again.
|Having settled on a large bodied, extremely dark coated animal, all that remained
to do was decide when to take the shot.
I watched from slightly off to the side as Dave settled into the shot. He was using some new projectiles on this hunt, Swift Scirroccos. These prototype bullets had been developed by Swift (producers of the Swift "A" Frame projectiles) up in the States and Dave had managed to obtain a handful to try out. This would be the first time they had been tested on game anywhere in the world.
Only seconds passed before a loud boom heralded the release of the 180grn projectile out the barrel of Dave's Blaser.
The spiker dropped on the spot without moving again.
Dave paced out the distance from where he had shot from...180 metres. A quick study of the spiker showed the new bullet had performed well. After taking a few photos we decided that this would be a good spot to gut him as there were plenty of trees with strong overhanging limbs that made ideal hanging rails, away from any flies. The time was rolling on so we wolfed down some of the ham and tomato sandwiches that my wife had made the previous night, removed some of warmer garments and hit the trail.
We'd only gone about 10 minutes and I spotted 2 stags milling around 250 metres away. The largest of the two had an extremely large palmated antler on one side but the opposite side had been broken off at the base, spoiling what would have otherwise been a good head.
We quickly went into stalk mode to check out the second stag.
With having only gone 50 metres Dave spotted another stag watching us, half hidden, from amongst a stand of scrub above us. Before we could determine how good he was he gave two quick grunts and bolted back into the heavy cover, alerting the other two stags, who promptly departed. The action was coming thick and fast. Time to take a break and decide on another plan of attack. I sat down for a nicotine fix while Dave glassed the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of the first two stags who had eluded us.
We must have hit this gully at just the right time, as suddenly from around the side of the hill, yet another 2 stags appeared! They made a frantic dash for the protection of the heavy timber to our left. Dave swung onto the stag at the back and fired.
I saw the bullet impact in what the Americans call "the kill zone" but before I could relay this info to Dave he had placed another round in almost the same spot!
....this was one very large bodied deer.
|The stag stumbled and began tumbling down the steep hill, unfortunately driving one
of his antlers deep into the hillside snapping it off before coming to rest.
When we arrived at it's final resting place we saw that this was one very large bodied deer in great condition.
We were feeling rather good at this stage.
It was a long walk back for the bikes and as luck would have it after getting going only a few feet, the trike Dave was riding conked out and refused to co-operate in starting again.
After nearly an hour of detecting and "fixing" the problem we were again both on our way.
Ever tried taking a spark plug out of a motorbike engine using a pair of pliers? Not fun.
I offered to take Dave for a look around more of the farm as at this point he'd not even seen a small fraction of it.
We made our way slowly up the hills to a set of cattle yards that we had seen from down beside the creek. Valleys full of bush stretched for miles beyond and it was all prime fallow deer habitat.
|We followed the steep hillside tracks to get to the back boundary of the farm.
Another small mob of deer appeared on a plateau to our left. They had also spied us and were running for the safety of a large patch of bush 400 metres to the north. Upon reaching the bush edge we could see that a fenceline barred their way but instead of jumping over, they followed it down into a bottleneck before finally dispersing in all directions.
We stalked up to where they had split up and cautiously looked around as we had seen what appeared to have been 3-4 pretty good looking stags amongst them.
From here we split up and took a look around. As I was following the fenceline to the north, I caught a movement out the corner of my eye and turned slowly to see 2 spikers and a couple of hinds just inside the bush edge.
They hadn't seen me and I dropped down onto my belly to watch them. The Image country camo that I was wearing obviously worked a treat as I was able to get within 4-5 metres without being detected.
Having earlier deciding not to take an animal myself, I just thought I'd see how good this camo really was. After 20 minutes or so of remaining undetected I stood up in front of the deer and was surprised that they STILL didn't move off!
They peered straight at me yet I still failed to register as a threat in their
eyes. Not until I took off my headnet and started waving my arms did they see me and high tail it further up into
the safety of more dense bush.
...we headed down to retrieve the deer...
All images are © copyright G Potaka