I do a bit of Backpack hunting here in Australia, we head out in small groups sometimes alone for a few days at a time, working our way around The Alpine National Park over and under some seriously challenging country. After a recent cold snap my brother in law and I got ready for a 2 night/ 3 day hike waayyyy up Near Dinner Plain in Southern Australia.
We sorted out our packs, Matt needed to borrow a fair amount of gear, but we managed to get everything together for an early season hike. At around 12kgs each we were definitely going light for 3 days but all gear taken had been proven during winter back-packing trips, and we were covered for bad weather. I’m not a fan of taking more than around 15kgs- carrying out meat, let alone a head is hard enough without having a pack full of gadgets and gimmicks.
We arrived at our location after a long, bumpy and dirty drive- full of pies and cola (high calories are definitely acceptable before partial starving), and after checking our packs, rifles, ammo etc, we were on our way. About 15 minutes later we arrived back at the ute, after doing a rather embarrassing loop. This definitely instilled confidence from Matt, and after consulting the map, which must’ve been wrong, we set off again dubiously into the bush along our chosen gully. There was some amazing country and soon we were glassing small glades along the southern faces of the gully looking for grazing or bedded animals. There was plenty of sign but we weren’t having much luck. After a few false alarms and a couple of Kilometers we set up camp along a small creek, had a feed and caught some zzz’s.
Later that day an hour before dusk we set of our separate ways for a scouting walk. Matt took the creek line and I took the tops hoping to find an animal coming down to feed, or at least push it towards Matt who would be still hunting along the almost dry valley floor. Matt got honked at (his first time) about 100 meters from camp, and that was as close as we got to seeing something. I had no luck up the ridge, and was starting to doubt the area, even though there seemed to be plenty of sign- albeit of varying age. We met up after dark at camp, had a feed of “slop” from the trangia, a chocolate bar, a cup of tea and then hit the sack.
The next morning we broke camp, ate something resembling porridge and head off down the gully in the hope of finding something a little more promising. The going was easy, although steep in sections we were having a great time checking likely spots and criss-crossing game trails. Just before midday, we stumbled into a great little clearing with a small feeder leading into it which was “red hot”. We immediately backed out, backtracked a few hundred meters and set up camp. After lunch we set off for the clearing, it was a great spot, but because there were two of us, we split up, Matt set-up 100 meters above the clearing perfectly down wind, while I crept around the gully and found a similar clearing around 200 meters away. We sat and waited, for the sun to go down.
After many hours of Glassing and waiting, the sun dropped behind the peaks and I spotted a wombat coming out to feed, it was definitely the witching hour, because one minute later there were three Hinds feeding 100 meters in front of me. I slowly put down my glasses and reached for my 30-06. As I picked up my rifle it made a tiny “click”- three heads shot up and stared at me, they all put there heads down and two of them kept feeding after a minute or so, but one gave me the old look down- then pop the head back up. “Ha!” I thought, “I’m not falling for that old chestnut,” and remained motionless till she lost interest. By this time 2 of the hinds had fed out of sight, but the one playing silly buggers was feeding broadside to me. I finally got my rifle ready, with a round in the chamber, when she stepped behind a branch which was directly in front of my line of sight about 30 meters away, that’s when I heard the bang.
Matt had got himself in basically the same situation, although he had 2 hinds and a stag in front of him. After slowly getting into position while uncontrollably shaking, trying to control his erratic breathing and wondering if he was has having a heart attack, he was sitting behind the butt of his 308. He took aim at the base of the big bodied stags neck and touched of the shot, scattering all the deer in each glade, but dropping the 29+ inch stag on the spot!
We met up, located the fallen Stag were ecstatic at the result! After hand shakes we managed to get a few photos although light was fading fast, and by about 11pm field dressing was finished and we were back in camp with about 80kgs of venison and a 29 ½” X 29 ¼” X 30” head. The next day we hiked out to the nearest 4wd track, stashed all our gear for pickup except the rifles, and started the 5 km walk back the ute.
What a trip, and what a great result.