A tale I wrote of a stag I took May `09
A couple of times through the last week I had it in mind to go for another look at where I had been seeing a few deer,its a tough place to get into with a real dog of a steep hill and several tricky spurs and saddles that keep the hunter guessing as to which way the wind is going to eventuate from. A south wind actually turns into a northerly in this place and I have been attacking it at all angles for several seasons now in the hope I may run into the big fella that I had taken some long shot photo`s of and even had my Danish mate set his trigger on, a chance that he had but blew!
A brief account of this incident was how I had asked Jan to have the bolt up on my .300 Win Mag Sako rifle as he walked with but mainly behind me on narrow tracks through the bush and as a result of that procedure whilst waiting late one evening when a big sambar stag stepped out of the cover Jan actually squeezed off on him,oh yes that stag was gone for all money but Jan hadnt pushed the bolt ALL the way down and as a result of this the rifle wouldnt fire and by the time he worked out that it wasnt the safety on etc the stag stepped into cover to be swallowed up out of sight.
I had seen the big fella four evenings earlier again with Jan and as the stag preached I remarked "geezus he has shoulders as wide as a fridge" I was looking through my 10x 42 Swaro`s but Jan had a 2-7 Leupold and it was in such poor light that only the Swaro`s could sight him,as my mate said 'if i could have told which end of him was which I would have shot him'
I took Jan to Melbourne that evening to rendezvous with his wife for his flight out the next day to his destination of N.C and then for a further 31 or more (forgotten) afternoons in a row I stalked into my vantage point to intercept this stag for a crack at him myself but his appearance didnt eventuate at all. Didnt see him at all. Throw in a few mornings here and there and it became a very tiring exercise mentally to drag myself back out there.
Back to the hill!
Having climbed this dog of a hill countless times previously I actually talked myself out of going on a few days as it was going to be another pain climbing that bloody hill again. The weekend gone had been spent busying myself with other matters and then being probably somewhat refreshed I took a punt on a Monday evening hunt,a hunt that involves stalking through 1/2 a click of heavily treed bottom country followed by a straight up climb to where I have seen sambar deer come out warily late in the day,sometimes at four pm sometimes two minutes before dark but many times the trek has been made to see nothing at all making me wonder if that wind in my face was lifting elsewhere.Also making me wonder wtf I was doing there again!
2009 is the third season hunting for him in all sorts of weather A.M and P.M and with all sorts of aches and pains to go with it mostly with nothing to show for it except for at times a reasonable photo now and then of a deer or two or sometimes a rewarding encounter of a hind and calf pair.
Last night was one of the same,a stealthy climb in and wearing far too many clothes for climbing but needed for the long cold motionless wait sitting behind the camera mounted on its tripod with the old 7mm magnum within easy reach. A large fallen black wattle limb with a well spread crown provided the important backdrop for my cover.
Looking up into the basin of patchy green feed for the umpteenth time after what seemed to be forever I saw a dark shape flash through sky lined foliage of a large gum however this was 100 metres from the open window of feed that was chosen as my photo window. I muttered to myself from boredom that it was probably a ` fkn roo but continued glassing and then through the foliage saw the fully erect tail of a deer on the skyline. It`s owner was heading left across the skyline towards the bush clearing and I then saw that it was a hind with a large calf.
Watching as they fed across and above me and knowing from having ranged that place previously that arvo that they were 180 yards above me on a probable 50-60 degree angle I thought again that it would be always a tough shot if taken quickly if or whenever a stag or THE stag presented itself. Like when is that ever gonna happen?
Six deer fed out from their stronghold of very heavy cover,impenetrable cover unless on one`s hands knee`s,then another spikey came into view,both were in velvet though two other spikey`s I had seen in the area were rubbed out. I continued taking photographs knowing that light conditions were getting worse and worse but as the animals were silhouetted they at least gave me a chance to take a photo record of them.
Then number eight came into view,head down feeding across the steep slope. I knew he was a stag by his body shape but couldn't see much in the LCD camera screen of his antlers so I lifted my bino`s up and straight away saw his shorter left brow then his other brow around 14" but his beams and tops were tough to make out against the dark hill back dropped by the late afternoon sky.
Taking one photo knowing it would end up as a poor result I viewed him again through the bino`s then he swung his head and it was an almost audible thought as i said to myself "**** he`s a ****ing wide one".
Silently slipping the camera from the tripod I lifted the rifle while screwing the power of the Zeiss scope up at the same time and placed it on the tripod top,slipped the safety off,dropped the cross hairs onto his shoulder and allowing for the hill angle I squeezed off. Those Zeiss are certainly worth the dough!
Geezuz all hell broke loose,sambar deer went every where,left,right,down and up. Two stopped close by me,they were only seen in my peripheral vision as my eyes were focused on the stag and they obviously didnt know which way to bolt.
Immediately on the shot he had lifted his front left leg and raced to my left across the hill. His tail was fully erect showing the sign of a hard hit and then to my surprise he went straight up the very steep slope where he topped the hill and folded,all this in seconds of course.
After gathering my gear and climbing the steep slope I had sweat cascading down my face until topping the crest into the welcome cooling relief of the breeze I saw the antler sticking up against the evening light.Always a relief to see them dead in front of you.
I had a quick appraisal and thought 'yep he`ll do'
Knowing dark was imminent I took the obligatory photos although with the aid of a flash unit and then making up my mind to head skin and cape him out there and then under my "battery questionable " head lamp I got stuck into him. Then disaster! Placing my Green River skinning knife on the leafy carpet after an initial cut and prior to rolling the stag I simply couldn't find it after the roll over,frig it!
Rustling around in my day pack I pulled my old Buck pocket knife out and did the job with it using the occasional stripe on the mini diamond steel to negate the dulling effects of the stags hide. Finally the task was done under the dimming headlight and all the time wishing the bloody moon would hurry up and lift higher I gathered my gear along with the antlers and with the cape draped across my neck walked back to my ute in the now silver moonlight arriving just before 8 PM.
After ringing DB as the chosen taxidermist a quick trip was arranged for the cape`s transfer as at that time I could not be bothered doing ears and lips nor did I have the time in the morning with it as it was geared up for work and the meat recovery. Truth be known I was rooted!
Next day (today) was set for the main meat retrieval and arriving in heavy fog and the dark the climb was made to the stag. I had placed a very sweaty tee shirt over him the evening before to dissuade any foxes from chomping on the meat and it worked well as I saw a fox coming from near him but nothing had been touched,not even the fat covered paunch,usually choice pickings for foxes.
A full back strap was rolled into a piece of clean old bed sheet and one complete hind quarter tied to my pack frame and after a knee jarring trip out stopping only for a quick turn around drink at the ute the same was done again. Both knees threatened to give out on the second trip as it really was a steep slope and there was no thought of another trip even for dog tucker unfortunately.
I was home at 9 am and after hanging the meat the work boots were pulled on and I got stuck into it for the rest of the day,sore thighs,shoulders and especially sore knees certainly provided welcome memories of my hunt.
A rough measure has the longest antler at a tad under 30 with a 35 inch width,an official scorer may just be able to squeeze the couple of 1/8ths out of the tape needed to get him to the magical 30 inch mark,doesn't matter does it if he wont get there,I`m happy enough.
Win mod 70 7mm mag using a 150 grain SP factory pill did the job.
The stag went to 30.5 inches and 35 wide.
This is how i saw him and as you can see he doesnt look like a `big `un'
on the deck