A cutting cold SW this morning but no frost. Previous outings in frosts taught me that fallow aren't keen on sub zero temps, sign indicated they were still feeding in the area but they were gone by first light. I figure today any feeding animals will be sheltered from the wind if they keep close to the bush edge, so they might still be about. Also with a SW wind I should be able to approach the bush edge without them getting a whiff of me.
I climb to a plateau where the paddock is backed by bushland. It's a little lighter now but I can still only see in monochrome peering through the binos at the bushline 300m away. Nothing seen, I drop down to a bushtrack along the creek, providing a concealed approach to within 100m of the bushline. A bit of deer sign and some pig rooting about but nothing fresh. Reaching an opening, I glass the bushline again. Just on sunrise now the scene is revealed in full colour, but still no animals evident.
I'm within view of any unseen deer along the bushline, so instead of walking straight across the clearing I keep to the edge. I fight the urge to rush to the next vantage point and instead slowly shuffle a few inches at a time, minimising my apparent movement.
From the scrub I systematically view the area - the paddock, the broken scrub and the bushline - nothing seen. What to do? Hang around and hope they're here, or move on to the next feeding area? I elect to stay and lie among the clumps of scrub, stay still and observe. After 10 minutes I briefly glimpse movement just inside the bush edge. I glass the area - nothing. Had I seen movement or just imagined it? With doubts in my head but the binos still up to my eyes I see it - a doe whose black/grey colouration blends perfectly with the grey tree trunks and dark shadows. Excited now I keep glassing and pick up several more animals.
As the deer are partially obscured, and with my shamefully limited marksmanship I come to the conclusion that I need to get closer for any prospect of a successful shot. The only way to do this is to move across maybe 10m of open paddock to where the slope of the hill provides some dead ground and the opportunity to climb higher unobserved. Risky- but probably my only chance for a shot as I don't believe the deer will emerge any further into the paddock due to the vicious wind and the advancing time of day.
Leaving my day pack I crawl slowly across the exposed area and quietly climb the hill until I can again see the bushline. I observe from my belly for 5 minutes, no deer seen. I rise to my knees to allow me to view areas hidden while lying low, Almost immediately I hear the rattle of stones from within the bush. "Oh bother" I think (or something similar!!) The animals have obviously seen me sit up and have now made good their escape - I'd blown it!!
Still kicking myself I continue onto the next feeding area - a semi open area on a spur. However the spur is only 150m away and the wind is swirling, with some of the gusts blowing my scent that way, so I'm not at all hopeful. I walk slowly but still manage to make a bit of noise kicking a rock here and scraping past a branch there. Not at all happy with my stalking ability and in a darkening mood I find some cover ,down wind from the feeding area and sit and watch. Not surprisingly nothing shows up - breakfast is starting to sound good but I decide to stay on a bit longer - ya got to be in to win!
Still no action - I eventually head back into the wind down to where I left my gear. I hoist my pack for the walk out and pause for a final look around. Bloody hell!! ... there's a spiker... One hundred and fifty meters away, where just a few minutes ago I had been walking and where my scent was now gusting to , trotted a spiker heading for the safety of the bush ..rifle to shoulder .. eye to scope .. BOOM!!... a clean miss!! ...spiker runs behind a manuka bush...he peers out trying to figure out where I am ...he dashes for the bushline ...he pauses in the open ....BOOM!! ...he stumbles, falls.. tries to stand again then collapses dead.
I'm rapt and just about glide over to the kill, a good-sized animal with plenty of condition on - brilliant! Gutting him for the carry out, I reflect on what I funny game hunting can be, Today I made a number of cock-ups but still managed to secure some veni. On other hunts I've been much happier with my stealth and hunting decisions but have come away empty handed, often without even seeing an animal. I guess ya gotta be in the right place at the right time and hope the animals make more mistakes than you!!