Got a leave pass from the minister for Fun and Finance for a few days so my regular hunting partner James and I took the pooches for a Backpack trip into some quiet country.
Got to the spot where the cars were to be left at about 9:00pm on the Wednesday night and the snow was coming down. We quickly rigged the tarp, threw out the swags and hit the sleeping bags so we could get an early start in the morning.
Woke up to snow all around, had a quick brekky, geared up and headed off.
Finally got in to where we were to spend the next couple of days, set up camp and then it's off to see whatís about.
With James and his mophead (German Wire Haired Pointer) working a gully system on one side of a creek, me and Bella (German Short Haired Pointer) set off to explore the systems on the other side.
We found some nice busy wallows and preaches and some good tracks but no deer and eventually arrived back at camp on dark satisfied there were some good opportunities.
When James turned up he had also found some promising sign so we spent the evening discussing tactics and hit the sack feeling pretty happy with our prospects for the next day.
Up and into it early the next day and Bella and I soon cross some fresh tracks belonging to a hind and smaller deer. I decide to follow them to see where they might be bedding in the hope a Stag may be in the vicinity if the hind is of interest to him. In the beginning Bella is busy working the ground scent but then starts to poke her nose into the air and stand up on her back legs to get more wind scent so I know we are getting close.
Soon she stops and stares into a thick patch of wattles and I can see the flicker of an ear. I can't see enough of the animal to take a shot so I move a bit to get a better view but the deer has had enough and honks then crashes off. I tell Bella what a good job she's done and promise her we'll find some more.
After assessing the lay of the country we were working into I decided to go back to the Wallow system and see what we can find there because if we continue much further this way we will begin to get into the snow line and it was unlikely deer would be found there.
It doesn't take long to get to the main Wallow and although it hasn't been used there are some fresh tracks and a stag has preached at a tree on the edge of the clearing. I took a bit of video of the area then we set off following one of the game trails heading up away from the wallow and by now it is about 10:15am so we are looking for bedded deer rather than expecting to catch them moving about.
I'm directing the hunt but Bella is confirming my thoughts about the freshness of the tracks by hoovering along the ground just in front of me.
We travel along slowly, stopping lots and giving the bush a thorough going over as it is very thick.
After about 20 minutes of slow methodical hunting I reckon we are starting to get into the right elevation and distance from the wallow for it to be very likely that deer could be bedded nearby.
Bella soon starts putting her head up as high as she can, again sucking in the gentle breeze that's coming down the hill which tells me that there is a deer somewhere above us but not too far away. I stop for the umpteenth time to scan the forest when Bella goes the big body-shake to get rid of the water that is dripping off the bracken ferns due to the drizzle that has followed the previous days snow.
Suddenly 50m or so above us a Stag stands up and stares down his nose at us and Bella freezes.
All that is showing above the thick bush is his majestic head and he looks pretty good to me not huge but quite solid beams and possibly in the 24-26 inch bracket. Iím standing in the open so I know I donít have much time to make a decision or move to a tree for a rest but know my rifle and my own ability and as Bella has worked so hard for me I decide to take him and line him up between the eyes.
The Tikka T3 300WSM Booms and thereís silence.
We make our way up the mountain to claim our prize but on the way the thick bush and fallen trees push me a fair bit to the left and I lose the spot where the deer was. This is where the gundog saves a lot of time and Bella leads me straight to the fallen stag where I find him laying in his bed again but this time he won't be getting up. I give Bella a good scruff and let her have her usual session of licking the deer's face which she loves to do.
A few photos and then the hard work began.
One back leg and Back straps are taken now and I carry them down the mountain to a point on the track which we will walk back to the cars on and hang them in a tree so that I can collect them when we go back.
Then Bella and I go back to the deer; off with the head then back to camp to relive the hunt with James and his dog Chick. The next day is pack up day so James and Chick go for another hunt while I pack up my gear and take my pack back to the cars. Once back at the cars I boil a billy on a portable gas cooker I always carry in the cruiser and have a quick cup of chicken soup and a cup of tea. I then get my Moroka30 Meat pack and my hunting pack and head back to meet James.
When James has packed his gear we go back to my deer and take the other back leg and bone it out packing the meat into the Moroka30 pack then off we go with the head and get the other leg and backstraps.
When we get to them we bone out the remaining back leg and pile it into the meat pack which is now chock full and then put the backstraps into my hunting pack.
With the Hunting pack on my front, Moroka30 Pack on my back (which I had to get James to lift onto my shoulders) and the deer head over my shoulders we head back to the cars. After having done the round trip once today already, that was a bloody hard trip but we finally got there just on dark thanks to James carrying my rifle for me.
After a few beers and a proper feed to celebrate we hit the sack only to be awoken by the cops and a Wildlife Wanager who were doing patrols for spotlighters and other illegal activity which was good to see. After a bit of a yap and the usual questions they left us be and I slept like a log for the next 10 hrs.
It turned out I was fooled by the thickness of the Antler main beams and not being able to see a body to judge their size against as the antlers were only 20inch but I hunt mainly for the meat and satisfaction of beating one of these wily critters on their turf so I was still very happy with the result.
A big thanks to James and Chick for the help and great company and I look forward to more cold but happy trips into the wonderful but tough Aussie bush.
Some vid from the hunt on my Youtube channel