Outback Safari Part 1
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- Last updated: 19/11/2018
In Australia, I live about 90 minutes south of Red Deer country. With the original stock arriving in the 1870s, Red Deer have successful populated much of the Brisbane and Mary Valley region, talk about dealing with climate change! Australia carries six species of deer, with Red, Fallow and Sambar being the most prolific. Talking about our next deer hunt with good friend Tim, he had managed to take a Red Stag, and wanted a Fallow, which meant a trip South.
While the Fallow range starts about two hours’ drive south, the further South you go the better they get, and as they are available on both public and private land, there are lots of opportunities. As luck would have it, we received an invite to hunt a Fallow Deer hotspot, about nine hours South, so it was just a matter of making things happen.
When it comes to hunting, I prefer a road trip and with that in mind, I suggested to Tim that as we were going for three days, why not go for 10 and make it a real road trip safari. With that much time to hunt, we could focus on the trifecta; wild deer, pig and goat. In essence, getting all three species, a bit like your British Macnab Challenge, where you have to get a Red Deer, salmon and brace of Grouse within a certain time. Over the last 10 years, I’d only managed the trifecta three times in a calendar year, and I was keen to try again.
We were lucky enough to know where to find all three in one location, we did have some knowledge, experience and good contacts, so we mapped out a 2500-kilometre road trip that would put us in good stead to take all three. About six weeks later, it was time to hit the road and, leaving late on Friday night, we headed west over the Great Dividing Range, then South through the New England region.
Arriving in the small town of Murrurundi, in the Upper Hunter region, we made our introductions to the property contact, then headed to the hunting block. It was midwinter, which meant that it was cold, with below zero night time temperatures. Thankfully, Tim and I had access to a hunting hut, so the camping gear stayed in the truck until later in the week. It’s always a good sign when you hunt a new block, and you immediately see your quarry, it tends to settle the nerves and give you some focus. So, while standing in the open kitchen area of the hut we glassed about 30 Fallow and thought about our approach.
We decided to leave the obvious, and head into the scrub-covered hills, so as to learn a little about the place. All told, it was a good three hours of pushing up hill through, at times, very thick scrub. It certainly got the blood flowing and when we eventually left the cover and started moving into more open pasture we stopped, had a bite to eat and started glassing. Our exploration on that first Saturday would lead us into gully country, almost in constant shade with plenty of deer, and native wildlife signs.
Moving further up and into the gully, we spotted a very large, low rub on a tree and thought, we may have wandered into the domain of a resident mountain Boar. However, on closer inspection, we surmised the Boar was probably a Wombat marking his territory and having a good scratch at the same time. Heading a little further up, we reached a small plateau and decided it was time to turn downhill. The natural contours, and prevailing wind pushed us towards a dam, and off to our right in the tree line were a couple of Fallow. Throughout the day we had spotted them, though none had offered a reasonable shot, either being a little far away, or a little too fleet of hoof.
Walking past the dam, we started to climb again, however, there was nothing in it and when we crested that last little hill, we happened onto a mob of Fallow. So far, all the deer had been does, without a single buck or spiker to be seen. This little group was of the same make up, so lining up on a slow mover I fired and dropped the deer on the spot.
The .308 did the trick and we had ourselves a good eating animal for the currently empty car fridge. Being that we could in fact see our hut, we then dragged the deer to a little more accessible position, walked back, and got the truck. A little over an hour later, we had the animal broken down, wrapped up and chilling on ice. Not a bad way to end our first hunt?
Back at camp we were considering heading out again, however a storm with some good rain, and very cold wind came up from the South, so we quickly grabbed as much dry wood as we could find, put it under cover and waited out the storm. It was a good thing we did, as the temperature dropped again after the rain had passed and the open fire pit was very welcome.
The next morning, we headed out again, this time with the intention of getting Tim that Fallow. As with the previous day, the deer were out feeding, and warming themselves after the previous night’s storm. Watching, as the sun dropped down into the flats, so did the Deer.
We planned our approach and walked the ‘long way round’ getting ourselves set with the wind, and then began our approach in earnest. Soon enough, we spotted a couple, again does, moving to higher ground via the beginnings of a gully. The shot presentation was poor, especially if you wanted meat; so, we passed up on those two and continued our search.
We then saw a very tasty looking deer just below the sky line. For a hunter, it was in a very good position, so Tim took up a rest with the .30-06, aimed and fired. The 150-grain projectile did the trick and the deer dropped and began to tumble. In fact, it was heading towards a small cliff and, for a second, I was a little worried we might lose it; however, it finally stopped about 120 metres above us and to our left.
Walking up, Tim was quickly on the scene. I then made the walk up and, deciding to see if we could find a buck, we broke the animal up, hung the hind and forequarters, along with the backstraps in a shady tree and continued on. Eventually, we pushed past our highest point of the previous day and just kept heading up. We then entered what looked very hospitable ground for a buck and continued our search.
Unfortunately, we may have inadvertently bumped a buck, as towards the very top, we caught movement of something moving up, and over the very top the skyline. With that, we turned back towards camp again, to get the truck and retrieve the meat.
A little bit later, we had made our recovery of the carcass and headed back to camp for a late lunch. The weather was on our side that second afternoon; so, swapping the .308 and .30-06 for 12-gauge shotguns, we went for an explore along a creek bed, to see what was about. With night fall, we were hoping to bump a pig, it wasn’t to be, as time and again, deer broke cover to be lit up by our lights. That old saying about deer in the headlights certainly rang true and the Fallow, confused by the lights would move back and forth in front of us as we crossed the creek line.
With nothing SSG shot worthy to be found, we headed back to camp, kicked the fire over, had something to eat and drank one or two cans of rum, I think one or two anyway. The next morning, we packed up early, headed back to the main farmhouse, said our goodbyes and hit the road. While Murrurundi provided us with a great start to our road trip safari, with an easy start on deer, we were now turning our attention towards goats and pigs, and that meant heading towards The Pilliga, a million wild acres located in central New South Wales. But that will be for next month!
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