With Valentine’s Day out the way and the WAGS happy; Ben, Wayne and myself headed away for our first fallow deer hunt of the year. We arrived Friday afternoon and decided against a quick hunt, opting for an early night for an early start in the morning.
We hunted extensively on Saturday morning and afternoon with the wind pretty swirly, but we managed to see a dozen bucks with no shooters amongst them.
We were up an hour before daylight on Sunday and after a quick coffee headed out. Ben and I would be hunting together. Ben was keen to take a deer with his newly acquired .30–30 and I would be hunting with my trusty 7 mm-08 for the longer shots.
We moved into our starting point as the sky lightened and silhouetted the mountain ridges. As we waited for it to lighten up enough to start glassing, we could hear a buck rubbing out. We cautiously stood and started glassing and almost immediately I spotted the buck and Ben spotted another just off to the right. As neither was of trophy standard, I gave Ben the nod to have a crack at stalking in and taking one with the .30–30.
They were 150 metres out and I stayed put. Then another animal appeared 30 metres to the right of the two bucks, pinning Ben down for a while. Ben slowly closed the gap but could get no closer than 90 metres and they feed into a gully, dropping out of sight.
Heading after them, we spotted more bucks through the trees further up the hill. While we were glassing them, a nice-looking animal made an appearance. Ben looked at me ‘I guess this is where you take the lead’ and I nodded and headed off. I headed off, careful not to make any sound, and watching them through my binoculars so that I only moved when they all had their heads down feeding.
At about 150 metres an even better buck suddenly appeared amongst the herd and got my heart beating faster. I checked that no animals were looking my way and scuttled to the closest tree. I lifted my rifle, but the buck had meanwhile fed behind fallen timber and only his back half was showing. I moved forward and to the left to open up the angle. I laid my backpack on the ground as a rest but then found I was too low for a shot. An angled branch on a fallen tree was my next option so I crawled over and slowly stood up, laying my rifle on the branch. The branch was unstable however, and that mixed with a touch of buck fever, made a shot out of the question.
The bucks had no idea I was within 120 metres of them and were slowly feeding into the open. The wind was good and steady and all I had to do was get to the next tree and wait for a clear shot to present.
Before I could move, a rifle shot came from the next property and instantly all the bucks had their heads up and were on high alert. I was pinned where I stood with my only chance a shot off the wobbly branch. I wasn’t game to raise my binoculars to look for the big buck and after five minutes three spikers ran past in front of the bucks and they got fidgety. I knew they wouldn’t stand much longer, and I was desperately searching through my scope to find the big buck but he had made himself invisible.
However, the original buck that Ben and I had spotted was presenting a classic chest shot between some trees so with one more quick sweep of the animals I decided a bird in hand was going to be it.
I lined the animal up in the scope, took a few deep breaths and slowly exhaled and as the crosshairs wobbled past his chest, I squeezed off the shot.
At the sound of the shot all of the bucks stopped so I cranked another round into the chamber searching for the big one. Before I could locate him, the hit animal’s back legs gave way and he was down. That was it, the survivors took off for safer pastures and disappeared.
I sat down for a breather and waited for my mate to get up to me before we both walked in on the animal. He was a nice old buck, big in body and in really good condition, ‘Shame about the cleft palms’ Ben said.
We had a quick photo session and then took the backstraps and back legs. I recovered the projectile just under the skin — all of the bullet’s energy had been retained in the animal. We headed back to camp looking forward to a bacon and egg brekkie before packing up and leaving for home.