The crash of a breaking branch deep in the gully below me grabbed my attention! I was sitting above a very steep face covered with dense snow gums and mountain pepper, while off to my right and 30 or 40 metres below were a couple of heavily used rutting scrapes. I grinned, then gave another couple of agonised squeaks on my fox whistle while wondering what would happen next ….
For years I had been hearing stories of fox whistlers being confronted, not by a fox, but by a sambar hind. On this trip I had finally resolved to give it a go to see if I could get a deer to come to me. This was my first stand of the day, and I was already in the action!
I gave a few more squeals on the button whistle while listening to the noise of a very fast approach – whatever was responding to my calls had thrown caution to the wind and was on a mission!
Thirty seconds later I started to get glimpses of a deer’s legs as it homed in on me, then a second set of smaller legs showed momentarily – my visitors were a mature sambar hind and her trailing half-grown calf. They slowed to a walk a mere 15 metres away as I watched intrigued.
I had no intention of shooting but was keen to see the saga play out. Despite their proximity the breeze was in my favour and they stopped, uncertain as to where exactly the squealing had been coming from. I thought, ‘To hell with it, I will give them another squeak’ but the response from the pair was instantaneous – they bolted back the way that they had come.
The game was over, but wow, what an encounter! I was over the moon, this fox whistling worked like magic!
I moved to a second spot a few hundred metres further along the ridgeline and tried again. Nothing. Nine more tries also gave no further contacts, but then maybe there were no deer in hearing range to respond to my calls. Or perhaps the circumstances need to be just right, who knows?
Whatever, it had been a great day but why that hind came in so enthusiastically remains a mystery – perhaps she was in season and thought that my calls were made by a rutting stag at the nearby scrapes, or perhaps she had rushed in to defend a distressed sambar calf. We can only speculate at present but it would be great to know just what the hind’s motivation was.