By Frank Bonneville
A few of us were hunting in a region with a mix of cover and more open areas when I decided to sit atop a small ridge in the hope of seeing a fallow deer come out at last light in the gullies on either side of me.
The evening was pleasant but the hours of sitting immobile to blend into the canvas of nature were beginning to wear on me. Yet I held still, patiently awaiting the magical moment.
Kangaroos in the distance did their usual forays out in the open creating so many false positive reactions on my part. And then it happened. Four young deer materialised from the edge of cover. It never ceases to amaze me how deer seem to have the capacity to appear seemingly out of nowhere in an instant. Silently, they moved out in the open with purpose without appearing overly anxious.
They were too far for a comfortable shot as they were on the move and at approximately 300 metres. Given their trajectory I estimated that they would come closer. I felt they were probably aiming either for the cover of the ridge or perhaps the other gully to the left of me. I settled into a more comfortable and secure shooting position as I glassed them. I could tell the first three were darker than the fourth which was also slightly larger, yet still a young deer. ‘Good meat for the table’ I thought to myself.
I selected a small gap in the trees where I expected the deer would cross if they kept moving in the same direction. This gap would afford me a shot at approximately 150 metres - a very comfortable shot resting on my backpack. I waited patiently. The deer were nearly in front of me now but they had slowed down having reached the safety of cover at the ridge. The first of the four appeared through the gap, small and dark, I let him pass. The second did likewise, slowly grazing, it too was small and dark. Some time passed before the third appeared, they were clearly relaxed now, taking their time. I let that one pass too.
Finally the fourth arrived in view. At first only the head appeared with its nose on the ground, then some of the neck and eventually almost a full shoulder as I lay prone with crosshairs on my target.
Suddenly a loud SWOOSH, SWOOSH, SWOOSH noise occurred above me! I looked up and saw a large eagle heading for the deer! The eagle went straight from above me to a tree branch directly above the deer who took immediate refuge amongst a clump of trees.
I lost sight of my deer. I guessed that the eagle may have tasted fawn before and only at the last minute realised these were too large. Yet the eagle stayed perched above them until light faded into near darkness. It then decided to fly away, leaving me straining to see if my deer would come out. Alas, they had vanished it seemed. Nothing stirred. I waited. Light finally gave way to a heavier darkness and as I decided it was time to head back, I heard the running away of what sounded like a few sets of hooves. They’d been there all along but the fright that the eagle gave them was enough for them to stay put until they felt safe. And so another hunter had gone for my quarry but despite coming back to camp empty handed I felt I had just had one of the best hunts ever.