Having hunted for a number of years over hounds and by stalking I had always been on the move. This year I decided to build a hide on the edge of cover overlooking a waterhole 50 metres away. With the hide built and in place some weeks before hog deer opening and deer tracks everywhere, I was ready to try this new form of hunting, or so I thought. But little did l know - my mind was not ready.
With the COVID-19 lockdown in place the decision whether to hunt weighed heavily on me. So, after speaking to a number of people and reading what I could about the situation I went hunting twice — once with a camera and once with a rifle.
On day one I spent six hours in my stand with the camera only, and on day two 10 hours, long enough to gather my thoughts on stand hunting and more specifically think about writing a story on my day two experiences.
With gear ready and a positive mind, I made my way to the hide just after daylight and climbed in, unpacking my gear and laying it all out. With a good chair I was ready for the day to unfold.
Initially, there were no animals of any type out. Then the birds all came for their morning drink and this filled in an hour watching them chase each other and observing how the noisy miners and wattle birds interacted with all the other birds.
My stand overlooking the waterhole.
The mozzies were thick in the coastal scrub and I killed them all day, filling many minutes if not an hour swatting them — I was up to 160 when I finally lost count of the number that would buzz no more!
The day was getting warmer and with the maximum temperature predicted to be 25⁰C I thought that most animals, including the deer, would need a drink. ‘They will come,’ I told myself. By 12:30pm I had watched ants, butterflies, echidnas and a hawk catching a lizard and had listening to how all birds reacted to the hawk. Not a bad morning — there was always something to see and learn from.
Then it went quiet, no breeze, no animals and no noise except the buzz of those mozzies. This lasted for quite some time and boredom set in. Do I go for a walk or stay put? The pain in my rear and back said ‘go!’; the boredom also said ‘go!’ — but I stayed put, thinking, ‘They will come!’
For the next two hours I filled in time reading a hunting magazine, eating, drinking, Googling and playing with my binoculars while keeping a lookout. My head was like one of those clowns at a side-show going from side to side. Time went very slowly, and it was very boring.
Hog deer tracks are tiny compared with other Australian deer species and are easily recognised in sandy coastal country.
Then it happened — movement behind the water hole in the tea tree. Slowly I raised my rifle — could it be a stag? No, out walked a hind. Waiting a minute or two in case a stag was following, I lowered my rifle and picked up my camera with just enough time for one photo before she slowly walked back into cover.
Now wide awake and on full alert, I was hopeful a stag would come in for a drink. But nothing eventuated. The hours passed slowly with lots of boredom, but the mozzies and ants did help fill in time.
At 4 o’clock I notice movement to my left. Could it be a deer? No, a big roo, damn it. Then there were rabbits, wallabies, and more birds. My boredom had gone again as there were things to see and learn from. A rabbit chased rosellas as they walked around eating seeds, and kicked up his rear legs every time one flew off. Rabbits certainly cover a lot of ground running around. Mozzies were now coming in thick and fast with only an hour of daylight left.
‘A stag will come before dark,’ I kept telling myself — the only thought that stopped me getting out of the hide.
Dark came but no stag or any other deer, just more of the same rabbits, roos and birds — it was time to climb down, stretch my legs and back and put on my head lamp to walk to the car. It was a good feeling to be moving!
My take on a day of sitting for 10 hours with the highs and lots of boredom, is you must have your mind ready for it. To those who endure this form of hunting day after day, I take my hat off to you.
Will I do it again? Yes, but not for days in a row.
And to those who haven’t done it, put a chair in a kid’s cubby house in the back yard looking out a window and sit in it from first light till dark.
Contributed by Peter McDonell.