It’s been a couple of weeks since the lifting of what was considered the corona-cough essential travel only edict, and with that my daughter who lives hours away announced she wanted to come home for a visit — and of course she also asked if there was any venison in the freezer for her.
Our freezer was a bit light on and I wasn’t going to give her jack-squat out of ours, so I asked if she wanted to come out with me to get her own.
“Yep, let’s do that,” was the response.
I have been getting out, and now I had the dual task of filling my freezer and looking around so Alex could fill hers. Unfortunately, all the honeypots I normally relied on were pretty thin on deer, and with only two weeks under my belt this turned out to be a bit of an assignment.
Alex finally arrived home to a fanfare of hugs and kisses and, catching up over a coffee, the question of when we are going out came up.
“Yeah, we can go out on Friday arvo or Saturday, or let’s go in the morning.”
Alex hadn’t been out after deer before and I was pretty excited and anxious for her to get her first, or better still that once-in-a-lifetime monster stag.
My aim was to get her onto a fallow deer more than a sambar, purely because of its size as she had to transport everything back home with her in the back of her car. But, make no mistake: if a sambar of the kind that we all stay awake at night thinking about showed its face, it wasn’t going to be ignored.
Next morning, we were up extra-early in anticipation of another foggy start to the day, and with a coffee and a bacon and egg roll we were on our way. I’d double-checked before we left to make sure I had both my guiding and dad hat with me on this important hunt.
Within 90 minutes we had the car parked and the spotting scope set up on a favourite vantage point. Looking around in the emerging light, I just made out a single fallow doe feeding in a distant clearing low down on the bush-line, and I was pretty sure she was one of many. That was enough for us to get our dancing shoes on — and quicker than a Tic Tok clip we were closing ground using the cover of the gully.
Along the way we were taken by surprise when we spotted a fallow 150 metres to our left; and although initially I wasn’t sure if it was the same single deer on the move, we propped to take a closer look. Pretty quickly I worked out it wasn’t the same doe and sticking to the game plan we continued on using the remaining dead ground, stopping short of where we thought our doe was seen feeding. The last 20 metres was on our belly as we had to move out into the open to perch on the back edge of a steep knoll.
Being out in the open and not having the high ground wasn’t the best position but as we weren’t planning on moving and it was still low light it was exactly where I wanted to be.
We watched and waited and then precisely at 7 am — I know it was 7 am as my watch alarm went off and by the second ring I had it turned off — I caught the movement of a doe as it swung around to look straight at us. We were now eyeballing five fallow and one was a unicorn buck.
They mustn’t have seen us as it wasn’t long before they had their heads down feeding again as they moved towards us.
There was none of the fog I had anticipated and the wind and light were good. Alex was set up on the bipod and focused on the edge of some thick cover where we were anticipating the buck would appear.
I had been talking to Alex as we were moving up into this spot to make sure she wasn’t nervous and the adrenaline wasn’t kicking in — yet! Facing her first deer, she was relaxed and ready. She had been nurtured as a young girl about how to position the rifle, breathing, aim points, trigger squeeze, how to follow through, so I knew she was ready.
Time seemed to drag but eventually the buck stepped out exactly in the spot we anticipated and, unaware of our presence, he continued to feed, moving his body position with each step, until he offered his side for a shot. Alex, with focus and control, squeezed the trigger sending a 150 grain hug to him 180 metres away. The hug was well received and the unicorn just sat down where he stood.
“OMG — it’s down!”
Not giving our position away, we lay there motionless for a further 15 minutes as the remaining four does slowly grazed off into the bush. She had done it!
It’s easy to talk the big game to your kids and you can brag and plan a hunt all you want, but with all the moving parts and what-ifs to have it come off like it did was the duck’s nuts.
Although hunting is my thing, to have Alex want to share that interest with me was nice and to share her first successful deer hunting experience together was precious and a proud dad moment.
I’ll make her a nice European mount and tan the skin into a beautiful rug for her to remember that morning we shared, but to share time with her as we both butchered the beast together so she could provide food for her family was priceless.
Contributed by Dave Novak.