By Sarah Wynd
My partner, Matt, and I had decided to hunt a new area. He dropped me off where I wanted to start before making his way to his spot.
It was daybreak as I set out along a ridge that had small but great gullies on either side. I had decided to keep to the right-hand side and made my way towards the end. I stopped at an opening for a brief moment to check the gully and across the other side. As I looked down to make sure the ground was clear before taking a step towards a fallen tree I intended to sit beside to glass from, a small branch broke from a tree across the gully. I looked up quickly just in time to see it fall and land right next to a sambar stag that had started to get up from his bed.
He was quick to move into the wattles behind him and then leave; the cocky that had been squawking in the tree had been annoying the stag and the breaking branch had been the last straw. I could see he had considerable antler length but it was hard to tell from behind. I guessed that they were around the 28-inch mark. I was stoked to see him and was really looking forward to returning.
Returning to the same spot later, I decided to venture further down the left side of the ridge, staying high. However, this morning hunt proved uneventful.
A week later and two weeks from my first sighting the stag we planned to be out on the last Saturday in July. The weather didn’t look very promising as the forecast was for 60 km/h winds and when the alarm went off, we awoke to the winds that had been forecast. The alarm was turned off and we went back to sleep.
However, we made an effort to get up early on Sunday in hope of better conditions and they had improved dramatically so we headed off.
Again, Matt dropped me off at my spot before driving a couple of ridgelines away to where he had been scouting. I decide to head further around the side of the hill from where I had been previously and found a great rocky outcrop overlooking a grassy opening with a rub tree. I sat and glassed for an hour before moving on.
Soon after, I found fresh hoof prints and trees that had been rubbed a few hours previously. I followed the sign, but then lost it, so I continued in what I guessed was the general direction. Coming on another rocky outcrop there were deer tracks everywhere. They were above another clearing that I made my way down to. Entering a grove of tall wattles, I noted that a dozen of them had been rubbed. I could smell stag as I entered the canopy and could see fresh hoof prints again.
I followed the prints and rubs along the base of the rock, all the while peering out of the wattles. As I moved, I heard a twig snap 80 metres ahead. I crept forward making sure I wasn’t about to be spotted. Another twig snapped ahead of me and I saw a large sambar pass between a couple of trees with its head down meandering whilst grazing. My wind was perfect.
I couldn’t see if it was a stag or hind as it went behind a large gum. But immediately I thought to myself ‘if that is a hind it is huge’. I crept forward hoping that we wouldn’t surprise one another. When he stepped out from behind the tree, he casually looked around and continued on. I could see he was a worthy trophy and didn’t hesitate to sneak forward to a tree to use as a rest. I knew being so close, at only 15 metres, that every move I made had to be calculated. I pulled the rifle up quickly to aim straight into the shoulder.
After I pulled the trigger he turned and ran down and across my front, through the clearing to a treed area that I could see dropped off on its far side. In that moment I hoped he wouldn’t go too much further as I wasn’t sure what lay in the next gully and knew I shouldn’t go rushing after him.
Thankfully he went down before the drop-off. When I made my way over, I really got to take in the animal I had shot. I wanted to woop out loud but at the same time was still in hunting mode and thought I’d be better off being quiet. I looked around as if to share the moment with someone and was disappointed that I couldn’t.
I took photos and sent a text to Matt which wasn’t easy as we were both in areas with very little service. Finally, hours later, Matt found me and told me off as I had started to cape the stag. ‘No, I need some proper photos!’ He had even bought a steel tape measure that had been in the car!
After the terrible weather my stag had obviously been out grazing to make up for the day before and we hadn’t even started hunting until 8.30 am. When I pulled out my phone after shooting him it was 10.30 am. I took my stag with a .270 using 130 grain ammunition.
I couldn’t be prouder to have since been the first woman to win the Arthur Bentley Award. It had been suggested to me by a friend at our ADA branch and at the time I found it hard to fathom that anything like that could even be possible