I first heard about hog deer hunting when my sister Olivia was drawn for a weekend hunt in the Para Park Junior Ballot on Sunday Island, back in 2010. During her hunt, she was lucky enough to take a hog deer stag with 12-inch antlers during the last five minutes of legal hunting time.
It was there, from Dad’s reaction and other family and friends’ reactions, that I learnt that hog deer are a pretty big deal in the hunting world. They aren’t as accessible to hunters as other species are, so any opportunity to hunt one, you grab it with both hands. When the opportunity for me to enter the same ballot came up, needless to say, I did exactly that.
I sent my application in on time and a few days after applications closed, Dad received a phone call telling him I’d drawn the first weekend hunt of the program.
A week passed and I had no idea that I'd been drawn. A friend of mine told me she'd been drawn and after not hearing anything, I pushed it to the back of my mind, thinking I'd missed out. Not long after that, Dad handed me an envelope.
I opened the envelope to see the Para Park Sunday Island logo and I could feel my heart start to race. I looked at the letter then back to Dad. After asking me what was in the letter, I smirked and told him what he already knew. It’s safe to say, the smiles couldn’t have been wiped off our faces.
In the letter it told us that we had to go over to the island a few weeks beforehand for a briefing day and proficiency test. The weeks flew by and the weekend arrived before we knew it. We packed up the swags, jumped on a boat and headed to the island. The day was full of adventures, from completing our proficiency test, finding out our guides for the weekend (mine being David Sumbler, the same guide that my sister had), and a small tour of the island.
After that weekend, counting down the days till the hunt seemed to drag on forever. But sure enough, the weekend arrived, and we couldn't wait to get going. We left early in the morning, to be at the dock by 10am. After getting there with plenty of time to spare, we organised our gear ready to get on the boat and scoot over to the island.
On the island, we unpacked our gear, set up bedding and relaxed because my hunting period didn't start until the following day.
While organising what to have for lunch, the hunting co-ordinator, David Young, came and told us that, if I wanted to, there was no reason why I couldn't go for an afternoon hunt. I looked at Dad and my guide, then thought to myself that I'd be a fool to not take up any extra opportunity to hunt for a hog deer. My reply was instantaneous and sure enough, around three hours later, we were out on my first guided hunt of the weekend.
It didn’t take us long to get to where we wanted to be. The sun was out but it was very windy, and I was sceptical about whether we would see any deer. The first two deer we saw were a mature hind and a calf. We all stopped and watched them move along the scrub line, keeping out of the wind. David and I started to crawl through the prickly terrain up to the start of the scrub line, so we could peer around the corner and see if a shot could be taken. Dad waited behind us and watched.
By the time we had crawled to the scrub line, the deer were nowhere to be seen. We decided to sit, wait and watch for an opening, hoping the deer would come back to feed. We sat there for around 30 minutes without any sign and decided to walk around the small patch of scrub to try and find some more deer. We’d nearly walked right around the patch of scrub, when a high-pitched whistle echoed through our ears, and the sound of thumping feet followed. Deciding not to disturb them anymore, so it didn’t affect our hunt the following day, we decided to head back and prepare for the next day.
5.30 am rolled around pretty quickly and after having breakfast, we set off. We waited for a glimpse of daylight and walked to where we would spend the day, high in a tree stand. The tree stand was only big enough for two of us, so Dad sat on the chair that was beside the tree.
Once we were all set up, it was time to sit and wait. As the sun got higher and higher, the deer began to move. It didn’t take long till we spotted a hind grazing at the far end of the clearing. David asked me if I was confident in taking the shot, as it was at a fair distance. I nodded. I got into position and looked through the scope. I could feel my heart racing and my hands were shaking.
Placing the crosshairs on her shoulder, I squeezed the trigger. I looked up from behind the rifle and watched as she slowly walked away into the bush. We waited for five minutes, then climbed down from the tree stand. We looked around for any remnants of blood, fur or anything else that would indicate a hit. No luck.
We made our way back to the tree stand. Lucky for me, David was confident that I hadn’t hit the deer, so I still had a chance.
We hopped back into the stand again and waited. From there we could see all of the clearing in front of us and some of the clearing behind. By 1.30 pm we’d seen a number of deer; stags, spikes, and a calf with a hind, but unfortunately, nothing that would allow a clear shot.
I glassed the first clearing again with my binoculars, but still no luck. I turned around to glass the other clearing and watched as a hind made her way out to feed with some spikes and a stag. I tapped David on the shoulder and pointed to the hind. After deciding that she would be the one we would go after, we waited for five minutes to calm my nerves. We made our way out of the tree stand to slowly make our way closer to the hind.
Once we’d gotten close enough and in position with the shooting sticks, I cycled a round in the .308 and sat the crosshairs on her shoulder. With my heart racing, I took in a big breath, held it and squeezed the trigger.
At 1.55 pm, the .308 let out a mighty roar, as I watched the hind drop through the scope. I looked up from behind the rifle and turned to David, shaking his hand.
I turned to Dad who’d been watching from the edge of the scrub. ‘Did you hit it?’ ‘Sure did, she’s just there’ as I pointed to where the hind had fallen. The smile on his face was priceless.
We waited five minutes and slowly approached the hind. She was down and I couldn’t have been any happier.
After taking a lot of photos, it was time to head back to the meat house. Dad and David helped to get the hind up onto my shoulders and we started the walk back. Dad and I took it in turns carrying her out.
Once back at the meat house, we hung the deer up, gutted it, caped it out and cut it up, ready for the boat trip off the island the following morning.
That night, the smile couldn’t be wiped off my face. I’d been given the once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt a hog deer and to be able to do so with my Dad, is something I will never forget.
I would like to sincerely thank everyone that made this possible. Those involved with the Para Park Junior Ballot, particularly David Young. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of a program that gives juniors the opportunity to hunt and shoot a deer that many hunters can only dream of. A huge ‘Thank you!’ also to David Sumbler, for guiding me for the weekend and for his hospitality while we were on the island. Finally, a big ‘Thank you!’ to Dad, for not only driving me across the state to Sunday Island, but introducing me to this way of life in the first place.
For more information on Sunday Island go to www.parapark.com.au