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Old 12-08-2015, 05:16 PM   #1
JPHunting
Six Point
 
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Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Australia
Hunt In: Aus & NZ mostly but anywhere in the world I'm welcome
Default Aussie gold - our hardest tag to draw

G'day all,
Just wanted to share a special hunt I had this year. Sorry it's quite long so if you aren't into essay's skip to the links at the end with pics. I've tried my best to keep it plain speak without any aussie lingo that might get confusing though a few small bits might slip through!

Growing up I was lucky to be in a hunting household surrounded by game heads and eating game most nights. We were lucky in that our dad was going to make us be hunters and fishers whether we liked it or not, fortunately for all of us it was genetic and there's nothing I'd rather do.
I loved fishing, yabbying and small game hunting but i just couldn't wait for the day I could hunt deer (legal age is 12 here).

I had many goals as a kid but the main three were to hunt a local red stag, head to NZ and hunt sika and to take a hog deer.

The first I achieved when I was 12 and chasing Australian red deer has become my obsession. In 2012 I made the trek over to NZ and took my first sika stag, another goal ticked off the list!

My final goal was to take a hoggie stag which was always going to be the biggest challenge. I'd been applying for the ballot (our draw for years without any success). We have a lottery system and it was getting a little disheartening as I'd spoken to a bloke who'd applied for 27 years without being drawn and then a local poacher drew the best tag in his first year applying (he ended up shooting a stag off the back of the ute which is also illegal). They say only the good die young, I was beginning to think only the good can't draw a tag!

The draw happens around mid to late December, there are two blocks, the best has 5 periods each with 4 hunters, the second block which is a lot harder and has low success rates has 3 periods of 4 hunters.

Me being me was getting impatient just before xmas and after a bit of sleuthing I found the phone number for the bloke who runs the ballot and just asked when the results would be released. I can still hear him on the phone as he chewed away on a bit of food "The results aren't going to be released for another few weeks but look tell me your name and I'll let you know how you went right now". I spoke my name and listened as he worked his way down the list and after the longest silence his voice perked up "Congratulations you've been drawn". I was gobsmacked! 8 years of applying and I'd just drawn a hog deer tag, I must admit when I asked when and where I'd drawn I was a little disheartened, I'd drawn the tough block but the positive being I got first period so would have first crack at it.

Now when I mentioned low odds on the hard block, imagine waiting years to draw a tag and then being on a block after using up all your luck where the average harvest is 2 animals between the 12 hunters drawn. That's not two stags either thats 2 animals, could be both stags could be both hinds.
On the better block they encourage you to be selective for good trophies and mature females, on here they quite literally suggest shooting the first animal you see no matter what it is because it's likely to be the only one you'll see for the week!

Anyway, with this in mind and with a burn to achieve a childhood dream firing away in my heart I was going to make sure that if I came home empty handed it was going to be because I ran out of luck and not because I'd left a single stone unturned.

Growing up dad had a big fat book titled "The hog deer" that had every bit of knowledge and information you could ask for about them in Australia since their liberation in the mid 1860's. I then trawelled the internet looking for any information on hunting them I could find. I then called up a whole heap of hunting organisations and spoke to others that had hunted hoggies in the passed to get any information they would part with.

The main thing though was a scouting mission. Now despite the fact that this hunt occurs in my home state Australia is a big place and it was an 8 hour drive to get to the place where the boat could take me out there so I waited until the information weekend 3 weeks before my hunt to do my scouting.

The place I was hunting was pretty amazing in itself, it's an island 10km off the mainland with no fresh water, electricity or any amenities. In fact the only sign humans are ever there is a rough old maintenance track that runs along from one end of the island to the other.

I'm dragging this story on so I'll quickly run through the 3 days scouting I had, I saw a 13" stag which was amazing and I was pretty stoked with that. A wild hog deer with antlers 12" long is considered a good trophy.
And because there is no fresh water naturally on the island the deer have found an ingenious way to get their water. You may have heard of an animal we have called a wombat, well they make big burrow's in the ground to live in and when the wombat dies they'll sometimes become neglected and eventually sort of cave in. Well on this island with a high water table these burrows hold a small amount of water in the little depression that's left.
Most of it's too salty to drink save for the top few inches which holds precious fresh water that the deer lap (not drink) up.

What I'm getting at about the water is that in Australia our main hunting method is stalking or walking them up which I believe you guys call still hunting. We do a bit of spot and stalk but next to no treestand/blind hunting. Hunting here though the most successful way is to sit in a stand/blind over these little water holes and wait for the animals to come in for a drink.

I plotted some good sites, set up a TC and set up a nice blind over a good waterhole. I also went out to the feeding areas and picked a few spots to wait in the evening. One spot caught me eye as it was about a quarter of an acre of open feeding area covered pretty much on 3 sides by teatree providing a bit of protection.

Hog deer are also extremely skittish and what makes them so hard to hunt is their fear of everything. If they smell humans they'll just go to ground and become completely nocturnal for a week. To beat this I decided to use a bike to keep my scent off the ground, it was hard going on the loose sandy track but it was the best option I had.

Three weeks went by slowly and when the hunt finally came around I was champing at the bit to get out there!
I really wanted to take the bow but I just wasn't willing to risk what could be my only ever chance to hunt a hog deer on a deer standing just out of range or offering no clean bow shot.
I met the guys and they were all great, except maybe for the bow hunter of the group that did a few naughty things.
After receiving our tags and permits we headed off to the boats and over to the island. Weather wise the hotter the better when you're sitting over waterholes and this place had just had a week straight of weather over 90F which on the coast is quite hot (nothing for us inlanders though!). As my luck would have it the day we went in the weather plummeted to under 70F which was going to make the hunting even harder, but no matter I had the determination of a young fool driiving me on.
I quickly packed my gear and headed off, my waterhole was a little over 2 miles away from camp (part of the deal was we had a designated camp site that we were required to stay at). This was fine as rules were rules, all except for the archery hunter who left straight away and said "I'll see you at the end of the week". We were a little disappointed but we're all grown men so we weren't going to dob him in. What he did next tarred my view of him though. I printed out maps of the place along with all the waterholes I'd GPS'd on my scouting trip, showing where mine was and welcoming the other guys to use any other I found. On the way to "his spot" he passed every other waterhole on the map, walked around them and from tracks we later found walked in them! This happened on two waterholes that another hunter from our group planned on hunting and later proved a deal breaker as on two separate occasions wild pigs came in only to run off squealing when they cut the bow hunters scent at the waterholes.

Anyway, back to the story, I started peddling off thinking to myself "well after all the hard work this is it!". I hadn't made it half a mile when "BANG", not a gun no no, this sound came from under me. I looked down and there like a snake on the ground was my bike chain snapped in two!

After all the work I'd put in within the first 10 mins of my hunt I"d just had something I hadn't even considered potentially ruining my whole hunt. I was adamant to keep my scent off the ground so I sat on the bike and pushed myself along with one foot hoping it was better than plain old walking. It was tough going and as I got within 300 yards of my waterhole I came to a big sandy hill. I pushed and pushed to get up that bloody thing and just as I got to the top it came to a bend, I was cursing to myself as I rounded the bend and there not 30 yards away was a 8" 6pt stag staring at me. I got that rollercoaster adrenaline burn in my stomach and for a moment time stood still as we both took in this big surprise encounter. I quickly slung my rifle off my shoulder but with 3 bounds he was out of sight.
I stood there for a moment, shocked and devastated. Without exaggerating at all I can honestly say I had this horrible burn in my stomach for the rest of that day as it cycled around in my head when we were told to shoot the first deer you see because seeing one is considered a successful hunt out here.
I know people love hunting, but I really live for it and that feeling I can still feel when I think about it reminds me of just how attached I am to hunting. After all I'd just blown a possible once in a lifetime chance.
I sat at the waterhole until late arvo but nothing came.
I headed back to camp, set up my tent and then proceeded to head out for an arvo hunt. I decided to leave the bike home and skirt the 3 miles to the feeding ground by wading knee deep in the ocean all the way around the island, good idea right? No it really wasn't! man it was hard going and by dark I"d managed to see a couple of roos. I got back to camp cracked a ***X (aussie beer) and plopped into my seat.
I didn't tell the boys of my encounter, I know it's pathetic but I just wasn't in the mood to talk about it, thinking on it was bad enough for me.


The next morning came around and as I was gearing up to leave one of the blokes decided he was going to walk, reckoned the bike was riding up his arse and offered his to me, I accepted straight away and was wrapped.
I made it to the blind without incident and settled in. In the course of the day I was defecated on by two birds which my fiance' swore to me was good luck and at about 4:30 in the arvo the rain came in after showering off and on all day. I decided nothing was going to water and it was worth a hunt on the feeding area. I made it there by 5 and sat down for a long glassing session. 2 hours rolled by without anything showing and as I was chewing the pigface (a native salty edible plant in Australia) I remembered that little quarter acre nook that I said would be a good feeding area. I left my rifle and gear and snuck off through the thick stuff to take a look. No sooner did I get there than I spotted something and I knew what it was straight away. I put up the binos and the little antlers flicking back and forth as he fed away confirmed it, I was looking at a stag. I really struggled to accept it, I just couldn't believe that I'd got so lucky so I looked again sure that this time it would turn out to be a kangaroo but no those antlers just stood out more!

I snuck back and grabbed my gear, it was going to be a 150m (~165yd) shot in knee high feed so prone wasn't an option and at this point with the adrenaline pumping through my an offhand shot at a target the size of something the size of a small sheep also wasn't an option. Fortunately I was trying to film the hunt and I had a light bulb moment! I unscrewed the camera off the stand and used that as a shooting stick. I consider myself a good rifle shot, confident on animals out to 600m (~700 yards) but my heart was hammering and I couldn't even keep the 12x scope on the animal let alone it's chest!
I tried to calm myself but it was getting worse so I dediced I was just going to have to bite the bullet and make it happen. I lined him up set the set trigger and when the cross hairs danced on to his chest as he quartered away I squeezed the shot off. At the bang I can still see him rear up in the scope, up before collapsing until now he hadn't lifted his head so I had no idea of his size but when he did at the shot I thought to myself "wow this guy is big!".
I'd spined him and he was down for good, I stood up chambered another round and waited for 20 seconds just making sure he didn't rise and when he didn't and it sunk in that I just taken my first hog deer and DIY public land to boot with all those odds stacked against me I just collapsed, I'm not too proud to admit that I shed a couple of tears as I thanked the lord for blessing me with this moment and after few moments I gathered my gear and made my way over to him.

In my family it's tradition that the person who takes an animals life be the first to lay his hands on it, never has that meant so much to me as it did at this moment. I reckon I just sat there staring at him for a good five minutes before I could do anything else. To boot he was still in velvet which was really strange for that time of year as it was just after peak rut! I set up, did some photos and then the real fun began!

You see all hog deer must be checked in to a checking station after they've been shot and tagged so that details, measurements and their lower jaws can be taken at which point you're given a certificate that certifies your deer as a legal harvest. The catch is that they must be taken in whole and can only be gutted.
These island deer normally weigh in at 55-65lb gutted, my stag was 75lb as big as they get! I did the first trip back to the bike which from here was about a mile, mostly through the thickest bush you can imagine and dropped off my gear. I contacted one of the guys and let him know what happened and he offered to take some of my gear back while I went to retrieve my stag. Little did I know that he was going to take my bike too making the carry out one to remember.

Suffice it to say it took me three hours to lump that stag out the first mile through the thick bush and in nearly 100% humidity with my water bottle now back at camp I was exhausted and dehydrated. I didn't want to leave him out the night with wild pigs and foxes around so eventually I conceded and called one of the blokes who met me down the track with a bike. We tied him on and wheeled it back together.

Back at camp we all celebrated with a couple of beers followed by some water to dehydrate and then I crashed for the night utterly physically and emotionally exhausted.

My stag ended up being a non typical 7 pt with his better side going 13" long I don't believe in score so never did that but none of those numbers matter anyway. The adventure, the guys I hunted with, the deer, the ups and the downs and all the hard work I put into this hunt made it the greatest hunting experience of my life and to complete a childhood dream in that fashion is something I'll cherish forever.

Unfortunately, no other deer were seen for the week and in the following two periods only one more deer was shot, a young spiker by a guy who sat on a track on the third day to text his wife complaining about how hard it was and that he was giving up the next day. As he hit send the spiker stepped out literally 5 yards from him and stood there looking at him while he lifted his gun and shot it. The hunters in my period were much more deserving in my opinion but that's just how lady luck shines sometimes.

Anywho here are some linke to pics from my hunt

Typical waterhole
http://1drv.ms/1NJXinB

Island bound!
http://1drv.ms/1NJXpjf

Roo on alert
http://1drv.ms/1NJXrrh

Feeding area
http://1drv.ms/1NJXB1G

On the trail of fresh tracks
http://1drv.ms/1NJXIuk

Tea time at camp
http://1drv.ms/1NJXTpk

hind on TC
http://1drv.ms/1NJY0S1

Stag standoff! The one in the waterhole is the stag I saw on day one of my hunt
http://1drv.ms/1NJY6c6

Stoinker!
http://1drv.ms/1NJYg3e

My waterhole - TC in background

Hoggie hind from info weekend
http://1drv.ms/1NJYBTI

Tagged out!
http://1drv.ms/1NJYmrL

My stag
http://1drv.ms/1O58Qm4

Hog deer burger and fillet!
http://1drv.ms/1NJYGGS

Now that my childhood goals are complete I have some bigger dreams added, for example to complete the Australian six (our six deer species - only one to go) and to hunt the USA in 2017 with archery gear for either elk, mule deer or whitetail. I've set my sights early on going out west for elk and mule deer and have started using a bit of my OCD scouting by trawling through everything I can find to get information. But I'll start looking into whitetail as well in the hopes of finding a bit about them

Happy hunting!

JP
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Old 12-08-2015, 05:18 PM   #2
JPHunting
Six Point
 
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Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Australia
Hunt In: Aus & NZ mostly but anywhere in the world I'm welcome
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Sorry admin I posted this in the wrong place can you please move it to the campfire section
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Old 12-08-2015, 05:33 PM   #3
Pennington13
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Corinth
Hunt In: Clay and Montague County
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Awesome pictures and story looks like an awesome place to hunt congrats!
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Old 12-08-2015, 05:33 PM   #4
TX CHICKEN
Ten Point
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: SE TX, Nederland
Hunt In: Karnes County, Jim Hogg and Duval County
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Great story and write up! Congrats.
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Old 12-08-2015, 05:36 PM   #5
JPHunting
Six Point
 
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Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Australia
Hunt In: Aus & NZ mostly but anywhere in the world I'm welcome
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thanks guys, a hunt I'll never forget!

Admins - I just created this thread in the right place, please just delete this one.
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Old 12-08-2015, 06:19 PM   #6
ChickenWilly
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Plano, Tx
Hunt In: Lampasas and anywhere else I can!
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Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading about your hunt and congrats on getting drawn and tagging out! I'd never even heard of hog deer before now. Congrats again on completing a life long dream
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Old 12-08-2015, 11:37 PM   #7
Kaicreekranch
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Location: San Antonio
Hunt In: Atascosa County
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Great write up and story!. Enjoy hearing the passion and respect for the animal and sport.
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