Desperately trying to squeeze in a fallow hunt during the rut led me to ring up a few mates, and throw together an impromptu hunting trip around Strathbogie State Forest.
Thursday Night, post-work and post-training
Tired, hungry, but energised. Hunting. Humanities bread and butter. It had been a while, but the familiar tingle was definitely there. The before-hunt anticipation of a weekend out in the wilderness, rifle in hand, with the city streets far behind in the rearview mirror. Pre-packing my trusty Subaru Forester (clearly the greatest AWD ever) with a weekend's worth of camping and hunting gear, I couldn’t help but feel excited. Checking and double-checking my gear was a breeze, and before I knew it it was time to get some quality sleep in.
Work flew by, and before I knew it, knock-off time rolled around. The trusty Forester flew out of the city, Bow River by Cold Chisel blaring as the mighty 2.5L 4-Cylinder revved up, and took us North East up to hunting territory. After a few hours of wet-weather driving, including a stopover in Yea to rendezvous with the boys, we pulled into the forest. It was a great feeling - no longer did I feel constrained by the hustle-and-bustle of the big city. Now, I felt at peace, as I have no doubt the reader completely understands. After a short jaunt to our preferred campsite, we set up camp, and had a ceremonial welcome-to-bush tinny and some sizzle steaks. We discussed our strategy for tomorrow morning's hunt then grabbed some much needed sleep.
Saturday. Hunting Time
The boys and I woke up before sunrise, whacked our hunting gear on, and smashed down a quickly boiled mug of the finest instant coffee. It's pertinent at this point to talk about rifle selection for our hunting party.
Two Tikka T3 Lite’s in the trusty 308W, both utilising 150gr SP’s, and my own Ruger Ranch in 7.62x39mm, using 123gr Soft Points. Plenty of energy for the smaller Fallow Deer (or Dama Dama for those with a penchant for the correct scientific name.)
The 308W’s are more than capable of pulling double duty for the larger Sambar deer that we have previously successfully hunted within our hunting area.
Last minute checks, an extra bottle of water here and there, and we were off. We headed in a Northerly direction along a track, before splitting off into the bush roughly 100m apart. We had previously marked a few areas that we wanted to check out, so we made our way slowly towards them. The greatest advice given to me whilst deer hunting is “Walk Slow, Glass Often”, and that is exactly what we did.
Game trails wove amongst each other, then back out into the trees.The occasional seemingly fresh track got our hopes up, we pushed along at a leisurely pace towards our waypoints. The morning grew brighter, and the sunlight was like a golden river pouring over the high ground. Like giant monuments of ages past, giant granite boulders dotted the landscape. Aside from the occasional screech of a bird, and the bouncing of a wallaby, it was eerily quiet, lending to the sensation of hunting in some ancient mystical forest - a somewhat spiritual experience. After several hours, we perched up on top of a hill, and climbed some of the boulders for a pit stop, drinking water as well as taking in the surrounding scenery. We spent a few hours again searching for the elusive deer, but unfortunately it was not meant to be.
Mushrooms - it's always worth mentioning mushrooms. One of our hunting party had packed along a Fungi identification guide, so along the way back to camp, we tried out hand at identifying a few species. Lets just say - there was much to learn. One day, it would be lovely to collect mushrooms for dinner with confidence that they wouldn’t kill you after ingesting them, or send you on a trip to the spirit realm. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be this time but that's okay - we have the rest of our lives to learn!
Returning to camp, we safely secured our rifles, surrendering them to their locked confines. It was time to indulge in a camp kitchen classic—Chili. And of course, VB. As we shared tales around the crackling campfire, we reflected on the hunt's outcomes. While venison may have evaded us, the true essence of our adventure lay in the moments shared with friends, the tranquil beauty of the outdoors, and our ability to decipher the subtle signs left by the deer. We had tasted success before in these very hills, and there was no doubt that we would once again conquer them again. As winter approached, we knew that our footsteps would soon echo through these granite hills once more, as we pursued our passion for hunting.