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Sambar Addiction - Nov 08 (VIC) Australia

Sambar Addiction - Nov 08 (VIC) Australia

Having been well and truley bitten by the Sambar bug, a few of the kiwis teamed up for a short stint after the Sambar before the rutt was over and the stags dropped their antlers for the velvet season. Due to our different work rosters, our dates for the trip were limited to the weekend of the Melbourne Cup. Which, in retrospect, if we knew how busy the National Park was going to be that weekend, we would have opted for the weekend before.

 

There were literally hundreds of vehicles kitted out with the latest and greatest camping equipment, noisy dirt bikes wrecklessly zipped around corners while families played cricket and their parents prepared the barbies and brewskies. She was pretty bloody chocka for us to be hunting in the same valley!

Ce La Ve though - we just had to make the most of the time we had...

We spent the first couple of nights in the main valley with 15 odd hunters at our campsite. There were hunters from Tasmania, South Australia, Melbourne, Mansfield, Wangaratta, and then the Kiwis. It was very much a social atmosphere and the common link between us all was Brad; Sambar Mad as we called him.

During the first couple of days hunting we only saw a few animals between us (kiwis), and decided to relocate (and backpack into) a more remote location where the animals wouldnt be as spooky.

A few vehicles pulling up on day 1

Francy and Zane having breakfast on day 2 before a long day on the hill. The intention was for Zane to head up one gully system, while Francy and I paired up and stalked another system further down river. We tentatively agreed with Brad to meet back at camp by lunch (during the heat of the day) to have a beer and a rest and then head up valley to check out another spot for an evening glass. But, once we started stalking for the day we were too eager to press on into new country (in hope thered be a stag around the next corner; in the next gully head; or on the next face) and as it turned out we werent back at camp until dark.

Our gully was full of fresh sign; the odd scrape pad; and several tree rubs. It was a good little system to be stalking and soon after, as Francy sidled high out of the creek, Francy spotted a hind and yearling - but no stag.

Francy taking a breather once the sun broke through the trees. She was pretty warm - especially when hunting in pants, knee high socks, and gaitors (for fear of snake bites).

Cutting up onto the drier ridges where we could get a better glassing vantage point. The terrain was quite rocky and the sign was sparse. It was quite clear the bulk of the animals were holding in the damper creek systems.

Francy overlooking the rolling country of the valley below. Again, the terrain was somewhat similar to that of the forested areas of the Kaimanawa Forest Park in Taupo (only it was a much more open understorey).

Francy climbing further up the spur to check out what looked like a good bedding area for a stag. Unfortunately the wind was whipping through and after an hour of thorough glassing, no stags were spotted. I did pick up one hind through the forest cover though (photo later).

Francy looking for a place to sit and glass.

Looking across the small open gully system where the wind was whipping from.

The open canopy provided opportunities to glimpse into the bush on opposite faces. It was a great vantage point if it werent for the wind which kept drying our eyes.

As you can see the wind has forced Francy to wear his Tahr Anorakt!

Still no stags

Looking back over the otherside of the gully (on the sheltered side of the wind).

Ive just spotted a hind on her own on the otherside of the gully - we watch her for nearly two hours hoping to see if there are others with her, but there werent! She pretty much stood in that same spot for the entire time!! In the end we up and left for fear we wouldnt find the vehicle in the dark - and with even the slightest thought of snakes around, it wasnt a risk either of us were willing to take!!

Sambar hind - ranged at 300 meters away from Francys Leica Geovids.

Francy spotted this Tiger Snake on the warm stones of a sunny creekbed. It was about 1meter long.

Day 3 - Formal photo with Francy before we Kiwis all relocated into a different catchment altogether. Francy and Zane hunted together on this particular day while I stalked solo.

I cut up a side branch of the main valley and eventually came onto fresh sign which lead me to a well used, fresh wallow. Check out this stag print - I still cant get over how small sambar prints are compared to their body sizes. It is bizzarre!

The wallows had been used the previous day. It was the freshest sign that Id seen in the valley thus far. The only problem was, the wind was starting to shift and go up valley, so I opted to cut straight up the true left of the catchment, and sidle back down valley into the wind.

I jumped across this stream and cut up the open face above it. There was a well worn game trail etched into the side of the hill where they obviously feed across the open face. I would imagine theyd typically feed through an open face like that (which was situated directly above the wallow)only during the confides of night. In case there was something about, I gave the face a thorough glass before approaching it. Nothing was seen during the rest of the morning stalk, and I eventually met up with Francy and Zane later that afternoon where we established camp in a remote side catchment.

Zane and Francy setting up camp in the middle of our hunting area - with plans to cover the best country first thing in the morning.

Setting up camp

Eager to check out a small valley behind camp, we popped up a ridge and sidled into the main creek system. There was plenty of feed and an abundance of sign. Eventually we split up and hunted solo. Zane got onto a stag which he could have shot, but wasnt quite able to identify its headquality before the stag spooked.

I found some nice fresh sign and followed it for a few minutes before coming into a beautiful side creek, flush with growth. I made a bit of noise as I snuck through ferns and was honked at from down in the creek. It was a hind, and she was with a good mature stag with hard antler - at least the 26inch mark (which I saw briefly as he snuck up the hill). I didn't want to make too much noise incase I spooked them so I slowly made my way into a shootable vantage point. As it turned out, the stag had sidled up and out of sight and I'd missed my chance. A few minutes later I watched a spiker in velvet move across the face in the same direction.

Finally I was in some good country where the animals had been feeding - there was deer shit here and there and things were looking good. About 20 minutes later, as I cornered a side creek, movement and noise higher in the bracken fern caught my attention as another sambar stag crashed off up the hill. He was a big bodied animal and all I could make out of his antlers as he quartered away was that they were wide and had 6points. I didn't have a lot of time before he was into the thick stuff, so in between the flickering of trees I pulled off a pretty hopeless shot which missed.

I scouted around looking for blood on the slight chance I clipped him, but his marks continued up and over into another watershed.

I decided to cut up and over a small spur and sidle through some new country back to camp. On the way home I saw two more hinds and watched another young stag before it was almost too dark to see. Again the hinds acted as a alarm sound as they honked and eventually crashed off.

Francy glassing an open face in the head of the creek system

Francy sidling through some promising country

Francy stalking the open face on last light before dropping back to camp.

On the final day plans were hatched to hunt back on the fresh sign, particularly where Id found some good rubs the day before. We each had radios so we were able to stay in touch via 2way, and after a brief breaky we set off a few hundred meters apart from eachother and sidled down valley.

Nick France and Zane Cameron with our team effort stag. Zane had been stalking one side of the gully while Francy and I sidled the otherside at different contours. Zane heard the stag break from a thicket beneath him and radioed Francy via the two way. Francy looked back down the creek and caught glimpses of three hinds bolting up slope, while the stag crashed off down river past us.

By the time Francy had loaded up and taken aim, the stag was quickly out of sight. Francy was quite a bit higher on the slope than I was, and he wasnt really in the best position for the shot - so he yelled out to me that there was a Stag cutting across the opposite face. As I threw one into the breach the stag bolted across an open face about 80m away and I gave at least half a body length lead and let strip with the old .303 (I had leant my 7mm-Mag to Francy as we were keen to get him his first stag). He toppled at the shot but then quickly got back to his feet, and continued to crash down through the scrub. A couple of follow up shots later and the kiwis had ourselves a good Sambar stag.

I was quite impressed with the performance of the .303 - the first shot thumped it in the chest where you can see lung froth exiting from the entry hole. Funnily enough, thats only the second large game animal that Ive taken with a .303. My first was with Gareth, Andre and Curley up the Torlesse Range in Jan 2005, when I pulled off a flukish running shot on a trophy chamois buck (9 1/4 inch L x 4 1/2 inch Bases) at 260m. The 150g slapped the buck in the spine!

He measured just shy of 27inches long and a fraction of 30inches wide. It was a bit of a shame that he had a damaged inner tine, otherwise he would have been a nice even representative head. The headskin was a bloody mess - hed been involved in far too much scrapping.

From left to right: Zane Cameron, Nick France, and myself with our well earnt stag.

I removed the head and then boned out the backlegs and backsteaks and left them there to retrieve later. We still had a bit of time to stalk up and over into a side gully which was unaffected by the barrage of shots.

Again, we split up and remained in contact via 2way. Francy dropped down into the main part of the watershed while I stayed on a leading spur, and Zane cut high through the headwater of the catchment - sidling in and out of each gully head.

Francy was the only person to see another animal that day - being two hinds and a yearling. One which he could have touched with the barrell of his rifle. He had been sitting down in some young gum saplings having a bite to eat when he noticed a faint noise a stones throw away. When he finished his muslei bar and popped his head up to look over the sapplings, there was a hind about 6m away.

Showcasing some of the new Stoney Creek garmonts - the 100L backpack is an excellent pack. The only thing to be careful of is, because of its size, you want to keep putting stuff in it and before you know it, you could be carting half your body weight around.

Plenty of tucker

A nice shot of the valley to summize where we camped, saw all the animals, and shot the 27 x 30 inch stag.

Rate: 
Votes: 43

Comments

Paul CooneyTuesday 11th May 2010 - 11.03pm
Excellent report of your trip. Nice stag too. FYI the snake in that photo is not a tiger snake it is a copper head or white-lipped snake.
joel Sunday 27th June 2010 - 01.52pm
Sounds like you guys had a great trip , was the terrain here easier to hunt than NZ in terms of under canopy and steepness ?
Thanks for the story.

joel
Jamie CarleMonday 28th June 2010 - 11.26am
Most definately easier. The under storey is more open, the terrain is less steep, and the valleys aren't as deep with less distance to climb from rivers to ridges.

The difficult part about it though is that when it's dry, it is almost impossible to stalk. After a bit of rain, the place is a pleasure to hunt.

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