First Red Spiker – Casey Hucks

My partner and I had just brought a puppy from NSW and decided to fly to Sydney and drive to pick him up.

As we had the weekend spare we thought why not throw in a deer hunt to attempt getting me my first Red Deer. We made a plan, a mate picked us up from the airport and after a few hours’ sleep and an early (3am) rise we hit the road to 1, pick up the pup and 2, Head to the usual hunting spot. Loaded with coffee, food and enthusiasm we headed for the hills to track down a deer.

We got to the spot on sunset, unloaded, set up camp and packed gear for an early morning hunt the next day.
I was given a Browning xbolt .308 with a Leupold vxr scope to use, I was familiar with the calibre as it was what I used up north for pigs and buffalo. Ammo was packed, gun was loaded, and camo was donned at a crisp 5am start before the sun rose so that we could hopefully catch them out grazing. However the weather was against us, we woke to Gale-force winds and a late sunrise. We decided to try anyway. We parked the ute and tried to determine the wind direction even though it was chopping and changing and then headed for the hills and scrubby gullies.

I was not accustomed to the cold, wind and steep walks from being born and bred in the tropical heat of the NTI was keen and nervous as all hell. We checked 3 gullies with no luck on the stag side but happened upon a few spots with rub trees from April which we threw into memory bank for the roar the following year. After walking or being pushed by the harsh wind for approx. 6km up and down gullies we decided to cut our losses for the day and hope for better weather the next day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon checking trail cams and possible walks for the next day. Night fell we had our dinner and decided to try some spotlighting. I haven’t been spot lighting since my early high school days, and I hadn’t shot anything at night under lights, especially not rabbits, hares or foxes/dogs. We had a good run I got myself 2 hares and a few long range shots at some cheeky foxes. About 1pm we crawled into bed cold and feeling positive for a better day at sunrise.

We left at mid-morning on the second day and checked a couple gullies hopeful with the wind dying down and a cool overcast day. We walked a hill side for a few hours glassing the landscape as we went and setting cameras in used access areas. Lunch time come around and with no sign of feeding deer we were starting to feel pretty gutted that we may not see any. We had a lunch break and decided to try an old honey hole the boys were confident would give us the goods.

We parked upon a hill overlooking the river and distant gullies and had a spot check when my partner spotted one bedded down about 1.5km – 2km in the distance. He said ‘he’s only a spika but he is the only deer we have seen, what you want to do?’ me being the jump at any chance women I am I said ‘let’s get him!’ (Include happy dance here). We packed up and started our long stalk. We zig-zagged through gullies with some tree cover all the while checking on him with the bino’s, and luckily he stayed snoozing the whole time.

The next challenge, the hard flowing COLD River! My partner found what he called ‘the best place to cross’, I was sceptical that there was such a thing as a good place to cross. Where we crossed there was a small cliff face that blocked the view of the spika which allowed us to cross without worrying that he would spot us. We unloaded our packs and took only the essentials (Guns, Ammo, one camera, range finder, pocket knives and bino’s). My partner decided to piggy back me across so that I wasn’t shivering while taking my shot.

Now my partner is 6 foot tall and the water was up to his waist so regardless of his efforts my boots and my butt got wet and I think I almost choked him after about 5 times of nearly slipping in, just picture the way a monkey clings to a tree and that was me. We got across partly unscathed and worked our way around the ridge into open view of my spika. Next it was practically army crawling up the hill to get into position to take a shot. We got to 173m and he popped his head up and looked straight at us. BUSTED! Well it was now or never I was told and my chest tightened, here we go! Don’t miss don’t miss!! I couldn’t get any stability trying to kneel on the side of a hill to shoot up at an angle.

My trusty gun rest (my partner) wiggled his way to kneel in front of me so that I could rest the rifle on his shoulder. I lined the spika up he was still bedded down, which made it a hard shot, long grass covered his shoulder so it was a bit of a guessing game. Buck Fever had kicked in and I felt like I was shaking so much that I was going miss, but mamma didn’t raise no quitter and I took my shot. All I remember is pulling the trigger and having my boyfriend and his mate patting me on the back and saying ‘you got him you got him!!’ I sat there for a bit just blown away at finally getting one.

It was then time to go and inspect my kill we started our steep climb to where he fell and wow I almost died walking up that hill (I realised how terribly unfit I was!). I had shot up on an angle which meant while he was bedded I had hit his lung and the exit wound had destroyed his spine, it was the best feeling in the world! We removed his head even though he was only a spika as I wanted a trophy of my first regardless of his size and also took some meat back for our dinner.

We started our walk back to the car which meant crossing the river again. I decided I was going to put my big girl pants on and brave the cold and walk across carrying my trophy and my gun. My partner had the meat and a rifle as well as his range finder and bino’s, his mate had a rifle and most importantly the camera.

My partner went first, wadding across slowly picking his path through the strong flow and slippery rocks. I was half way across behind him when he lost his footing and went down. He was completely soaked and so was the gear he was carrying, rifle and all. After first panic and then a laugh at his expense (aren’t I a lovely girlfriend) I got across luckily not as wet.

Then it was our camera man’s turn. To me he had the Holy Grail in his hand (the camera) as they were the only photos we had. He came across following my path slowly, he did find a slippery rock along the way however kept the camera above water. We all got across the river wet cold and still buzzing from our massive stalk and hunt.

We all thought it was time for dry clothes, warm fire and a good feed of venison rump steaks!

1.5-2km stalk, 173m shot and one proud little huntress!

All in all this is one of the most memorable hunts I have had and I am so excited to be heading back out in April to get a bigger stag, BRING ON THE ROAR!!!!

Casey Hucks, Borroloola NT.




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