Jared Matthews tells the story of his first hog deer hunt and where the addiction to Hog Deer started for him.
A stag looking straight down the lens with a spiker close by.
The smallest deer species in our country was one I thought I would never lay my hands on. Growing up, a friend’s father had a few respectable Hog deer stags on his wall that always had my attention, but it seemed hunting them was impossible without access or drawing the ballot at Blonde bay.
I’ve entered Blonde Bay ballot for 12 years with out any luck of drawing. It was then a good friend Michael Vigliante mentioned about a private property he knew of, and the owner who ballots out his private access each year. So, the following year I decided to have a go at entering that ballot with much better odds than the Blonde Bay scenario.
When I had the phone call in early February I was in shock and also wondering if this was a stitch up from one of my friends but after some investigation of the phone number it turned out I had finally found an opportunity to hunt these awesome little deer.
A few people had mentioned it may be a waste of time being that I had drawn the 23rd and 24th of April and the deer would be nocturnal after having so many hunters in the area.
But, I wasn’t giving up my only opportunity to hunt them based on that advice even if it meant coming home empty handed.
April swung around and my homework on Hog deer was in overload, picking anyone’s brain I could about the characteristics of these deer. General consensus was to stay put and not move around the hunting area in hope the deer would expose themselves in a favorable position.
In all the excitement and miss belief I had got the dates wrong and turned up a day earlier than my allocated time slot, but thankfully the owner was happy to move my allocation forward as the previous hunter was a no show. The property owner thought I was mad when I told him I was going to stay in the stand until I had shot a stag.
I grabbed my gear and headed up to the stand which was a tin shed construction on stilts, taking my backpack gear and all the food I needed for two whole days.
The stand where Jared spent 24 hours straight in wait of hog deer.
The first evening was very quiet, I saw two red deer hinds working an edge of bush in the distance, but no hog deer were seen. I made some dinner and tried to get to sleep early laying my mat out on the floor of the stand. The excitement was in overload so it was a restless night imagining what the morning could bring.
I woke early and brewed up a hot cup of coffee ready to see what dawn had to offer. I watched as many roo’s and wallabies made their way back to cover but once again no deer were to be seen. I started to think I needed to change my approach, maybe I should try walk them up, but I knew it was against everything I had been told from friends who had knowledge of the deer.
The day rolled by slowly as I watched every species in Gippsland drink at the water trough below the stand. It was interesting that every animal that came to the water point stared straight into the same section of bush before taking a drink. I was sure it had to be an animal of some kind and hoping it could be a deer.
Time continued to pass by, and it was getting a darker I think I had lost a lot of hope by this point. That’s when I looked down at the water trough again. I could barely believe my own eyes and said a few choice words in misbelief but out of nowhere this stag materialised from the section of bush the animals were staring into all day. I reached for the Kimber chambered in 280AI and put the cross hairs on his shoulder, a gentle squeeze of the crisp trigger and off went a 140gr Barnes TTSX.
The stag dropped on the spot and I think I went into shock, I was shaking and completely in misbelief of what had just taken place. I quickly climbed down the stand and made my way over to him. I just sat next to him and just shook my head for about 10 minutes straight. I couldn’t believe this had just happened and so quickly. I had told myself I should expect to come home empty handed and be grateful had I seen a deer and here I was with a stag at my feet.
I got a few photos before ringing a few close mates to tell them of my success.
An hour passed of admiring this young stag and taking it all in, by now the mosquitos where starting to get thick so I walked up to the house to get the Ute.
I put him in the back and headed back to the hunter’s quarters were I caped and gutted the stag over a few cold rums. It’s often disappointing being solo in a camp after a successful hunt but I felt 100% content sitting there admiring what I had dreamt of for so long. The stag wasn’t the biggest hog deer in the record book but that had no relevance in this case as it was a priceless experience and a dream come true.
The following day I headed into town to see Andy from GMA and checked the stag in as required by law. They weigh the stag and take a number of measurements to aid in the research of this incredible deer that are endangered in their home habitat and aren’t overly strong in numbers here in Australia.
After the weigh in procedure was complete, I took the stag away where I could now butcher him and put him on the ice. Once home the wife and I vac sealed portions of meat which we ate for the following months. The meat was incredibly tender and beautiful to eat, in my opinion the best venison there is available.
This unhatched an absolute addiction for these deer which I now refer to as “mini Sambar” an incredibly flighty and switched on species. I spent a lot of time months after this hunt investigating public lands where hog deer inhibit learning more and more each time, but we will save that for my next hog deer story and the journey it has been.
Fact box: Hog deer are the smallest of the feral deer species in Australia. Mature males weigh approximately 45 kg and mature females weigh approximately 25 kg.
Fact Box: Hog deer were introduced into Australia in 1866 by acclimatisation societies for hunting.