Reid’s buck pre-season in velvet is centre facing camera.
Reid Hjorth is in turn tantalised and bitterly disappointed during his five month quest for a beautiful fallow buck.
My quest for a big fallow started after I shot my first buck on a guided hunt, which was my 21st birthday present. Fast forward 12 years and many hunts later, I finally realised my goal. To make things even better, I actually managed to do it on my 33rd birthday, it sure was a great birthday present.
The hunt for this guy started a few days before Christmas in 2013, while out looking for foxes on my deer block. I was in the paddock at first light, heading for an old cropping paddock to see what was still hanging around from the night before. Instead of foxes,
I spied eight bucks, all in varying states of antler growth. They wandered off the crop at first light and I followed them into the bush. I quickly closed the gap to about 130 metres for a better look and some video footage. After 10 minutes, something disturbed them and they came past me at only 50 metres, then were gone.
I packed up with a smile on my face and headed for home. My smile grew even bigger when
I viewed my footage on the computer – an unseen buck, most probably from behind a big downed tree, was caught on film as they all ran off and he was a cracker. I froze that footage on just about every angle I could, studying his antlers, he was easily the best buck I had ever come across. Well, that was it, I had to get that buck.
The deer season didn’t start for over two months, but that didn’t stop me from keeping tabs on him. The big fella and his mates proved elusive in January, but I did finally lay eyes on them on the 28th. My brother was with me on that day and we had a real challenging hunt to get within range of them for the camera. We got to about 150m and studied them hard. It was definitely the same mob with the big boys having grown out their top tines fully and what surprised me was how much the smaller buck’s antlers had grown in a month, they were now fully grown too, yet all were still in full velvet. Some more photos and video footage taken before the wind changed direction and the bucks were gone. The big fella was still there, his spellars had grown out and he was looking good.
Despite some serious searching in February so I could get the drop on him in March, he never showed up. March rolled around and apart from shooting a cull buck, not much happened on the big fella front apart from a brief sighting when he was on the property next door. The rut was just starting to ramp up and I saw the big fella being shadowed by a white menil buck with a good right palm, but a weak forky left which must have given my big boy a stabbing as the white buck had all the girls and my buck didn’t even try and fight back. He did take his frustration out on a poor spiker who didn’t get out his way quick enough, which was quite funny to see.
I took the first two weeks off work in April to try and pinpoint and hunt him again, but still no luck. At this stage, I was beginning to think that some other lucky hunter had shot him. I hunted every day for a fortnight in April, I saw plenty of deer, but no big fella. I couldn’t even see him next door, which I glass into, from a prominent hill.
The farmer’s son, who is my age, was beginning to wonder what all this deer hunting was about, or whether I was mad maybe! He came out with me at the tail end of the rut to see what all the fuss was about. We nearly walked straight into a two-year old buck not long after leaving the 4WD. The young fella had copped a towelling, as evident by his roughed up hide and the limp he now had. It was nothing serious he wouldn’t recover from, so we let him be, despite the normal “shoot on sight” reaction from the farmer and his son. The hunt for the big fella was more serious than that, the culling would have to wait until after the rut. As we neared the western boundary, I did my usual glassing next door, just to make sure. There, only 400m away over the fence was my big boy, casually rounding up his girls, numbering about 20 or so, which I was quite happy about.
I gave my binos to Andy so he could have a look and check him out. It didn’t take him long to realise why I was putting in so much time on this guy. Andy had never seen one this good and he works on the property nearly every day.
That damned boundary fence once again prevented me from getting a shot at him. He was so close, yet so far. Despite waiting him out for an hour or so, Andy had work to do, so I reluctantly left him yet again.
Finally on the deck after months of preparation; Reid’s beautiful trophy buck.
After a two-day break to settle things down, I was out for an arvo hunt with my girlfriend’s brother. Nothing great showed up on my side, so we glassed next door. 100m from where I saw the big fella two days before, lay a fresh deer carcass with its head removed. I was gutted. Same colour, same area, I was sure my old mate was now on someone else’s wall. I wanted to jump the fence and go and have a look, but it was pointless really – with no antlers, it could have been any old deer and in the end, it was.
I lost a little bit of momentum after the headless deer episode, but I still looked for him, ever hopeful.
I didn’t care if he was next door, I just wanted to lay eyes on him again.
May rolled around and it wasn’t until late May that I saw him again, despite plenty of looking earlier in the month. I had the day off work and was in the paddock at first light yet again. Once again, he was next door, but only 370m away according to the rangefinder. He still had about 15 does with him too, which wasn’t what I was expecting this long after the rut.
It was 8.30am and I had nothing else important to do, so I sat back to watch and wait and see what he would do. Well, eight hours later I was still there and he and his girls had only moved 300m all day, but no closer to my side of the fence. I waited until dark, then headed for home – this buck was starting to piss me off!
One week after my all-day stake out, it was my birthday and I couldn’t help but go for a birthday hunt. I needed some luck and I thought what a great birthday present it would be to finally nail him. My girlfriend mentioned the same thing, although I think she just wanted the whole thing to end as it had now been going on for five months and I think she was over it.
I hit the crop paddock at first light trying to catch some hungry deer on it, but no luck. I changed course and hunted a section of the property where I had seen the big fella for the second time with my brother. As I topped a rise, the country opened up and I sat and glassed the area. Plenty of roos, then in between some trees, I spotted some deer – a few does plus some antlers, big antlers. My 8x binos didn’t have the guts to check him out properly, but the 200x digital zoom on my camera did, which acts as a cheap and not so clear spotting scope. It worked though and confirmed my suspicions – it was him. To top it off, he was finally on my side of the fence, so it was definitely game on! Numerous plans raced through my head before I even moved from my spot, I didn’t want to stuff this up. The roos posed my biggest problem, they were bloody everywhere. I stayed low and in the shade of trees and made about 200m of ground, still at least 400m out, too far. I spied a spiker off to my left only 100m away, but the wind was fine, so I thought he’d just walk straight past. I was wrong, before I knew it, he must have copped a nose full of me and he was off, pronking his heart out, sending roos in all directions. My eyes were glued to the big boy and his girls, who were now surveying the situation very closely. With roos going left, right and centre, he shot off up the hill, his does not far behind. “Bugger!” or maybe a similar four letter word was said, then I sat back down and waited.
I knew he hadn’t seen or smelt me, he was simply put off by all the roos and that annoying little spiker. I wanted to go after him straight away, my buck, the one I had chased for so long was so close, but I knew better. “Better to let him settle Reid, he’ll be checking his back trail anyway” I muttered to myself.
Thirty minutes passed before I got up and made a move, ample time I thought. The roos had now gone which made things a lot easier. I followed up his trail before I got to a 200m long clearing. There was no way around it, I just had to cross it.
I contemplated crawling the 200m, but I didn’t even know where he was, so just walked across as normal, keeping an eye out for him as I went. Nearing the end of the clearing, I noticed some movement up ahead in the trees. Quickly raising my bino’s, I had the buck ID’d in no time flat, quickly calculated the distance in my head at 250-ish metres as I dropped to the ground, flicked off the safety and let a 155gn ACP out of my 300WM fly, front on into his chest as they were all eyeballing me at this stage.
The deer scattered, the big fella too. He went to the right and I fired again as he ran. At the shot, he turned uphill and I quickly sent another ACP at him and still, he ran. As I bolted the fourth and final round into the chamber from the magazine, I noticed the slightest faulter. Lining him up, ready to send another one at him,
I watched him collapse mid stride. I dared not move, I was ready in case he got up, finger caressing the trigger, waiting for any movement. I needn’t have worried, he was done for and finally mine. I gathered up my 3 spent cases and walked up for a look with a big grin on my face. Looking him over, my first shot hit slightly off to the right side of his chest, the second hit him in the paunch as he ran to the right and the third grazed his right side shoulder, which opened him up like a zipper for about a foot long, so I suppose it was the first shot that killed him in the end, he just didn’t know it.
The journey was now over; five months of persistence had finally paid off. If he had jumped the fence earlier, I might have shot him sooner, but then again, I was kind of glad in the end, it was a great birthday present and a birthday I’ll never forget.
Reid’s Tikka T3 in .300 Win. Mag above.