Hot on the heels of his bowhunt for red deer, Ted takes his rifle and cleans up with his best free range red to date on his regular property. This story is in a typical humorous Mitchell vein.
The property owner told me that the deer had been living in his corn for many weeks and now they were into his lucerne. He reckoned there were heaps of them eating his crops and could I came and shoot a few? Too hard to refuse, eh?
Rolling up to the property just before daylight, I slipped on a coat as it was cool and the fog was rolling in. Grabbing my gear, I took a very slow walk toward his lucerne paddock. Now very close, I started a short crawl through the wet grass to the fence line as the sun rose; then I sat down, checked my rifle and only then realised my binoculars had been left in the truck. As it lightened up a bit, I grabbed hold of the top fence wire to pull myself up to have a good look, “ZAP!” the electric fence that had upwards of 7000 volts running through it belted the living hell out of me, just about dropping me back on my arse. Settling down a bit after my early morning shock, I checked out the paddock to find there was nothing there but one old kangaroo; a bit disappointing.
Soon, I was walking quietly along to the gate, which I carefully opened so as not to get zapped again and then I proceeded slowly between the two Lucerne paddocks, not seeing anything. Behind those two paddocks there was a sort of a hedge of long grass on the headland and behind it were two old paddocks of corn, still with plenty of kernels and cobs on the ground due to recent deer predation. Sneaking between the long grass on the strip between the corn paddocks, a deer materialised way over at the back of the old corn paddock about 200 metres away. Having nothing to lean against to steady myself, the rifle was shouldered and looking through the scope, the crosshairs were dancing all over and around it. There was no way I could take a shot, so it was in my mind to try to sneak in a bit closer. Then, suddenly the deer started running toward and below me and there must have been twenty or more other deer, stags and hinds that came out of the fog running with it.
They started crossing about 70 metres in front of me and I took a shot at a lone hind, that immediately hit the deck. Now they really started to motor and were running between fog patches and grouped together. One ran off to one side, isolating itself and my shot was unfortunately a complete miss; then at another shot it dropped on the spot. While my aiming point was its shoulder I had hit it in the head, must have wiggled. Oh well. Take them when you can.
Anyway, the deer disappeared into the fog down the creek end of the paddock and there was enough meat there for me in any case. Refilling my magazine and looking towards where the deer went down, I saw a nice-looking stag came running along the far fence line. I took another couple of shots and down he went.
I’d had worse starts to a day (quite a few actually), but now the hard work would have to begin. I took a casual look up and suddenly a lot of the deer were running back the other way; they must have found the electric fence at the other end. There was enough meat laying on the ground ready to retrieve as it was, so I just watched as they ran back to the bush from where they had originally emanated. Strolling down to check the deer out, I naturally went to the the big stag was first. I was coming up behind him and getting close to see his head, when his neck arched his head back and whacked me in the legs he had to have a buit of a parting laugh I suppose – couldn’t begrudge him that. A quick shot sorted him out and his antler was now clean for the first half-inch where it had driven into my leg. There was one small deep hole in the side of my calf and a lump of skin was taken off on my knee where his broken tine had hit. Amazing really as that was the second time I have been hit by a red deer. The first time a hind had kicked me in the knee dropping me on the side of the hill. Just goes to show, any game no matter what it is, should be approached cautiously. At my age, I should know better.
I walked, in a bit of pain from my puncture wound, back to the Triton, drove a bit closer to the deer and unloaded the quad bike to ease the meat recovery back to the truck. Had I taken the Triton in there would have been inviting myself to get bogged as a leaky irrigation hose had turned the spot into a bit of a quagmire.
It had been a pretty action-packed morning, successful and painful in equal shares, but it makes for a pretty good story. One part of the success was the rifle and load used to take the three deer.
My 30-06 Ruger M77 has never failed me and the bullets were the new Atomic29 Mono projectiles being made by an Australian Cameron Strachan. Tim Blackwell had put me onto them through Facebook and Cameron had sent a packet for me to try out. Later on, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Cameron and spend a few hours with him, a nice bloke who explained to me how he actually checks each and every projectile he makes – he is a perfectionist. On trying them, I shot several groups with different loads ranging from three quarters of an inch down to all in one hole virtually and they shot in the same POI to my other loads I use, so you gotta be happy with that. It’s great to think another Aussie is producing some fine projectiles; they’re very much like a Barnes and seem to open up and perform the same. At least I know they kill deer very well.
It was around 6.45am when the shooting had stopped and the next four hours were spent cutting, then taking the legs, back straps etc back to the truck and hanging them on my little winch to skin and bone them out. They were then put into clip seal bags and onto the ice. By midday I was back at the shack that I camp in and was near out on my feet. My gear was unpacked and a feed was cooked and washed down with a couple of drinks, then it was time for a bit of a rest. Later on, the heads were skinned out and then cut the skullcaps off with my chainsaw. Then, seeing as there was a nice fallen dead ironbark lying close to camp, I cut a bit of firewood to be ready for next trip. Then I lay down for an hour or so to rest before teatime. After tea, the .30-06 was locked away into my gun safe in the truck and the .22 taken out to try for a few hares. They ringbark the farmers pumpkins and he hates them. They are that bad that they can ruin a whole crop, as they walk along the lines and chew a small piece out of nearly every pumpkin.
Plugging the spotlight into my quad and driving around the freshly cut paddocks expecting to see heaps of hares, it wasn’t to be. Strangely enough the ones shot were among the long grass and patches of lantana. Saw a heap of deer in the other old corn paddock on the other side of the property. They just stood and looked at me without a care in the world. Seeing them everywhere was good for me, but I suppose it’s not so good for the farmers as they are trying to grow crops to make a living, not feed the wildlife. That evening, I only managed to bag three hares, the last trip, I had managed around fourteen.
Anyway, it had been a very long day with a 3am start; so hitting the swag was very enticing to me. I was nearly asleep when a slight noise made me shine my torch and right above me was a massive snake with a big lump in its belly from its last feed. I moved my bed over a bit so I wasn’t right under it, as I’d wake with a horrible fright if a twelve-foot python fell on me in my sleep. Morning came and sleeping in to 6-00am was good. After a photo of my bed mate, a quick breakfast and packing and cleaning up of camp, it was time to head for home as there was a lot of unpacking and sorting to do when I got there.