Hog deer have limited range and necessarily regulated hunting. By Col Allison
OF ALL SEVEN species of deer in Oz (including feral wapiti), a hog deer trophy is the hardest to collect. And to get a head into the ADA record book – a minimum score of 100 Douglas points is required – is a Herculean feat with a Labrador-sized critter.
Hog deer range is limited to Victoria’s south-east Gippsland coast (and adjoining islands, with some penetration into south-eastern NSW) where the habitat is thick tea-tree. On the mainland, access is extremely difficult – with some landowners charging $5,000 to $8,000 for a guaranteed head on managed land. Not surprisingly, poaching is rife and the little hoggies become nocturnal under extreme hunting pressure.
Hence, many of us hunt each year on Sunday Island. Here, the Para Park Co-operative Game Limited group has been selectively breeding hog deer and balloting the hunting for members successfully for 40 years.* Antlers are generally somewhat smaller than those across the dangerous channels, but chances of success are good.
In 2014 on a prime block, Kieran Carson and I shot the two biggest antlered stags during the March to June hunting season, with antlers better than 15 inches (37cms). Kieran told me where he’d seen a big stag after he’d already grassed his own. Mine went 15-1/2 inches and scored 96-3/4 DS points, just short of the magical 100 benchmark.
It was a successful season all round, with a targeted cull of 80 deer – 35 stags and 45 hinds. According to David Young, the island Hunt Master, 76 deer were shot, with the hind tally just falling short. The deer were in prime condition with almost one-third of the stags harvested carrying trophy antlers 30+cms and the mature hinds carrying calves.
The oldest deer was a tagged hind at 11 years and 10 months shot by a young hunter, Ian Morsby on Robert Island, an area reserved for juniors.
Interestingly, eight deer were shot between first light and 10am, 21 from 10am to 3pm, with the bulk of the tally – 31 – taken between 3pm and last light. I saw and photographed several good stags early and late.
With very few hog deer sighted during pre-season scouting on the western end of Sunday Is., it was decided this year to trial fallow deer hunting there. Ten bucks and a female were shot and the trial was deemed a success.
On the mainland, about the same number of animals were taken, indicating just how tough these diminutive animals are to hunt. In the hog deer range, $76 million was spent by hunters in 2013.
All up, the total money spent hunting animals in Victoria was $282 million in 2013, with the Dept of Environment and Primary Industries Victoria, estimating the total outlay
at $439 million, with flow-on employment, accommodation, food, etc. This makes up 0.13 per cent of the Victorian economy and up to 2.5 per cent of some local government areas.
So how much was spent on the various aspects of our sport? Pest animal hunting was the most significant in Victoria ($59 million), followed closely by deer ($57 million), duck ($43 million) and quail ($28 million). In future surveys, the Victorian authorities are going to concentrate on the amount of money spent by hunters on each animal. I’ll keep you posted.
*If interested in Para Park, contact Robert Mann, Secretary, PO Box 801, Lilydale, Vic. 3140.