We’re chasing a mixed bag of game with Craig Chapman and he harvests the meat for gourmet meals.
“There’s a mob of red deer up in the top paddock. Saw ‘em yesterday.”, said the farmer, owner of a large sheep grazing block on the NSW Central Tablelands. “A few pigs getting around, too.” As if the prospect of red deer wasn’t enough, I had a chance at pigs early next morning. I was in hunting heaven.
A chilling wintry fog filled the valley as the first fingers of sunrise ebbed over the horizon. The mist laden morning had a thick air of suspense to it as a family of currawongs warbled their welcome to the new day, somewhere in off in the murky distance.
Edging slowly along the lightly timbered, redgum-lined creek, I scanned the valley with my binoculars, hoping to pick up the shape of a deer through the dense wintry fog. The fog was both a help and a hindrance, concealing my shape but also making it difficult to look for game.
The ghostly shape of a red hind materialised in the mist, about 300 metres away further up the valley and on the edge of the timber. After some more glassing, I spied around 20 deer of varying shapes and sizes, a few spikers and a four pointer but unfortunately no large stags. My freezer was almost empty, so the decision was made to take one for meat.
A small side feeder gully provided a sneaky way of avoiding detection. Sidling up the gully, I felt a zephyr of cold air drifting down and into my face. The wind was perfect, I thought to myself. Easing up and over the lip and moving further up onto the edge of the timberline lining the side of the main valley, I was able to conceal my outline amongst small stands of black wattles.
Suddenly, I heard a familiar “snort”. Looking to my right and catching me completely by surprise, I saw the multi coloured backs of a mob of medium sized pigs. Gorging themselves contentedly in a bracken patch, the mob was only about 30 yards away. With no monster boars visible, I decided not to spook the deer with the sound of a shot. Begrudgingly, I let the porkers continue on their merry business. It was turning out to be an amazing morning.
Reaching a thin stand of gums about 200 metres from the deer, I sat down and glassed the mob as a pair of spikers playfully butted heads. It would be very difficult to get much closer in the semi-open timber, with many pairs of keen deer eyes able to reveal my presence.
After a few minutes spent glassing and considering my options, the herd suddenly spooked at something unknown, ran about 100 metres diagonally to my left, and stopped. Fortunately, this meant the herd had edged slightly closer in my direction, narrowing the distance for a shot to around 150 metres.
Singling out a nice fat looking spiker and taking a rest on a log, I eased the crosshairs of my Leupold 3-9x scope onto its shoulder and squeezed off a shot. In an instant, the spiker launched up on it’s hindquarters and immediately fell to the ground. The 150 grain Federal .308 had done it’s job, having mushroomed, penetrated one shoulder and ending up under the skin on the opposite shoulder.
After walking over to the downed spiker and taking a few photos, I decided to leave the butchering for later that day and continued hunting.
I made my way to another part of the property, a blackberry choked gully that from past experience had yielded pigs and foxes.
As if on cue, a large, brightly coloured ginger sow materialised around 40 yards downhill, meandering out of the small entanglement of thorns. I immediately dispatched it and waited for more pigs to run out of the bushes, unfortunately none materialised. The sow was in great condition with plenty of fat, so I sharpened my knife and harvested the backstraps. The succulent pork would later be turned into a barbeque favourite, my spicy wild pork and apple sausages.
Later that afternoon, I returned to “blackberry gully” hoping to get onto more pigs and spied a young fox waiting at the entrance at a hole in the entanglement. No doubt the healthy fox was waiting to ambush an unlucky cottontail. The young vixen was too good to pass up, so I let rip with the Browning BLR .308 and despatched the wily reynard on the spot.
Early next morning after a quick brew of coffee, I set off, pre-dawn, up the valley with no particular game species in mind. It was a joy to be out and about breathing the fresh country air, happy to be hunting in the bush and not sitting at a desk in my stuffy office.
With any sort of luck, some game might have been out and about, feeding or sunning themselves after the previous night’s bitterly cold sub-zero temperatures.
Gaining some elevation from the opposite ridge of the main valley, I sat down and glassed a likely looking spot, a North-facing, grassy green knoll atop the ridgeline well over a kilometre away. Sure enough, feeding in the warm sunshine amongst the fallen timber and stinging nettles was a familiar shape. A large, lone, ginger coloured pig, similar to the one I’d shot the previous day.
Given the distance and time it would take to reach the animal, the likelihood was that the pig would soon disappear into the dense cover of the surrounding stringybark forest. Nevertheless and with nothing to lose, I set off. The challenge of the hunt was on!
After making a mental note of the general location of the pig and landmarks, I set off at a reasonable pace, hoping to catch the animal out feeding in the general area I’d previously spied it.
I sidled up a gully and onto the main ridgeline. Once atop the semi-timbered ridge, I slowed my pace and began to carefully stalk, weaving myself amongst the maze of deadfall timber that lay scattered around the place.
As luck would have it, I spotted the pig, a large ginger sow, gorging itself on rooted-up stinging nettle roots. The big sow was only a few yards away from where I’d spotted it from the opposite ridge around half an hour previously. Fortunately, she was only around 30 metres from my position. Lining up the crosshairs on the fat feral sow’s shoulders, I squeezed off an easy shot from my .308, dropping her on the spot.
After taking some photos, I sat down on a ledge overlooking the valley and quietly pondered the amazing two days of hunting I’d just experienced. With an esky full of wild venison and pork to take home, it had been a hunting trip that would take some beating.