We watched the moon set on our left as the sky brightened on our right. It was a cold morning last Sunday, with a bite in the breeze that made me wish I’d put another layer on but, as always, the further I walked the warmer I got until I didn’t even notice the chill.
We passed the dam where I’d shot the first deer of this season, a spiker whose meat was juicy and tender. Since then, the rut had come and gone and this area had been very generous to me. I’d scored meat and antlers here, but it’d been a while – a few weeks – and the freezer was bare.
Anne hadn’t been out for a walk in even longer. We’d picked a beaut morning, about the best around here for days.
The pre-dawn light was still grey and dull as we walked up a spur and my eye caught the unmistakable shape of a set of antlers angled straight at me. The buck’s body blended perfectly into the grey-brown grass of the dry hillside but the pale U-shape of the rack gave him away.
We froze. I saw a chocolate-coloured doe obscured by the leaves of a large gum, just a few metres from the buck. We all looked at each other for a minute or so, me with binos raised. I knew this young fella, one of two brothers who lived on that hill. His antlers will never amount to much and a fastidious trophy hunter would cull him but I figure that if he breeds I’ll eat better.
By the time he turned tail and skipped away, I hadn’t even thought about taking the rifle off my shoulder.
We crossed the fence and walked on another 30 metres when I looked up at the pink and red horizon, where a hopping roo was silhouetted. Then another one… No! Deer. And another. And another and…
A mob of eight or so does and yearlings grazed over the top towards us. They looked beautiful against the sky, sharing the space with roos as more birds chorused in the dawn. Ever wondered if kangaroos are the Down Under marsupial equivalent of the northern hemisphere’s deer? They are so alike.
The breeze was in our favour, the deer weren’t on edge and I had dead ground to move in as I closed the gap of about 200 metres. You couldn’t have scripted it better. I stalked closer, using a big old tree as cover while Anne stood back to watch the show.
There was no hurry when I got there. I set up the Bog Pod and let the light grow while I waited for one of the yearlings to come down off the hilltop. Force of habit; even though I know there’s no house or road for miles over that hill, I never shoot above a horizon.
Then the shot was on. I readied, steadied and fired. My target leapt, mortally hit, while deer and roos paused then fled in all directions.
We found the young male as the sun came up. He was just metres from where I’d shot him. We took back straps and all four legs, then strolled back to the car. We were warm and smiling when we got there, and looking forward to a fresh coffee back home.
Yep, a perfect morning.