A weekend spent hunting Sambar with hounds in the Southern Alps of S-E Australia. This has already been posted on an Australian board for hunters, so please excuse the inclusion of slang and "technical terms".
....... and yes, all dogs were recovered after a hard morning's work the next day.
Seeing as I'm up and can't sleep......
The crew had a ripper of a weekend, hunting a twin gully system, one arm of which goes back into the never-never. First hunt of Saturday saw the 'lickers tipped in off a ridge down into the basin after sign of two stags fighting was found on the road. A young stag crossed the central ridge and ran down, offering only long cross-gully shots to a couple of us before being stopped neatly behind camp by "Gunner". A second came out of the "never" with a couple of hounds on its tail and almost ran over a very excited Robbo . I think it's been a while between drinks for Rob, as his celebrations on the radio had us thinking that it must be 28" at least, instead of just over half that. I guess that the adrenaline was flowing.
Meanwhile, the Pom had gone over the edge himself, down into the Never, where the rest of the pack, including a couple of pups, had bailed something down in the jungle. With the rest of us dealing with the other critter, he couldn't get comms and spent a very tense 45 minutes crawling after a moving bail through what is technically described as "thick shit" before it made the mistake of running past him at about 3 metres allowing a shot clear of the dogs. Comms re-established, a few more boys hiked in to help with the caping out of what turned out to be a very nice 28" with good weight and a lot of scars to his cape.
Sunday saw us starting again in the left basin, with the pack separating and running high, before another young stag, with most of the pack on its trail, beat us through the junction and made a u-turn up into the "safety" of the never-never. A hind with the other two 'lickers ran down to the left of the junction, seeing us deploying hastily down the track to cut her off. Red loosed off a magazine load from his battered pumpy, but missed comprehensively... a rarity for him and maybe attributable to one too many beers at the previous evening's celebrations. Deployed further down, I missed seeing the Pom do a kamikaze dive over a pile of blackberries in time to pick himself up, splash through the creek and tumble the hind as she contoured across the slope above him.
We might make a hound-hunter of him yet! nya:
Most of the crew being occupied with that recovery, I elected myself as the mug who was going to hike up into the Never to lead out the dogs that seemed inclined to take root there. Jokes about "Cooch walking into get his 30" aside, I wasn't overly confident, but somebody has to. Ya know?
Scrub, scrub and more scrub saw me crossing and re crossing the creek, before dropping into it and walking the slippery river-rock and log jams. Somewhere along the track the not-so-faithful Jim (dog) lost track of me and couldn't pick up my scent again. I had him collared, but not entered into the tracker that I had borrowed due to my own being low on battery. Bad Mistake!
Two clicks into the Never I'm stating to imagine that I can hear hounds still voicing. Probably just wishful thinking. Don't want to get my hopes up, although they have been in the one spot for more a a couple of hours, now. Another 400m and who knows how much more slipping and stumbling and it's definite! Sounds like a good bail. Pulse is up, sweat is flowing, gotta be careful not to spook this critter into breaking bail! In and out of the creek, crawling up through tunnels under the ferns and I can finally see the dogs that I've been hearing for the past 3/4 of an hour. Tails up, bawling their hearts out at the brown, hairy "something" at bay in the dim tunnel of vegetation over the creek at that point.
Head down and facing away, the deer hasn't seen me, yet, but the dogs do and most of them decide to break off and welcome me... Shit! Don't let the deer break after all this!!! One hound keeps his attention from the far bank while I position myself to take a shot that won't deafen my welcoming committee, and I boof a 300 grain hollow-point into his ribs angling forward for a high lung shot. Not the quickest of killing spots, but a high percentage shot in the uncertain light. He lurches, then bolts (why do I never get the bang-flops?) up the trickle of water coming in from the left.
The re-energised pack is hot on his trail and as I bull through the scrub up the bank, I can hear a vociferous bail maybe 50 yards away across the bend of the creek. Then it breaks again and the deer appears on the game-trail in front of me half a dozen paces away, hard hit and with hounds almost on his flanks. I can find it in me to feel sorry for him, but sympathy isn't why I'm there. He's heading right for me at a heavy canter, so I step left to let him come past, but he angles to my left around a big white-gum - so close that I could have stepped forward and jammed the carbine into his ribs. But no stuffing around,,, shoulder the gun, take aim and slap him again through the ribs with the .45. A few more paces and he goes to his knees and his head drops as though tired. I think he'd gone before before the hounds surround him.
I sit there reliving the moment whole the hounds chew on the tough hide.
How to get out?
The nearest track is a click to the west and 400m higher, but I'm so damned sick of that creek that anything looks better. Weight is going to be a bitch, but I take the head (13&1/2") as I owe the deer that much honour. (Meat? I can get meat from a sheep. In hunting it is the experience that counts...) I put leads on the hounds and start the tedious process of dragging them away from "their kill" through the scrub. Try that for yourself sometime if you want to re-define frustration. But getting them down to the creek and giving them a good drink seems to break their focus. Climbing up the wall to get out of the creek on the far side is a matter of pushing the head out in front of me, then using both hands to scramble up after it. I have to let the hounds loose but as I'm carrying something that smells like food, they now seem happy to follow me with minimal encouragement.
The climb out is a bitch. Maybe I'm not quite as young as I was, but the thick, sliding litter and loose footing doesn't do wonders for progress, either. There is no easy way.
200 yards from the top. Just a mere 200, one of the 'lickers puts her nose to the ground, lets out a bawl and leads the others away around the contour and back down into the Never. Shouting and whistling avail nothing..... It's going to be another hard day tomorrow.
And then there is Jim....
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