Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pilliga East Billy: A New Year's Resolution

Back in June 2008 I placed an order for a new left hand .30-06. After much waiting, phone calls to the gun shop, and the odd false start I finally got it on the last day of the year. A few hours later with the new rifle safely away in the safe I made a New Year’s resolution to use it to take a Red Deer, Pig and Billy - all by the end of 2009.

I got my Red and a couple of Pigs in April but preparing for 3 weddings, one of them my own, and the other two as MC, meant further hunting opportunities were quickly vanishing and by July 09 I had run out of chances to chase that Billy.

By October with the dust settled and me starting married life I began thinking about my resolution again and so started talking up a Goat and Pig hunt. My idea caught with the guys from ADA(Q) and with his usual precision our State Hunt Coordinator had a trip to Pilliga East State Forest in NSW ready to go for the Christmas/New Year break.

About six weeks out from heading off much of NSW including Pilliga East fell under the threat of bush fire and things weren’t looking too good, least of all for our trip. Of course as these things happen about 3 weeks later a new weather pattern came along and dumped about ten years worth of flooding rain right where we wanted to hunt. While thankfully knocking any immediate fire threat on the head, now we had to contend with swollen creeks, potential highway closures and lots of mud.
This new situation also had us reconsidering how we would go about hunting. We were expecting very hot, dry conditions and so had spent considerable time over the maps identifying water courses, bores and dams. Now it seemed we’d have too much water and nothing, except possibly flood waters to hold the game in place.

With our trip now only a couple of days away and with the rain still falling, we decided it was much better to go than die wondering and so our group of eight hunters left Brisbane around 7am on the 27th of December. Eight hours later, after a fairly uneventful drive down the Newell highway, we reached Narrabri, our base for the next week.

Our accommodation was right on the highway south west of town and about 30 kilometres away from the start of Pilliga East State Forest. With such a handy location our plan was to travel each morning down the highway and then follow the well graded, though as we soon found out, increasingly flooded forestry tracks to where we hoped the action would be.

After dropping off our gear we all excitedly headed out to the forest to have our first look. Jimmy, Clinton and I headed out in Clinton’s Hi-Lux and we were immediately impressed by what we saw. There was plenty of Pig and Goat sign, though the wet made it difficult to accurately determine how fresh the sign was.

With the amount of water on the ground the forestry tracks were already quite greasy and even during that first look around we got bogged. Clinton’s masterly efforts at the wheel saw us free however the threat of getting stuck would be constantly with us over the coming days.

The next morning we headed out for our first hunt. We decided to split up into three groups - each heading off in different directions. We would follow this pattern for the next five days and would only raft up and hunt as a single group on our last day.

Pilliga East provided us with a huge hunting area - which translated into a lot of travel in very wet conditions for the chance of bagging some game. Quickly our routine became one of early starts, late lunches, occasionally getting bogged and hunting through to dusk. This would mean an 8pm return to camp with most people heading to bed around 11pm after a feed and clean up.

Though long days, each night we would all meet back at Narrabri to discuss the day’s events. During these times any success or animal sign was recorded on a large map taped to the wall of our accommodation. As the days rolled on the map was gradually covered with Goat and Pig symbols and the odd note, all of which helped us gain a better understanding of the place.

While we weren’t seeing game in the numbers we had hoped, early on Adrian took a good sized Sow while hunting in lightly timbered scrub. On the following day another of our party John, got his first Goat. Back at camp that afternoon John relayed the details of his successful stalk while giving us all a look at his newly acquired trophy.

As the days progressed Ron also got himself a Goat - so our total was slowly increasing. However a number of us still hadn’t had any luck and we were dead keen to get amongst it. As is often the case, the more time we spent hunting, the closer we came to success. For me things came together on New Years Eve.

Following some advice I picked up over a beer the previous night, we decided to check out an area of recently cleared timber. After a couple of hours searching, around 10am we spotted a good sized mob of Goats. Catching us a little unprepared the mob moved off before we could properly react - though we were happy to finally see them in good numbers.

Soon after, Jimmy spotted a good sized Billy with two Nannies and after a very quick discussion the boys told me to have a go at them.

Taking note of the very light breeze I positioned myself downwind and began moving directly towards the Goats. Being my first genuine opportunity to take a Billy the adrenaline was really pumping and it seemed like I was stalking with all the finesse of a marching band. Not wanting to blow it I stopped and crouched behind a tree and let things settle down.

Firstly checking to make sure I hadn’t scared them off, I then began slowly moving from cover to cover, trying to get a better view and more importantly a clear shot.

All three were white, or Judas Goats, (because the white ones give the other Goats away) and were easily distinguishable against the surrounding bush. They were unhurriedly moving along the far edge of some felled timber while picking at the newly available green shoots.

At about 100 metres I went to a kneeling position and with my scope set at its lowest magnification, I lined up on the Billy. The VX-III scope provided a perfect picture and sighting my rifle over his left shoulder the Billy appeared healthy and with a good set of horns.

Continuing to kneel in a comfortable and steady off hand position I tracked the Billy as he moved slightly away from me. Noticing Clinton slowly coming up on my right, I kept my eye on things as the Billy turned back towards me and filled my scope with a full broadside.

The .30-06 boomed and I immediately cycled the bolt while keeping an eye on things. I was expecting to drop him cold though he appeared quite unaffected by the shot and noise, so of course a bit of doubt started creeping in. As he hadn’t moved off I fired again, with a similar result - though he did now seem to be walking quite slowly. Meanwhile the Nannies began moving directly away into the protection of the trees.

I looked across at Clinton and gave him an ‘I think I missed’ kind of look and so we slowly moved forward, watching the retreating Goats. At about 25 metres I saw a large white shape down against a tree and felt a wave of relief.

With the Billy in the bag, Clinton and I went after the others, but they were now too deep into the cover and so after a quick chase we came back to the Billy.

On inspection one of my shots had been a dead on heart shot and the other through the lungs. Both good clean shots that I thought would have dropped him, however laying down obviously hadn’t been part of his plans. While practising on the Goat targets at SSAA Belmont had helped with shot placement, I was more than a little surprised by the animal’s ability to carry catastrophic injury, something you don’t pick up from banging away at a paper silhouette.

After a bit of high fiving, as well as a few colourful observations about how tough the Billy was - we began moving him back to the Hi-Lux.

He was a heavy bugger and after a bit of huffing and puffing we had him back at the car. Looking him over we considered our next moves, Clinton suggested that we prepare him for a full shoulder mount. While I appreciated the thought, it was a little ambitious for a sub-30 inch horn spread. Also, at present no matter the potential quality of the trophy, my far better half has drawn a line at such decorations (though I’m working on it) so for me it was some meat and a smaller trophy.

The Billy had an impressive skin, white with a slash of black at the shoulder so Clinton asked for it - to which I wholeheartedly answered it was his. Jimmy also wanted some meat so we all got to work.

The two 150gr Accubonds had all but written off the meat within the fore quarters so we skinned him, took the back straps, rib fillets, hind quarters and horns.

Once we were done it was time to head back to Narrabri to buy some salt, put the meat on ice and get cleaned up for a New Year’s Eve feed and a couple of drinks at the RSL.

With New Years Day being our last at Pilliga East, we decided to head back to the same area where we had some success the previous day. We decided to split up with Jimmy and Clinton heading slowly north while I headed into a new area in a southerly direction.

The rain was really falling now and about two hours into my lone hunt I heard a voice over the radio. It was one of the other guys from of our party. It seems that some of the others had turned up and they had decided to now hunt as a single group. The change in approach had resulted in immediate success with the boys locating a large mob and Clinton and Jimmy getting their first Billy.

Back with the others, after a quick feed we now all headed out in the pouring rain in a line of six hunters. Initially moving north east we came across the odd Goat sign but nothing to indicate the large mob we had now come across over the last two days was about. Swinging south east along a creek after about 15 minutes stalking through the now saturated forest we realised we had made the right choice and spotted a mob of about ten Goats.

With everyone in position in quick time six Goats were bowled over. As I was on the far right of the line I didn’t even take a shot – and really I wasn’t that disappointed. I had my Billy from the previous day and was just glad to be hunting, even though with the rain it could have been mistaken for swimming.

Heading back to the cars we now had more meat and a total of 11 Goats and one pig for the week, not bad at all.
For me the Pilliga East trip came down to my New Year’s Eve Billy. It was my first Billy and was a trophy I took on my own, though admittedly with the help of my hunting partners. It was also the realisation of a resolution that I had managed to keep by about 12 hours.

Heading home early on the second of January, I started thinking about my resolutions for 2010. A 6 x 6 Red, a 100kg+ Pig and a 35inch+ Billy - so bring on the New Year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Winter Gamble

The chance to stalk a trophy Red Stag and a slowly diminishing freezer stock of venison had me keen to get back out again before the close of our unofficial deer season.

My success in the Roar had me well and truly hooked and while there was a good chance the Deer may be anywhere but on our hunting block I decided to take the punt and head up the Brisbane Valley.

After a couple of phone conversations to confirm each others availability Paul and I decided on a Saturday hunt. So on the Friday beforehand I left work a little early, got home in double quick time, loaded the car and said my goodbyes.

I certainly wasn’t looking forward to the afternoon traffic so I decided on a longer, though ultimately quicker trip and headed Northwest through Mt Mee, Woodford, Kilcoy and finally Moore.

It was already cooling down when I stopped for a quick bite to eat at Kilcoy and later at the hunting block gate it felt like the temperature was really dropping. It was going to be a cold start in the morning and I was glad I packed my warm hunting gear.

Paul had beaten me up by about an hour and a half and had stopped in for a chat with the property owner. Unpacking my gear our conversation quickly turned to the number of Deer he had spotted on the way in.

While it was exciting to hear about any Deer we were both well aware that it was quite dry and we may have difficulty locating any Stags suitable for the taking. This was all part of the winter gamble and no matter the outcome we were looking forward to a day in the field.

Sitting inside the small hunt and drinking some medicinal Rum I handed Paul a newly purchased English hunting magazine. If you want to see a very different approach to the sporting life, try the English publications. It seems that ties, tweed and Wellington boots are all part of the scene in the UK; and while they do look sharp - I’m not sure it will catch on here.

Next morning at around 5:45am we headed out into the light frost and heavy fog covering most of the valley. Sticking to our plan we had formulated the night before Paul aimed the Prado straight up to get us above the fog so that we might beat the Deer as they moved from their beds to bask in the first sun of the day.

Finally pulling up in a small saddle and with the sun still below the horizon we headed off in a Southerly direction below the skyline. Our intention was to head South until we intersected with an East/West running ridgeline. We would then stay in the shadows and check out the sunlit aspects for any movement.

On the way we found some very fresh sign along a well worn game trail. Unfortunately we couldn’t tell which way the Deer were moving so after some whispered discussion we decided to push on. Soon we were in position for some serious observation. In front of us was a valley with numerous gullies, scrubby patches of cover and occasional heavy timber.

Since my last trip I had invested in a pair of Leupold Mojave binoculars. The difference between my new purchase and my previous pair of binoculars was immediately apparent. Their clarity, especially in low light was spectacular. It’s amazing what a difference a good pair of binoculars can make.

My other upgrade was ammo. My Tikka T3 was now loaded with Barnes Triple Shocks in 165gr. After my last hunt I had been a little disappointed with the performance of the 150gr Accubonds and so had decided to go for a slightly heavier and hopefully more reliable projectile.

We stayed in position for about 20 minutes and after investigating plenty of rocks, branches and other antler like shapes we decided to move up the valley. This move of course led to two Deer, a Hind and Calf breaking cover directly below us and bolting up the very slope we had just been checking out.

We actually first heard, rather than saw the Deer. Once I had spotted them I tracked them up the slope and tried to predict when they would pull up.

Unfortunately the Hind showed no intention of stopping and would only slow momentarily for the Calf before moving off again. The Hind was a large and very healthy animal while the Calf was about 8 months old by Paul’s estimation.

Both had well flared fur on their rumps, which I have been told is a fright response -so our presence had obviously startled them. Very quickly they were over a kilometre away and showed no sign of stopping.

At about the ½ kilometre mark I shouldered my rifle and tracked them up the opposite slope. I did it just for the practise as they were well out of range for any reasonable shot, or reasonable for my skills anyway.

Though that doesn’t mean I would have taken a shot if they hadn’t moved off so quickly. At present on the properties managed by the Brisbane Branch of the Queensland Deer Management Group (QDMG) we don’t take Hinds - especially those with a Calf that one day might become a Trophy Stag.

While for some this may be a contentious practise and I readily acknowledge that successful game management means controlling total populations we believe the Hind population isn’t there yet.

The concepts of game management and the reasons behind it have been one of the many things I have learnt since joining the Australian Deer Association (ADA) and the QDMG. I believe it has helped me become a more considered hunter as well as given me a greater understanding and appreciation of Game.

However with the classification of Deer as pests in Queensland it’s hard to say what will happen to the Deer population, though I hope there is a place for ethical hunting practices in the future.

So we looked on the Hind and Calf as a good omen and continued moving up the valley until it finally rose to meet a low saddle. The sun was now up and while plenty of fog was still about it was slowly building to a fantastic winter’s day.

At around 9am we reached a small plateau that marked the Southern boundary of the property. A little breakfast was in order so after unloading my pack I passed Paul a trail bar. Immediately we realised that while the day was getting on any warmth generated from our walking quickly dissipated into the still chilly air.

Paul best summed up breakfast by saying that the dark chocolate trail bar was pretty much chocolate flavoured nothing. Working my jaw I just looked at him, gave a slight nod and thought about lunch.

So with nothing further to say we got ourselves ready and decided to head East - which would take us in the direction of the Deer we spotted earlier.

Working our way down into the tree line we spotted some older rubs and what looked like a Deer bed though unfortunately no one was home.

We continued on for about an hour until we reached an imposing gully. At this point we decided on an about face and started on a long counter-clockwise loop into the wind and eventually back to the Prado.

Our intention was to check out the gullies and other likely resting places and hopefully uncover a Stag. During our loop we again saw plenty of Deer sign, though nothing was very fresh and so we decided to pull the pin and head back. Reaching the Prado around midday, while a little leg weary we felt pretty good about the mornings hunt.

Back at the hut it was lunch time - which now a days can be quite the gourmet affair. As an avid hiker I got used to meals based purely on weight - taste being an unexpected and uncommon bonus. Now with a small Honda AWD as pack horse and a huge esky to keep everything fresh I can go all out.

After a real antipasto style lunch I turned to a bit of reading and got to thinking about a short afternoon hunt as we still hadn’t taken a Stag for the freezer.

Time ticked on and around 2:30pm we were back in the Prado heading in a Westerly direction to the start of another valley. As water was quite scarce we decided to stay closer to the creeks and water courses with the intention of knocking over any unwary Stag looking for a drink before dusk.

While not a huge property I’m always surprised by the differences in terrain. While the morning hunt was through bright, dry, woody and scrub covered country the area we were now hunting obviously didn’t get a lot of direct sunlight.

There were larger patches of bush grass, the ground itself was softer and some places even held a little ground water. There were also Bunya and Norfolk Pines mixed in with the Bloodwoods, with the Bunya branches covered in moss.

Staying in the shadows and occasionally crossing over an old vehicle track we came to what looked like a disused wallow. While still holding water the Deer tracks looked at least a week old, though a fresh dog print was present.

Earlier in the day we had met up with a neighbouring property owner and during our conversation he spoke of the wild dogs and their ill effects on the Deer and livestock population - so we decided to keep our eyes open. Though loaded with 165gr Barnes in .30-06 calibre I was possibly a little over gunned.

After checking out plenty of sign, the odd rub and a potential Deer bed we decided that while it was good Deer country today wasn’t our day. On the way back out we turned directly into the creek and rock hopped for about 500 metres.

In the creek we found sign that made us think Deer; rather than simply crossing the creek had been using it as a trail, so we took note and marked it down for future investigation.

Back at the car at 5pm we realised that we had been walking for around 8 hours and while we didn’t end up with any more meat for the freezer we were certainly happy for the day in the field and the chance to stalk a Stag.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Green choices, Green judgement and a 2 hour drive

Green choices

About 5 years ago I joined an Australian environmental organisation. I did so because amongst other things, I agreed with their approach to environmental sustainability.

At the time their message was about sustainability through multi-layered environmental management.

This included promoting realistic environmental management techniques. Supporting environmental industries as employers of the future and putting forward the argument that long term employment, income and ‘commonwealth’ could flow from a well managed environment. Most importantly for me they encouraged responsible interaction with the environment rather than the typical lock-out or isolation model.

I see responsible interaction as being all about building a connection. I was, and am today strongly opposed to any approach that isolates people from the environment, be that isolation a physical barrier or policy that simply cuts people out of the environmental picture.

All isolation seems to do is distance individuals, and the wider community from the environment and leads in many cases to unmanageable outcomes.

On a recent trip to Fraser Island my partner and I experienced the isolation approach first hand. The administration of the Dingo population is really one that isolates, rather than allows meaningful interaction. While I completely agree the Dingo population on Fraser Island has to be managed, I don’t see what is happening at present as a very successful way to going about it.

My partner best summed it up when she said that with all the electrified Dingo grids, Dingo fences, Dingo warning signs and Dingo safety videos you could easily be convinced that Dingoes were potential man eaters - almost in the same category as Lions and Bears. The trouble with all the warnings was they did nothing to help us understand Dingoes, the wider Fraser Island environment and how we might successfully interact. It simply created a physical and mental barrier.

Somehow we managed to survive and all we saw of the Dingos were tracks on a sandy beach one morning while taking a walk.

At our place, while we obviously have opinions on environmental management, we also try to live by our personal eco ideals. Though I drink rum and steer well clear of chardonnay and my partner just can’t understand all the fuss over coffee, if you ran a cursory eye over how we live - you might say we are city greens.

We are both public transport advocates and users, we recycle, our accumulated rubbish rarely fills the council bin and in the cooler months we often don’t need to put the bin out on a weekly basis. We use green energy, our home has been upgraded with green improvements and we have retro fitted a number of water and energy saving devices.

While a 2 car family, our total vehicle use is quite small and our vehicles are 4 cylinder models.

We’re also made some longer term green choices, like replacing older appliances with those that use less water and energy and in the case of the air-conditioner, doing away with it all together. Also a percentage of our food is home grown and we are even considering getting chooks.

Green judgement

So with all this green trumpet blowing on my part you might be surprised to know that very recently I quit the environmental organisation. I did so not because I had a change of heart and bought a coal powered Cadillac El Dorado, erected an oil derrick in my backyard and replaced all our eco friendly light fittings with halogen bulbs. No, I did so because after a series of conversations with the organisation it became clear that rather than being regarded as a green urbanite – I was somewhat red, as in the neck and horribly cruel to boot. Why? Because I hunt.

Now I hunt for many reasons, one being that it is a remarkably good source of food. As with my gardening, hunting contributes to our total food needs in what I believe is a very environmentally beneficial manner.

However the mention of hunting drew a certain response and quick judgement from my erstwhile environmental friends – what you might call a Green Judgement. It seems that hunting has no place in the context of the ideals of environmental management and interaction.

Their take on hunting was one of isolation. Hunting and hunters must not be allowed access; the environment must be wholly protected. Further hunting was not only bad for the environment, it was downright offensive, cruel, horrible and completely unnecessary.

So is hunting cruel? I believe not. Do hunters act cruelly, again I don’t believe so. I know many hunters and all understand the enormity and finality of a successful hunt.

Consequently they spend considerable time and effort in seeking to reduce any potential suffering and most are amateur ‘experts’ who demonstrate a real connection with game.

I also know and have in a very small way contributed to the establishment of hunting rules to ensure specie sustainability. These rules are completely voluntary and have no legality other than the agreement by members to follow and enforce them.

So while I’m not real concerned with the cruelty comments what is a concern is that green judgement appears to have become an influencer of supposedly sensible policy. Worse still it appears to be more and more a part of government decision making.

Take for example the ban on Duck and Quail hunting. Here in Queensland Duck and Quail hunting was banned back in 2005. A number of reasons were given for this decision at the time; many to me appear to be emotive and strongly influenced by green judgement.

If you are interested just Google Duck hunting ban in Queensland and you’ll get an idea of the various groups who pushed for the ban. One of the standout reasons was that Duck and Quail hunting was an unnecessary barbaric pastime.
Now while I might find some black humour in having my preferred pastime put me in the same league as Conan (as in the Barbarian) – the ban and the reasons for it simply made no sense.

Many people eat Duck, in fact my partner and I did so on our recent trip to Fraser. We did it in a very unbarbaric setting and like a number of people dining that night thoroughly enjoyed it. Coincidently of the many people who enjoy eating Duck some are Duck hunters.

Contrary to what some might believe and promote; Duck hunting, and for that matter hunting in general isn’t about playing barbarian or red neck. A Duck hunter doesn’t buy a licence, spend thousands of dollars on gear, spend even more money and time buying and training a dog, drive a goodly distance from home and stand around in freezing water ‘cause they like shootin’ stuff. They do it for a tangible if not guaranteed outcome, Duck for the table.

While the activity may provide a continuing link to a person’s cultural heritage and while it might also provide a very enjoyable and engaging pastime to be shared with family and friends, for the vast majority of Duck hunters, the primary aim is to gather food.

Additionally, season and breeding cycle based Duck hunting contributes favourably to the continuing sustainability of wild bird populations and allows access to a sustainable food source. Based on anecdotal evidence Duck hunting also appears to cost the environment less than those costs associated with commercial animal farming. Finally as a licence to hunt must be bought it is also a revenue source for Government.

So while in dire economic times it is good for consumer confidence to have any number of people farm, transport and sell you a Duck, it’s barbaric to spend a great deal of time and money so as to have the opportunity to hunt a Duck for the very same outcome.

Now I whole heartedly respect someone’s desire for not wanting to hunt and I’m not saying that buying and hunting Duck is the same process. However I cannot see how paying is good, while DIY is barbaric. Further I certainly can’t understand how hunting is not environmentally beneficial and in fact would argue that it produces a much smaller carbon footprint.

All over the world hunting is used to help sustainably manage wildlife, and Australia is no exception. We use hunting and hunters, both professional and recreational to manage native and feral animal populations on a daily basis.

The unfortunate thing about Duck and Quail hunting is it’s a 2005 issue. It’s banned in Queensland and so for many it’s now a bygone activity; though with drought breaking rain it may become very much an issue in 2010. Especially if we see a dramatic increase in wild bird population and how this might adversely effect agriculture and the wider environment. But at present this is pure speculation and a little wishful thinking on my part.

Deer however are very much a now issue and again I personally believe that green judgement has given us a very poor outcome in Queensland.

Deer have recently been declared a pest, which is really a cop-out. It pushes their control onto land owners and the tax payer and I believe came into effect through the influence of green judgement and its perception that hunting has no place in environmental management.

A number of Queenslanders actively hunt Deer, I’m one of them and for me Deer are both a meat source and a trophy animal. The trophy part of Deer hunting is what is most often criticized as an unacceptable activity. The thing is that for those of you who may not be aware - trophy animals are also a meat source; the only difference is the primary motivation for hunting.

Now with the declaration of Deer as a pest, an economic and environmentally beneficial opportunity has been missed, though I hope not lost.

If Deer were classified as a Game Animal, they could be hunted at a cost from which the proceeds would go to the State Government and indirectly to the local regional communities where Deer are most prevalent. Also the adverse effects Deer have on the environment; which is one of the reasons for their pest classification could be managed from a cost positive position.

Hunters, like the world over could apply for a licence, hunt the Deer and gather the meat for personal use. This would create a process where people pay to hunt, rather than as in the current situation where the whole thing is run at a loss.

However for this to occur there would have to an acceptance of the benefits of hunting, something that those who exert green judgement seem unable to stomach as well as a decision to listen to both sides of the argument on the part of policy makers.

A 2-hour drive

So where is there a system that utilises hunting to benefit the environment, where can you see a working model? Well this is what the ‘2 hour drive’ refers to. If you live in Brisbane and want to see an environmental management approach that utilises and benefits from recreational hunting participation, all you need to do is take a 2 hour drive.

If you head south into Cockroach Territory - down old Mexico way - while you may be hard pressed to find a decent Rugby League team you will find an effective environmental management system.

In New South Wales (NSW) I, along with many other Queenslanders are currently recognised as Voluntary Conservation Hunters.

This impressive title - unfortunately not bestowed by royal decree - is for those who have undertaken the training, gained accreditation and paid the necessary fee so as to hunt in selected State Forests and aid in the control of feral and game species for the benefit of NSW and its environment.

The process is legislatively endorsed, controlled and effectively administered through the NSW Game Council.

The activities of the Game Council and its accredited Voluntary Conservation Hunters include:

 Directly benefiting the environment through the removal of feral pests from NSW State Forests.

 Providing further benefit to agriculture by removing pests that would otherwise impose a cost on the industry and individual agriculturists.

 Helping to reduce the overall cost burden associated with controlling these pests, by utilising volunteers.

While certain types may say it’s foolish of me to spend my own money to help NSW save theirs, I don’t mind spending the bucks at all. It allows me to hunt, to gather food if I wish and to positively contribute to the environment - three things that I really like doing.

Now as a Queenslander it is almost a pathological requirement for me to second rate NSW, however I have to admit that it feels a lot better being an eco-warrior in NSW than a barbarian in the Smart State.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An owner's evaluation of the Tikka T3 Hunter

To my friends, followers, frequent visitors and guests. As you may have noticed I usually don’t introduce my articles, however as this is my first attempt at a review or more properly evaluation, I thought one was in order.

My intention in writing this article was to provide those of you with more than a passing interest in hunting with information that may help you make a choice if you are in the market for a new rifle. For my non-hunting friends, all I hope is that you find it interesting enough to keep your attention.


Mark at Outdoor Life Australia

The Tikka T3 Hunter ‘Stainless’ in .30-06.

A model not usually available in left hand; this rifle came about through some good timing, a little horse trading and an accommodating gun shop. Apart from the obvious differences it is identical to the Tikka T3 Hunter (blued).

An owner’s evaluation of the Tikka T3 Hunter in .30-06
The following is a new owner’s evaluation of the Tikka T3 Hunter in .30-06. While it contains some technical information it is more of a layman’s opinion of the Tikka T3 as a hunter’s rifle than a dedicated technical review.

Its intention is to provide some help to anyone looking for a new rifle but hasn’t quite decided on what to get. The evaluation begins by detailing my thoughts behind the purchase and then moves on to focus directly onto the functions and components of the rifle.

Making the decision
I wanted a new rifle for hunting deer in Australia, specifically Red, Fallow, Rusa and possibly Chital. I also wanted the rifle that would be suitable for other game, such as feral pests including Pigs and Goats. Physically I like to hunt on foot; I’m 190cm tall and left handed.

My first consideration was calibre. Some of the questions I asked when going about choosing a calibre were:

 What calibres are appropriate for deer, primarily Stags?
 If the need ever arose, could I buy this calibre in regional, remote locations?
 What’s the general reputation of a calibre I might be interested in?
 Does the calibre have a wide selection of projectiles?

After plenty of research including discussions with Australian Deer Association members and more general conversations at the range the choice came down to .270 or .30-06 with the .30-06 finally winning out.

With a calibre selected it was time to consider a rifle. As I required a hunting rifle, weight, feel and balance when firing off the shoulder would have more influence on my choice than sub-minute of accuracy (MOA) performance, a heavy barrel and other target rifle style qualities.

As it was also to be a left handed my choices were limited. Generally most manufacturers cater for left hand shooters in the following ways:

 Left hand actions in a small number of models.
 A left hand action range limited to long action calibres.
 A combination of the first two.
 No range at all.

Tikka was an early favourite with its large range of left hand outfits; however I also considered and investigated rifles by Browning, Remington, Sako and Ruger.

Looking at the various rifles, I found the following:

 Browning A Bolt - too short in the stock.
 Remington - the CDL, a real consideration.
 Sako - at the time only ‘run-out’ 75s were available in left hand with a limited calibre selection. The 85s did not appear to come in left hand.
 Ruger - some nice rifles, though not enough options for the LH shooter.

While the Remington CDL was a real contender, it too was a little short in the stock, so ultimately I chose the Tikka T3 Hunter.

Out of the Box - first impressions
The Tikka T3 Hunter certainly looks like a modern bolt action rifle with a noticeable quality of manufacture, straight lines and clean metal and timber finishes. While not a military or tactical rifle, it could be described as more utilitarian than elegant, which I find appealing.

Inserting the bolt, loading and fitting the magazine
Bolt insertion and release is controlled by a small toggle switch on the right hand side of the action towards the tang. There is no discernable play or movement in the bolt when forward and the feel is very crisp, smooth and positive.

The Hunter uses an external magazine which is made from a glass fibre reinforced composite material. While detracting a little from the rifle’s overall finish the magazine loads and feeds easily, is robust and fits well with a positive click.

The supplied magazine has a 3 shot capacity in .30-06 while a 5 shot after market magazine is also available. Strangely while the intention of the composite material is to presumably keep costs down, the cost of the after market composite magazine is almost prohibitive.

Bolt ‘Action’
As I hunt with an empty chamber, action performance is very important. The Tikka T3 action allows for quick and effective cycling and has a healthy case ejection. While the bolt has a 70 degree lift and is longer than some, it does not feel so and I believe would compare favourably with most other bolt action rifles available.

Weight and Balance
Overall rifle weight is 3.1 kg. While it is the heavier of the Tikka sporting rifles, it is not a heavy rifle and its length, weight and width compliment each other making for a well balanced outfit. It also comes to the shoulder easily, has a positive feel and points very well.

The Stock

Factory fitted with a recoil pad, the walnut stock is a well designed and functional stock. Checkering is clean, well cut and compliments the utilitarian style of the rifle.The cheek piece, while generic is a good height and puts you in a comfortable position for sighting when using the supplied scope mounts.

Briefly on scope mounting, this is made easy by the intergrated scope rail and supplied Optilock rings. The rail is also pre-drilled and tapped to accommodate other styles of scope mounts.

Out of the box the weight of the crisp single stage adjustable trigger was to my liking, though some may find it a little heavy. When shooting from a bench the trigger pressure is noticeable, however in the field the firmness of the trigger does make for confident off hand shots. Other trigger options, such as a single set trigger are also available.

The safety is thumb-operated with a clear red dot indicator, it is in easy reach on the left side of the action and is very straightforward to use.

With a free floated cold hammer forged barrel, the rifle has an advertised factory tested accuracy of 30mm at 100 metres. After a lot of rounds at the range and a hand full of successful field shots this seems about right and the T3 is an accurate sporter.

The majority of metal components have a quality matt stainless finish with the safety a notable exception. The walnut stock has a clean, easy to maintain oil finish.

The Tikka T3 Hunter is high quality hunting rifle, with a confident feel and functional looks. It is also an accurate sporter and for both left and right hand hunters it provides good value for money.

The pros
 The weight of the rifle allows it to be carried comfortably in the field.
 It is well balanced; the stock is a good stock length and design.
 It comes to the shoulder easily and points well.
 The checkering is clean and functional and the pistol grip shape and diameter is well matched to the trigger position.
 The bolt action is very good.
 Its overall quality of manufacture is high.
 It has an external box magazine which I very much like for its ease of loading.

The cons
 Though all standard calibres are available in left hand, not so with all models.
 Not all models are readily available in Australia.
 Supply was a problem, a 6 month wait in total.
 A generic stock.
 The composite material used in parts of the rifle
 The cost of the after market magazine.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The conventional wisdom of camouflage

Whatever your pursuit, chances are it is governed by rules and regulations. The rules generally control the play, while the regulations enforce the boundaries; and while the rules and regulations of some pursuits are highly formalised others are less so.

My pursuit is hunting and while it certainly has rules and regulations, when you are in the field your ability to fully control every aspect of the hunt is far from complete. One reason being it seems no one ever bothered to explain things to the game we hunt.

People however don’t seem to be all that comfortable with this and so use various systems and approaches and adopt certain behaviours that might help them gain some control. In my pursuit all of these could all be wrapped up into what you might term the conventional wisdom of hunting.

For instance hunting downwind is a conventional wisdom, nowhere it is written that you have to hunt this way, there is no linesperson or umpire to enforce this - however it’s not a bad idea to hunt into the wind.

Trouble is there are times when things happen that go directly against a conventional wisdom and since you can’t ask for a replay or ruling your only choice is to ask why and try to learn from it.

Take scent for example, now generally it is held that smelling like a human is a great way of scarring off game. Consequently many hunters make an effort to dehumanise their scent; which includes such actions as not using deodorant, avoiding campfire smoke, having ‘hunting only’ gear and even being careful about what to eat.

However recently I had a good look at an 80kg+ boar a friend knocked over with the help of his German shorthaired pointer. Considering the location of the boar I estimated that is was about 800 metres down wind from our camp.

Now our camp was a place where 9 noisy, smoky, smelly, diesel and petrol vehicle driving, bacon and egg eating, cigarette smoking and occasional beer drinking hunters set up shop for a week.

Yet possibly the best boar of the trip was taken almost within site of this camp - which made me ask why? Could it be that (1) the traditional view on scent may need some refinement, (2) scent is not an exact science, (3) no one explained things to the boar or (4) it had had a cold.

The other thing is that much of the conventional wisdom within hunting does not have universal support. In fact debate surrounding a particular topic seems to generate more campfire banter than almost anything else.

Effective camouflage is a case in point. It appears that here are two very distinct and competing wisdoms here.

The first contends that for camouflage to be effective it must be the same colour, shade and design – or as close to possible, to the hunting environment.

Here in Southern Queensland this means steering well clear of the darker colours and busier designs of New Zealand and the US. What you should be using is faded, washed out colours incorporated into simpler vertical patterns that reflect our drier landscape.

Auscam, especially old faded Auscam is highly recommended though some of the specialised patterns from the US with light, washed out browns, fawns, taupes and sand colours, and the odd flick of green are also highly sort after.

Generally to achieve the right balance of colour and shade it is recommended that you repeatedly wash your new camouflage and allow it to dry in the sun so it can fade to the desired level - or in my case shrink to an undesired level!

However a second school of thought directly challenges this approach to camouflage.

It argues that as no combination of colour, shade or pattern will hide you from sharp eyed game you have to use designs that change or break up the all too recognisable human form so as to make you unrecognisable.

Advocates of this approach to camouflage often use blaze orange to strengthen their case, if colour is so important, how can any hunter be successful wearing a blaze orange hat? There are a number of popular imported and local designs that help break-up the human shape, with more seemingly available everyday at the local gun shop.

Interestingly one point where these two schools agree is dealing with your hands and face. More dedicated camouflage aficionados from both camps state that the human face and hands stand out in the bush and so must be camouflaged.

Therefore veils and gloves are regarded are an essential part of the complete camouflage kit, though of course what colour, shade, pattern or design is dependant on your point of view.
So as a hunter, how do you decide which approach to camouflage is for you? Well one of the great benefits of not having a lot of boundaries is that you can make your own. So when choosing camouflage you can make yourself invisible or you can change your shape - or you can even have a go at doing both.

One certainty in all of this is that you can always sit close to the fire in your comfortable chair with your favourite drink and simply listen and enjoy the conversation.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A trip to Nundle

On the road

Travelling south, Tim and I had spent much of the drive talking about our next 3 days away. While it was officially a 7 day hunt organised by the Australian Deer Association Queensland ADA(Q), we could only get a few days off work and so were keen to make the most of our time. For both of us it would be a trip of ‘firsts’, our first time to Nundle, our first hunt with ADA(Q) and our first hunt as New South Wales (NSW) R-Licence holders.

For those who are unfamiliar with the R-Licence, it provides holders the opportunity to help with feral and game animal reduction in declared NSW State forests. Something that benefits the environment, agriculture, and much to the chagrin of Queenslanders like me the NSW economy!

The previous week back in Southern Queensland I had taken my first Red Deer Stag. It had been a great experience and something I had worked hard for. However this trip away would be different; I had no real expectations of the days ahead and would be happy just to be out in the field.

Riding shotgun, I looked out at the New England scenery. With its granite boulder landscape, red and gold foliage and deciduous trees; while it doesn’t look that much like England - trust me I’ve been there - it’s certainly different to my part of the world.

Driving down, we took our time and made a number of stops. Our first was Tenterfield for a ‘Famous Meat Pie’ (said so right on the shop front) and a quick look in the toy/sport/fishing/gun and barber shop.

Next was Uralla for a beer in the Thunderbolt Inn Hotel with its heated public bar. Now for some this is no big deal, but for Queensland boys a public bar with the heat on mid morning in April is something you take notice of. Our final stop was a late lunch at a pub about 30 minutes from our final destination.

At the town of Nundle we turned left and began the very steep climb to our base at Ponderosa Park. The park, a small camp ground lies between Nundle and Hanging Rock State Forests along the Forest Drive.

Arriving, we met some of the others we would be sharing our time with over the next few days. The first order of business was to set up and so we all worked on pitching the ADA(Q) HQ tent; an impressive 5 by 10 metre white wedding marquee, as well as getting the hot shower and kitchen installed and fire going. With everything in place Tim and I turned to our own camp and got ourselves ready for the following day’s hunting.

That afternoon around the camp fire we learnt a little about ‘Nundle’, a name used to refer to the town, the State Forest and sometimes the surrounding district. Because of its elevated position Nundle State Forest seems to have its own climate, which for us was cold, wet and windy at night and cool, windy and damp during the day!

Just before dusk we took a quick drive to get a feel for the place and saw rabbits, a fox and a small fallow deer - all which left us feeling confident that there was plenty of game about. We also observed a very healthy population of native wildlife feeding on both sides of the main track.

Into the forest

The next morning we waited for the light and then hit the road. Having a sedan we decided on an easily accessible point about 4 kilometres from camp that we had investigated the previous afternoon. Parking the car, we got our gear together and began by following an overgrown track into the pine.

Very soon we began to see roos and wallabies feeding in the deep pine, we also noticed that the light and wind were lower and the temperature warmer in the pine than at camp. It also became obvious that it would be pretty easy to get lost, so we took a compass/route map approach, marked our start location and turned directly south into the light South Easterly/Westerly wind.

Once you got used to it, stalking in the heavy forest was pretty straightforward as the damp pine needles absorbed nearly all sound. Travelling in line and sight of each other we switched to radio communications to further reduce any noise we might make.
Soon we began to see pig diggings, droppings and the remains of bright red mushrooms the pigs had been eating. At each point of ‘sign’ we would quietly discuss what we saw.

While it was evident there had been lots of activity and lots of pigs in the area, determining their direction of travel was a little harder. We found the answer a short time later when we came to an old forestry track.

The track was slightly below us and so after stepping down we searched the bank and were able to spot a worn animal track, some very fresh prints and some newly fallen earth. Again after some whispered discussion we agreed the game was likely in front and that we were moving in the right direction. Also with the wind in our favour we felt confident we would see soon something.

As part of our approach, we stopped at regular intervals to scan the forest with the binoculars and maybe take a compass bearing.

However as we moved further into the pine I gave the binoculars away as they were next to useless in the low light conditions.

We continued a slow traverse of what seemed to be a long pine covered slope and finally came to another track. Again we took a compass bearing and noted our crossing point. Obviously with GPS keeping track of our location would have been simpler; however I learnt to navigate using map and compass and like to practice as often as I can.


After crossing the track we moved down into a small grass and fern covered gully and then up again into the pine. Almost at the peak of this rise we encountered our first pigs.

At almost the same time I saw them I heard a whispered ‘pigs’ over the radio. Lowering into a crouch I turned, noted Tim’s position and realised I was in the box seat. Luckily for me the pigs, oblivious of our presence were to my left and slightly in front, while Tim was ever so slightly behind and to my right.

Remaining still I watched the small black female and larger black male with white socks continue their search of the forest floor. Cycling the action I then shouldered my Tikka T3, aimed squarely for the body and squeezed the trigger. Hitting the smaller pig squarely with the .30-06 150gr Accubond - it dropped immediately to the forest floor.

Its companion, raised its head as I cycled the action, took aim and fired a heart/lung shot - which produced the same result as the first. However a larger pig, a true boar, burst from cover and moved directly in front of me.

Firing 2 quick shots at the fleeing boar I felt that I had missed with both. Tim, not so sure and hearing a squeal asked if I was clear. Giving the thumbs up, he bolted forward and crested the rise.
After checking the pigs I started to think over what had just happened; twice in two weeks I had been successful on my first outing, however in both cases I had not been fully aware of the situation.

With my Red Stag the previous week I had ‘missed’ seeing a smaller Stag and while I got the better, I hadn’t had a full impression of the situation. With the pigs I had missed a much better boar by focusing too quickly on the obvious. I decided it was something I needed to work on.

Tim, returning after about 5 minutes was been unable to pick up any blood sign, or get a clear shot though he did hear another fleeting squeal while in hot pursuit. Hauling the pigs together we took photos and relived the event. After a little crowing on my part we moved off to further search our new hunting area for more pigs!

Coming to another very overgrown track we found that the pine was divided by a wide, shallow scrub covered gully. Turning West, we moved slowly down the track and at the bottom found a small water hole. We also saw how the area opened up into a long wedge shaped meadow separating the pine from a eucalypt forest.

Not wanting to move too far away from where we had taken the pigs, we slowly retraced our tracks finally arriving back at our starting point. As we were still pretty excited by the morning’s events, we spent about an hour exploring a new area closer to camp where we again saw plenty of pig sign - though no pigs.
Over the next 3 days we would hunt a similar pattern until around 11am. While we did hunt other parts of Nundle, we decided to spend our mornings working and learning more about the area that had already produced good results.


Our approach paid off on each of the two following days. The next morning we moved to the meadow after again trying out the pine. Standing under cover on the fringe of the open ground we realised the wind would be blowing over our shoulders. Deciding to push on anyway we slowly moved into this new area. Tim stayed in the shadows of the pines right on the edge of the meadow, while I stalked in a more open position. Coming around a slight bend we saw a Hind. Unfortunately neither of us was able to get a clean shot. The Hind eventually broke and I fired, but with no success.

Discussing what happened we decided to push on and see what else was about. Back at camp a couple of hours later we talked to the others of our encounter and after some campfire encouragement decided to try the area again.

So on our third and final morning we skipped our usual pig search in the pines and spent about 2 ½ hours slowly getting ourselves into a ‘wind friendly’ position for the meadow. Under some heavy cover we had a quick feed, gave ourselves a chance to get refocused and began a very slow and deliberate stalk. Tim again stayed in the shadows of the pine while I moved closer to the fringe of the eucalypt. Slowly moving through the meadow we would constantly stop, look and listen before moving on.

After all of the effort, planning and patience I let the side down. At the crucial moment I got distracted and turning casually to look over my right shoulder discovered I was about 10 metres away from a trophy Fallow Stag. Standing still, or best you can with your heart racing; I cycled the action on my Tikka T3 and watched the Stag, startled by the metallic sound disappear down a creek and into the eucalypt.

The Mob

Each afternoon, Tim and I would team up with Clinton and hunt other areas of the State Forest. On the third and last outing we hit a mob of pigs. I wasn’t even ready to shoot at the time and so ended being a very amused observer of all the action. Clinton, first seeing a small black flash called cat - however after the second flash we in unison called pigs!
We had inadvertently intersected the mob’s escape route and so in order to the get away they either has to perform an about face, or run right past Tim and Clinton. Choosing the latter they fled through the ferns, darting in and out of cover. It was like a scene from a monster movie with the ferns alive with movement, noise and lots of excited shouting.

The action lasted about 15 seconds and included a couple of quick shots and one either very brave or confused squealer charging straight at Tim before changing course almost under his feet!

The whole event provided a great story back at the camp that evening and gave Tim and Clinton a change to really get amongst it.

The final tally

For the rest of our group Nundle also provided some great hunting. Our combined total included two good sized boars, four smaller pigs and two Hinds. A few days later I did hear that another pig had also been taken. It seems two of our party both aimed and fired on the same sow, leading to an overall count of 7 and a very entertaining camp fire discussion about who shot whose pig!

While our 3 days away ended up being far too short, our first trip to Nundle provided us with some real excitement, a chance to make some new friends and plenty to talk about until next time.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Go get dinner: My first deer

Having joined the Brisbane Branch of the Australian Deer Association and Queensland Deer Mangement Group (QDMG) early in 2008 I had spent a number of Saturdays working at the Mt Stanley hunting blocks - 2 hours North of Brisbane - rolling fencing wire, repairing pens and digging holes to earn access points for the 2009 Roar.

So when it finally rolled around I attended the Roar ballot and was duly allotted a share of a block for 7 days to hunt ‘Stags’ (up to 4x4) for the grand total of 24 points or about 4 days work.

While 7 days hunting sounded fantastic, some adjustments had to be made to fit in with that horrible thing called work. So after a couple of calls and a bit of trading I had organised a 3 day hunt. This reorganising included partnering up with a more experienced hunter; a QDMG requirement for new members. In my case I would be hunting with Paul who was spending a full week up at the blocks.

Finishing work on Tuesday afternoon I rushed home, packed the car and took my far better half out for an early dinner - by way of saying goodbye for the next 3 days. After our meals, the last words from my partner were to be careful on the roads and ‘go get dinner’, a none too gentle reference to my boasting about how we’d have a freezer full of venison come April.

After a thankfully uneventful drive I arrived at the ‘Hut’, my accommodation for the next 3 days around 8:30pm and unloaded the car, got myself sorted and had a chat to Paul about all things deer before turning in. The next day we were up at 5am and bumping along to our jump off point a short time later in the Vitara.

Stopping at the base of a ridgeline that more or less travelled all the way to the southern boundary of the block we got ourselves ready and started off in the growing light.

Taking it easy and staying below the skyline we moved quietly in a southerly direction and soon began to see plenty of deer sign. While no roars were heard, droppings, rubs and hair caught in fencing were spotted in the first couple of hours.

In following days throughout the block we would see plenty of rubs on smaller leafed plants; however this first stalk would be the only time we would see large and high rubs on Bloodwoods.

These rubs were easily spotted in the early light and gave us confidence that deer were about.

However, one thing that certainly wasn’t in our favour was the wind; it was on our backs and seemed to be nailed there.

In trying to solve this problem we decided to walk a slow and wide loop to eventually better position ourselves, at least on the return leg.

Just before 8am we approached an intersecting ridge running East/West and decided it would make a good smoko stop. We would then follow it West and begin our loop, and hopefully get right with the wind!

Breaking for smoko we considered a couple of interesting gullies in front of us and talked about our next move. Then out of nowhere came a short roar. It was initially hard to pinpoint however a follow-up roar allowed us to estimate a likely position to our right. Then to really throw something into the mix it was answered by a long roar from the left!

Packing quickly we moved left, deciding that stag sounded closer. Also it would allow us to find favourable wind under good cover. After about an hour we found ourselves at a partially shaded saddle on an otherwise high ridge above a heavily vegetated dry creek.

Unfortunately the wind had become a problem again, now blowing across us, but we just had to live with it. With Paul slightly below and 20 metres behind - he was the first to spot a Hind, bedded in the shade. The Hind was accompanied by a calf and they both soon broke cover and moved across the creek. While I didn’t initially see them, I did catch a glimpse as they moved.

It was the closest I had been to wild Red Deer and as I watched the Hind and calf I saw a 3rd and 4th ‘Hind’ come into view. They were travelling almost directly in front of Paul and I was able to get a good view of the lead animal through the trees.

I had been slowly moving towards Paul in a crouch and was still about 10 metres away when I noticed his ‘excited’ hand signals. With 4 fingers up on both hands, I first thought he was indicating to go to Channel 8 on the radio; but it soon hit me, the trailing Hind was in fact a 4x4 Stag.

Now very close to Paul; I still couldn’t make out the Stag’s head due to the cover, however that all changed in an instant when with another step he came into full view. With words containing a lot more colour but with similar meaning to; if you don’t shoot in a big hurry I will - I got down into an almost prone position, 80-90 metres away and above the Stag. ‘Lighting’ him with the VX-III scope I saw his broadside chest was perfectly protected by a tree.

Waiting for the shot the stag then stepped forward and I fired. Though I can’t say that I saw it Paul said later that a good dirt and blood plum appeared with the hit, all I saw was the Stag firstly rock backwards, drop its head and then stumble forward.

With the report the Hind in front broke and a smaller second Stag momentarily appeared, before bolting down and crossing the creek.

With the words, good shot or there abouts from Paul I worked the bolt and jacked in another round. Again I heard Paul, this time with a cautious steady on and so I stopped and slowly rose.
As nothing was moving, I removed the chambered round, made the rifle safe and we slowly moved forward.

It took us some time to locate the Stag as it had crashed into a lantana covered washout. So with a fair bit of pulling, dragging and swearing we managed to get it to a position where we could admire its size and head, take plenty of pictures and begin dressing the meat. Though many would argue otherwise, to me it was a real trophy and I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

The .30-06 Federal Gold Medal 150gr Accubond ammo had driven through the ribs and into the chest on the Stag’s right hand side. The shot however did not produce a through and through as I found the remains of the projectile, possibly now a 3rd of its original mass just under the skin on the left.

A little time later I had the back straps, head and hind quarters ready to go so we began the slow process of hauling the meat out. It certainly wasn’t the highlight of the morning and I was glad when I was sitting in the car with the meat in the back. By around 12:30pm I had my first Stag hanging behind the Hut!

Over the next 3 days we would stalk on 4 more occasions and each time see Deer, though no better Stags.

As I had my Stag, and couldn’t fit another in my freezer, I was feeling relaxed and so used the following days to learn as much as I could in the field.

I also used the time to evaluate what I had read, heard and discussed about deer as well as consider how my kit held up.

My Tikka T3 is really a great rifle and I can’t fault it, though I have some reservations about the ammo - I felt it lost too much mass. My clothing was spot on for mild April weather, though following advice to wash the brightness out of my new camo caused me to inadvertently wash the ‘size’ right out of it as well, which Paul found very funny.
Two obvious improvements for me are optics and storage. It became obvious that in low light my reasonably priced binoculars simply didn’t cut it. Secondly my very comfortable, light and practical day pack was far too small for carrying meat.

So to sum up…first day, first hunt, 3 hours in - one Stag in the bag, one set of antlers for the wall; this deer business is easy!

Especially with an experienced hand leading the way, thanks Paul.