by: Patrick Perera , Sept 2012
I have been hunting for more than 20 years. The main species that I shoot have been wild boar, with a few chital deer and few sambar, however this hunt has rewarded me with the greatest set of trophy antlers I have ever got.
It all started with my wife gifting a rifle for my B’day. After much investigation I thought of opting for a .338 Win mag . Up to now my favourite rifle was a savage .308. Many a game have I shot with my .308 using 168 gr Sierra HPBT in standard Norma factory ammunition.
Since the rifle was a special gift I decided to get a Weatherby Vanguard sporter 2 with a Woodstock and a new three position safety. Upon checking with my supplier I found that there was one rifle left with the distributer and I paid an advance and booked my rifle. All paper work done and 2 weeks later it was finally the exciting moment to go and pick up my new toy. The rifle looked even better in real life than in the catalogue. I fitted a Leopold vx3 1.75-6 x32 scope with low mounts.
In the lead up to collecting the rifle I had already started making a batch of .338 ammunition. I used Woodleigh 225 gr ppsn and Hornady 200gr sp to hand load a batch of fifty rounds.
The next weekend was at little river breaking in my new rifle, the Weatherby promise of sub moa accuracy was evident, I had shot a group well under 1 inch at 100 meters. I was completely satisfied with the performance.
The next hunting trip was planned a couple of months before with a mate who was also looking forward to seeing the new .338. Days past ever so slowly before the weekend. I had already planned to leave work early to accommodate the 6-hour drive to the place we were hunting.
Unfortunately the weather was predicted to be miserable, though my spirits were dampened with the impending thunderstorm and rain the excitement of getting away in to the wild was stronger and undeterred by the stalling traffic made worse by rain – I slowly made my way out of Melbourne. I was to meet my mate who lived closer to our hunting spot around 8pm that night. After nearly two hours of agonizing slow driving I finally made it to open roads and was cruising. However this was short lived since the weather dropped below zero and I was now facing layers of snow on the lonely narrow and curvy mountain roads. Making driving even more challenging was the constant downpour of snow. I had no option but to engage 4wd and carefully made my way for the next one and a half hours on the mountain road. Though I had passed the road many times before, tonight was unique, the entire landscape was covered in a thick blanket of snow and tree branches were heavy with the weight of snow. Some of the low lying branches already fallen on to the road made my drive even more challenging. Taking time to enjoy this view I made sure to drive carefully around the curvy narrow bends. For me the adventure of being outdoors amongst nature and being challenged by nature has always proved more exciting and rewarding than shooting. For me the taking of a shot signals the end of the adventure.
It was around 8pm when I drew to the meeting point. Peter had not still arrived and the weather had now improved with the rain falling steadily. My much anticipated hunt seemed washed away. I took the opportunity to quickly put on rain gear and tie down the number plates of the land cruiser. The number plates seem to attract pressure when the inevitable river crossings are done and tying them down would protect them from completely getting washed away. Next I signalled Peter on the VHF and was happy to her his response crackle over the air ways to inform me that he was not more than a few minutes away.
Shortly after I saw Peter’s white land cruiser come alongside and park, we both dared the rain to get down and make warm handshakes. After a quick catch up on the last couple of weeks the decision was made that the weather was not holding good enough to go to the intended hunting spot instead we used an old hunting hut much closer but less prospective for the night. It was nearly 9.30 when we came to the old beaten hut and was glad of the tin roof and quickly lit a fire and pitched tent inside the hut. We sat there talking of our game plan and simply catching up till almost 2 in the morning. The rain kept its steady flow and I was glad that I was not seated in the open especially with the temperature well below zero. The next day I woke early at 6am and re-lit the fire and was glad when the Billy was steaming and the coffee was brewing. We had a good sumptuous breakfast of eggs, bacon and baked beans. And having washed it all down with a second cup of coffee we were ready by 7 to start our hunting. The day seemed promising with bright sunlight seeping through the dark rain clouds. The daylight brought visibility of the beautiful place we were in, the hut was bordering a creek which had swollen due to the rainfall and was flowing with a rapid current. The bush was dark green and the birds had started their singing signalling it was time for us to go. It was decided that Peter would hunt the right side of the creek whilst I was to cross the creek to the left side into the mountains. I walked the riverbed a few hundred meters to find a place to cross, however the creek was too deep and the current too rapid to cross. Eventually I came across a tree that had fallen across the creek. Even though the tree trunk was wet and looked green with slime I took my chance as this would have been my best option of crossing without getting into the creek. I was glad I had worn spikes which another mate of mine had gifted me, the spikes held firm to the tree trunk which gave me the grip to hold on to the tree trunk.
On the other bank of the river bank I was greeted by bushes of blackberry that always seem to grow in the river banks…carefully making my way through the blackberry I was glad of my scarpa boots and hunting gaiters that protected my legs from otherwise being scratched from the blackberry. Once across I soon found a labyrinth of fresh tracks and signs indicating that deer were in abundance. Having soon checked the wind and assuring that it was in my favour I carefully made my way up the game trail silently hoping to spot a deer. I had already decided that today’s hunt would be to shoot a trophy stag and even though it would be thrilling to see a hind I would not take her. After nearly two hours of walking I had not seen or heard anything except perhaps the birds and a crow that for some strange reason seemed to be following my path silently flying from tree to tree. I came across a big log and stood on it taking my binoculars out to scan the surrounding area to see any signs of deer. That’s when I saw a wild dog about 70 metres to my west trotting along oblivious of my presence, I took the opportunity to observe him and let him pass, the wind was in my favour and I was confident the wild dog nor any other species would have known the direction I was heading. Even though the rain had eased and now it was bright sunlight a steady eastern wind was carrying freezing cold wind blown from the snowy mountaintops. I was glad that I had my ridgeline windbreaker jacket. It was almost midday now as agreed I radioed Peter to see how he was going, he radioed back saying he had observed a hind but had not taken a shot since he was more interested in a stag, he was about two km to my right across the river. We decided to start heading back to camp and then replan our next move. The journey back was uneventful I was back in camp before Peter and started the fire and put on a fresh set of boots and clothing to give my hunting boots and clothing a chance to dry. Even though the midday sun was shining, I was glad of the wood fire as it was bitter cold. Peter came back to camp about half an hour later.
Over a quick lunch of dried venison curry and two-minute noodles we decided to break camp and try make it to our original hunting ground. It was around 4’oclock when we finally managed to reach our destination to find that a truck had got stuck in the middle of the river making the crossing impossible. We managed to find a camping spot nearby and decided to camp and light a fire from already wet wood. It has always been surprising to see how wood even though wet still starts to burn at the right temperature. Peter has a unique solution of old engine oil and diesel mixed together which comes especially handy in times like this.
After setting up camp, the fire keeping us warm, we decided to have a meal of mushroom, stir fried onions and sausages with some bread.
Early next morning after a quick breakfast we decide to hunt early since it was a fair walk from our campsite to reach the hunting area. My .338 ready I silently made my way up a known game trail and was glad that my boots were waterproof when I had to cross several creeks on my path. On more than one occasion I came across wallabies and kangaroos who seem to stare at me in surprise, one even coming up a few feet to try and sniff me. Soon it was 10 am and I had walked a couple of km’s and was now in my usual hunting area. All the signs looked promising indicating that there was plenty of deer around. However some of the more promising wallows and plains were void of any game, further along I was following a game trail and was pleasantly surprised by the number of rabbits that cut across my path.
I had been stalking now for nearly 3 hours when I came to a valley and on the corner of my eye I glimpsed a movement about 200 meters away, immediately crouching low I carefully observed the faint movement in the valley. And as it always does I was momentarily shocked to see a huge pair of antlers moving in the shrub. I quietly put my rifle to my shoulder an tried to see the stag however the dense vegetation was too thick for me to take a clear shot, slowly standing up I was able to see him clearly however with no tree or a position for me to take an aided shot I was reluctant to make a movement since any movement on my part could draw the attention of the stag to me. However at that moment he lifted his great head and looked in my direction possibly having sensed my presence, I had to make a quick decision and aimed as best possible at its shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The .338 boomed and kicked sharply and on my follow through I saw the stag rise up on its hind-quarters and go down, absolutely still, I knew he had been hit . The 225 grain Woodley having done its job I quickly made my way to a nearby tree and reloaded and took a second shot for good measure. The well-placed shot below the ear, had quickly dispatched him in the most humane way possible.
The evacuation process with the help of Peter took another whole day. However the effort was well worth it considering the beautiful trophy stag that I got.
A casual measuring of the head indicated it was just over 27 inches.