When I joined the club in 1972 the meetings were in a small auditorium in the city, with a small carpark. In the carpark I saw 2 4X4s and Was I Impressed. These blokes had hunting trucks WOW!
The rollup was about 25 members. They were friendly and gave talks to help the newbies.
But info was hard to find as there were no books on sambar. Australian writers didn’t know about them, men that hunted sambar didn’t write and magazine writers couldn’t hunt well enough.
I learnt about ex-army wool pants and woollen check shirts, but they hadn’t become a fashion item yet, so they were hard to find. New Zealand shirts were the best, but best of all was the Swandri bush shirts, long and heavy duty. If you had a “Swannie” it meant you had been to New Zealand, as they could not be bought here. Raincoats were frowned on as being noisy and brown, so we just got wet. Putting wet clothes and wet boots back on was “fun”. Blaze orange and fleece didn’t exist and if you wore cameo you were definitely suspect.
Packs had steel frames.
Dehydrated food was awful.
Factory ammo, suitable for sambar was limited, hard projectiles in the bigger calibre meant you had to hand load……this was another hobby.
Big guns were popular, 375 and even 458, 30-06 was generally considered minimum. 338 was new, 9.3 rare, and 303 still existed. Building suitable guns from ex-military Mauser 98’s was common and semi autos were legal and popular.
Fixed power scopes were normal, usually 2.5X or 4X. Binoculars were too expensive, plus ranges were considered too short to need them. How things have changed!
Short wheelbase Toyotas were the ultimate, but jeeps and Landrovers were cheaper. Long wheel based Nissans were for hound hunters. Many hunters used their normal cars, carried chains and walked further. Modifying trucks was yet another hobby. Four blokes and all their gear, for a week in a SWB Landrover, no problems!
Winches and army style chains were essential.
Tracks were far worse that now, and the big national parks were yet to come. Most weekend hunts meant serious four wheel driving in the dark on a Friday night. There was also the worry of “can we get out come Sunday night”.
As mobile phones, UHF radios and IPEBs had not been invented, you had to leave instructions on your whereabouts back home, but told them not to panic till Monday night to give you time to overcome any small problem. This happened frequently, and families got used to this.
We used signal shots in the bush to communicate.ie. “Come and help for a carry-out” Good torches were a problem, none were waterproof, reliable and lightweight at the same time. Good up-to-date contour maps didn’t exist for most arears.
The club already had a house in Woodspoint, ( it cost $1400 a few years earlier) so most of us started there. Deer were scarce, I hunted for 2 years before I saw one and 2 more years before I shot one. This was not unusual.
Frank Moore was president and Bill Woolmore, vice president. Both were founding members of the club. Frank told me how the club came about. The SSAA invited Frank, Bill, Arthur Bentley and several others to form a sub-club from existing SSAA members. The intention was to promote ethical deer hunting as it was a closed shop and few people knew deer existed. The general public and media didn’t know anything about deer hunting, so unless some influence was created, it was bound to get bad press. Frank, Bill and Arthur agreed that a “code of ethics”, based on established European traditions would help sell deer hunting to our politicians, public and citycentric media. The intention was to have an influence in the management of what was to come. In this code it was proposed that Spotlighting was to be banned. This upset a good proportion of the members. There was strong opposition to this. Frank and Bill noted that this particular group were mostly Hound Hunters. They (Frank and Bill) thought Hound hunting was the next problem that would be hard to sell to the general public, so they then proposed that hound hunting would also be banned. This was hard for Frank, as he was an ex “old style” hound hunter himself. Frank and Bill knew it would cause a split, it was at a stale mate and going nowhere, so the hound hunting group formed the ADA with Arthur Bentley as president. There was ongoing animosity for many years. It is worth noting that Frank Bill and Arthur remained good friends all their lives.
Our club progressed, we got a hunter training program organised, regular informative guest speakers and we have achieved several political aims and victories.(deer hunting in national parks etc.) Membership continues to grow. Members come and go as deerstalking is not for everyone. Those that leave have a good background of what deerstalking is all about and so become ambassadors for our sport.
Sambar deer hunters wrote books, dedicated hunting equipment has arrived. …some of it is made by sambar hunters. Informative magazines written in Victoria by hunters.
Once it was rare to see a deer, now it is rare not to. Government departments are struggling to cope with the number of deer. We tried to warn them years ago that this would happen.
So today we actually have too many deer. Australia is the only western country to have large numbers of the best deer (sambar) with no bag limit and no closed season, so our best hunting is still to come.