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Thread: Night Stalk - The witterings of an Old Guy

  1. #1
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    Night Stalk - The witterings of an Old Guy

    This is an account of a night stalk, not successful in that there was meat in the freezer, but an enjoyable and learning experience none the less. It was carried out in a farmers field and is the musings/witterings of an ‘Old Guy Wannabe Hunter’ so if you are more into the ‘rugged bush, slay ‘em dead from 600 meters’ stories you are excused to go onto the next post sans judgement.

    After my successful-cum-fluke endeavour the night of 29th March last where I bagged a young buck - can be read on the thread ‘1st Blood’ - I arranged permission with the farmer to return to the top paddock some nights ago to have another go at either a deer or pig.

    In preparation for this Sharon, my wife, and I walked up there in the morning to have a look for sign. Sharon initially just came along for the walk as she professes to have zero interest in hunting, though glad to help dress the proceeds of a good hunt. We are rather lucky as the paddock in question is exactly 3.2 km from our door if we walk, cutting across another farmers paddocks. On that farm we have permission to walk but not to hunt. So anyway once there, I started looking for recent sign. Sharon, being naturally inquisitive and competitive wanted to know what it was that I was looking for. I showed her examples of deer, pig, possum and rabbit droppings and also found some good example of deer and pig hoof imprints. Well, she was off like an unleashed hound dog and was finding sign all through out the paddock and in the surrounding swamp. I have to say she was good. With infallible woman logic from the size of the droppings and hoof prints she was able to identify at least three different animals that had been there prior to the overnight rain and two sets of droppings that had obviously been in the paddock earlier in the day after the rain had ceased. I determined that the night would be a good one to go up and have wait for deer, so that decided I put Sharon back on the leash and we returned home. (Ahh, last comment very tongue in cheek fella’s).

    Since my last endeavour up in the top paddock sitting in a camp chair under a piece of garden shade cloth, I have taken delivery of a Buffalo River Single Seat Hunting Blind. They were specialed at GunCity for $119. I suspect that I have the earlier model which they were discounting to make way for the mark II model in time for duck hunting. The blind is basically a well proportioned and comfortable foldable camp chair with a hood made from hooped sprung steel strips covered with a camouflage material stretched over the top. All of this folds down into a fabric carry bag with shoulder straps to carry on your back. I can’t give you the dimensions or weight the blind all folded down as I have left it all packed up and stowed under some trees up in the paddock hopefully to be used again very soon. My thoughts on the blind is that it is cheap and cheerful but adequately serves its purpose. The first thing that will give way will be the fabric, as it is quite flimsy, however Sharon gives me her assurance that when that happens she can and will quite happily replace it with something more durable. Already she is scouring AliExpress for some replacement fabric.

    The blind, once unfolded, has three zippable apertures in the front. At the bottom one vertical opening to get in and out of it and at the upper half two different size half circle openings for observation and poking you rifle barrel out of. Now I have to observe that this blind has been designed with duck shooting in mind and the shooting portals angle of fire is from the horizontal to approximately 50 to 60 degrees upwards. That said I found that I could easily angle my rifle down 30 degrees to shoot along the natural fall of the paddock as the fabric and supporting hooped metal strips are quite flexible.

    My overall feelings of this cheap blind? Bloody wonderful actually, especially for the money. Last time, sitting under the shade cloth was cold and every time I moved to either lift the binoculars or rifle, scratch my bum or pick my nose, my movement was easily observable from the field. In fact, it was the movement that I believed alerted the young buck to my presence last time. Sitting in this hide you are free to move around, drink from your flask, glass the field and play with your rifle without any of this movement being seen by animals in the field. To support this I had a big hare happily hoovering grass not 8 meters from my hide as I quietly glassed the field. The other thing in this hides favour was that I was there for nearly 2.5 hours in a reasonably cold southerly with frequent showers of rain and I stayed relatively warm and completely dry. If you have a situation like mine, quietly waiting to ambush an animal, I have high recommendations for this hide or something similar.

    Anyway, scene set, lets move on. As a quick aside, when I went to the paddock I was aiming for the period 20 to 30 minutes after sunset, when these deer, as verified from a trail camera I have installed there, tend to make their appearance. (More on the trail camera at a later date. ) However, I got to the paddock to set up 2 hours before hand. Why? Because in this paddock and a neighbouring paddock there are 2 pair of ‘Bloody Paradise Ducks’. Every time I go there or even come close to the field they just have to take flight and circle the fields announcing my presence to all and sundry animals within a 1 kilometre radius. I find that getting there early and settting up it gives the ducks time to settle down again and forget that I am even there.

    Now sitting snug in my hide protected from the southerly weather I went about setting up my ‘Tomatoe Stake’ bipod - you have to read the post 1st Blood to know about the bipod - and adjust it to get my fields of fire and generally sit back and glass the field. Sunset came and went, with the bewitching hour arriving at about half an hour afterward. Believing this was when the deer would arrive I chambered a round, put down the binoculars and started just staring at the area of fence about 20 meters away where I believed the deer would make their first appearance.

    I have to say, I was right on the money. The first thing I saw was a snout just protrude out of the gorse thicket. It was inclined slightly upward and I guess sampling the air looking for any unusual scent. The wind at this time was coming diagonally on my face so I had no worry that he would scent me. Then his whole head emerged and I got the usual heart race and hand shakes. This was a stag, and man what a stag. He had a full symmetrical head of antlers. How many points? I don’t know, I was to busy slowing hunching down behind my rifle waiting on him to jump over the fence, my thoughts peering at him in the fast fading light was that he was a ten pointer at least. He advanced out another 2 meters to the wire fence that was still between him and me. He looked one way and then the other up and down the field much like a small child would before crossing the road. I could hardly contain myself, he didn’t have the slightest idea that I was their nestled quietly in the gloom at the back of my hide. This is where he surprised me. I had, for whatever reason, always thought that the deer, to jump a fence, would take a short run at it. Oh no, not this one. He just sauntered up to the fence, paused, looked up and down the field again, and then just jumped, from standing, in one bound; no sweat. That’s when I would have liked him to have paused, so that I had a wonderful close up broadside shot of 20 meters. But no, it wasn’t to be, without breaking step he immediately turned right away from me and started idly trotting off down the hill just presenting me with a backside and rack of antlers towering above him. I tracked him in my scope a full 250 meters just willing him to stop for a second, but he didn’t. At the end of the hillock he turned immediately left and disappeared out of sight giving me only the most briefest of moments broadside to me but still moving. Others better than me may have been able to have taken the shot, but no not me. I know my limitations and that one opportunity to shoot wasn’t within my ability range. Some others may have taken a shot at his rear, but again no. I haven’t ever discussed the ethics of such a shot but I see it only as one where a critically wounded animal would run off into the bush only to die in agony sometime later.

    Pissed off? Hell yes, but I wan’t to concerned as I had a fair idea where he was headed. From the sign we had seen earlier in the day I guessed he was on the flat at the other side of the hillock where a water course flows down the gully close to the surface keeping the feed there always fresh and lush all year around. So confident I was that this was where he would be I took my time packing up the hide and readying myself for a stalk. It was pitch black now, overcast and no moon. This paddock that I am in is in a larger valley nestled between forests on both sides. When it goes dark here, unless there is a moon above, it is like a switch being turned off. There is fading light for half an hour after sunset and then it is lights out, and when it is overcast you can see zip, nadda; nothing but dark gloom. Taking my time was also allowing my eyes to fully adjust to the dark.

    All packed up I headed off down the gulley to climb the hillock on the rear side to where I believed the stag would be. I slowed my pace to a real stalk as the I still had my Peltor ear protectors on and the amplification through the microphones made be just realise how much noise I was making and what a deer must hear of us. I had grabbed my Dorcey spotlight and half put it into my coat pocket. As I started to get to the top of the hillock I got down on all fours and started a commando crawl with my rifle cradled across my forearms. I went full commando as I didn’t know where it was that I would find the stag. I presumed on the opposite side of the hillock on the flats below them but I didn’t want to be surprised by him being half way up the slope. As I got to the top I saw that this was not going to be a easy as I thought. Looking out onto the flats below was just like gazing down a dark well, I couldn’t even make out the floor of the little valley 70 or 80 feet below me. I put the rifle to my shoulder to enable me to peer down the scope, not that I was optimistic of seeing anything down a $98 Konus scope. I was surprised. Set at 6 power, the optimal setting I had chosen for this field, I was actually able to see the valley floor and small clumps of scrub. I was seeing the world in silhouette only though, but it was more than I was able to see without the scope. I even took my eyes away from the scope to just confirm that without it I couldn’t see anything; with the scope I at least could see an eerie silhouette world of shape. I scanned the valley below and yes, there was something. Initially I could only make out that it was a four legged beast, turned away from me, presumably with its head down grazing as I couldn’t see any antlers. I estimated by its size in the scope, if in fact it was the stag or another deer, that it was probably 150 meters away. Very hard to tell without real depth of vision or anything visually to gain a sense of percspective. Then the thought hit me, was I viewing one of the farmers cattle, or in fact a cattle beast in the neighbouring farmers paddock. Trying to remember which paddock the cattle were in, and it wasn’t this one, that I knew for sure, he lifted his head. Yes; the rack of antlers, very indistinct in a gloomy silhouette world but antlers none the less. I had him, he was mine!

    Hasn’t your grandmother always told you not to count your chickens to early. Yeah, yeah, I know, I should have listened. As I peered down the scope at him it dawned on me I could see the outer thick posts of the reticle but I couldm’t for the life of me make out the inner crosshairs. I peered, I squinted thinking through all the possible scenarios of taking a shot. Could I just get my point of aim centered between the outer posts and be confident to hit the spot? Even as I debated this in my mind the stag, either helpfully or taking the piss, turned nearly broadside on to me. I am not sure whether he was urging me to shoot or just mocking me. No, truth is, he just didn’t even know I was there. The finger paused over the trigger as I debated back and forth whether this shot was feasible, or more importantly ethical. Damn, what was I thinking, I had the spot light. I reached to my pocket. It wasn’t there. Shit, it must have fallen out whilst I was pretending to be a Royal Marine making a beach head on the Falklands. I opened the breech, took off my hat, bunched it up and lay the rifle over it. This was an attempt keep it off the wet ground as I returned to find the spotlight. The last thing I wanted at this stage was water in the barrel or breach. I crawled back the way I came more confident that I knew where the stag was and that he wouldn’t see me. I could see very little but was able to see the path where I had been by the furrow of flattened grass. About 30 meters back I didn’t see the spotlight but my ankle knocked it as I crawled past it. That was lucky.

    Back with the rifle, and not a second too soon, the thick misty Scott’s like drizzle set in. Again I was in position and peering down the scope. There he was, had moved on about 20 meters but was in no hurry to go anywhere; the food was too good. The view down the scope was getting blurry now as the drizzle misted the front lense. Time was running out. I didn’t have time to fossick for the piece of microfibre wipe I kept in my top pocket under my coat for this very eventuality; I just used my fingers, not perfect but the view improved. In my right hand, out holding the forstock - yes, well spotted, I’m a left handed shooter - I tried too also juggle the spotlight and turn it on. Click. Yes it was on. The sky lit up in the misty drizzle as I had the light pointing about 45 degrees high. Bugger. Fighting with the spotlight and the rifle I had moved off my target and was only seeing brightly lit fog like drizzle driving in at me and very vaguely I could make out the valley floor. A bit of adjustment and scanning around and I had the stag again. This time he was standing front on to me, the most obvious aspect of him were his eyes reflecting in the light. The view was not good. I had the scope and the spotlight both focused on the stag but the misty drizzle was swirling around and reflecting back at me taking the previous silhouette view I had of the stag and turning it into a foggy, sparkling kaleidoscope version; plus, the lense was fogging up again. I kept the but of my rifle firmly in my shoulder and wiped the lense with my trigger hand, not daring to use my right hand for fear of losing the stag again as the beam went off him. This must have gone on for what seemed like 3 minutes but in reality it was probably only 30 seconds. Who knows, this is not a time that one looks at their watch. I have to say though, the stag was infinitely patient, just standing there staring at me the whole time, or did he know, and he was goading me. Whichever I eventually had to admit defeat. One up to the stag I thought. I switched off the light and unchambered the round, more for my sake before I had a rush of blood to the head and made a hasty but unwise decision to pull the trigger. When I do pull the trigger, not that I have had much opportunity to exercise that choice, I want to have the best reassurance that I can give myself that it has a realistic probability of a quick, clean, fatal shot. These circumstances did not add up to this being that time.

    Chamber empty I now stood up and turned the spotlight on again and scanned for him. There he was casually sauntering back over to the forest. At the fence he paused, took one quick look back at me and then was gone. It obviously wasn’t his time tonight.

    What did someone say on this forum a few days ago. ‘Some days you win, some days you just learn.’

    Today I learnt, a few things really, about myself and about my environment i.e. spotlighting in misty drizzle. One thing in particular I did learn though was how deer can possibly react when caught in a beam of light. Do all deer just stand looking at the beam? Of course I have never known this before, from firsthand experience anyway. I have never had the opportunity to shoot on private land until three weeks ago, and hence, never used a spotlight. Another thing I have learnt is that if I am going to venture into the dark on my own to spotlight deer I need to upgrade my equipment to a good light that sits on the rifle. This I have done, but more on that at another time.

    The night, though not putting any meat in the freezer, left me elated as I trudged home in the dark with cold southerly rain driving in at me. What a night, what an encounter with a magnificent beast. What a learning experience. I can’t wait to get back on the paddock with a better and more reliable spotlight. There ends the tale of my night stalk.
    madjon_, Puffin, tikka and 4 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Cool story.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for that @300wsm for life.
    I am going up there again tonight just for the first hour after dark. We can only hope that he has the same intentions.

    Cheers
    Phil

  4. #4
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    Good luck

  5. #5
    Throbbing Member Dorkus's Avatar
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    Great story and good on you for not taking a shot you're not confident in. I like the way you portrayed your inner dialogue when considering the shot and for what it's worth commend your decisions and the fact you would rather let the animal walk than risk injuring it without a good chance at a clean kill.
    RUMPY likes this.
    “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” - Thucydides 463BC

  6. #6
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    One of the good stories, enjoyed it heaps. Reminds me of so many different hunts I have been on, looking forward to the next episode

  7. #7
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    Yeh great well written story, and in answer to your question "Do all deer just stare at you in the light " the answer is No. I have done many thousands of hours spotlighting in my work as a Pest Officer and have spotlighted deer a lot over the years ,not these days though. We found that some do just watch , others are gone as soon as the light hits them. Moon lite nights aren't generally as good as dark nights as their eyes are more adjusted to the moon light. Another thing to remember is if you spook them you are best to leave them be for several days then go back at the same time and quite often they will be back. In your situation on private land the deer should be quite so chance are you will get another look at him. Good luck , look forward to your next story and a picture or two of a good set of antlers.

  8. #8
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    Great story Phil. Next time though, are you going to watch the lower paddock or sit in your hide up the fenceline?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorkus View Post
    Great story and good on you for not taking a shot you're not confident in. I like the way you portrayed your inner dialogue when considering the shot and for what it's worth commend your decisions and the fact you would rather let the animal walk than risk injuring it without a good chance at a clean kill.
    Thanks for that @Dorkus. I believe at work and in some hunting circles I am considered a bit of a Wuss when it comes to killing animals. Used to bother me once but not now. I respect animals lives and yet understand the need to keep certain species numbers in check. I do enjoy hunting, and I say that without guilt, but when it comes to killing an animal I want it done as quickly and humanely as possible. I have nothing to prove to myself or others and I sleep well at night.

    Cheers
    Phil
    Dorkus likes this.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mooseman View Post
    Yeh great well written story, and in answer to your question "Do all deer just stare at you in the light " the answer is No. I have done many thousands of hours spotlighting in my work as a Pest Officer and have spotlighted deer a lot over the years ,not these days though. We found that some do just watch , others are gone as soon as the light hits them. Moon lite nights aren't generally as good as dark nights as their eyes are more adjusted to the moon light. Another thing to remember is if you spook them you are best to leave them be for several days then go back at the same time and quite often they will be back. In your situation on private land the deer should be quite so chance are you will get another look at him. Good luck , look forward to your next story and a picture or two of a good set of antlers.

    Thanks for that @Mooseman. Yes, I have been up there on two nights when it has been bright moonlight and there has been nothing. I have moved my hide to the lower paddock and now won’t be able to get back there until after Easter as cattle are being moved there tomorrow night. That should give the deer a bit of a rest and to get their confidence back. We will let you know.

    Cheers
    Phil

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RUMPY View Post
    Great story Phil. Next time though, are you going to watch the lower paddock or sit in your hide up the fenceline?

    Ahh, yes @RUMPY, have already moved the hide to the lower paddock.

    Name:  CDB6DBDC-07EF-4234-85B9-19040A7FF5A6.jpeg
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    The new view from within the hide. Previously i was situated in the extreme top left hand corner of the field under the trees. I think you can just make out the spot in the photo.

    Cheers
    Phil
    RUMPY likes this.

 

 

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