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Thread: Last of the light

  1. #1
    Member Flyblown's Avatar
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    Last of the light

    There’s a spot I go to every few months or so, for a ‘lazy man’s hunt’. Otherwise known as an ambush. It’s on the bush edge, up the back of a hill country sheep farm, where well used game trails are used by reds, fallow, pigs and goats to access some sheep food.

    I’ve hunted up the main game trail into the native twice before – once you’re through the scrub and under the native canopy, it’s surprisingly open. But the gradients are very steep, and it’s usually wet and damn slippery and hard to get around. Right now though, the leaf litter is as dry as a new packet of cornflakes, and unless the cicadas are going full bore, every step will advertise your presence to anything within 200m. On both the hunts into the native, I shot massive old billy goats, they were probably deaf and blind due to old age, as everything else had seen or heard me coming 10 minutes ago… I think I could actually hear them laughing at me.

    This spot was the scene of the best deer interaction I’ve ever had, in April last year. Me and the wife walked up the track one evening after supper in our PJs, just to stretch the legs and enjoy the birdsong; it was such a beautiful evening we kept walking further uphill than we intended, and we found ourselves near the end of the track. The wife spied some deer behind the old macrocarpas, and we crept in with the wind in our favour, which is rare in that spot, more on the wind in a bit.

    Long story short, we ended up commando crawling (in our PJs) within 20 yards of the animals, and watching the hinds browse while a magnificent 14 pointer stag sniffed their bottoms. The oldest hind spotted some movement and came around to see what we were; the stag was completely oblivious as he closely followed her tushy. That old hind came right up to the scrub where we were hiding, to almost within touching distance, before she caught a whiff and legged it up the spur opposite, honking like mad. The stag, he just stood there staring. He was a bow hunters dream.

    Anyway, in all I had shot three deer in that spot, all using the same method… ambush. So I thought I’d give it another go. Normally I will bike up on the quad to within about 300m, well out of sight and largely screened noise-wise by a steep spur. I’ll park up and walk in about two hours before last light. Sometimes, animals will be out there all day, especially fallow, so first up I climb a spur that gives me a good field of view to glass the area before I move in. This time there was nothing doing, so I advanced to one of my normal ambush spots, under the first macrocarpas.

    These photos were taken on previous hunts. I would expect to see deer emerge from the native a bit to the right of the red arrow, behind the suppressor, about 150m away.

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    Here’s the same deer hotspot seen from my other shooting position under a stand of macrocarpa.

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    In the next photo, you’re looking back to the shooting positions, either under the first tree with the red arrow, or as on the occasion when this photo was taken, from the second position marked by the blue arrow. It all depends on what the wind is doing.

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    This time round the wind was being a complete prick. From the red arrow macrocarpa, I kept getting across me, but I wasn’t happy that it wasn’t then turning back towards the bushline. It was really fickle, so I moved down to the blue arrow position, but this was even worse, it was steadily blowing from behind me. So I abandoned that position too and stealthily snuck back to open ground, and up a spur to gain some height to where I had reasonably consistent wind blowing across me from about 10:00 so to speak. This was completely at odds with what the clouds were doing, which was blowing straight across me from 03:00.

    This photo from the final shooting position shows what the wind was actually doing, and how hard gully winds can be to get right. My worry is that once the gully wind turns around against the face and blows back across me, that it then blows up the windup wind face of the spur and around back to the bushline.

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    D’ya like the stag in the photo? Cool, eh. Took me ages to get him to pose like that.

    So I sat and waited. And waited. I scanned the bush edge and slowly counted 1 to 10 as my eyes moved from point to point, left to right. The position was uncomfortable as hell, falling sharply away from under me to the left, thistles everywhere. I knew I was exposed and movement would give me away, but I had to stop various bits of me from going completely numb.

    Here’s a sequence of frames from the GoPro to show the progression in the light. I knew I had to wait until the last of the light, and patience was the key. But I also knew that in the past I’d shot animals here well before the last of the light, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to have to wait that long.

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    As the dusk darkened, I started to struggle to see, I was painfully aware how much my previously excellent eyesight has deteriorated since I turned 50. But there was nothing doing, and at the point at which the skyline started to merge with the bush, I gave up. That was the first time I’d drawn a blank here and I was properly disappointed. So I cleared the rifle, packed up my gear and put the torch in my pocket, stood, put on my.

    Before I walked off down the spur, I wondered how much light the Zeiss Duralyt could acquire, so I wound out the mag to 3x and pointed it at the hives. Gotta say, the Zeiss does a damn good job, the hives below me were way more visible through the scope than they were with the naked eye. I shouldered the rifle and clipped the 3 point sling, and reached into my pocket for the torch.

    As I took a step forward, I pulled out the torch and my finger found the switch. I glanced up to the bush line one last time, glancing left to right, and… I froze. Right on the main game trailhead there was a stationary rufous coloured object that hadn’t been there before. It could only be one thing... A deer. I unclipped the sling, grabbed the rifle and dropped the bipod legs, and hit the deck like a sack of spuds. Fortunately, I was on quite an easy lie, and I was able to find a good position with the bipod within a few seconds – the tilting function of the Harris is worth every penny. As I pulled my right eye into the ocular lens, the Zeiss lit up the clear outline of a fat red spiker facing directly towards, dead still and staring right at me; I could just make out the two straight ~30-40cm antlers. I took deep breath, quickly chambered a round, wound in the mag to about 6x, reacquired the target, aimed for the top of the brisket, exhaled, and let one fly. From spotting the deer to pulling the trigger, it would’ve been a few seconds.

    Milliseconds after the suppressed muzzle blast, the sound of the 165gr Speer striking the animal came back as the loudest, most satisfying THWOP I have ever heard. With the naked eye I could just make out the rufous colour slowly tip over to the left and disappear. No more movement, no thrashing around, just utter stillness… Complete silence for a few seconds, before suddenly the roosting magpies started madly squawking.

    I knew I’d hit it hard and I was 90% sure I’d dropped it. Now I was glad for the big Maxtoch torch, what a great tool. It lit up the clearing as I stumbled over the rough ground and panted my way upslope. I found the deer right where I expected it to be, lying right where it had been shot, very dead.

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    I couldn't think of think of a more terminal, lights out, drop on the spot bang-flop, a more emphatic put down, in all the years I've been shooting. So I allowed myself a minor self-congratulatory pat on the back, as the shot had poleaxed this deer when I really needed it the most.

    The animal was a perfect fat spiker, an 18 month old or thereabouts. There was a calibre sized entry wound right on the top of the brisket in the front of the chest, and no other visible signs of wounding. I rolled and dragged it down the hill to the hives, hoping the bees would be asleep, then wandered off to get the bike. It was a moonless, crystal-clear night and the Milky Way was stunning. I was well pleased.

    Do not leave your knife at home – I did and all I had with me was a gut hook and a Mercator lock knife, not ideal. But at least it was sharp, and I did have by sharpener at least. Using the lights on the bike to illuminate the working area, I [slowly] gutted the animal and spent a good while looking through the organs for the bullet. I never did find it, which was a shame.



    The bullet had entered dead centre through the top of the brisket, run through the middle of the critical "junction box" of pulmonary and aorta veins and autonomic plexus, pulverising the surrounding lung tissue, then straight through the heart and into the rear lungs. I found a small hole in the front side of the liver, but no bullet. There was no obvious entry into the rumen. No idea where it ended up.

    There isn't that much written up about these Speer 165gr bullets - they are known to be soft up front, fragmenting easily, but with a thick base, and are regarded as emphatic killers. But they don't really get much attention. They are essentially the same as Sierra GameKings I think, with a slightly larger soft point, and probably a bit softer overall in this weight. In three shots on game, I've hit hard leg bone and T2/3 vertebrae at 240m, and smashed them, and now the full monty vital zone strike, running lengthways through all the vital organs, from 140m. So very impressed with this bullet so far. I wouldn't use it for anything lesser than stout reds, sika or sambar though, its way too much for small deer and I suspect it would wreak carnage on the front end of a fallow or roe.

    As I cleaned out the animal I couldn't help think how unlucky it was. That deer was 2-3 seconds away from escape. When I saw it, I had my hand on my torch, just about to turn it on. The deer would have been gone in a flash, and I would have returned home empty handed having never known it was there. After pondering the bang-floppery and the mechanism of such instant death, working through the organs and noting what was damaged, I wondered if I had ever shot a deer on the absolute very last of the light like that. I concluded I had not, not that dark, and for that I gave the Zeiss a pat on the back too. Quality glass that.

    As I worked I also thought through my process of ambush hunting, the scanning and counting thing. There is definitely something in it, the way the brain becomes accustomed to moving from known feature to known feature, so that when something disturbs the pattern it immediately signals "ANIMAL". In poor light it just works. Time passes surprisingly fast, I am always surprised how 90 minutes just evaporates. If you are able to concentrate for long enough, in well-travelled game hotspots this type of hunting can be a high percentage game.

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    I had to lash the deer up onto the side of the bike and ride side saddle down the hill, which was quite exciting. I can't lift a deer now, the sternotomy has put paid to that for a while. As I approached the homestead, I was collared on the road by some local shepherds, beers in hand and one of their giant bush ciggies being passed around, they were having a rowdy party to celebrate the return of two of the cuzzies back from Aussie. I promised to join them for ales, but not before I’d I hung up the spiker by the shed to cool off in the cold night air, lifting him using the Hilux's winch, a very handy tool indeed.

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    Lots of beers later I rolled into bed, exhausted. It was well after midnight and I stank like red deer meets lock forward's jock strap meets pub carpet, and I couldn't have cared less.
    Britain's Favourite Dog 2019!

  2. #2
    Valued Member 7mm Rem Mag's Avatar
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    Well done
    When hunting think safety first

  3. #3
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    Great write up Flyblown it's amazing how all of a sudden a deer pops up after a long time searching. I used to use the 180 gr Speer Hot Core in my 30 06 many years back and they were an excellent hunting bullet, nothing that was well hit went anywhere. We use a lot of the flashy new plastic tip type bullets these days but the old style ones like these just plain work. Nice end to a long day on the hill.
    Micky Duck likes this.

  4. #4
    Member Micky Duck's Avatar
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    then there speers have a reputation for being an ok load out long too.....long before the AMaxs etc were around they were being used for such work...the speer btsp is written up as such in Nathan Fosters website.
    enjoy your hard earned venison.

  5. #5
    Member Mathias's Avatar
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    Excellent read Flyblown....thanks

  6. #6
    GWH
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    Bloody great read, thanks for sharing the story. I used the 130gr Speers in my 7mm08 when i first started handloading, outstanding bullet, accurate, kill very well and damn cheap too.

  7. #7
    Member Flyblown's Avatar
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    Sorry about all the typos. Some bits don't even make sense, copy and paste in too much haste!
    Britain's Favourite Dog 2019!

  8. #8
    Ex stick thrower madjon_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyblown View Post
    Sorry about all the typos. Some bits don't even make sense, copy and paste in too much haste!
    Still a bloody good read,well done.
    Bush ciggies will do that
    Flyblown likes this.
    Real guns start with the number 3 or bigger and make two holes, one in and one out." -

  9. #9
    Member Flyblown's Avatar
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    I reckon "last of the light" could just as easily have been "bastard wind".

    Somewhere, sometime ago, I read a really really good article about understanding and reading gully winds. Something in the back of my mind says it was by Phillip Holden but that might be wrong.

    It was definitely one of the old NZ Forestry deer cullers.

    I still struggle with reading wind, but there's definitely some basic principles about how geography affects wind flow. Would be good to find that source again.
    Britain's Favourite Dog 2019!

  10. #10
    Member Mathias's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyblown View Post
    I reckon "last of the light" could just as easily have been "bastard wind".

    Somewhere, sometime ago, I read a really really good article about understanding and reading gully winds. Something in the back of my mind says it was by Phillip Holden but that might be wrong.

    It was definitely one of the old NZ Forestry deer cullers.

    I still struggle with reading wind, but there's definitely some basic principles about how geography affects wind flow. Would be good to find that source again.
    Whoever it was from the NZFS, they probably smoked rollies and this would have helped as an indicator

  11. #11
    Member Flyblown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathias View Post
    Whoever it was from the NZFS, they probably smoked rollies and this would have helped as an indicator
    You know I was going to use that joke @Mathias, yet somewhere between sitting on the bog and having to rush down to meet the postie, I forgot it.

    So who amongst you uses a wind checker? Like a wind puffer? I have one I made out of a camera lens cleaner, the one with a puffer attached to a brush. I removed the brush, replaced it with a nozzle. Allegedly I fill it with bulldust from our neighbour across the way, very fine, very effective, very orange. Don't worry, it is inert.
    Britain's Favourite Dog 2019!

  12. #12
    Sending it Gibo's Avatar
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    Cracker read mate, thanks for sharing.

    I have been known to use my kids bubble making bottle They last on the breeze a lot longer than smoke or dust. A little trick I got from @Norway

  13. #13
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    Bro another awesome read! Epic hunt and adventure! Wicked bro

  14. #14
    Member Mathias's Avatar
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    I've got the dental floss on the barrel trick, though it's not as effective as Gibo's bubble bath would be.

  15. #15
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    Cripes I sweat so much I can fell the breeze from which ever way it is coming from, lol
    Flyblown and dannyb like this.

 

 

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