The strong wind nudging my back was not the ideal introduction to the new day, as I hunkered deep down into the tussock to survey the ground ahead. The way ahead was a large expanse of open tussock land, interspersed with scrub and the odd bush outcrop, the end of which had the contours huddled together for comfort giving birth to steeper country leading progressively to the rocky heights.
The tussock tops swayed and dipped, in protest to the demanding zephyr, and the clouds ominously rolled in as I traversed my handy 8×20’s binoculars steadily over the intervening ground.
It was not a long time later and Leica rewarded me yet again for my dollar outlay. Firstly one then two and eventually four deer became reality at least over a klick and a half away.
First things first I thought, breakfast wasn’t even a near miss this morning, instead a hurried cup of tea, the obligatory ablutions lunch packed for the day and gone. So it was with some relish that I unpacked my Backcountry muesli serving for one, which I had already added water to before leaving, and was now I imagined, just right. In between mouthing the cold crunchy food, I would peer through Leica, to keep track of the distant animals.
The prospect of the long stalk ahead soon had me leaving my nest and at a crouch, covering a long stretch of country angling for a higher contour, hoping my wind would carry past the deer. Even at this distance, I was not about to take them cheaply.
A Low profile, with tussock around my ears I engaged Leica again, the image returned was of a group of wild animals, enjoying an alfresco breakfast. Sentry duty effortlessly shared between at least three of them, well…. you couldn’t burden junior too much. Their destination would undoubtedly be the bush line and their line of travel and level of activity suggested that would be sometime off yet.
I had been stalking and observing the deer now for well over an hour, and had just crawled out of a dry stone creek bed some minutes earlier. I was now snuggled in alongside and amongst a series of scrubby bushes with my pack off and in front of me, and my Sako Forester laid atop. The range I estimated to be four hundred yards or so. Throughout the whole of the stalk so far, I had noticed the spiker to be numero Uno in the lookout stakes. He always was the one who would stare the longest, and lift his head the most frequently. The rest of the group comprised of what looked like two hinds and of course the bambi.
So here I was then, the strong wind still blowing unnervingly from behind my position, but seemingly diagonally across left to right. The deer straight in front of me and moving right to left. The main creek, I felt was the central crux of the hunting day, it meandered down to my left and angled steeply up and flowed down high above the breakfasting redskins.
My strategy was to ambush the deer. Their line of travel indicated to me that they would intersect the creek possibly at one of two places, which would then leave one of two very distinguishable game trails for them to proceed on. I gambled that they would choose the lower route enabling me to engage them at a distance of around the 200yd mark. The higher game trail wound higher, increasing the distance between our positions.
Formerly strung out , the foursome now were huddled together, half in shadow ready to cross the creek, intently staring down in my direction, a ripple of unease in their ranks, I fancied. Some scrub high and to my right was suddenly flattened in a vicious gust, I was momentarily reassured on checking their positions that all was still well….ill founded! As one they took off across my front in full flight. I locked the bolt. The spiker was playing tail end Charlie and it was he that paused and halted to stare down imperiously from his lofty position. The duplex reticle that had been tracking the animals one by one now rested unerringly on his spine and was unwavering. I applied pressure on the light trigger…..I then applied more pressure…the sight began to waver…nothing. The spiker had had enough and departed. I raised myself up into a crouch and in disgust inspected my rifle. The bolt was closed and the trigger spent, there was a live round in the chamber!! My sickly conclusion was that somehow whilst closing the bolt, a part of the pack had snagged on the trigger, rendering the rifle safe.
Hunting is rarely the predictable; it’s what keeps us coming back… I guess.