A Stand-Off at Dawn

The Deer exploded into action and in an instant was swallowed up by the bush. The stillness of the cold winter evening emphasised the remote location and with the daylight fading fast there was a need to move on.

I quietly moved a few paces parallel to where the animal was last seen and remained stationary but peering hard into the foliage seeking out anything that didn’t quite look right. The rifle scope was used a couple of times to try to define various look-alike parts of an animal but it wasn’t until an ear flicked and then a head emerged into focus that the deer became reality, I waited an eternity again until the neck was a definite target. The .308 barked once and a 168grn A max projectile found its mark and the animal dropped like liquid.

Upon reaching the downed one it was immediately apparent I had scored a yearling yet again making it three in three weeks and was good news because of the good eating it would provide for the trip. A few knife cuts later and I was on my way to the scratcher post-haste.


It was a bitterly cold introduction to the day as my head torch pierced the inky blackness highlighting my vapour laden breath in the still morning air.  High above the night sky was awash with a myriad of dazzling stars and apart from the dull thud of my boots on the root festooned track and the infinite blackness of the bush that surrounded me it seemed there could be no room for anything else in my world.

An eternity later I cut up through the bush on my long slog to the alpine meadows that were still mostly covered in snow and ice but even so considering it was late July still had an impressive amount of grasses and plants uncovered.  I broke out on the tops about five or ten minutes into official dawn which meant the very peaks of the lofty mountains high above me were experiencing the first warming rays of the rising sun.  On the bush edge though the light was low and it was time to keep movement to a minimum and work the binoculars to the maximum, a basic alpine hunting strategy.  Firstly though the unaided eyeballs did all the work scrutinising every nook and cranny and fold in the land.  A general sweep to hopefully pick up that vital bit of movement from the opposition was also employed.  Eventually the Leicas were called upon to now put the whole area in front of me under the microscope.

I made myself comfortable leaning on my day pack and started dividing the ridges and spurs before me into grids. All white patches were examined for in winter the chamois face markings show up as white from any distance.  I swept through the terrain time and time again but after a while and with my binos resting in my lap I was about to move on when with the naked eye I spotted a small patch of white just forward of two large splotches of snow.  The glasses came up to either confirm or deny my suspicions.  The image that leapt out at me was the head of a chamois looking straight back at me, it had its legs tucked underneath and looked to be very comfortable indeed it also appeared to be waiting patiently for the sunshine to make its way down from the peaks and blanket it in comfort.

The Rangefinder confirmed the 240 meter distance between us.  A deep physically challenging gut yawned in front of our positions providing a good defensive approach for the more nimble chamois.  I lay the 5x duplex reticule on her and there seemed no margin of error in the shot so I decided to wait.

I watched the sunlight slowly edge its way down the side of the mountain firstly covering the chamois and finally getting to work on the chill in my shivering body it was behind me and shining straight into the chamois eyes but apart from its jaw moving rhythmically and the odd head up alert as a loose rock came loose and tumbled down the rock face it was content to lie there soaking up ultra violet rays.

Two hours later and still no move, I had dismissed the idea of whistling or shouting at it to stand up for I feared that where it was laying on the edge of a very sharp spur both in front and behind it would be too easy for it to drop off the far side and be lost to my view. Far better I reasoned for it to get up leisurely and stretch etc., and so give me more time to get my shot away- well laid plans of mice and men!

Finally it got up and almost fluently breasted the spur giving me again only half a body to shoot at but this time I wasted no time and squeezed the trigger and it disappeared from view.

It was a labour intensive climb to the head of the gully and a more than scary traverse across the head of it with fearful drops offs all around.  Eventually though I was able to descend into the gut at a shallow entry point and gain the opposite side.  A short climb and I had gained the chamois ridge and now it was time to descend and hopefully locate the said animal.

I found the point where it had bedded down and followed the shark’s fin of a ridge a little further before I found a large splash of crimson which carried on a trail right to the bush edge the blood trail then led down an extremely steep bush clad face until eventually I found the chamois doe hung up in some windfall.  To take her head-skin meant tying her back leg to a tree and kicking in a platform in the snow for me to stand on.

Job done and it was then a case of pointing the nose for home and shouldering the bulging day pack.


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