Friday, 31 May 2013

morning glory

I awoke this morning to the sound of the bunny gun going off down at the main house. Shortly after a text message arrived letting me know the bunny gun had spooked a Sambar into the Ti tree below my van. So I staggered out of the van in my jim jams to wet the grass and have a look see. As I steamed the grass, I noticed a little movement about 250 metres away down the bottom of the hill. It was a nice sized girl feeding on the grass. I shook... perhaps a little too much.....but it's mine isn't it! Then returned to the van to grab the bang stick.

The pups jumped to attention the instant I reached for the bang stick. They were pretty keen not to be left out of this one. We slowly headed down the hill towards where she was feeding. There isn't much cover apart from a few large gums. The gums while providing cover also obscured her from me having a clear shot. So we moved in a little closer each time she put her head down. We got to about 160-170 metres and she picked up either some scent, or movement and looked our way.

Almost simultaneously, I cocked the bang stick, shouldered it, took aim, clicked the safety, dropped to my knees to get a clear shot, all while she checked us out and then decided to head for the Ti tree on her right. She wasn't fast enough and I lead with a little pill to her front. She hunched and took off into the Ti tree. I walked down casually to see where she fell and was a bit surprised to see she hadn't dropped just inside the Ti tree. So it was back off to the van to get out of my jim jams and slippers and put some waterproofs on to get into the wet ti tree patch.

Once back down the pups initially lead me on a bit of a wild goose chase for a few minutes, heading down to the bottom of the gully. I think there may have been more and they had winded them. So I returned to the scene of the crime and found the blood trail and got them to sniff it. They then tracked her directly into the Ti tree, across the side of the ridge line, across a small clearing and back into the Ti tree again to where she had stopped for her final sleep. The pups got lots of praise for a job well done. I rolled her over onto her other side to see where the entry wound was, as I was a little surprised at the distance she ran. Probably 70 metres all up and I thought I had nailed the shot. Turns out I had and she was just running on adrenaline and the shot was actually ok. When they run like that I always start having doubts about my accuracy. Usually it turns out to be false worry, but I am a bit funny about making very quick kills and not having wounded deer slowly expiring in pain.

Anyways, I've half done the butchering and will finish the rest off tomorrow and fill the freezer in 4 or 5 days after hanging.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Video diaries to be added soon

Today I received a package in the mail from my dog trainer and friend Matt. He was with us last weekend when we shot the Sambar Doe and was lamenting the fact that I had no decent camera and no video equipment to record the memories.

Anyway, in the typical spirit of Aussie mateship, he went home and dragged out his old HD handycam and popped it in the post to me. It arrived today, complete with a memory card, batteries charger and all the gear to plug it into the computer. I just have to download a manual and a driver for it and then learn how to use it.

So, as soon as I have my head around all that, I will endeavour to do some filing and load them into the Aussie Vizsla Diaries. There won't be a lot of film taken when close to the point of shooting an arrow, as I mostly hunt solo and when that close, the focus is on slipping an arrow into it more so than videoing it. But when the freezer is full, when we are walking in, or a distance from the Deer and after the takedown, I can certainly try and take some footage to share.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A shoulder charge from Skippy

We have just returned from a walk around the outskirts of the property. No hunting today, just a walk. As we were coming down the steep hill on the back boundary, the pups had been walking a few metres to my left off the dirt roadway. Next thing I see a large Kangaroo bound out of the bushes and down the hill. I looked to my left to see what the pups were doing and both were frozen solid. They have never been this close to a big roo, so I think it put the wind up them a touch :)

I was just standing still, watching the big one bounding down the steep slope when another, even larger one, hopped out of the bush on my left. It headed up the hill parallel to me at first, then it took a 90 degree left turn and headed straight for me. It obviously didn't see me, as it hopped straight into me knocking me over with it's shoulder as it bounded through me. No injuries to either party thankfully, but I bet the Roo had to go home and change it's undies. I know I did!!! :)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

From mountain side to table............

As a child I grew up in the country. We slaughtered our own Chickens, Ducks, Kangaroos, Sheep and Cattle, often sharing with our neighbours. Living in the city for so many years on the career treadmill trying to earn a decent living and provide a future for the family, all the produce came from a supermarket or at best a local butcher.

The last year has been spent living back in the bush and in the last few months, hunting has become a weekly occurrence. The pups have developed into great hunting buddies and we have had numerous successes. As such, we are now able to sustain ourselves to a large degree.

I must say, there is something intensely gratifying about being able to provide for yourself. About knowing what animal it is that has handed you it's life giving spirit to sustain you. Something almost spiritual about then dressing, butchering, storing, preparing and cooking the very food you and your pups have worked hard to find, stalk and humanely dispatch.

I know 100% that the animal has lived a natural life. Amongst it's own kind. Free to roam across it's territory. Eating what is natural without chemical additives or supplements. I also can guarantee that the animal's final moments were less stressful than that of a farmed animal. I know that the animals I take are oblivious to their fate and that from the time the arrow strikes them to the time it goes to sleep for the final time is almost instantaneous. I know it does not have to wait it's turn in a line, all the while watching it's fellow species being slaughtered. It does not have to be corralled, trucked, herded, marked or branded. For the most part it has barely had any human contact.

I feel a great sorrow for the modern child who never will be allowed to experience this. We as a species have become totally disconnected to the realities of life. I still get comments from friends my own age as to how disgusting it is that I hunt for my food. I recall a friend's wife berating me one night at dinner. Claiming the animals should be allowed to die in peace in the wild. I asked her..... "Could you describe how you picture a wild animal dying?" Her response made me laugh. People in general have some romantic notion of a wild animal becoming sick and it's herd, mob, family or whatever, gathering around and supporting it in it's final moments. When the realities are, it will most likely get sick or injured. Be left behind by the herd, group, mob or whatever it belongs to. It will eventually either be taken down by a carnivorous predator, or lay down and be eaten alive by a predator or scavenger. There is no romance in that.

I will defend my rights as a human to hunt and kill for my own sustenance till my dying days. I derive no pleasure from it. I shed tears of sorrow for each and every animal I take for food. But, it's worth it. I hope that someday soon, the tide of opinion will turn. That children will be taught respect for each and every living thing they consume. That they will be given a chance to experience what I have experienced.

If you have children, think about what I have written carefully. How respectful to that piece of steak, that breast of chicken or that Lamb chop are your children? Educate them. Do no be weak and shy away from the realities of life, but embrace it and allow your children to know what they have been given. To respect each and every animal they consume at your dinner table. To appreciate the life giving spirit of the animal.

I didn't have the heart to do it......

I just got back from a short walk. Was out to see if any foxes or Rabbits were about, maybe even the big black cat that has been lurking around for some time. We walked down a steep slope of old growth Tea Tree, which has good vision underneath and still a shot option is an animal is around. All the way down, Astro my Vizsla kept trying to drag me off to the right and down into a gully which I intended have a look at anyways. The wind was coming at us from about 3oclock, so it meant as we got to the bottom of the hill and turned right towards the gully we would have the wind at 12 oclock to us, which was perfect, so I kept him on our path and didn't allow him to go that way.

I should trust that boy by now, as he has never ever let me down by offering a false point. If he points or nods, then it's an animal. Anyway, we got to the bottom of the slope of tea tree and nothing was seen, so we turned 90 degrees right and followed a 4wd track up over the ridge heading down towards the gully I wanted to check out. The gully has Blackberry at its very bottom and often will hold a Rabbit or two. 
As soon as we got to the top of the ridge before dropping into the gully, Zsa Zsa stopped and Astro locked to point again. I figured by the combination of the two reactions it was a Deer. Zsa Zsa is still a little intimidated by the larger animals. She likes birds, Rabbits and the like as they are small and not so scary. Astro doesn't seem fussed either way. To him, it's just food! 
We slowly crept down the hill, using the wooded area on our right for cover. As we got to the bottom of the hill Astro took two steps to the right, lifted his left front foot and stared at me till he got my attention. He then nodded at the Blackberry bush. 
I popped a broadhead on as the reaction of the dogs from the top of the ridge, told me it was a Deer. But, the Blackberry wasn't all that tall, so I figured it was a small Deer. Astro and Zsa Zsa both stood staring intently at the Blackberry bush not moving a muscle. I walked around to the right a little as I could see some colour. The further I went around the more colour I saw as a hole in the middle of the bush showed itself. In the middle of the hole was one of the cutest sites I have seen. It was a tiny Sambar calf whose shoulders were no higher than my knee. 
It looked at me with terrified eyes. I looked at it and my heart melted. I just could not for the life of me even contemplate taking a shot at it. Especially considering the full freezer situation. But even if it was empty, I seriously doubt I could have taken this little fella. It was just so small and forlorn looking. I have never seen a Sambar this small before. I'm not sure how old it was, but it was young, very young. 
I waved my arm at it and told it to bugger off...... which it did. It took off up the hill and was gone in rapid fashion. It's on hunts like this one, where I wish I had a photographer with me. I would have loved to have snapped a pic of the little fella tucked up in the blackberry like that. Just too cute. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

I've created little hunting monsters

It has become apparent now, that all this training, all the live field work, has created two little eager hunting monsters. A pleasant walk with the dogs has gone from a nice stroll, to a focussed hunt. They are no longer content to just have a run and sniff the smells, but are totally focussed each and every time we go for a walk, bow or no bow! For some, that might be a negative thing. For me, it just makes me smile to see these two pups doing what they were bred to do. To hunt! The pointer is dead..........Long live the Pointer!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Today we worked on improving steadiness at the bow shot. It's really my fault and having two intelligent dogs......... please allow me to explain.

When I trained the dogs, I only trained them for the bow, not for the gun. With the bow, there is no such thing as a follow up shot. It takes way too long to remove another arrow from the quiver, place it on the string, draw, aim and release. By this stage a Deer if not hit properly the first time is long gone. So I always trained the dogs to break as soon as the arrow left the bow. Of course, they also started anticipating the shot and it's now got to a point where I need to fix it, both for bow hunting and in case we hunt under a gun again.

So today, we walked down to the range on the farm and I pegged the dogs to the ground. I placed a favourite toy... a piece of rope... near the target and started shooting. Of course they wanted to break once the arrow left the bow. I gave the wait command, steadied them and once they were calm, made them look at the target and then gave the GO command. I did it with one dog at a time and repeated it 5 times each. Then we had playtime. :) I love playtime!

So this drill will be repeated daily for a week and then we are going to go back out and test them on it during a hunt. Fingers crossed this will make things a lot easier whenever we are hunting under a gun. I would hate someone to either have to not take a follow up shot, or worse still, have them shoot one of the pups by accident.

I'll keep you posted as to how we go!

This is the gun club on the property. to the right are three still serviceable shooting lanes which we use for target practice and training. Not a bad setting to be training in really. While we were training, a Sambar Doe jumped the fence not 10 metres to the left of us. I think she may have been a little shocked to see us in there as it is rarely used and has become a haven from the wind and rain for the Deer. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Try telling them the Freezer is full

After taking a big Red Deer and a nice Sambar doe in the last two weeks, the freezer is full. Even had to farm some out to friends. But the pups don't care and at 4pm this afternoon, I was being severely hassled to take them out hunting. It had to be hunting, as without the camouflage clothing and the bow, they know it's just a walk. So, after the harassment got to me, I popped the clothing on and slung the bow over the shoulder and out we went for what I like to call a "Feau hunt". For those of you familiar with the non alcoholic drink from the 80's, it can also be termed a "Claytons Hunt". The hunt you have when your not having a hunt.

Again, the pups did well and again it was Astro's cool calm and collected nature that had him point the Deer. The previous weekend, my mate who helped me train the pups was commenting that Astro didn't have as much prey drive as Zsa Zsa my little GSP. But I told him he was wrong and that he just couldn't read Astro the way I could. By the end of the weekend I think he was seeing my point of view.

Astro is a laid back dog. A point to him is not as distinctive as Zsa Zsa's points. With her a blind man can tell. But with Astro, he just sort of looks at me, and flicks his head in the direction of the scent. That is until we get very, very close. Then it's a rock solid full body frozen like a statue point! So about half an hour into the journey, Astro looks at me, and flicks his head at a gully below us with the wind in his face. I got out the Binos and had a little look see and sure enough, there was a nice fat and healthy Sambar Doe feeding on the grass at the bottom of the gully. He got lots of praise and told how good a hunter he was. His tail wagged in appreciation and we walked on.

We commenced stealth mode and both pups came to my side the minute an arrow was placed in the bow. We snuck down along a ridge of Tea tree to a point where a shot would be available. I gave the wait command and we sat watching the Doe feed as I pointed to it and repeated our favourite word.... "Deer". Both dogs went on full alert and picked up the movement of the deer. Astro was already frozen solid in his point as was Zsa Zsa.

I then spoilt the party by standing up and giving the Doe a damn good look at me. She gave a mighty loud Honk and trotted off into the Tea tree behind her. The pups got lots of praise before we moved on.

One thing I have learned from these two, is that each dog is different. Every dog will signal you in a slightly different way. With Astro, unless you know him, you might miss what he's telling you as he doesn't make a fuss about it, he just cooly says... hey... it's down there. Mr. casual he is!

So, If you have a Vizsla you hunt with who is subtle, then get to know him or her and don't dismiss it as a lack of prey drive, as it may just be they have a different way of letting you know. I know for sure, that while little Zsa Zsa is a driven dog, it's Astro who will point the Deer 80% of the time.

Todays Feau hunt wasn't without taking something home though. As we were walking out of the gully, Zsa Zsa locked to a point on a Rabbit sitting not 20 metres from us. How it hadn't seen or heard us I will never know. But, once I had sight of it, I loaded a bunny blunt into the bow and let it fly. Astro and Zsa Zsa had a nice treat of Rabbit as a reward for a hard afternoons work.