By Diary of an average hunter
After much deliberation, the Shooting Australia forum meet held over the weekend was a great success and a terrific time was had by all. The weekend would not have been such a success without the exceptional help by those involved. I think I speak on behalf of all the members involved when I say that we ate like kings and were in want of nothing. The festivities began on Friday evening with the majority of members opting for the 2 day weekend. After a quick setup of camp it was onto the introductions
(Camp construction complete, let the good times roll)
All gathered around the camp fire as we watched the spit turn over the prepared chicken which became Friday nights delicious kebab dinner. We sat and pondered the upcoming mornings hunt in our search for the mountain ghosts, the mighty Sambar Deer. As I listened I began to realise that each of the members, whilst coming from very different hunting backgrounds, were all there for similar interests and reasons. The opportunity to learn and develop new skills, meet people with common interests and to bring about some personal confidence towards state forest hunting seemed to be the major attraction. The excitement was in the air over the anticipation of the impending hunt.
The following morning began to the sound of a 4am wakeup call which saw a few sore heads but, nothing that would prevent them missing out. After an early morning coffee we broke off into two separate groups led by Alfie and myself. Alfie took a group to hold up over a deep gully system and I took my group deeper into the lower grounds of a large spur. This area was once my childhood hunting grounds of which I am very fond of as it holds many memories of hunting with my father. Unfortunately, two years ago saw one of Victoria’s largest ever individual fires rip through 300,000acres of the state forest. This left the area with cracked shale rock which exploded from the heat of the fire and almost all of the trees remained charred. Still, there was some sign in the area and considering the numbers Alfie and myself had sighted the weekend earlier we knew they had started to move back into the area.
(Gary glassing the mountains)
(Jon hoping to test out his long range skills)
(Shaun eagerly awaiting his first crack at Sambar)
The usual method I’ve used in the morning is to hold up on a shady west facing gully and glass the sunny east facing mountains on the opposed gully. The reason for this is self explanatory as the deer will move to the sun in the early morning, especially if the nights conditions are cool. Unfortunately the nights weather was mostly warm and in these circumstances the deer will hover lower in the gullies with no real need to chase the sunlight. My group approached our gully head from the south and it seemed that the winds were favouring us but, like all good gully systems, the winds began to swirl. We made for lower grounds and ended up holding off on a large spur at the top of the system. The game trails in this area showed some fresh signs but, not enough to warrant large numbers. We spend a large amount of time awaiting the movement of a deer to push up the system in the easiest way it could but, we were offered nothing of the sort. The numbers of hunters involved in the weekends hunt made a stalk practically impossible. This really only left one option, we had to find a nice area to hold up and spend the time glassing. I took my group to one of the highest points that overlooked the entire valley. It was here that at 800-1000m we sighted the first Sambar bedded in a gully under a solitary fern. The hike to the animal would have been a task, not forgetting the hike out had we been successful. To me it was simple, a no brainer. We retreated back to the vehicles and headed off to the old Stockyard Pup in Rawson for a pot and parma lunch.
(My team, Bear, Harvey and Jac opting for the Parma over the hike. Good choice lads!)
To myself and Alfie the hunt was a huge disappointment but, once we arrived back at camp and discussions were had I soon realised that everyone had gained something out of the hunt and really this is what the weekend was all about. I didn’t want the members to go home empty handed but, to me it seemed that at the very least they had gained some knowledge in what they had experienced and that certainly gave me a smile.
Not long after a quick relax and unwind, the weekend’s camp chefs (Nic and Ash A.K.A. Monty) were at it again. The pig Alfie and myself had taken the weekend before was brought back from my farm, given a bit of seasoning with Ivan Tomic (Owner of ‘The Roaming Spits’) very secret rub before it was placed on the spit and began to its long process.
(Alfie getting his hands dirty)
(The pig taken the weekend before)
As if this was not enough for all the boys to enjoy Nic began to prep what was soon to be the highlight dish of the weekend, Sambar/Fallow backstrap 5hr slow cooked Chilli con carne, oh my gosh it was to die for and Nic was kind enough to share his recipe:
Sambar Chilli Con Carne
1 large fry pan
1 large heavy based pot
Sambar Back strap 1.5 kg
1 tbl spoon smoked paprika
1 tbl spoon cumin
1 tbl spoon dried oregano
1 tbl spoon salt
1 tbl spoon black pepper
3 Habanero chillies
2 red onions
2 red peppers
2 yellow peppers
3 bay leaves
1 stick of cinnamon
500 ml beef stock
Handful of coriander
2 tins of tomato
Mix all the dried spices together & rub all over the back strap (best done the day before). On high, heat seal off the meat until caramelized. Once the meat is looking the part, remove from the pan & set aside. Add the rough chopped onion & chilli to fry off until semi-soft. Once the onion & chilli are cooked; add all the other ingredients all roughly chopped. Place the back strap into the pot & submerge into the liquid. Allow to cook with the lid on LOW heat for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. After 4-5 hours the meat will be falling apart, shred the meat with a couple of forks & cook for another 20 minutes.
(Nic’s spicey Chilli Con Carne was an absolute winner)
If you have an affinity for cooking up your game meats then I highly recommend giving this one a go. However, be warned, it may induce colon cleansing process within 6hr’s after consumption. Just ask anyone that got stuck into it.
That afternoon was very relaxed as a couple more members arrived to join in on the shenanigans.
Whilst giving some heavy thought towards that afternoons hunt.
(The Author in Deep thought in the afternoon)
I came up with two locations of which the groups could split off into and so I took father and Son pair Gary and Shaun (who made the 3:30hr trip across from Ballarat for the weekend) out to an old forest cut that used to offer me quite a number of good fallow heads. The other boys were divided between hunting and target shooting and in the end they opted for doing both at another forest cut I go to from time to time for the odd early and late feeding Sambar. Again the sheer numbers of hunters made any success for Sambar a mere percentage as the mighty Sambar Deer are no standard game to hunt, always alert and forever assessing dangers. The slightest signs of danger and they become that for which they are so well known, ghosts.
I sat Gary and Shaun adjacent to a forest fringe that contoured a gully head. The sun still had a fair bit of sting about it so the wait was a long one. After giving into the Mosquito’s and fading light it had become apparent to me that I would not be able to get one on the ground after all. I was fairly gutted, not for myself but, for the efforts of the guys and their anticipation at what could have been. The feast and company back at camp ensured that the disappointment was all too easy to forget. As we sat about the campfire the reality of what the weekend’s events had truly achieved became more apparent. A bunch of strangers and here we were together mingling over a pig on the spit, fire at foot and a starlit night for ambience.
(When the stars came up they put on a nice little show)
The result of putting a Deer on the ground over the weekend truly never mattered, what had been achieved was something far greater than words could put into writing. A large group of complete strangers with similar interests in life had become friends. To anyone in attendance, it was the perfect weekend and I want to thank you all for coming.
Diary Of An Average Hunter.
Alfie, bringing the equipment needed for the weekend to run smoothly and spending hours processing the meat we feasted on.
Nic, for producing the most incredible venison dish that I have ever eaten and believe me, that’s saying something.
Ash, bringing the spit and arranging the chicken kebabs for the first nights feast, plus a never ending list of comical moments for all to enjoy.
Last and certainly not least, I’d like to thank everyone that attended and made the journey. We truly were not sure if the weekend was going to see many members turn up so the turnout we had was just fantastic so thank you very much. Each and every one of you has my regard and if you ever require some knowledge or just want to catch up for a hunt don’t hesitate to do so as Alfie and my lines will always be open to you.