Growing up in south Louisiana I learned quickly
why this state is called the Sportsman’s Paradise. In this area of the state we
have unbelievable waterfowl, whitetail deer and small game hunting, and freshwater,
saltwater and brackish water fishing is outstanding. At a very early age I was
introduced to hunting and fishing by my dad and grandfather.
Many years later my son and daughter began duck hunting prior to their fourth birthdays. My daughter still enjoys hunting and fishing, and we can’t wait to take my two grandsons out into the field. My son and I have been hunting together for nearly twenty-five years, and many of the marvelous memories that we share were only due to the readily available hunting and fishing opportunities.
Last deer season, we missed the last 5
weeks of hunting due to Mississippi River flooding. The 2,600 acres that we
hunt have been under as much as 12 feet of water since January, but we are
hoping to get back on the property by mid-August. Although it sounds bad for
this season, the deer in our area have been well-fed on nearby, higher land
throughout the flood. The nutrient-rich
Mississippi River enables very rapid, healthy growth of the ground cover immediately
after the water recedes.
Over the past five years, our duck lease
suffered tremendously due to an invasion of an exotic species, apple snails. Some
apple snails are as large as a man’s fist and they devastated the aquatic
vegetation. This did not help to hold
the ducks in the area during these seasons, but last year the snails moved on
and vegetation grew back with a vengeance and the property is once again
looking very good for the coming season.
A few days ago, the winds of our first Gulf of Mexico
Hurricane were ripping shingles off our home, and in the middle of the storm,
we rescued a juvenile Mississippi kite that was unable to fly. After nursing the kite back to health, it was
released to rejoin its mother.
Being in the kings club (we have both been king of Mardi Gras) I am attending the Cajun Royal family, well in this case Troy Landry, King of the Swamp, and King Hephaestus at our Local Mardi Gras. Very well disguised. More recognizable in his Swamp People day clothes.
Often the best ideas are the simple ones – but having said that they need to be refined and tested in the field. The Apex airglow is one such product – simple but it has been thought through. The powder comes in a small, convenient sized tube, carried in a pouch which can be worn around the neck and inside the coat jacket. With older systems I would have carried this in a pocket or pouch, requiring much fumbling and searching by which time the buck I have just seen, and wanted to check the wind for has had a good whiff of me and is off .
But now I know exactly where the powder is and hands on is quick. Not rocket science; simple, cleverly though out and it works .
Hawkes Bay NZ has some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet, the Mohaka river winding through the valley with natural meadows, that at first glance look like a man made golf course, perfect ground for this decent Billy goat, on Steve’s recent trip out with Bob Spain one of our Field masters. Skin will be back in the UK as his rug in August.
Reflections are a sad thing at times. Especially
when looking back at a great trip away.
I have been invited to many places to help
with the control of Large Feral Herbivores (LFH). These include Camels, Feral
Cattle, Wild Horses, Donkey’s and Asiatic Buffalo and are all introduced into
the Australian environment and thrive on our diverse habitat.
This current job was to initiate some ground shooting on a couple of Cattle Stations in the Upper Gascoyne region of Western Australia, my home State. The LFH that requires culling to reduce numbers are Donkey’s. These pest breed well in these conditions and all animals seen were in good condition. This location is 1500 kilometres from my home base so we took a leisurely couple of days to get to site. Due to the rough terrain the modus operandi is to travel around the 1.5 million acres in our control area on quad bikes. This may not be the most comfortable method of transport, though essential to get into some of the “off the beaten tracks” etc. where our quarry prefer to locate themselves. Our next 8 days was spent on our quads though we did have a couple of rest days to rest the saddle sores.
Not an overly exciting hunting experience
hence classified as a cull. We are bound of course to our ethics and legislation
to use our Agricultural Department guideline for the humane controlling of LFH.
Donkey’s present themselves on most occasions and will even stop and look back
after the initial shots.
The environment here is semi-arid with an
annual rainfall of 215mm and average mean temperature of 32C. So conditions are
dry, dusty, dusty, and dusty. I use a protective cover over my Savage 300WN
while travelling but, and I don’t know if you have ever experienced it, you
cannot keep out that bloody red outback dirt. It gets into everything.
I always travel with a Napier Universal Rifle Pull Through Kit. These take up little room and are easy to use. Keeping your rifles clean in this environment is essential for repeated reliable use. In the evening after a day in the bush, a couple of bore cleans and a wipe down with the VP90 Field Patches and you’re all good to go next day. Those VP90 Field Patches are just the shot in this dusty environment. Cleans but doesn’t leave a thick oily film to attack the dust. Very good.
During our stay we accounted for 76
donkeys. These are recorded in the Stations records for the Department of
Agriculture for future reference and proof that the property owner is keeping
all LFH numbers controlled.
Well back to the grind of everyday vocation
P.S. Just had a call from another Cattle
Station, dry in the interior, camels coming into Station watering points and
causing havoc. Well better start the planning.
As an outfitter , I am stalking or managing deer in one form or another most days, for me kit is not a gimmick, it is an essential tool and has to be good and functional . If it is not I don’t use it or endorse it, simple as that. For many years I used a leather strap for carrying my Roe off the hill, I cannot get on with roe sacks – I find them cumbersome and they interfere with carrying and deploying the rifle. Then the clever folk from Napier came up with the Apex predator – perfect! now we have something that wraps around my waist, has pockets for all my stalking essentials that I take out to the hill and cleverly deploys to a full size roe sack when needed to carry my deer of the hill.
I could go on but suffice to say I have been using an Apex predator now for over 5 years, it is out with me whenever I stalk and is I feel one of the best products on the market for recovering the smaller deer species. I have had 2 roe in it which was admittedly a squeeze, they were yearlings but it easily copes with the largest roe buck. The detachable, inner liner is simple to remove and clean – it comes with two so one can be washed and drying while you fit the spare. The many pockets are well thought out and functional – all of my gralloching kit is in there so I simply leave it in the car, grab it as I head off for my stalk knowing that I have everything with me I need .
Its always great to do a cashless deal, and having only recently started fly fishing in earnest, deals can be made with lifelong fishermen who are wishing to take up deer management. The other evening such a pal and I met up after work, we chatted through the trials and tribulations of each of our days and pinched ourselves that we were lucky enough to be off out into the local countryside to look for a Roe buck or Muntjac.
Richard has previously shot forty plus deer, Muntjac, Roe, Fallow and a leucitic (white) Sika pricket, this has generally been done from a highseat with the ready-made backstop of the ground to offer confidence when taking the shot, so my intention this May evening was to set him up for his own foot stalk which would hopefully be a memorable one.
As ever after we’d crashed around, changing shoes for boots and sorting out sticks, dogs and loading rifles we were to look up and spot a young buck cross the main ride, so we scuttled down the ride quickly to where he had crossed, only to spy him drifting off into the hazel coppice, we had both brought our Pulsar handheld TI spotters and tried to follow him further, but stalking through the wood we lost him. We continued with my intention, which was to get out to the edge of the wood, where we could perhaps intercept deer as they began to feed in the fields. With the Labrador helping by raising his head and scenting we squeezed through the hazel and hawthorn hedge and negotiated a rather dilapidated ‘Tiger trap’ style hunt fence, to enter a youngish plantation with dappled shade.
Sabbath, the Lab, was now very intent and stood peering into the cover, so we squatted with him and scanned the area with our spotters, the scene was illuminating. Four heat sources glowed ahead, along with binoculars, we concurred it was a family group of Muntjac and a Roe buck. Sitting with the dog, Richard was sent off to stalk and cull the Roe. Whilst he was gone, all three of the Muntjac approached us and stood with their noses in the air trying to ascertain what we actually were, dog or man or both? After a short while there was the resounding ‘bang – thwack’ of a well-placed shot, it must have been fairly close as the sounds were almost indistinguishable. We waited until Richard appeared with a broad grin and an accomplished look on his face.
Having just been signed up by Napier to be one of their Field Masters, a group dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in field sports. Now was my opportunity to use some of their Apex Range, and the Apex 46 hunters knife which fresh out of the box and sheath easily gralloched the Roe buck once it was hung from a suitable tree by the ingenious Apex tree hugger with its rubberised webbing and S hooks. With the addition of rubber gloves the animal was quickly dealt with offering a quick and easy suspended gralloch. I rarely cut open the sternum as the carcass loses shape and it offers more opportunity for contamination, as more flesh is open to the environment. The Apex Truck Click with Auto lift has been very useful for gralloching larger deer on the tow hitch, making it much easier to swing them into the back of a pick up when lone working too.
With some light left in the evening we got the carcass back to the track side, and then we pottered off along another ride, only to be confronted by a larger buck browsing on the vegetation under the overhanging hazel coppice. Sliding, my first rifle a .243, off my shoulder and onto the Spartan Sentinel stick system in the quickly decreasing light, approximating the shot to be 120m, the buck turned enough to offer a shot to the front left shoulder. There was the satisfying thwack as the bullet struck, it jumped up and kicked out his back legs, and then ran towards us before crashing into the woodland some metres away, the bullet strike and reaction to shot would have never been visible with an unmoderated rifle, due to the muzzle flip.
We stood and chatted about the shot and the animal for a number of minutes as Sab stared unblinkingly into the wood, waiting for us to move forward and find the buck. Approaching the strike first there was nothing visible on the ground, my heart sank, although I was confident with the shot, there was no blood, tissue or pins (hair). Out came the thermal spotters, still nothing, admittedly the bracken, grasses and brambles had begun to grow up. With confidence I cast Sab back and as Richard and I both stepped forward Sab appeared back through the bracken and we all stumbled across the dead buck, laid on his back in a forestry extraction rut, well below ones line of sight. The bullet had never exited, so with no exit wound there was not going to be any blood at the strike and also no blood for a trail, Sab had air scented the animal in the cover.
It was a successful and satisfying evening, all within half a kilometre, if that. The forester would be happier and Richard’s freezer would be ready for the summer BBQs.
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