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Normal Topic A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story (Read 1311 times)
Alpine Dog
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A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Apr 17th, 2018 at 4:52pm
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The first day of April dawned clear and the weak early morning sunlight glinted off the bush clad hills. Unfortunately, I was still driving to my hunting destination, as daylight saving had made me an hour late! I had looked up what time sunrise was and set an appropriate alarm on my phone. Overnight my phone had automatically adjusted for daylight saving meaning it went off an hour later relative to sunrise. I drove in frustrated silence, watching my advantage drift away as the countryside changed from grey to green.

I wasted no time at the carpark and headed along the bush track at a run until it started heading steeply uphill. My determined lunges up the track were interrupted by a stag roaring close at hand near the stream.
Blimmin hell, 5 minutes in and the day was looking good I thought.
The immediate area at the start of the track is a scenic reserve so that eager stag was safe. I listened for a few moments before swirling on my feet and attacking the hill once more. The track climbed steeply up through native bush, a tangle of roots, rocks and slippery mud. I had to slow myself as the tricky footing was not ideal for my recovering knee. My Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) had been operated on 6 months previous and this was my first foray into the hills since. Although I knew this activity was not physio approved the roar just proved too tempting.
Iíll take it slow I reasoned, before charging frantically up the track with the roars echoing around me.

I left the main track and followed a rough bait track that wound its way along a prominent ridge, roaring down every gully head and spur. The sun flickered through the trees as I walked, reminding me I was running a bit late.


The silent cunning type...
I left the bait track and headed down a ridge I knew had held rutting stags. Roaring often through my state-of-the-art cut-off section of vacuum cleaner hose, I was soon answered by a low moan below me. Adrenalin pumped through my body as I realised the stag was quite close. I sat down beside a tree, tested the wind with the small bottle of foot powder I carry. The powder drifted lazily up the ridge.
Perfect!
I roared back, and a slow minute ticked by before the reply resonated through the trees. After a short pause I replied again and settled in to wait. The minutes ticked by with no reply.  The usual thoughts danced through my head.
Has he gone? Is he sneaking in?
My method of dealing with this doubt is to check the time after every roar and if the stag goes silent I donít move or roar till a full ten minutes has passed. Itís surprising how often a stag roars at the 8-10 minute mark. Because I havenít been roaring and giving a bearing for him to sneak in on, he is forced to roar to figure out my whereabouts. This time nothing happened.
I crept down the ridge a short distance and coming to a small saddle stopped in a clump of beech saplings with a good view of a well used wallow.


I let out another roar, and a few minutes later heard an animal crash off to my right.
Bugger.
I waited another 5 minutes before carrying on, just in case but when nothing happened I continued down the ridge.

The cautious cunning type
I was sitting having some lunch on a prominent knob, when my questioning roars were answered by two stags, both across the valley, one on a small spur at the forks of the stream.
I fought my way across the stream at the forks and began climbing. My roars were unanswered for a while until a low moan drifted down the spur towards me. I could see about 70 metres up the spine of the spur,
If he came down there it would be perfect.
I moaned lowly through the corrugated tube of the roaring hose and the stag immediately replied. The foot powder swirled left, then slightly uphill.
If he came down the left-hand side of the ridge, Iíd be in trouble.
I roared again and settled down to wait. 9 minutes ticked by before he gave in and roared again. I suppressed the urge to reply immediately, only roaring after a pause. A minute later he roared from a lot closer, just on the other side of a dense clump of beech saplings.
Darn, looked like he was going left!
I left my day pack where it was, came silently to my feet and stalked around until I could see down the face on the left-hand side of the spur. The stag edged closer, roaring menacingly as he came. Suddenly I realised he was in fact coming down the clear ridge but was now so close I couldnít risk moving back to my original position. My eyes darted over to a small movement in the bush. A pair of antlers slid down the spur above the beech saplings, rocking from side to side as the stag searched for me. With trembling hands, I carefully eased a round into the chamber of my rifle.

The stag moved his head quizzically. He had seen something downhill of his position and was very unsure of it.
My day bag! I realised.
The stag craned his neck, his eyes boggled at the strange object perched beside an overturned stump below him. He was unsure what it was, but it seemed out of place and gave him an uneasy premonition. His head snapped around when the imposter roared from close by, to his right. He peered through the dense beech, trying to spot the imposter, but glanced back at Ďthe thingí every few seconds. The stag trusted his instinct, something wasnít right. He pointed his nose and lowered his modest antlers around his body as he slunk away through the undergrowth. Barely making a sound he circled around the spur, turning his great wet snout into the wind regularly. He paused several metres from a tiny clearing and swung his head slowly from side to side staring downhill.

Just a few metres more! I willed the stag, watching him through the scope. He was standing mostly obscured in the thicket of beech undergrowth clearly looking for me. I could tell he was a stag and not a hunter, but he looked to be a small stag and refused to give me a clear shot. I decided I wouldnít shoot but wanted to see how close I could get him. I gave a whining moan through the vacuum cleaner hose and watched his head snap around to look directly in my direction. However, he simply stood watching, an antlered red statue peering keenly downhill. He roared back and was answered by a furious roar from another stag on a face on the other side of the stream behind me.
Just wait your blimmin turn, Iíll get to you! I thought.
With nothing to lose I tried to creep closer to the stag standing in the thicket but had only gone a few metres when I heard him crash away.
On to the next one thenÖ

Instinct and reaction
I collected my bag and headed back down to the creek. I quickly headed up the face in the general direction of the other stag I had heard. The going was tough, the undergrowth grabbed at my every movement. I wasnít trying to be particularly sneaky as I still had quite a climb to where the roaring was happening. Suddenly the air erupted with sound and the bush rattled as a furious bellow ripped through the forest around me.
Holy moly, heís pissed off and less than 100m away! I realised.
My eyes swept the immediate area for a good view point as I eased the foot powder from my pocket. I puffed it into the air smiled thinly when it floated past me directly away from the outraged stag. The bush pressed in around me, with visibility down to less than 10m so I simply sat where I was. I roared, and the response was immediate, deafening and had a wild, raging note to it. I hurriedly chambered a round. I was checking my watch, expecting the usual 10-minute wait when a twig snapped from barely 10 metres below and behind my left shoulder. My head ripped around, my eyes strained to see through the bush.
Is that another one? Surely he couldnít have come in that fast?
I whipped the roaring hose to my lips and roared before the stag got around behind me and cut my scent. I leaned back and peered through a tiny gap in the foliage just in time to see a rump move, angling around the hill.
Holy smoke, heís gonna appear right in front of me!

I brought the rifle to my shoulder, and my eyes hovered just above the scope. With my hair standing on end and all my senses pinging I tensely waited. Without any further warning the stags head and shoulders appeared from around the side of the tree in front of me. He came to a sudden stop. He was so close I could clearly see curled auburn hair on his forehead and the moisture glistening on his nose. His eyes widened in shock as the pearly tips of his long brow tines almost brushed the muzzle of my rifle. I jerked involuntarily, trying to get a bead on him. As nimble as a polo pony, he spun on his rear hooves and launched himself downhill, crashing powerfully though the bush. I scrabbled desperately to my feet and leaned out around the tree. He ploughed ten metres and stopped for one last glimpse at me. I saw some promising tops as he turned broadside and glanced back over his shoulder. The rifle swung instinctively up into the aim, the cross hair finding his shoulder with practised ease.

The bullet crashed into the stag and smashed him to the deck where he stood. He lay upright against a tree and drew his final few desperate rattling breathes. His eyes gradually lost focus and clouded over and the bittersweet release that comes after the hunt overcame me.

Shaking I cautiously descended to the giantsí body, rifle reloaded in the half co*k and held ready at the hip. When he showed no sign of life I cleared the rifle and sat beside the mammoth carcase. My hands were shaking uncontrollably, and my heart thumped wildly in my chest. I took in the thick timber and long antlers while the conflicting waves of elation and sorrow at the death of this wild, noble beast swept over me. 


Doing the mahi
Most people subconsciously assume that the story ends here. However, in this instance, the moment I pulled the trigger was the beginning of another test. I struggled uphill with the backstraps in my pack, head and antlers strapped to the back and the hindquarters resting on my day pack, with the legs over my shoulders. I later weighed the load. The meat and head were 33kg, so combined with my gear it was a 40kg carry. The ever-present beech saplings clawed relentlessly at the antlers. The hooves protruding over my shoulders and my rifle also constantly tangled in the beech. The footing was steep, uneven and slippery. Every metre was a struggle. I would try to step uphill, pulling against the resistance of the beech tangled antlers. After great effort the antlers would be released only to get caught on the next sapling maliciously waiting immediately behind.

I struggled uphill for an age, panting heavily and groaning with effort every step of the way. Often the antlers became unstuck so suddenly I would lurch forward, losing my footing on the mushy soil and crash to the ground. Inevitably the hindquarters would be thrown off my shoulders and roll down the hill. I rested where I fell, lying in an exhausted ungainly heap not even bothering to sit up. The sun was plummeting down towards the horizon, daylight was running out. I wanted to at least make the main ridge before dark, so my rests were never allowed to be long. I dragged myself painfully to my feet, recovered the hindquarters and began the battle once more.
Finally, I made the ridge and was immediately rewarded with a small clearing. I walked across it, marvelling at the ease of unhindered movement.
Free metres, it doesnít get any better than that! I thought as I stumbled across the clearing towards the endless ranks of thin beech silently waiting for me.


A short time later I found a rough track that worked its way down the ridge. The beech saplings pressed closely onto the thin track, so the antlers still bumped continuously against them. However, I was now heading downhill and could at least move my legs unobstructed, so my pace increased dramatically.
Twilight lingered for a long time before darkness completely enveloped the hills. I followed the thin track, losing it often and finally made it to the main track at the creek. I lay against a boulder panting heavily for 5 minutes.

Only an hour of mahi to go. The 18-year-old me would not have been able to do this task, I reflected. The knowledge of being in the bush as darkness fell would have panicked me. Negative thoughts would have pervaded my brain and I would have focussed on how hard everything was. Iíve been in this situation before, so I know that although difficult, the pain is only temporary. Just accept the hardship and retreat to that familiar place in my head. All I have to do was keep walking and watch the hours tick by until the job was done.

The track followed the river for a few kilometres. My panting breath was illuminated by my headlight and I couldnít see much through this fog. Given the terrain was slippery river rocks this wasnít ideal, and I got plenty of unplanned rests sprawled awkwardly amongst the rocks. Eventually the track climbed out of the creek up a steep slope to the saddle where I had left the main track that morning. The going was now a lot better, but I was so exhausted I could only walk about ten minutes at a time. Finally, I made the top and descended the last arduous downhill to the car park.

I loaded the hindquarters and my bloody pack into the back of the truck. The gun powder residue in the barrel of my rifle was now 5 hours old. My legs were so weak that they shook uncontrollably as I eased the clutch out and the ute bunny hopped backwards across the car park.
Now thatís shattered I thought as a satisfied sense of accomplishment crept over me. After 6 months of low activity it was great to achieve something physical again. I had hunted the bush and roared a good stag, then had the resilience to finish the job. If the backcountry was easy, would I love it the way I do? Part of the appeal of the backcountry is the unyielding hardship of it, nothing is easily achieved which means the victories are well earned.  This backcountry explorer had pitted himself against it and had earned the slow smile that crept across my lips as the headlights swung around the tight bush-clad corners of the road home.

  

The more you hunt, the more you learn
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footsore
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Re: A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Reply #1 - Apr 19th, 2018 at 12:25pm
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Brilliantly told yarn Alpine Dog.
Impressive writing skills that paint a detailed picture of great hunt.  Cool Cool

Would like to see the photos, but photo bucket isn't displaying them for me.
  
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Alpine Dog
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Re: A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Reply #2 - Apr 20th, 2018 at 10:44am
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Thanks footsore! It was a great hunt, I imagine many on the forum will relate to the excitement and exhaustion I experienced.

I'm not sure about the photo bucket problem, is it just your end or are my links not working?
  

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Re: A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Reply #3 - Apr 20th, 2018 at 8:10pm
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Where your photo's are supposed to appear in the story there is a notice asking that you "upgrade your photobucket account to enable 3rd party hosting".
  
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Re: A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Reply #4 - Apr 24th, 2018 at 4:44pm
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Even 6 months after ACL surgery that deserves respect!

I went on a challenging hunt about the same time after an ACL replacement a few years back.. walking over slippery surfaces with tired legs and load on my back had my bum squealing almost as loud as the physio when she found out. All helps to get the confidence back in the strength of the knee though

Well done and thanks for the story
  
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Re: A tale of timber and beech saplings - A long but hopefully entertaining story
Reply #5 - Jun 15th, 2018 at 3:54pm
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Great recollection of by the sounds an extremely hard. Top effort getting back through that regen bush with a good load as it is frustrating enough with just the gun. I'm guessing you would of had wasps to contend with too.
  
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