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What I have found over several years of hunting sambar is that you never stop learning and they never stop surprising you. I always find that getting to know the area that you hunt is vital to being able to hunt it correctly. I have been hunting this particular area for several years and was regularly seeing plenty of deer as well as fresh sign in the form of cast antlers, rub trees and well used wallows.
My objective for the afternoon was to get the drop on one of two large stags I had been seeing, but not getting a shot at. I double checked my 300 Win Mag loaded with 180 grain Barnes pills was ready to go and I headed out. As I hit the bush it was a calm afternoon with a clear sky. The wind was perfect, blowing straight into my face. I sidled around a tight gully into a series of benches where I always see deer feeding in
On this particular afternoon as I eased into a favoured position, a feeding mature hind came into view. I pulled up my Swarovski 10×42 EL and glassed the surrounding bush for any other deer. I was confident there was no other deer present, so I then pulled out my Nikon P900 with tripod out of my pack and set it up. I sat and watched this hind feed for a good half an hour, where it slowly walked to within about 10 meters of me. As it got closer it sensed that something was there that shouldn’t be there. The hind became alert, stomping its foot at me and raising its tail.
It then honked at me to try and get a reaction out of me. When a sambar honks at you from that distance you nearly need a new pair of jocks. The hind then walked off in an alert manner as it was unable to work out what I was. I believe by having the wind right and a quality camo pattern like “Braken Wear” helped to keep me undetected.
I packed my camera up and moved onto a series of wallows that I knew had had recent stag activity. On my way to the wallows I saw several more hinds as well as a 20 inch stag. As I came into an open area with a rutting stand in the middle of it I accidently stepped on a small stick. A small stick cracking in a quiet forest can almost sound like a gun going off. Needless to say a good stag that was 100 yards away took off straight away. I got a glimpse of him as he took off through the thick scrub. A Sambar’s great hearing had beaten me once again.
I was quickly running out of daylight so I pushed on up the face and through a saddle into another gully. I knew this gully system also contained good deer numbers. As I headed quietly down a well-used game trail I noticed a large hoof mark in the soft ground. I continued to follow the fresh deer sign where I came out to a small clearing in the bush. I saw the outline of a big bodied sambar stag standing just on the bush edge near the clearing. I could see that he had one good antler as he came out of the bush and into good view. I took my pack off so I could use it as a rest. I could see that something was wrong with his right antler so I thought it was best that I take this inferior stag out of the hunting area. It was a tricky shot because the stag become aware of my presence and was looking at me front on, I had to act quickly. I aimed for the centre of the chest to take out his heart lung area. As I took the shot the stag flinched slightly and took off to the heavy timber. There was no chance of a second shot! I heard a great deal of commotion and timber breaking in the direction the stag was heading then all went quiet. As I walk up to the stag I saw there was a little bit of life left in him so I gave him a finishing shot just to be sure. As I checked out the stag I looked at the time and realized I now had a big job in front of me to get this deer out of the bush.
To follow my hunting adventures find me on Instagram @joshuamayall.