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It was the first week of May and a beautiful clear autumn morning, I had arrived at my hunting spot just on daybreak. The plan was to hunt two gully systems that I was familiar with and always held deer and the odd good stag.
I started walking quietly up the first major gully on the Southern face around 100 meters from the gully bottom and scanned the opposite face for signs of a stag that may be making it’s way back to his bed up in the gully head while following a few marks that looked like that of hinds and younger deer, but no sign of a big boy.
After an hour of scanning both sides of the gully and reaching the gully head I decided to contour around the spur and drop into the next gully system, something I had done many times on previous hunts in this area. On every occasion previous to this I have always stopped once I reached the top of the spur and had a quick look for deer below and haven’t seen anything to date so on this occasion I decided to just keep walking.
Just as I crested the spur all hell broke loose about 100mtrs below me with a hind in the lead followed by a very nice looking stag. There was no chance of a shot as the cover was thick and they were out of sight in a flash. I was kicking myself for not stopping and having a glass at the top of the spur, the only time I haven’t stopped there and it had just cost me a good stag; I thought.
What now, I knew where they were heading and they would either cross the next gully and keep running or contour around the hill into the next gully and follow it up, gambling on the latter I started to follow up the running marks which did contour around into the next gully. Quietly I followed the tracks all the time looking ahead for signs of movement and expected to put up the deer at any time as by the look of the tracks they had now slowed to a walk. Just as I quietly manoeuvred around a small patch of hop scrub I put up the hind which was to my right and about 80 metres upslope so I froze as she honked and bolted back around the slope.
No sign of the stag. Where is he I thought? He must be still here somewhere. Scanning the slope above with my binoculars, and there he was slightly quartering front on and staring down at me at around 100 metres.
Too risky for an offhand shot so I slowly knelt down while removing the shooting sticks from my backpack, luckily the stag had not flinched and was just eyeballing me so onto the sticks and placed the crosshairs on the leading point of his shoulder and squeezed the trigger on the 300WSM… boom.. At the shot the stag spun and headed around the side of the hill.
I was confident of a good hit and walked up to find the running marks and hopefully a blood trail. After getting on to the marks I followed them for about 50meters before finding the first spots of blood and at that that point I knew he couldn’t be far away as I then continued along the blood trail which had become heavy and easy to follow. Looking at the marks the stag was becoming wobbly on his feet as he had stumbled a few times.
After continuing for another 50 metres or so I looked ahead to see the tip of an antler protruding above a wind fallen tree stump and made my way over to the stag.
I walked around him a couple of times before it sunk in then grabbed both antlers around the beams and lifted him up to have a look. What a ripper, I was stoked; especially when I thought I’d lost any chance of getting another look at him when I put him up, but to follow him up, get a second chance and take him it was a great feeling. For those interested in the measurements he went 31 3/8” x 32 5/8” x 32”