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Standing on a freezing cold lonely track in the middle of winter with the odd flurry of snow and nothing but a Layfaette radio, an old Winchester M94 .375 lever and a red and black Swandri coat to keep me company, and not hearing a thing all day except for the odd crackle on the radio to break the silence, this was my introduction to hound hunting back in the late 80’s.
After a few false starts and walking around in the bush with my rifle for a year or so never seeing a deer or a sign of one I was lucky enough to get an invite to have a hunt with the Toivonen crew from Melbourne for the very next weekend and that was the longest week of my life! Needless to say from that moment on I was hooked on this form of hunting for near on 30yrs of my life and I’ve loved every minute of it, sitting around the fire listening to George and Nils recounting the old days of their starts in hunting & some of the adventures they had as a crew had all us wide eyed young blokes hanging off every word, couple that with Arthur Meyers telling us of some of his adventuress, both here and in New Zealand, made us as keen as hell to get out there and shoot sambar deer by the Ute load! The reality was a lot different to the dream for most of us!!!
Nowadays there are a lot more deer around and a lot more crews as well, but the first thing to do is join one of the major hunting orgs like The Victorian Hound Hunters inc, Australian Deer Association or the Victorian Deer Association ,then if you don’t have one, get yourself a Game Licence which will need to be endorsed for Hunting with Hounds, this is done by completing the Hound Hunting course which can be done at selected DEPI offices, these can be obtained from a DEPI office with the Game licence application able to be downloaded on the GMA website.
After you have all your paperwork completed and received your licences you can now chase up a good crew to hopefully get you an invite to hunt with, the internet is a start with a multitude of Deer hunting sites to chose from but I still think word of mouth and going and actually seeing people and talking to other hunters is the best place to start. If you’re lucky enough to get a start don’t rush out and buy expensive electronic gear like radios, GPS’s and other goodies as most crews will have some spare gear to lend to you till you work out if hound hunting is for you. If you do feel the need to buy all the gear try and get the best stuff that YOU can afford and don’t get too carried away with what some slick salesman will tell you. GPS trackers are a big must have item now days and although they are handy at some stage you’ll have to rely on good old fashion instinct to get the job done as there is no point in watching the unit right up to the point you think the deer will pop out of the scrub as I bet most times it’s already dodged you and is beating a hasty retreat leaving you wondering “what the hell happened there?”
Then you have the hassle of entering dog ID numbers into the unit and getting the hang of actually using the thing in the field. Most crews will have an electronic guru that will help you with this and sort it out.
Boots are the next thing that you’ll need and there are hundreds of different styles to chose from nowadays, back when I started KT26 runners where the things to have and one bloke I hunted with wore lace up steel cap boots! Boots are in the same category as the electronic gear and buy the best stuff you can afford, I’ve been using the Hi-Tec Altitude boots for the last few years and they’ve been good for me and I know that everyone has their own opinion on boots but in the end it’s up to the individual on what you get but whatever you get they must be comfortable as you will be in them all day.
A gun is the next thing you’ll need and this is where it gets messy, most hound hunters I know couldn’t really give a rats ass about what brand, calibre, action, if it’s wood, if it’s plastic, is it camo or whatever just as long as it goes bang and it shoots straight! Hound hunters in general aren’t really big on gun maintenance and I can recall one “Hound Team Leader” regularly turfing his old 06 BAR into the bush because it jammed again, which was usually a good indication that it needed a good clean and drag some of the bark, leaves, dogwood and whatever else was wedged in it over a given period of time, throw some dried up blood in it and you have a great tomato stake!!!!
There has been many an argument around Friday night camp-fires about the merits of this gun over that gun this calibre and that calibre, I personally have been using a Remington 7600 in 30.06 since Mr Howard decided that I couldn’t be trusted with my old Browning BAR and I can’t say I’ve been worse off, Although I’d give my Left one to get my BAR back!!!
The 06 is one of the most common calibres used in hound hunting, in my experience, and it really has some advantages especially if you:
A. Forget ya bullets you can stooge a packet off ya mate
B. If ya lose ya mag and he’s got the same gun you can pinch his mag!
And the best thing about using a pump or lever gun is ya won’t leave ya bolt at home. Whatever gun you chose make sure you can confidently shoot accurately with it and that it doesn’t weigh a tonne throw a good sling on it and maybe a red dot scope or a good compact scope and your away.
Probably the most important piece of kit a new hunter can have, and most likely the cheapest, is a couple of good dog leads because the first time you have to try and lead 2 eager hounds out of a bail up with nothing but your belt or gun sling while trying to carry a hind leg you’ll soon realise they are worth their weight in gold, and they also save you from getting a good dressing down by the hound team leader for not having any as well.
Having somewhere to sleep is always handy so a good swag and sleeping bag are a given even one of those new fangled folding stretchers can guarantee you a good, warm nights sleep. After years of sleeping on the ground I bought a stretcher myself and thought “why didn’t I have one of these years ago” don’t be put off by the non stretcher owners carrying on about being “soft, sooky” or other put downs just keep in mind you’ll be the one springing out of bed in the morning and not getting around like a half shut pocket knife for an hour or so!!!
Speaking of the morning don’t be afraid to get in and help get the hounds out of the crate and give them a walk and a pee before collaring them up, this shows your keen to help and also lets you get to know the hounds names and their character so if the opportunity comes up and you’re lucky enough to shoot a deer you can let the crew know what dogs come through on the hunt. Another handy tip is be very aware of just where the dogs are when firing at the deer if you hit and kill or wound a dog your Hound Hunting career will be very short with that crew!!!!
If you don’t have a 4WD don’t panic someone will give you a lift up the bush that’s already a member of the crew, however be very wary of travelling with a “Team Leader” as most are hopeless drivers and are more focused on driving along looking out the window for fresh marks, a good indication of the driver in question is look very closely a his vehicles condition lots of dents and missing parts is a sure sign he’ll be a last resort ride.
Most of all say thanks for the ride and offer some fuel money most times you’ll get a “Naw she’ll be right mate” but it’s better to offer then to be thought of as a stingy bugger.
Last but not the least is get out there and have a crack, don’t be afraid to ask questions as there is no such thing as a dumb question and take good advice when it’s given as most of these hunters both male and female have years of experience and have done the hard yards!!!!
Although this is not a complete list and there’s probably a lot of things I missed I’ve kept it basic and you’ll pick things up as you go along, so have fun and shoot a bigun!