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There is no doubt as the use of trail cameras by hunters increases each year, so to does the opportunity to learn and study the subjects as photo sequences are recorded. Whether it’s a single picture of a deer passing by, watching the same deer year after year, or just getting photo’s of multiple animals as they visit a certain location, there is always something for the keen and open minded hunter to learn from.
Matt Rogers is one of those blokes that loves to hunt just as much as he enjoys the many kilometres travelled both in the Ute and on the hill to obtain quality sets from his numerous Homebrew trail cameras. He is active in the bush on a weekly basis and pursues deer 12 months of the year on his trail cameras.
Recently on one of his high country sets he walked in a long way to swap memory cards and batteries on one of his Doug Read built ‘Homebrews’ and was rewarded with plenty of quality images of sambar and other bush
dwellers. Scrolling through the pictures before he set the trail camera back up he was pleased to see a series of images of a pair of stags fighting, scent marking, rubbing and preaching. We thought this was a great opportunity to go over the 75 images that were taken, select a few of the better ones that had either of the stags displaying territorial behaviour, include some fight scenes and talk about what went on in the saddle that day in early August 2010.
Typically in areas with high male deer populations, most stags will be involved in battles each year when they are in hard antler. Some locations will lend themselves to more fighting amongst the stags then those deer living in other systems. It could be low hind numbers, a larger than normal population of mature sambar stags, or a good balanced ratio of hinds to stags in an area that doesn’t receive too much hunting pressure. There are very few male sambar shot in hard antler that have clean bodies that show no battle scars on them. Stags with malformed antlers are notorious fighters, it could be due to the fact that often their uneven antlers gives them a disadvantage in battles against stags with typical antler formation. To
ensure they at least have a chance of mating with a hind, they have to fight hard and scrap at every chance to keep a hind they might be in the company of. Or literally fight at every opportunity to stay in the core areas of deer populations to be in with a chance to locate a hind when she comes around in oestrus.
Whether they were testing each others strength, developing their fighting skills or just in a playful mood, the time will come when these two stags in the trail camera sequence obtain age, and then serious battling will commence with a lot more on the table in terms of health, personal injury and hierarchy status amongst the deer population. Throughout the period of his life, a male sambar is constantly challenged by new rivals, and confronted by situations where he must adapt and consider the consequences
of his actions every single hour he is alive. At some stage he will most likely be put under pressure from hunters, he will encounter beagles or wild dogs within his range and he will be faced with natural evolution of the habitat he calls home. From bushfires, to floods to heavy winter snow falls and extreme summer heat he must choose his path wisely if he is to be given a fair chance of reaching a ripe old
age in good health. Sambar deer are survivors, and sambar stags are the ultimate forest dweller in the Victorian High Country.