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Matt Wright - Alpine Dreams and Heavy Beams

Sitting here with a beer in hand and a thick set of Antlers looking at me – I try and remember all the finer details that made this trip what it was. by Matt Wright

I can hardly write my own name most days, but here goes…

It all started in July, naturally having a few frothies with good mate of mine Toohey – the ultimate backpack hunting trip came to mind, and the serious discussions started. His 30th was coming up and Covid had ruined plans of a QLD fishing trip. We pondered idea of a backpack hunt. But not just any back hunt, the best. What do we want out of this hunt? How do we make it the ultimate?

Little did I know, that would take care of itself on Day 1…

I had a pretty solid collection of hunting and hiking gear from over the years but I knew this would need to be next level. “Hello Tax Return” and an approving nod from the missus, I was shopping online like a maniac and now understanding what the fuss was all about. Almost daily deliveries, it was like Christmas. I was purchasing things I’d had my eye on for years and the anticipation of hunt was building.

Australia Post had other ideas… and dropped the ball on the #1 item I was keen on (Moroka 30 Wedgetail Harness) didn’t show in time, but, the planning continued. I scored a backpack from my best mate and keen hunter Jase, and I am lucky enough to know another top mate Cody, who knocked me up some ultimate hand loads for the 300 RUM. These fellas came through
with the goods and shared the excitement of what we were planning.

Every day I added to my gear collection and had it precisely laid out on the lounge room floor for at least 3 weeks. The poor dog thought he was going to be part of this trip and he was amped, sadly I hadn’t managed to cater for the pup yet so his turn comes next – thankfully, because I couldn’t bare another hunt without him.

Anxiously awaiting the news of restrictions being lifted, we got the green light and it was on.

By this stage, Amy my fiancé was herding me out the door – these things can be a stressful planning time so she was stoked the time had finally come around. I think her words were “I can’t wait till this is over and you can be normal again!” – some that know me would laugh at that statement and my level of normality…

I weighed my backpack several times, I shuffled and re-shuffled everything around just to make sure it was right, and comfortable.

The Hilux was packed, the food was vacuum sealed, the dog was sad, the missus was stoked and I left Phillip Island around 4am to meet Toohey on the road. The vibe was good, we were keen, relaxed, excited and couldn’t wait to get to camp and setup for the week.

We walked into our destination and arrived at 11 am. We were immediately blown away by the scenery and took a minute to soak it all in. Stunning snow plains and views for days, this country felt so untouched and magic.

By this stage we were like kids on Christmas Eve – we set up camp, had a rest and quick bite to eat and decided it was time to start walking.

Around 1.00pm we headed for a look below camp.

Contouring around the face, the wind was whistling over our ears and straight up the system, so we had no real hope of seeing at deer at this point. We agreed to stroll around the area to check for any sign and before we knew it we found a bed on the gully floor. There was a well paved game trail leading straight to it. After a quick chat/plan…we decided to climb up the south face and contour around a few hundred meters and spend the afternoon perched in some dead timber with a prime view overlooking the game trail about 60m away.

I was pretty knackered by this stage, I felt a nap was on the cards and thought it might be a good opportunity to let the bush settle after we had our scent blowing around.

I was wrong. As soon as my head hit the pack, I immediately drifted off. I was almost instantly awoken by a loud crash in the bush on the opposite face of the gully.

Initially I thought it was falling bark.. the wind was swirling so I looked around briefly but nothing caught my attention. I shut my eyes again for not even a second (now I realise what was I doing) and CRACK! Another huge crash. I looked at Toohey, he was already scanning the bush through the bino’s. I picked up my trusty Leicas and started scanning too. I was looking above the game trail, in the tall dense timber over and over, back over the game trail, up the gully, and following the game trail. Everywhere. 3rd loud crash and crunch. Starting to get the fire in the belly knowing it had to be somewhere. It was a matter of time. The excitement was building and the adrenaline was feeling good.

No sight of him. It had me buggered.
Where was this thing?

I put down the bino’s and all of a sudden he was right there. Dead in front of me. “Where the hell did that come from” I whispered to Toohey who was still scanning like a madman.

“STAG! Bloody STAG!”

I thought he was a little fella as his head was back and his nose was in the air. His Antlers at this angle made it hard to judge what size I was dealing with. We watched in anticipation and silence.
The brute stopped to put his nose down facing away from me. This is the moment my heart stopped, my jaw dropped that low I could have tripped on the bastard. I got the full view of his heavy beams. He was huge.

I said to Toohey “I’m going for it.” Toohey replied “Take your time!” I had the perfect shot and view angled behind the shoulder.

Without hesitation I let the 300 RUM roar sending the 190grn VLD straight into the engine room. The Brute hopped, skipped and jumped all at once and stumbled about 20 meters and that’s where he was done. After the shock, high fives, hugs and hand shakes – we just sat there for a minute and soaked in what just happened. What seemed like hours was probably seconds. The adrenaline and anticipation of what I was about find had me shaking like Peter Garret at a Midnight Oil concert. It was time to head over to check my trophy and pay this absolute warrior of the bush, the ultimate respect that he deserves. I’d just bagged the deer of a lifetime.

When we found him, I could not believe my eyes, but was feeling so calm after all the hype and build up of the trip.

More high fives and few hundred pics later, Toohey took off to try his luck at a stag. After he left, I called the Missus on the Sat. Phone to tell her the news. I only had to whisper “I’ve done it” and she knew exactly what I was talking about.

I sat down next to the big old brute by myself for a good halfa and paid my respects. returning to camp at 8.30pm where I was met by Toohey and a roaring fire. Toohey ended up glassing a spikey, a 20” and a nice 25-26 incher at about 260m. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong stag in his scope and shot the 20”. We weren’t complaining as every sambar is a trophy, I believe. Safe to say Whiskey & Port were at the top of the menu that night.

We spent the next few days soaking in the magical Victorian high country and glassing a few deer before heading back to our loved ones with some awesome stories.

I’d like to thank the legendary Toohey, I couldn’t think of a better bloke to share this trip and memory with. Happy 30th Birthday to you. I’m only slightly sorry I bagged the big stag on YOUR birthday trip. I owe ya one dig.

Lastly a massive thank you to a bloke that chose to remain unnamed. His knowledge of the bush, tips on where to look, and choosing a location was sensational. A good friendship formed and for his generosity I’ll have to throw some JD’s your way mate. Can’t wait to do it all again.

Unfortunately Wallace’s turn never came and he passed away suddenly on the 12/11/2020. I would like to take this time to pay my respect to such an amazing hunter and loyal best friend/dog. Its been a bit over a year now since we lost you suddenly and not a day goes by where I don’t think of you and shed a tear, Rest easy my Beautiful Black Prince “Wallace”. 26/12/2016 -12/11/2020.

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