Deer Stalker camo cover jacket
Deer Stalker camo cover jacket
We arrive at Stephens home midday so I quickly unpack my gear and get ready for our first hunt. I am hunting sambar deer which is very special to me. My great grandfather, Rasmus Havmøller, was a big game hunter in Siam back in the period 1914 to 1933. Apart from hunting man eating tigers, crocodiles, panthers and the mighty gaur ox he hunted sambar deer. Most of his trophies are in his own museum in Ebeltoft but he also has trophies in the Natural History Museum of Denmark. My brother and I have inherited one sambar skull from a nice stag. The only reason I started hunting was because I wanted to experience an ounce of what my great grandfather experienced back in his days. So even though I am hunting in Australia and not old Siam, hunting sambar deer is as close as it gets.
We drive to a location nearby with rolling hills surrounded by spurs of mountains. We have about 3-4 hours before sunset, so we move quickly up the nearest spur. After 28 hours of flying, I have to kickstart my body and legs to keep up with Stephen. Spike, a small terrier, has joined us, and he is excellent at sniffing out sambar deer on the steep spurs. Spike stops with his nose in the air and indicates there is sambar deer in front of us. We change the pace and come across three deep sets of tracks going down. We have spooked them. We follow the last track downwards, but no sambar is to be found. We hear a fox bark in the distance as the sun sets. Just as we are about to turn back, the fox comes running my way. I shoulder my rifle as the fox sees Stephen to my left. Broadside, it passes me at about 15 meters, and even though it's dark, I can see its silhouette clearly. I can hear Spike move in the dry leaves, so I let the fox go, only to see Spike on its tail. Exciting first outing with a somewhat familiar species in the scope. A plate full of sambar steaks awaits us when we get back, and it is the first decent meal I have had in 36 hours.
We are up before sunrise. We load the boat in the dark, and as we reach our destination the light unveils a clear and crisp morning. We make ripples through still waters that mirror the mountains on each side. A pelican is awake but takes no real notice of us. Colourful ducks take off as we venture into a narrow creek with trees and branches in the water on both sides. “We are here” Stephen whispers. I tie the boat to a crooked tree. “You go this way, and I'll go that way.” If you shoot or hear a shot, turn on the radio and tap it twice. We check the radios and fistbumps, and I am on my own. It is winter, so snakes and spiders should be bedded up, so the only thing I need to worry about is wild dogs. I have heard rumours of hunters that have gone missing, and packs of wild dogs are suspected of having surrounded and eaten the hunters. So apart from my rifle, I am equipped with the last Fällkniven A1xb. On the way in the boat, Stephen tells me that a guy he knows came across a wild dog with pubs and got closer to take some pictures. Suddenly the wild dog got up and started moving closer with exposed teeth, growling at him. As he started going backwards, he noticed a wild dog on each side of him closing in. He climbed the nearest tree and called for help. About 30 meters into the bush, I come across my first dogshit. Even though it is old, I stop and look around. No movement. I turn on the radio, check my knife and then check to see that I have a bullet in the chamber even though I just loaded up 5 mins ago. I continue with the pace of a bowhunter and glass every inch of the spur.
The sambar deer have huge ears. “Radars”, Stephen calls them and they have already heard us dock the boat. But they are very curious and will sometimes stay and watch you before taking off with a honk as you get too close. The bush is very loud. Kookaburras and other colourful birds are having a party above me. It is very hard to distinguish the sounds. They go from cockatoo, childlike screams to barking sounds. The second pile of dogshit sends a cold shiver down the spine. This time, it is fairly fresh. After about two hours, I walk across a spur and come to a gully. I approach the edge slowly and look for movement or anything resembling a dark brown deer. Nothing. As I start to walk again, two big ears pop up behind a fallen widowmaker. I find the sambar hind in the scope just as she turns and moons me with her orange behind. I hear her trotting away. Good start. Once you have spotted the game, you are after it gets easier. I check the wind, and it has changed direction. I let her go about her day and continued up another spur to my left. I hear two small scratching sounds from my radio. “Aske, I am 600 meters above you. You got two hunters on your right spur. Over.” “Got ya. I’ll continue to my left.” Stephen gave me a dog collar so he could track me if I got lost. I have no signal, and my offline GPS app thinks I am in the middle of the lake. So I could easily get lost as the spurs look the same, and you lose your sense of direction while you follow fresh tracks.
“The idiot is right in front of me! Jesus. I am gonna knock his teeth out…” is what I can make out of the scratching sounds from my radio. They sound aggravated. Could it be the two hunters Stephen just informed me about? I don’t wanna bump into those guys, so I turn around and start walking down. Could it be me they were talking about? I tap the radio twice. No response. I make some distance to where I was while tapping the radio once in a while. Still no response from Stephen. I come to the bottom of a gully filled with brown and green bracken fern. I don’t recognize this place. Am I lost? I tap the radio again. No response. Suddenly something big is moving in front of me behind some bushes. I get the rifle-shouldered and see a sambar hind run out in front of me at 20 meters. I follow her, but there are small branches between us. She turns right and presents broadside again, and between two trees, I have a clear shot, and I take it. The sambar deer falls backwards, slides down between the two trees and lies still. I have to sit down and take a deep breath.
On day two of the three-week hunting trip I have just shot my first sambar. I have a signal and called my buddy Ulrik who is in New Zealand. He should have been here hunting with me in Australia, but he didn’t get his Visa to Australia, so he travelled to New Zealand in the hope of getting the Visa soon and returning to Australia. He picks up my facetime call from a snowy mountainside in New Zealand. “No way. That is insane. Are you serious, bro? How cool is that!?” Ulrik is dumbfounded and happy for me as I tell him what happened and show him my sambar. Her head is upside down, and as I turn her head, two knobs reveal themselves. It is a young stag. “Congratulations, man. Happy for you. Wish I could be there.” Ulrik says before we end the call.
Two taps on the radio. “Was it you that shot?” Stephen asks. “I am 100 meters above you. I am coming down. Be ready if I spook one in your direction.” 10 mins pass, and a Sambar hind comes out the same place as my stag did. Follow the same route, see the stag and bolt away. I have my crosshairs on her the whole time, but we have to carry out the meat, so there is no point in shooting her. Stephen joins me as I put on a sharp blade on my changeable Hunttech knife. “We are not here to fuck spiders”, as they say. It translates to “let’s get on with it”. Stephen tells me how he cuts up the meat, the bush way, and we carry out the back legs, front legs, heart, back straps, filets and the head. It is a heavy carry-out. Sambar deer are the third largest species of deer, only surpassed in size by moose and elk. When we get to the boat, I am knackered.
The following days are spent looking for an older stag. The weather is against us. One minute the wind is up our arses; the next minute, it is in our faces. That's if it is not changing from side to side. The only time the wind isn’t an issue is when it rains. The HWS membrane in the Deerstalker clothes keeps me dry and warm, and my PRO HUNTER LIGHT boots are quiet for stalking and offer the support I need while trekking in mountains. They were brand new before this trip, and I haven't gotten a single blister which I normally do from breaking in new boots. We get close to a couple of sambar hinds even though the odds are against us, and I manage to call them in within 15 meters with my screamer call. Perfect opportunity for a bowhunter like Ulrik. Such a shame he is stuck in NZ even though his Visa went through. The poor fellow tested positive for Corona and had to isolate himself for seven days in New Zealand. What a bummer. But having a sambar hind running up on my call at 15 meters is quite the experience, and I can’t wait to try it out with Ulrik and his bow.
We come across some big tracks, and I follow them for a good while. No stag to be found. We are staying at a small cabin by a river with a starry sky above us, no connection and the deafening sound of water rushing by. The rain makes the river rise, so we need to drive out before it is too late. The road is steep and muddy. “Hold on to your balls, it is gonna be a bumpy ride.” Stephen warns me. Pedal to the metal, and we hit the road as we mean it. We climb and get past the steepest and gnarly bit. The rest is easy. Back home, we discuss our options. Stephen recalls seeing a big stag at a friend's hunting ground. We decide to pay him a visit in the afternoon. We arrive at the gate next to a barn. Inside the barn, we see a Sambar calf lying in some hay. When it notices us, it takes off and plunges into a nearby lake, swims to the other side and disappears. “Never seen that before” Stephen laughs.
We bring Spike along and go sit by a tree. The sun is setting, and after 20 minutes, Spike indicates and out walks a hind. We watch her feed for a good 10 minutes until she stops and looks to her right. I see something dark move in the bushes through my El range. The distance is 260 meters. “It’s a stag”, I whisper to Stephen. Not the big one, but a young 4-pointer. The stag is on a mission. With his nose in the air, he is sprinting over to the other side of the field. At 140 meters, he stops broadside and provides the only shot I will get. I take the shot, and he jumps and takes off. My heart is pumping, and I question my shot. I think we are having a long night in front of us. We sit and wait for some time. It is almost dark when we go to the place the stag took off. We find his tracks but no blood anywhere. I have a bad feeling. After 15 meters, we find blood. Not much, but it looks like lung blood. We continue into the thick bushes, and we try to keep up with Spike. Suddenly I see him. He is dead, and we go to have a closer look. His body is bigger than my knobby deer. We drag him out of the thick bush. “I’ll go and grab the tractor from the barn. We load the stag onto the car and return the tractor. This is much easier than the first carry-out.” Stephen says. It suits me as we are both very tired from days of hunting nonstop. On the way home, Stephen wants to celebrate. So we visit a drive-in bottleshop and bought a few rum and coke cans and some beer. The next morning we don’t hunt.
The next day is spent butchering the stag with a few hangovers from the celebration. It might not be a big stag, but he is mine. I have been lucky with my chances, no doubt about that. While taking out the backstrap, I notice the stag's reflection in the blood beneath him. It looks like a red parallel world to a different time. Maybe back to when my great-grandfather was standing by his sambar deer with great reverence and pride, just as I am today. I feel the connection, and I can’t wait to get this one home to hang beside my great grandfather's sambar deer. Stephen joins me to finish up and get the meat in the cooler. “Ulrik is landing tomorrow,” he tells me. “Whatever happens. You’ll have plenty of meat for your next campout with Ulrik.”
About the author
Aske has hunted on five continents and worked as a hunting photographer in 21 different countries for private hunters and international hunting brands. His great-grandfather Rasmus Havmøller was a big game hunter in Siam, and his trophies are on display in his museum in Denmark. It is safe to say that hunting is in Aske's blood and a huge part of his heritage.