A stag called smoko

Harriet and ‘smoko’

During the Roar, my flatmate Megan kindly invited me to her hunting block. I had already shot a stag a week before, so I took the scrubby, less accessible end of the block while the others hunted the more promising end. I was just keen to explore some new ground.

I walked into the block a little later after dawn than I had hoped. The map showed fingers of gorsey scrub coming down the ridges with only the gullies and flats in mature forest, so I planned to hunt the good stuff; any stags that lived in the scrub could bloody well stay there. I began following a creek upstream and found the bush was pretty well tracked and pleasant.

I decided to get a bit more height and walked up the side of the gully. I let off a roar, and to my surprise, at least three stags replied. There were a couple on the other side, one loud one below me, and one that piped up very occasionally above me. I decided to focus on the one below me and gradually stalked in. He was roaring hard but wouldn’t stay put. I got close enough to hear him huffing and moving around, but never saw him. The forest floor was crunchy as hell and it was impossible to move in silence.

Small enough to hang

The morning was getting on and the roars were drying up. The stags would crank up a chorus every half an hour or so, as though to check who was still around, and then go quiet again.

I took this as my cue for smoko. I parked up in a nice flat spot with a tree to lean against, took off my pikau and laid out my roaring horn, rifle, snacks, and water

within easy reach. As I was about to open the book, I decided to let off one more roar for good measure. Nothing responded so, after a minute or two, I flicked through to my bookmarked page and began reading.

Leaves crunched. I looked up to see a young stag walking towards me. He came from uphill; he was the one that had roared once or twice earlier and had apparently been following my roars since.

I twisted around as slowly as I could and leaned the rifle on my knee, all in full view of the stag, but he kept walking happily past. Just as he was turning away and about to disappear around the corner, I sent my bullet to the back of his shoulder. He kicked and ran off.

So much for smoko. I packed my things back into my pikau and went to have a look. The stag had been moving on a tricky angle, so I was prepared to have missed, but a patchy blood trail led right to him. He had run about forty metres before falling and getting hung up on a trunk.

Looking at his antlers prompted mixed feelings: guilt for shooting something small, and quiet relief that I had already shot something better. This one had seven compact points that were no bigger than a spiker’s head. He was even small enough to hoist up and hang from a forked branch for ease of butchering.

An hour or two later, I put on a full pack of meat, with the head strapped to the back and hind legs on my shoulders. The stag had turned out to be an ideal meat animal and most of it had been salvageable. After a heavy but relatively cruisy walk along game trails, it felt good to reach the car. I dumped my pack in the boot and radioed the others in the hunting party to let them know that I was out. James, who was hunting the area next to me, responded to say he had shot a good ten pointer and the carry out was turning out to be quite a mission. I replied that I would come and give him a hand, just as soon as I’d finished smoko.

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