A successful sambar sob story

Success! The first hind of the trip. L to R: Sam Sheaff, Fanny Leduc, Lyall Jellyman, Deb Simon, Luke Moynihan.

Earlier this year, at an NZDA Wellington Branch club night, I asked if anyone knew where I could go to hunt sambar.

A few conversations later and I found out someone had a mate with access to some property holding sambar, who occasionally guides there. Score! A couple weeks later I was in the Manawatu, hunting one of New Zealand’s lesser known deer species.

Four other hunters from the NZDA were with me on this trip, as well as the guide, who made sure we didn’t get too trigger-happy.

The first day of our hunt dawned cool and clear. After an hour of walking and glassing, we absolutely lucked out and found a cycling hind on a nearby face. We figured she was cycling because we saw three stags with her, one of which “preached”, which is when a stag rears up on his hind legs and rubs his face against a tree to mark its scent. Eventually all the deer disappeared into the bush and no shots were fired.

An hour later, a hind made the mistake of exposing itself in a nearby paddock. One finger movement from NZDA member Lyall and we had sambar number one on the deck. These deer were huge! It took half an hour for us to drag the gutted carcass 20 metres up the hill. Throughout the rest of the day, plenty more deer were seen, with another hind narrowly missing a bullet.

One of the stags we saw on the first morning, next to a spiker (right) and the cycling hind (left).

The next day dawned frosty and clear. It didn’t take long to locate a sunny face teeming with deer and plans were made to take a couple out. Luke executed a cracker shot on a hind, then it was my turn to take one. I had let everyone else shoot first and now it was finally time to take my first sambar. We found a good eater at 200 metres, I lined up the scope and flinched during the shot, hitting the deer high in the leg and missing any vitals.

To say I was devastated was an understatement. We tried tracking the hind down but with very little blood, the search was fruitless. What’s more, I had left it until the final afternoon to shoot my deer, so after abandoning the search we had to return home to Wellington, leaving me to contemplate that bloody flinch for the next two weeks or so.

Despite the gut-wrenching end to the hunt, the weekend was still awesome. We came home with two 100kg+ hinds to cut up and I guess on the bright side, I now have an excuse to chase sambar again!

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