Sambar deer do not have a voice. When they are wantonly murdered en masse with no regard to ethics or the law, the survivors cannot speak out. We have to be their voice.
Understand this, I am not some namby-pamby greenie do-gooder. I have hunted deer in the Gippsland mountains for nigh on forty years, and many other creatures before that for another twenty plus years besides. I suppose the last twenty years whilst others took another path I had become naïve about what was taking place.
Because I have been busy farming (I am not a meeting attendee) and when I get away choose to hunt and travel the bush by myself, and during the week, and go almost always to places which have no vehicle access – because I deeply love the wildest places – I had not experienced the rogue element that has taken over too much of the hunting community.
These people have developed and practised techniques and methods which will see hunting banned outright if they are not stopped in their tracks post haste. We will all be the losers for that. We cannot choose to ignore them because we don’t want to get involved, or because we fear what they will do to us in revenge for urging that what they do should be outlawed and/or prosecuted and punished. I have no doubt what such vile people would do to me if they caught me (or my vehicle) alone in the bush after they realise I have spoken out against them and am their enemy. But, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ as Edmund Bourke said. I refuse to be cowed.
Hunters should understand that the great bulk of people do not share their desire to practise this sport. Indeed many find it at best distasteful, if not mean, evil and disgusting. Though I do not agree with them, they are the majority. We cannot afford to have them proven right by such louts and villains as are roaming the bush unchecked at present.
I rarely ever go up the bush on a weekend but I did again on Saturday as I wanted to have a look around before the sheep lambed. They have now started, so that will be that for me for a while. Plenty of jobs around the farm to do anyway, particularly tree planting. I returned to a location quite near this place: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-spot-of-solitude/ and wandered a little further along the river than I had ever been before.
As we set out Spot and I watched this swamp wallaby trying to get across this fording point for a while. He had three sterling goes at it but the snow and rain the night before had put the river up about 4″ (100mm) and he kept on getting swept away. Eventually he decided that the grass was just as green on his side of the river and gave up.
Spot surveyed the crossing with some trepidation after that, but nonetheless we managed to get across without mishap, him riding as always on my back.
There had been a cold wind off the snow earlier, but as it warmed up the wind dropped and it turned into quite a nice day. The kookaburras were in full cry, alerting all and sundry that we were afoot in their territory. Likewise there were a lot of currawongs about with their joyful cries. The wood swallows and bee eaters have recovered somewhat from the awful fires of a few years back, and are everywhere, cutting delightful arcs across the sky, the rainbow birds piping loudly. A lone azure kingfisher sketched lines on the placid waters of the river. ‘Wally’ wombat has also bred up again and is out and about, even in broad daylight. I do so love the sights and sounds of the bush.
We came to a huge patch of solanums of some sort (a relative of tomatoes and potatoes). Frequently the leaves of such plants are poisonous to stock or at least bitter, so nothing much was eating them. Dogs just love to practise their balancing. There was an excellent dry wallow right in the midst of this patch – a fine and private place. It contained no cast antlers – as they often do. It was also a haven for wombats.
Something had been eating the fruit however. Frequently members of this family have palatable fruit, but I did not know about this particular one, so did not try it.
You can easily see what is beautiful but inedible, can’t you?
Lunch and time for a cuddle. You can see that what is edible has been well munched down.
A poor attempt at a selfie, Spot getting in on the act! This is the clothing I think hunters should be wearing. An Icebreaker wool cap. This is a Tomar merino wool shirt from Kathmandu, currently on sale for A$89.98: http://www.kathmandu.com.au/mens/clothing/tops.html?product_filters_2017=6671 It is excellent. Highly visible, and hard to see how a deer would be wearing one!
What a beautiful valley it is. It just goes on and on…
Right on top of that stone ridge (above left) I came across this chair, which Spot just had to sit in. I guess it had been a good place to wait for a deer crossing down to the river in the fading afternoon light some time back, or maybe someone just wanted to sit and watch the golden river gliding slowly by. A quite reasonable pastime.
Then, unexpectedly, on the next flat downstream I came upon this horror. A true shambles. A charnel house of deer which had clearly taken place within the last week. I hesitate to say how many there were just like this – more than twenty though! Look at the first one, this beautiful little doe, last year’s drop, savaged by dogs on the brisket, shot and left to rot. Why would you do this?
And here is another just twenty yards away with her throat torn out. Again you can see where the dogs have savaged her flanks. This wasn’t the work of any beagle I have ever seen or owned. Any normal scent trailing hound for that matter. What sort of evil mongrels such folks are using is beyond me. As is ‘Why?’
A few yards further on this fine young stag, again savaged by the dogs, antlers hewn off at least. Still, a total waste by my reckoning. You can’t eat antlers – and what sort of a trophy could this be?
Another few steps and there was another, and another and another. Not an ounce of venison had been taken.
And there were wallabies just like the one we watched earlier also torn to pieces by the dogs.
Such barbaric behaviour is not hunting. It is just wanton rapaciousness. What other base things are such sub-human creatures as perpetrated this outrage capable of? In order to simultaneously kill a half dozen large deer in a circle probably fifty yards in radius, how many dogs had been let out all at once beyond hope of control on this hunt? Certainly not the five beagles allowed by law!
These guys are doing everything they can wrong. Everything they can to ensure our sport is banned. You could not blame members of the public who stumbled upon such a horror (canoeists for example – this is a lovely river to canoe), or heaven help them if they had become mixed up in it, if they then demanded that hound hunting, yea deer hunting entirely be banned forthwith. And they would be right! If all deer hunters were like this – but they are not!
If we hunters cannot stamp out this sort of behavior, we deserve to lose our sport. There are people who are reading this who know who the people are who do such things. Some of you witnessed it, or were in the bush thereabouts on the day it happened, which I was not (else the police would have all their number plates I can assure you!) and have a pretty good idea who was involved. You need to let the police know who they are.
Week after week such vile idiots as this come home with a swag of antlers and an awesome tally of dead deer to boast about, having spent the weekend practising the vilest animal cruelty. Probably mostly young yahoos edging each other on to acts of greater barbarism, but maybe led by some dreadful older Fagan. People who would do this are capable of anything – or nothing! One thing I have heard about is folk who cruelly wound a deer, eg gut shooting it and breaking its legs so that they can drive the poor agonised creature back to their car rather than carrying the meat out! I have heard a vile thug boasting at his skill at this unbelievable abhorrent practice. God alone knows what further despicable acts of animal cruelty they are capable of.
And, they are slaughtering deer with vast packs of slavering dogs in our National Parks too. I have had several reports of such incidents. They have absolutely no respect for law or morality. They have no human values. Tiny and I were hunted by a pack of just such feral dogs which had been left behind by such a crew as this a few years ago. I could not believe they were baying on our trail. Dingoes certainly never bark on trail, or hunt (people) in such large packs. I have now put two and two together after seeing this slaughterhouse. A stud sheep client of mine, near Omeo years ago lost 800 sheep in a single night to such packs of wild dogs. A pack of feral dogs left behind by such hunters will tear some hiker or camper to pieces one day. If they can rip the throat out of a full-grown deer what chance do you think an unarmed person would have? I certainly never camp in the forest since that experience without a weapon handy.
(Aside: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hunting-the-wonnangatta-moroka/ Tiny is my older Jack Russell – she is still going at 17 1/2, but she is too deaf and poorly sighted to be taken into the wilderness now. I would lose her, but she would still dearly love to come. She gets a five km walk in the forest behind us every afternoon though, and gets to smell lots of interesting things there (some deer and even a few pigs) and can come home afterwards and sleep in her basket next to a warm fire. It is not a bad evening to her long life during which she spent a great deal of time in the bush ‘hunting’ and never laid a tooth on anything).
Here she is in retirement in front of her fire – a very dangerous animal:
To continue: I will outline what has apparently become the normal modus operandi of too many hound hunters today. I have no idea what percentage but it may well even be the majority. Most if not all practise some of the illegal or unethical things I will go on to explain, but probably nothing as dreadful as this.
I was myself a hound hunter for over thirty years. My father, his father and his father too all hunted with hounds in the Australian bush. 175 years of hound hunting. But we never did anything like this. First of all we had a small number of hounds, often only one or two – what need large numbers anyway? I still remember clearly my father’s sole black and tan harrier ‘Felix’ from my childhood with great fondness, dead now over 60 years. What a great hound he was! We had some fine hunts together.
One good dog with a superb nose and a good voice is enough actually – ah, but getting such a dog is hard! For many years I had Harpoon, Belle, Poono, Mike and Marsh. They were foxhound-bloodhound crosses. What a dog Harpoon was! Better than most packs of dogs. Many people will have encountered them or me in the bush in years past. A young reader recently wrote to me that he could still just about hear my call on the wind, ‘Harpoon, Come!’ Now they are just a part of the earth of my orchard and of my memories, after the dreadful foxhound ban – which alas, did no good!
I spent more time hunting for the hounds than I did hunting for deer. My friend, the late Arthur Meyers used to call us ‘the last of the hound hunters’, and maybe that was about right. We hunted always on foot, without the benefit of a vehicle (as the law mandates). We often led the hounds in on a leash for 6-7 kms before we got a ‘start’. For much of that time we never owned a 4WD. We had feet. Two of them each usually, though a mate of mine, Jock had only one and used to get about in the bush pretty well besides. Still does actually.
Aside: Jock and I were going to walk into the Wonnangatta together this winter for a week or ten days, two silly septuagenarians, for a spot of fishing and hunting and yarning by the fire in the evening of our lives, but he eventually could not make it, his elderly wife being ill, and I have not yet either. Still, eventually the sheep will finish lambing and I can get away again, so maybe yet…I do so adore the Wonnangatta valley in winter. On the horizon you are ringed with majestic snow-capped peaks. The frost crunches under foot in the morning as you go to do the dishes, the margins of the river fringed with ice crystals. Still, the trout come readily to the lure and taste specially sweet straight from the coals. I see many deer coming down to drink of an evening and wonder at them quietly. They have little to fear from me in such a place. The air is clear and cold. Birdsong hangs bright and far on such frigid air. A Tyvek shelter and a cheery fire at day’s end bring such a wondrous sense of peace and serenity.
To continue: We talked on the radio only at the end of the hunt or to locate each other as the law also mandates. The dogs never attacked deer or wildlife. We carried out every morsel of the deer we harvested (not many). Some of these louts today are individually killing as many deer in a day as our team of 3-5 took in a whole year. I have no doubt some have shot more deer this year than I have in a long hunting life. But this is not a contest, and I can at least be proud of every deer I have taken. Can they? These young blokes are the worst sort of tally hunters. They expect to shoot twenty or thirty deer apiece each year. Some would like to do so each week. What is the point? We never left a dog in the bush – if we had, it would have starved to death. We treated the deer and other bush users with respect.
So what is different about some of these ‘modern’ hound hunters? First, the huge number of dogs. Each member of the ‘team’ might have the legal five dogs and three pups in training in the dog box on the back of their ubiquitous 4WD utes. But very often each has such a dog box! A typical ‘team’ is well in excess of the mandated maximum of ten. So there are likely to be as many as 100 dogs present on a given day! Each has a vehicle and the vehicle is used extensively in the hunt to get in front of the deer, being moved again and again during the hunt. Often there are multiple hunts going on actually, because of the vast numbers of dogs let out simultaneously – in defiance of rationality, the law or any vestige of morality. They hunt on roads, not in the bush. Each member has a radio operating on an illegal channel affixed to their breast. This alone invites a fine of $20,000 – but these clowns think they are invulnerable. Right next to it is a GPS tracker which they use constantly to follow the hunt and get a wickedly unfair advantage over the deer. Many of their dogs do not voice.
I have witnessed packs of 30-40 hounds just let out higgly-piggly in a valley (not after walking them in on a leash as we used to do on fresh sign until they began to bay, always holding them back until they did) and these whole vast packs were making far less noise than my old foxhound, Harpoon would have been making all by himself. This is because largely such folks are not using scent trailing hounds, though they might mostly have a superficial resemblance to them. Lord alone knows what admixture of evil curs they contain. It matters not to them whether their dogs have a ‘good voice’ because they are simply tracking the hunt in real time with their GPS units. When such electronic devices (including CB radios) became legal it was understood that they would not be used in the actual hunt. Nor is it ethical to do so. Having a team of up to 10 hunters with guns and five dogs is advantage enough! But of course they almost never restrict themselves like that. With such a vast amount of pressure on them, the deer are soon forced to ‘bail’ and if a hunter does not arrive swiftly to dispatch them, the dogs may harry them until they fail, or pull them down and kill them.
In over thirty years of hound hunting I walked in on hundreds of bail-ups. Mostly I arrived too late, if at all. The dogs had become bored that the deer was no longer moving, and had wandered away, looking for me. Sometimes (not often) if I was lucky I arrived when the dogs were still ‘holding’ the deer. Sometimes I shot it, and sometimes I did not. Does with young were usually spared, for example. It was a triumph to take an old broken-mouthed doe of maybe fourteen summers who had beaten the hounds a hundred times. A better end for her than starvation as her teeth wore out.
I never witnessed a dog harrying a deer. My scent trailing hounds would just stand around bellowing at it from a safe distance. I never had a dog injured by a deer, as they never came close enough. I never found hair floating on the river water which would have indicated harrying activity. Owning such dogs as attack wildlife was illegal and unethical – and properly remains so. If you had owned a dog which showed any sign of such aggression you would have put it down straightaway no matter how attached you were to it. You should always be able to shoot your own dog. Straight away. You just cannot trust a dog which attacks things. We all have loved ones. Imagine what might happen if a pack of such dogs came across a couple of women and children innocently playing (perhaps near their canoes) in the forest! It really is only a matter of time before such large, dangerous, poorly controlled packs slaughter domestic stock, companion animals or human beings.
There are other elements of the deer hunting scene I also disagree with, and have mentioned before. For example I abhor the practice of ‘glassing’ the opposite slope and shooting deer long range with telescopic sights. I feel such conduct is appropriate only for cullers, not hunters. The quarry should have something like ‘fair chase’. It should at least be able to use its senses to escape the hunter. The hunt should be a contest between the senses and physical abilities of hunter and hunted alone. I would prefer to see every hunter required to use only iron sights. They would have to have a lot more skill for one thing, and learn to get much closer to their quarry as bow hunters do.
Again, I would rather that only cullers and perhaps bow hunters were allowed to use camo. This would give the deer a better chance and make it safer for everyone. I am not in favour of being an ambush predator, especially if the ambush has been informed by trail cameras which are properly a scientific tool. Deer are creatures of habit, and such means are really quite unfair. I think hunters should just have to ‘walk them up’. This is really the only fair way of taking them ie bush stalking. I also deplore the practice of utilising thermal imagers and drones to locate deer. As I said, you have your senses. The deer have theirs. The hunt ought properly to be a contest between yours and its. Obviously neither am I in favour of artificial calls, licks, feed drops and trails or scent traps
Deer are sentient creatures. It is our privilege to be able to humanely harvest them to prevent their breeding out of control and becoming a menace. To harvest their excess humanely. They deserve our respect and understanding. I think the worst aspect (for me) about the nightmare display I witnessed on Saturday was that when I first spied the first little doe, her mother and younger sister were standing over her, their noses still touching her – after at least a week! I thought at first she was asleep. I was initially quite enchanted, and far too slow to get my camera out. I guess they saw Spot move and they left (as you can imagine) in an almighty hurry. They were grieving – as well they might be. I am grieving too. I really do not know whether I will ever shoot another deer after seeing this.
It will not keep me out of the bush that I love though, but I will be heading only for more remote areas – and I guess I will need my gun to defend myself against those awful feral dogs these ‘hound hunters’ have left behind and allowed to breed up. Thankfully the Government conducts annual baiting (including aerial baiting) in many areas to try and reduce their numbers. This is very annoying sometimes when you want to take your Jack Russell for a walk in the bush. You need to check very carefully beforehand that there are no viable baits in the area you are heading for. There is a website. Fortunately Spot is such a fussy eater he will touch practically nothing, but I would sorely hate to lose him and his companionship in the wilderness: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/not-quite-alone-in-the-wilderness/
Yes! Of course I reported this matter to the Game Management Unit, DEPI, Traralgon as I would encourage all to do who know of similar awful deeds by evil clowns who claim to be hunters. We need to get these vile cretins out of the bush before their actions drive us all from our chosen recreation. Unsurprisingly the officer I spoke to had numerous similar dreadful incidents on his desk. I think the most chilling thing he said to me was, ‘You would not believe the cruelty’…Game Management may be understaffed and work slowly, but they are coming for you scum. And good riddance!
Post Script: I remember folks used to claim they could ‘sex’ a deer by its footprints. Here are two sets of the deer’s feet i found. One is a stag, the other a doe. They look just the same to me. I agree that older, heavier animals may have worn their toes down at the front, but those rounded toes definitely do not indicate a stag – whereas a rub line certainly does!
Unsurprisingly this post has invoked a lot of activity, most of it I am glad to say from people, mostly hunters who are as disgusted with this behaviour as I am. In just twenty-four hours it had been viewed nearly four thousand times and shared hundreds of times so that by then it must have been seen by over fifty thousands people! This is just the beginning! The filthy perpetrators of such despicable acts should not think that they can remain clandestine. The public will know about them – and it will ultimately crush them. Many decent hound hunters also quite naturally expressed dismay that there were teams engaged in such wantonness.
One of the most awful aspects of this was people asking (private messages mostly) ‘Was this here, or here’? Sadly naming quite a lot of disparate places, many of them in National Parks, so what I encountered is nowhere near a ‘one-off’, as the GMU officer assured me.
I was immediately dropped from the Facebook Group ‘Wild Deer Fan Club’ after I published this article. I hope that this does not mean that members of that group are the sort of people who do such things. If we cannot have a mature discussion about genuine animal cruelty and illegal hunting activities without meeting with such rancour or censoriousness, it is a sad day indeed!
On the other hand, my own Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/theultralighthiker/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel several other ‘Likes’ since yesterday morning, so there is hope for humankind yet! Please add your support there if you wish. (You will also get to see other interesting posts about hunting/hiking in the future – for example, coming up soon: ‘The Pocket Poncho Tent‘)
Some people have had and will have some useful information to be passed on to the GMU so that it may be such flagrant folk can be identified, court orders issued so that their phones and locations can be tracked so that they can be followed by police, radio enforcement officers, wildlife officers, etc and apprehended in the act! If there are some highly publicised prosecutions which result in huge fines, vehicle confiscations, firearm and hunting licence cancellations, possibly even gaol terms for aggravated animal cruelty – we may manage to scare others off and stamp this out completely.
As hunters we must all act together on this. You should not feel that you are being a ‘dobber’. These folk are beyond decency and mercy. As I said before, they should feel that at all times they are being watched and photographed by other hunters/members of the public and will automatically be reported to the police. Sony now have a pocket camera which weighs 245 grams and has a 30X zoom https://www.dpreview.com/products/sony/compacts/sony_dschx80. Another great choice is the Canon SX730 with 40x zoom though it weighs 300 grams: https://www.dpreview.com/products/canon/compacts/canon_sx730hs Coupled with eg this http://www.theultralighthiker.com/4-gram-string-reverse-tripod/, such cameras can produce wonderful evidence from a very great distance indeed!
As to the issue of such dogs running wild in the bush and becoming a public danger, we share the bush with many other users: a hiker reader wrote this. With their permission I re-post it here:
‘ First off, there’s nothing wrong with being a greenie as far as I’m concerned, and in fact many environmentalists in this country advocate strongly for the hunting of invasive species for reasons that should be obvious to all of us.
Secondly; I want to share this picture to illustrate what I personally encountered on a hike in between Lake Eildon and Marysville. Approximately at this point, on this road; https://goo.gl/maps/Q1zfA7dAmM72 – September 2015. This deer had been killed by a dog. I assume the dog was once a hunting dog. It had a collar but was wary of me. I came across it at quite a distance, and it spotted me and ran into the trees, but then lingered and followed me for some time.
I’m a big enough guy, but I was very glad to have stout hiking sticks with me that day, because I sincerely believe this dog had killed a deer that was larger than me, on its own, and was feeling pretty territorial towards me. I can’t really understand the justification for not only breeding a dog like this, but the sheer recklessness of losing one in the bush.’
I wrote this in reply: ‘Did you report this to the DEPI? The dog trapper can catch this dog. They are extraordinarily good at it. He will have caught it within a day if you can specify exactly where/when it was. Then they will have the collar and thus the owner’s details. A prosecution may then follow. In any case such a dog definitely needs to be removed from the bush.‘
On a lighter ‘note’, more hounds like this one below (as long as there are only five per hound team – the wildlife regulations need to be rewritten to ensure this) would be welcome. BTW: Good Voice: