So, finally I gave myself a couple of days off to go try out my new Gossamer Gear (GG) Gorilla backpack, and the hunting spot I have been wanting to access via packraft. Here is the pack already loaded up in our garden with our necessities and ready to roll. As you can see Spot, our JR is eager to be off too. Readers who came in late should read: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-best-laid-schemes/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-gorilla-in-the-hand/ & see: http://gossamergear.com/gorilla-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html
It is a 3-4 hour drive to where we were going.
My Alpacka Fiord Explorer raft ready to sail with my Gorilla and the faithful Spot, ‘Come on Boss’
Safely across the mighty river we sought out a pleasant flat with access to water and with lots of firewood. It is still winter here, so nights can drop below zero (Celsius), and did. Spot decided it was time for a snooze. I collected a heap of firewood. As you can see from the westering shadows it is already afternoon, but time enough for a ‘look-see’.
And look what we found. By the looks a couple of years back a very old stag had died right by his favourite wallow. I found every part of him except his second antler which I guess has been pressed into the soft earth by many deer’s feet. There were also innumerable cast branches on the ground pretending to be the other antler. This one was only barely visible. His massive leg bones indicate he was a monster, but the size of his antler shows he was going back. His teeth were also well worn down. ‘Broken-mouthed’ we would describe him if he were one of our old sheep. Maybe I will find the other antler another time.
Here is his favourite wallow – and what a beauty it is, more a swimming pool really. The deer love to have a mud bath (perhaps it has to do with insects, or scent marking?) They liberally paint the trunks of trees for nearly 100 metres roundabout using them as towels when they’re ready to dry off.
Back at camp with the fire roaring out the front of http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-deer-hunters-tent/ It is a charming scene.
After tea inside the tent Spot nestles on my sleeping bag whilst I read a book on my phone and enjoy a hot cup of chocolate..
When I reclaim my bed, Spot’s is all made up on the Gorilla utilising it and the GG Sitlight pad as his mattress. He is comfy inside there: you can just make out his tail poking out the end of his sleeping bag. When I climb into bed I will also throw my coat over him.
Next morning and we are off. You can tell what kind of plants nothing likes to eat by the way they are not browsed at all. Most everything edible in this area is heavily browsed. I thing the deer may even manage to eradicate the blackberries. The patches are full of dead canes and well trodden down.
We want to have a look at the big valley about two km downstream around that ridge. It look like it will be a bit of a climb around that stone outcropping on the bend. The river is really steaming here.
And this is the stream we are looking for. I will call it ‘Wombat Creek’.
And here’s why: ‘Wally’ wombat out for a morning stroll. Quite undisturbed by us. A promising sign.
There are many lovely grassy clearings for kilometres along Wombat Creek. I may move my camp further up it another time.
A fresh rub. Another good sign.
And a preaching tree. There is lots of stag sign around here.
Our lunch spot. A lovely warm stop even though it is still winter. I sit on the Sitlight pad on a nice flat rock and enjoy some cheese and salami on Vita Weat biscuits. Spot has some of that as well as his Smackos. http://www.theultralighthiker.com/lunch-on-the-trail/
A little further up the valley we come upon this tragedy. An old doe must have been swept off her feet by this flash flood and trapped under this log. As I said elsewhere: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/you-never-know-when-your-numbers-up/ You can see her skull (upside down) centre right, and her body on the other side of the log in the centre.
A little further on we come upon this promising wallow. It must be nearly 6’ deep, probably utilising an old collapsed wombat city. It pays to scrape the bottom of wallows such as this for cast antlers. Eventually you may have enough of them to make something like this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/uses-for-antlers/
Another fine preaching tree with some stag scent still lingering according to Spot. The stags clearly stand on their hind legs and rub some scent gland on their noses as high up on the tree as they can reach (over 6’). Like rub lines it is a kind of territorial behaviour.
The deer have really been eating this valley over. Here the apple hazel and prickly coprosma have been well chewed down.
Another of life’s tiny tragedies. (Near Spot’s nose) a yellow breasted robin has succumbed to the winter chill and short rations (as most birds do each year). Its tiny body is bobbing in the stream, adding a sad flash of colour as we pass by.
We come to a really beautiful series of cascades.
And a truly gargantuan wombat burrow. This one was over 6’ deep. This wombat must have been Pharaoh Cheops in a past life!
Now a fine looking rub line. Notice how you can see the line of (three) fresh rubs leading up the hill through the wattles and gums. This line marks the limit of his territory (and his neighbours!) Sometimes you will hear (usually of a night) two stags howling mournfully at each other in just such a spot.
Following the line we decide to go up through the prickly wattle. Showing his disdain for it a stag has thoroughly thrashed this one.
After a little while we are wishing he had thrashed about a billion more! We headed up the ridge through this stuff intending to follow the top of the ridge down towards camp and come at the camped deer from above on their lee side. This is the best strategy. Unfortunately, like so many plans, this one was doomed. The fire regrowth on the ridge was awesome. We expected it to be relatively clear: the usual sort of thing: gums a few dogwoods, easy walking. We were hours pushing through the dreadful stuff and arrived (thankfully) back at camp well after dark where we enjoyed a cold supper. We left plenty of deer to harvest for another day. You are probably wondering why I did not just camp up on the ridge once it became dark (or it was clear I was not going to make camp). A fair point. It had been a 19C day and i was down to <500 ml of water and going to be very thirsty so I pushed on, something I certainly wouldn’t have done in an area fraught with mine shafts! I do have a lot of experience walking in the dark.
Next morning we packed up and paddled out, Spot resuming his coxswain’s position, ‘Paddle right Boss.’
All packed back into the trusty Gorilla. If I shoot a deer here (as I have done before many years ago when I swam the river in winter – we were all young once. It is a wonder some of us survived to be any other), I can come back to the river for the boat. I can pack all the contents of my pack into a compression sack and tie that onto the top of the pack, so that I will fit the first 15 or so kg of meat in the pack (in large plastic handle tie bags which I always carry). I will take that load back to the car, then go back for the second, larger load. Might take me three trips say.
Being August the bush was alive with wattle blossoms, particularly on the West facing slopes which are warmer, and where the deer are more likely to be found sunning themselves on a day like this.
Here and there an Erica our Victorian floral emblem lit the forest floor up with its beautiful pink bells.
We always called this purple beauty ‘Traveller’s Joy’ a name which still suits me best. I also like the name ‘Happy Wanderer’ – after those Hardenbergia sounds pretty flat.
You have been wondering whether we saw any deer. We saw heaps of them (at least their orange eyes at night glowing in the head torch light walking out), and of course we had the usual visitations around our camp to disturb our sleep. And we camera glassed these guys probably 500 yards away grazing in a clearing, whilst we were way up on the hill much more than a km’s walk away. And it was well dark before we could have arrived anywhere near them. I know some folk would take a shot at deer at extreme distance like this with their telescopic sights. I always use iron sights, and only shoot deer who can see me too. Having a gun gives you advantage enough; you should leave the deer the use of his senses to escape you. He has a right to live too.
To tell you the truth deer hunting has always been a good excuse just to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of our beautiful Australian bush, so whether i shoot a deer is more than somewhat immaterial. I actually prefer lamb anyway, and we have always been sheep farmers after all. BTW: My pedometer tells me I did 25 km yesterday through rough going, thick bush and up and down 500 metres plus. A further 13 km on the afternoon before. Not bad for a gent who is not far off beginning his eighth decade of life!
Oh, you have been wondering how did the Gorilla stand up? I had been hoping that a fog would come in whilst I was away so I could entitle this piece ‘A Gorilla in the Mist’ but the weather remained deliciously clear, so it remains just a companion piece to my previous post, ‘A Gorilla in the Hand’. The pack is beautifully comfortable and easily handles the not inconsiderable quantity and weight of stuff I imposed on it. The Robic nylon may not be bulletproof, but it stood up to a few hours of pushing through horrible prickly wattle without so much as a blemish, more than I can say for myself. It has lashing spots on the top so you can tie things to it (as shown with my packraft). I will show you how in another post soon. see: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/attaching-tie-downs-to-your-pack/
It might be a good idea to have lashing spots on the bottom so you could do the same there. It would not be hard to add them – the material is plenty strong enough to take another compression bag below as well as the one above. I guess the manufacturers of this excellent piece of gear are more figuring on ultralight hikers and a weekend pack, which is why they have trimmed the volume of the pack down from their much larger Mariposa, a pack which I have owned for many years. Mine is in a lighter less durable material than this Robic they are now using though still going strong, but if you really want volume, the Mariposa is something like 68 litres including the extension collar. It also has this improved suspension system which will handle with ease a much bigger carry than the Specs indicate. That sort of volume should get you a month’s hike without resupply. Some wild adventures there. Happy hiking or happy hunting.
Some Other Hunting Related Posts (there are many more):
To be continued…