http://ahuntersreflection.blogspot.com.au/ Sambar Hunt August 2016 Part 1. I left Perth in the early hours of Sunday the 7th of August and after 3 days of driving I arrived in the town of Lakes Entrance Victoria on the 9th. I booked a room at the Comfort Inn and had a long hot shower and a decent meal before getting stuck into the last minute preparations. My plan was to head up into the Higher country for a few days then come back into town for a day over the weekend do some washing and then head up onto the high plains above Licola, so I spent a few hours setting up my gear before getting some sleep. The following morning I woke nice and early before sunrise and headed off into the hills, I had spent some time pouring over topographic maps and google earth and had an area on the Tambo river picked out for a camp and hunting area. So after an hour or so drive from Lakes Entrance I set up camp on the river bank and headed off for a quick stalk. The first thing I noticed was the flood debris piled up against the trees, some serious water had come down this river recently!! Flood debris on the Tambo River. I stalked up the river for a few hours then headed back to camp for some lunch, once I was back in camp I checked the weather forecast and discovered some rain was forecast for overnight. Having seen the flood debris and knowing the size of the river catchment and that the ground was already saturated I decided to play it safe and move my campsite to higher ground. I was going to loose the luxury of a water source so close to camp but I felt it was not worth the risk considering the weather we had been having this year. Tambo River camp before the move. I packed up camp and moved after lunch, My new campsite was located on a saddle on the edge of some previously logged country, it was nice and flat and surrounded by deer sign. I set up my tent and a small table and chair then built a small fire ready to light when it was dark. I keep all my camp cooking gear and dry food in plastic recycling crates and store these under my table, I can then easily cover this with a Tarpaulin to keep it all dry in the event of rain. I also park my vehicle as close to my tent as possible to give some protection from wind and in the event that a tree falls it may save me from being squashed. With all that sorted out I set off for a quick afternoon stalk to check the area for fresh sign, Almost immediately I came across fresh browse lines and small rub trees, with these encouraging signs I began looking harder and soon found several well used trails. Following the largest trail up hill I came across exactly what I was looking for, a well used rub tree and what a beauty it was, a classic text book tree. The best example of a Rub tree I have ever seen. I was so impressed I took a few seconds of video and plenty of photos of it, I continued my stalk along the ridge following the game trail and came across plenty of small saplings that had been rubbed and some more prominent trees on the tops of each ridge line. I was beginning to get a good feel for the boundaries of this stag's turf and began searching lower down for a wallow however I ran out of daylight and had to return to camp. I had set up all my gear before I left camp so all I had to do was light the gas lamp, light the gas stove and boil some water for my dried food dinner, while I was waiting for the water to boil I lit my fire. I then stood up and moved only to be honked at form behind a bush no more than 3 meters away, I stood still looking for some movement but saw nothing it was simply too dark, the deer then honked a second time and clattered off through the bush. Well at least I am in the right place I thought as I laughed and sat down in my chair. After I had eaten and had a nice hot cup of soup I sat in front of the fire for a while before going to bed and drifting off to sleep thinking of what the next day would bring. The following morning I woke nice and early before sunrise and after a quick cup of coffee and a Breakfast bar I grabbed my day pack and headed off for the day, I dropped down low into the gully where I had finished the evening before and continued my search for a wallow, all the while keeping notice of the wind direction and paying attention to the sun and where on the ridges it touched at first light. I soon found signs of really fresh browsing and plenty of big deer tracks all heading in the same direction. Fresh Browsing signs, see all the tips nipped cleanly off. Continuing in the general direction of the trail I came across a small feeder creek and there was plenty of evidence of activity along its banks, the trail then led away from the creek and hidden in a fairly thick patch of regrowth I found a small clearing and a wallow. It was in the hollow left when a large tree had fallen over and pulled a sizable piece of the ground with it. It was full of water and was stirred up and muddy indicating recent use. The Wallow. Deer Slot with 45-70 for comparison. Near the Wallow I also found a fairly fresh set of slots, and mud on the surrounding bushes this gave me some idea of the size of the animal using the wallow, I sizable stag by the look of things so far now all I had to do was find him. I was getting closer I had the boundaries of his patch fairly well defined and I had found an active wallow, now I just had to work out his movements and with a lot of luck I would bump into him. The day was getting on by this stage and I could do with a bit of a break so I stopped for some lunch, I whipped out my small butane stove and boiled some water for some coffee and a pasta in a cup and ate a chocolate bar, then sat back against a tree and relaxed for a half hour or so listening to the birds. All of a sudden I heard a reversing alarm start up not 10 meters away and up in a tree, a bloody Lyre Bird has been at a logging site and was now mimicking a loader backing up. I had a bit of a laugh and shouldered my pack before heading off again slowly following the well worn deer trail. I had a look at my map and saw several north facing ridges that would pretty much be sunny all day and figured I would check these as likely bedding areas, then began the long climb up the nearest spur to gain height. Another slot except this one looks rather large, that's because it is where the hind foot has overlaid the front foot, don't be fooled into thinking it is a monster stag, look closely and you can see its two prints. After gaining a fair bit of height and nearing the ridge line I took a rest then contoured around the catchment for a few kilometers, taking note of the best and most well used bedding sites I came across. I then continued my way along the ridge line until I came back to the trail that would lead me back to my camp. Still having an hour or so of daylight I decided to stake out the best rub tree from a distance and see if anything turned up, so I went to the opposite ridge from the tree and got myself set up across the gully with a clear view and got comfortable sitting against a log and settled in to wait. The wind was in my favor and I sat silently listening and watching, I scanned everything I could see with my binoculars but nothing showed up before darkness fell. I returned to my camp with the aid of a head lamp and lit my fire then had some hot Miso soup while my dried food was cooking. After eating I sat by the fire warming my feet and thinking of a plan for the morning before crawling into my sleeping bag and drifting off to sleep. Another well used scrape and rub tree, these were all around the border of the catchment. I woke before light and had my usual breakfast then headed out in the half light, I was intending to stalk the trails between the wallow I had found and the ridges that got the first sun in the morning hoping to catch a deer as it moved between the two. I was walking slowly down one of the wider trails when I heard the trees shake ahead. I stopped and silently waited, they shook again. Again I waited and when the next time they were shaken I took a few steps then stopped. I continued this pattern for a few minutes and managed to close the gap to what ever was shaking the trees to about 15 meters. It was still too dark to make out what was shaking the trees. After about 15 minutes it was light enough for me to just male out a set of antlers in the trees. I stood and watched for over an hour as the stag thrashed the wattle trees, but not once did I get a look at his body or neck, I got fleeting glimpses of his head and could clearly see his impressive rack but that was all, and slowly he made his way further into the bust thrashing trees as he went until I lost sight of him. When I could move again I realized my feet were frozen and I was shaking so I headed back to camp for a hot cup of coffee and I bit of a think about what to do next, I didn't want to disturb him and have him leave the catchment he was in. Rub trees aren't always big. Back at camp and thinking about the size and shape of his Rack I had a thought he was between 24 and 30 inches in length but was more Rusa shaped than a typical Sambar, he was definitely a Sambar as he was a lot taller than a Rusa deer but he had a more Rusa like Rack and it got me thinking could they Hybridize? I would have to look into that later. After collecting my thoughts I headed out once again and hunted hard all day but didn't see another animal, I put up a few Lyre bird hens and a wombat but that was it. I returned to my stake out over the Wallow for the last hour of light but again drew a blank before returning to camp in the dark. After dinner I went to bed and again got up in the dark and stalked until around 10am before returning to camp and packing up to return to town to have a shower, do some much needed washing and stock up on food and water. I stayed overnight at the Comfort inn again and used the free guest laundry, I also checked the weather for the next few days before deciding what to do next. Then I stocked up on food and water before having a great meal in town and sleeping in a soft bed for the night. Stay tuned for the next chapter.