Even through the fog of my jet-lagged gaze, I marveled just as I had some forty-five years ago at the picturesque cleanliness of the Austrian countryside. Rolling hills topped with dark woods were like islands in the small orderly fields that surrounded them. One postcard like medieval village followed another with the occasional castle brooding in the distance. Drivers drove like they meant it, but with care and consideration. In the two plus weeks we were there, including extended stays in Salzburg and Vienna, we heard a horn exactly once, and never ever saw a single piece of trash of any kind anywhere alongside a road or a street. For the life of me, I couldn't understand what had taken me so long to return. Every year since early in this century, my lovely bride and I have taken at least one vacation of a couple of weeks to somewhere that interests both of us. Periodically, those adventures include a few days of hunting. Most recently we were in Spain and Argentina. This year, we decided to spend some time in Austria, where I could also relive some of the hunting that meant so much to me as a young Lieutenant in Germany in the late seventies. I contacted Bob Kern of the Hunting Consortium http://huntingconsortium.com/ who has more experience in arranging European hunts (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) than just about anyone in the business. I had Gracy Travel arrange our flights, but Bob and Margaret handled everything else, to include reservations in Salzburg and Vienna. My primary goals for the hunt were roe deer and wild boar. However, September is a tough time time for roe deer as the season comes to an end. I had further complicated things by pushing our dates back a week more once I realized we would otherwise miss the LSU Texas game. And glad I did - Geaux Tigers! We decided to put a fallow deer in our back pocket should things not work out with roe deer. The flight from Houston to Vienna through Heathrow on British Airways was - well, at least it was safe. Transiting Heathrow with its long hikes and bus rides between terminals makes O'Hare look like a masterpiece of organization. I have no idea how they get some of those stews into those skirts. We were met at the Airport in Vienna by Anton "Toni" Furst of Furst & Neuper OG, the Austrian operator with whom my hunt had been arranged. We were quickly loaded up in Toni's comfortable SUV and on the road for the two-hour drive to the village of St. Barbara in the foothills of the Alps to look for a Roe Deer or two. We quickly checked into our lovely little gasthaus. And as Nancy checked out for a nap, Toni and I drove up into the hills and crept into a highseat. For my loaner/rental rifle, Toni offered me a Blaser R93 in either a .300 or .270. The manual of arms is essentially identical to the R8 with which I am very familiar, and the 270 was perfectly balanced for anything I would hunt on this trip. I chose it as my companion for the next four days. That evening we saw our only roe deer buck. He was no more than 3 1/2 years old with a tall even six-point rack. Toni would have let me take him in, but he really was the sort of deer with great promise that ought to be left in the gene pool for a couple of more years. Late season, clear skies, and the fullest of full moons were just too much to overcome. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful couple of days in the foothills of the Alps. The highlight had to have been flushing a pair of Capercaillie the size of turkeys that thundered out of a small pine on a hillside. At the end of the second day, we decided to cut our losses and head east to link up with Toni's partner, Martin Neuper near the small country village of Heiligenbrunn on the Hungarian Border. It was another lovely drive into a country of low rolling hills and large expanses of forests. We were quickly settled into the delightful little Hotel Beim Krutzler, and by five in the afternoon, Martin and I were easing along a forest trail to a highseat deep in the woods overlooking an area that had been heavily baited for wild boar. Over the next hour and a half, a steady progression of pigs marched past our stand - sows with piglets, sows without broods, sows alone, and sows in squad and platoon strength. Only one mature boar showed up, and Martin dismissed him with something approaching contempt. Finally, Martin tapped my knee and motioned me to follow him out of the stand. We then set a brisk pace in the quickly fading light, emerging onto a meadow bordered by the forest. Staying along the edge we eased our way toward one corner. Suddenly, Martin froze and eased up his binoculars, staring intently into the spot where our path reentered the woods. Over his shoulder I could just make out a large black mass to one side of that dark entryway. Leaning back, he breathed "I think I know this one." Up went the sticks, and he motioned for me to shoot. I was on them quickly, but even though the huge beast was only forty yards away, I could not in the darkness sort out the shot with the scope set a 4-power, which is what I prefer for general hunting. I quickly cranked it to nine. By doing so, I was able to determine that the he was facing to the right with his head hidden by grass. I could clearly see the vertical crosshair above his back and was thus able to quickly line the rifle on his shoulder. By raising the sight picture slightly, the horizontal crosshair became visible. I then brought the crosshair down into the body and let fly in the same motion. I was completely blinded by the muzzle blast, but Martins pat on my shoulder and whispered "Waidmansheil" was a clear confirmation that we had pulled it off. The big boar lay on his side where he had stood. As we turned him over, I was surprised to see that he only had three legs. The front right was gone, and completely healed over as if it had never been there. Martin said that he had seen him twice over the last year and a half or so, once with a client who could not get a shot off. He was never seen around a baited area. Martin thought it likely he was a survivor from a drive hunt earlier in his life and had developed a distinct aversion to humans and daylight. Needless to say, we were both glad to have had an opportunity to sort out his troubles. It took the wench to get him into the back of the truck. One of the Hunting Consortium's better tools is their pre-pay system. As I noted, my intent at the time of booking was to hunt a couple of roe deer and a boar. Before departure, I had paid those trophy fees. However, because we had failed in our effort to get a roe deer, those funds were available to roll into a different game animal on the vast estate where we took the big boar. A fallow deer stag would essentially be a wash against the cost of the two roe deer. Unlike many of the fallow I had seen on small game farms in the States, these did not seem to act particularly tame or stupid. The next morning we stepped out at dawn, drifting from one meadow to the next. The roar had just begun, and an added treat was hearing or seeing the occasional red stag issue a challenge that echoed through the forest. Over the next couple of hours we saw a number of fallow deer. Most were hinds with calves with the occasional bachelor group of young stags. We had a brief glimpse of a bigger one, but after careful study, of the one antler that we could clearly see, Martin shook his head and we backed away. By mid morning, it was clear that most of the animals had moved into heavy cover to bed. Martin's young assistant, Roger, an American who helps out during the hunting season and acts as a US representative the remainder of the year, brought the truck to where we we were standing. A quick tactics discussion ensued, and Martin asked me how I would feel about a potentially fleeting shot from an elevated stand. I liked the little R93 a lot, which was set up essentially like my R8 with the 6.5 installed. So, I responded in the affirmative. Martin and I then quietly walked up a low ridge to an elevated stand. Once posted, I could see the edge of a meadow perhaps a 100 meters beyond and behind us and to the other side, the thick forest we had come through. The stand sat on one side of a forest trail. Across it and to our immediate front was an enormous thicket. Martin whispered that it was nearly forty hectares in size and was a favorite bedding area for deer. Roger, meanwhile, had gone the opposite direction and then made a roughly 2 kilometer circuitous hike to get to the other side of the large thicket. He would then work his way slowly through it with the wind, hopefully pushing any bedded animals ahead of him. Within about a half hour, we caught the first movement within the brush. Shortly, a group of hinds dashed out of the thicket some fifty yards up the ridge from our stand, crossed the trail and filtered off through the forest along the edge of the meadow. As whitetail will often due, over the nest half hour, another twenty or thirty fallow and red deer exited the thicket along exactly the same path. One of the animals was an incredible red stag with massive crowns that Martin later estimated would push a 400 score. The parade gradually tapered off, and after about ten-minutes of no movement, I think we had both about decided it was time to regroup for another plan. Suddenly, an enormous fallow stag simply materialized in the middle of the trail staring in the direction the others had gone. Martin didn't even raise his binoculars, and simply whispered "shoot!" Because of where the stag was standing, there was nowhere to rest the rifle. So, I rose to a half crouch simultaneously bringing the Blaser to my shoulder. At same moment the deer spun on his heels and started down the trail straight toward us at a slow trot. Instead of calmly putting the crosshairs on his chest and shooting him, I found myself frantically searching for him in the scope. As noted during the pig hunt, I had turned the scope up to nine-power in order to make the shot. And because I am STUPID, I had failed to turn it back down that evening or check it before we headed out in the morning. By looking over the top of the scope, I was able to get the scope on him and get something that looked like a sight picture. I fired, putting a 130 gr bullet into the grass precisely between his forelegs. With the shot, the deer simply kicked into high gear continuing along the path shortening the range by the second while increasing the angle of the shot from our elevated position. Fortunately, the R93 bolt can be worked very quickly without loosing cheek weld or sight picture. The new round was chambered as I brought the rifle back out of recoil, driving the crosshairs down between the antlers, across his nose, and as I saw brown, I squeezed off the shot. The bullet took him low in the chest, exploding the heart. His momentum took him under and on past us a few yards. As he collapsed, I thanked St. Hubertus, blind lady luck, and any other deity that may have had anything to do with the shot. His green weight after boiling was just under 3.5 killos, so a very nice animal. I was more than a little apologetic about the first shot, but fortunately the second redeemed my STUPIDITY to some degree. Needless to say, I was and am thrilled with him. And it is a story that won't need much embellishment in the years to come. It was with very fond goodbyes that we took our leave of Martin, Toni, and Roger to begin the more traditional portion of our excellent European vacation. A Mozart concert dinner awaited us at Hohensalzburg, fabulous wines and food at the centuries old Heurigen (wine cellars) on the edge of the Vienna Woods, and enough Baroque art to stun the senses. But we will look up Toni, Martin, and Roger at DSC to renew our friendship. I also will spend a little time with Bob and Margaret at the Hunting Consortium booth. I still have a vision of a gigantic red stag that I may just have to address - with a scope set at lower power!