KMG Hunting Safaris Annual PH's Hunting Trip - Hunting Fallow Deer in the Rut

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As the second week of April comes around every year, a couple of the KMG Hunting Safaris PH's gather for the annual Fallow Deer hunt with bow. The hunt is done by walk and stalk, and once you set your foot on the ground, the unmistakable grunts of the stags chasing the does, informing other stags about his marked area, are noticeable within seconds.

The Hunt:
A couple of the PH's that hunt for KMG Hunting Safaris, gather around every year for an annual trip. Rules are simple. The hunt is to be conducted by bow. Every single one of us, are avid bow hunters, trying to add different species of noticeable quality at every opportunity. After all, we have the resources to do so. We get to hunt massive tracts of land, and spend so much time in the field, that eventually, you are going to run into those once in a life time quality animals. Mental notes taken.
This trip happens on the second week of April. Before anyone gets any ideas, from 7-14 April, we are fully booked every year. ;):D

2019 Edition:
After getting there on the arrival day, I had already mapped out my plan for the following day. I glassed high up onto the mountains. I planned to take a back pack with my lunch and enough fluids, and venture into areas where no one would make an effort to go. Higher than anyone was willing to climb. My plan was to walk slowly, and follow the grunts. Stalk into the area unnoticed, and have a look at the quality of the Stag making all the noise.
Walking and stalking with a bow is a very slow process and requires a bit more than just your regular camo patterns. Personally, I make use of a Ghillie Suit, face mask, and gloves to hide any skin that will cause a glare.
As I stepped out of the truck, it was evident that it was on. The stags were grunting all around. The direction that I had planned, would only receive sun by around 09:00 in the morning, as it was a Westerly facing mountain range. The wind on the day was very erratic, seemingly blowing out of four different directions.
The first grunt I stalked into, held about 5 does, 1 spike and a young stag, no more than 3 years old. Since Fallow Deer are the only species that actually sheds their antlers in South Africa yearly, the quality of the rainy season actually has a lot to do with the quality of the antler in the following year. If it is a dry year, as it has been for the past 4 years, usually the quality of the palms on the deer, in that area, will show it. Proceeded to follow the my route to the top.

IMG_20190415_071435.jpg


This photo shows where I was heading. My plan was to get up on the hill on the right hand side, gaining some height to possibly see some stags from the top. There was a good breeze to mask some noise on the stalks, but as mentioned earlier, it was blowing out of four corners.

To be continued.....
 

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Looking forward to this competition! Good luck Marius! What the heck...good luck to everyone doing this!
 

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This is going to be good! I'm primarily a rifle hunter but one of my favourite annual hunts is for archery mule deer. Whenever I'm able to get back to Africa, my bow might have to come along!
 

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What a great idea for a thread. Thanks for bringing us along on this one, and look forward to reading more!
 

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Beautiful pic, how have the rains been in Feb/March?
 

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Beautiful pic, how have the rains been in Feb/March?

The rains were pretty good for our rainy season. We need more, but the problem now is that any rain that comes now, won't leave enough time for regrowth before Winter comes. The Winter will be tough again.
 

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:A Popcorn:this should be fun
 

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As I moved up the mountain, sign was starting to appear all over. Never mind the non-stop grunting, but it was hard to ignore the scrapes, beds and smashed trees all over the place. Fallow will create beds where they urinate and roll in. They also urinate all over their under bellies. This can be seen clearly when stalking in close and just watching them with the binoculars. Almost looks like an old Dugga boy that rolled in mud. Except, this ain't mud and water.
They actually develop a strong smell, very similar to an Ibex. Many people will tell you, that it is almost impossible to eat a Fallow Buck during the rut. The urine that he sprays on himself, will actually taint the meat. Last year's stag, I donated to the local workers of the land. They were very appreciative.
Back to the hunt. I took a second to quickly snap this pic to show some of the sign created by a Fallow buck in his area. Very similar to a White-tail deer or Elk. You can clearly see how the bark has been stripped from the tree by rubbing their antlers.

IMG_20190415_125154.jpg


Once I got some height, I started glassing in the direction of the grunts to try and see if I could find a nice stag. At the start of this hunt, I promised myself that I would only shoot a stag better than the one that I got last year. I was rather going to concentrate on the does, Mtn Reedbuck, a nemesis of mine with the bow, Warthog, Kudu, Duiker and anything really that would stand within bow range.
While slowly sneaking through the little crevices, and stalked onto this nice Lechwe bull, laying down with about 3 cows feeding around him. I stalked in to about 40yds, snapped the pick and stalked out. He did notice me on the way out, and took off with his cows. I estimated him at about 27".

Lechwe.jpg

A stag was grunting on the top of the hill above me, and I was busy following the direction of the noise, my attention was drawn to two stags fighting and grunting slightly above me at an angle to the left.
Once I got close to the stag grunting above me, I found the Lechwe from the bottom of the hill, between me and the little pod of Fallow. I decided to not risk causing an explosion of animals down the mountain side, and stalked away below the ridge unnoticed.

IMG_20190415_104702.jpg


I made a big loop of about 400 yards around the Lechwe on the Northern side of the slope, towards the fighting Fallow. On the way up, it was clear that I was close. I managed to grab this quick snap, of a bedding area of one of the Stags in the area. Presumably the one occupied in the fight. This is where they will urinate, and roll in the mixture of urine and soil in order to cover themselves with the scent. I tried this, and it doesn't work with the ladies. You only end up smelling like a Fallow piss.
What we noticed over the years of hunting the Fallow Stags during their rut, is that it becomes apparent that the grunting, smashing of trees and marking, actually brings the does towards the stag, instead of the stag actively pursuing the doe. They are quite inquisitive animals, and will come around to a scrape to see what the guy has to offer. Here, they will hang around, feed a bit, lie in the shade, while he shows off what he's got. He will grunt, chase around little spikes, and perform, literally until he can't go anymore.

Once I got closer, I saw a black stag that was the centre of all the noise. He was not a big stag by any means, but I have never shot a black stag, so he prickled my interest. I stalked to about 50yds from him, keeping an old Acacia tree between us. I watched him through the binoculars, but knew he would not see me. His eyes were closed, with his tongue hanging out. This guy has given it his all....

To be continued....
 

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Sounds like a lot of fun Marius. Keep writing.
Bruce
 

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I'm hooked, cant wait to hear the rest of the story!
 

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............. This is where they will urinate, and roll in the mixture of urine and soil in order to cover themselves with the scent. I tried this, and it doesn't work with the ladies. You only end up smelling like a Fallow piss. ...

Poor Kim.
 

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Marius.....Watch where you step...SHHHHH NO noise!:ROFLMAO:
 

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Knew I d get a rise out of ya!:ROFLMAO:
 

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After getting to the Acacia tree, I could only see the black stag. He just did not have enough palms for me to be interested. He had a beautiful coat though, but, hunting stags is about the head gear. After watching him for a bit, he walked over to a patch of grass behind him. Once he stopped, I picked up a flick of the ear of a doe lying in the grass. His short whines at her, showed that he was simply keeping an eye on her until she got up. Let's call it foreplay.

My attention moved to the doe. Time to crush this boy's dreams. I managed to get myself into a position of about 40yds from where the doe was lying, but felt a little bit exposed in the open.

There was action all around me. Out of nowhere, another Stag appeared, seemingly with the idea of pushing the black stag out of his area. Once he arrived, more does arrived, from who knows where. Soon, I was surrounded by does being chased by stags. Some of the does had been chased so hard, that they were even limping.

The range to any of these does, were not a problem. Drawing the bow without being noticed was the problem. Just because it is the rut, does not mean that the does are in a daze. Pretty much 100% of the time, its them that busts the stalk. Sometimes the stalk gets bust without the stag even knowing, he simply carries on chasing the doe who's busy running away.

Here is a short clip of the black stag, when the other stag arrived.

 

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Eventually the black stag managed to chase the other male off. I could still hear them fighting in the distance. A few does worked their way in my direction, but I was too exposed, trying to make myself as small as possible. This is where the Ghillie suit really shows it's worth. They do look in your direction, but are unable to make out any shape or form. If you stay still long enough, they will relax.
The black eventually returned to collect his reward. I was targeting a black doe that had made her way into his area. She had a noticeable limp in the hind quarters, no doubt from being chased by stags who won't take no for an answer.
He pushed her way right, exactly in the direction where my scent would be lingering from the direction of the breeze. She picked up my scent and decided to get out of dodge, with the horny stag right on her tail.
After spending about 45 minutes watching the show from these bucks, and being surrounded by does, I decided to climb even higher. My idea was that from height, I will be able to have better control of my scent, and could always approach after circling from a wide arc.

After about 30 minutes climb, I bumped into a small herd of Mountain Reedbuck below me. It is an animal that is very high on my list, by walk and stalk with the bow. The ewes jumped up and trotted off for about 60 yards, and stood, looking around at what caused the disturbance. Closest to me, I picked out the darker individual. I slowly raised my binoculars, and identified it as a very old ram. He had massive basis. I don't care about the length. As long as he has solid basis, he's good enough for me. I pushed the range button on my Geovids, which read out 55 yards. He was quartering heavily away from me, looking at the ewes, unbeknown of the danger that lurking right above him.
I slid my single pin slider to 55 yards. Picked up the binoculars again just to confirm the range. I could pick out the twigs from the binoculars, right in front of the line towards his vitals. Problem was, the twigs were about 15 yards from him. No shot. Thinking back, maybe I should have released the arrow. Undoubtedly, what made me hesitate, was the Common Duiker that I wounded the week before, sending the arrow through two small holes on its way to its target. He was nice, maybe I should have let the arrow go.

By this time, it was pretty warm. Once it warms up, the Fallow Bucks stop croaking, and uses the time to catch a nap to restore some energy. Time for lunch. Maybe after lunch, I will walk through the valley to the other side, where they seemed to be croaking more aggressively once they start up.
While sitting in the shade of a tree for lunch, I spot a white Fallow doe, eating on a small piece of green grass. The green grass must be from where the water collected after the rains, causing something almost like an Oasis. I can see two from where I'm sitting. The white one looks delicious.
I make my way down there, and start walking at about 1 yard per minute. I spot a lamb feeding on the sweet grass. The green pasture is in a little ditch, which means by the time I see anything, I'm going to be right on top of them. I watch the lamb for about 5 minutes, when she starts to walk to the right towards shade where she lays down.
Walking ever so slowly, I inch forward, until I can see 3 does lying down. I'm looking through grass that is a foot high, so not much chance of them spotting me. The lamb goes and lies down right next to the white doe. Although she was eating by herself, I just could not bring myself around to shooting the white doe. I'm not a monster.
I watch them from 30 yards away for about 10 minutes, and decided to move on. I picked up a few stones and threw it at them. They got up, looked around, did not see anything and decided to lie down again.
Once they noticed me standing up, they jumped up, ran 10 yards and turned to look at me. After stopping, the first one that barked that got them running again, was the lamb. I thought to myself, "I should have shot your mother."

I proceeded down the valley on to the other side. By the time I reached it, the croaking had just started up again. I stalked into a few spots, but nothing to get excited about. One croak just above me, sounded deep. I walked up slowly, and was lucky that with the wind in my face, there was an embankment giving me ample cover. The croaking Fallow, without a doubt with some does, were situated on a little plateau, which made the stalk pretty simple.
I walked in a crouched position up to the bank. When I peeked over, this is what I saw:


I managed to get a quick range on the closest doe. She was 9 yards away. They were not adults does though. Looked like yearlings. I spotted an old doe lying about 10 yards to the right of the stag. While there, I looked over him. He had already broken off some of his palms. I could see that he had thick beams, so he was by no means a young buck. Not the monster that I was looking for.
The youngsters moved off, and I waited for the big doe to get up. Another young doe fed top my right. That should not be a problem, but the breeze does tend to blow that way. After about 15 minutes, the old doe got up and started walking to my left. I knocked an arrow, and set my release. As I peeked over the ridge slowly, our eyes met. Not in the romantic way either. Being only 11 yards away, she exploded, taking all the other does with her. The stag still did not know what was going on.
I have never drawn my bow, without releasing the arrow as many times as I had done on this day. I decided that it was enough for day one. My feet were tired, legs were like jello, so, I made a few half attempts at others, but the concentration just was not there any more. It was getting dark, and I still had to meet the other PH down at the road for my ride home. Getting to the main road, I ran into one of the children of the guys working the cattle of the land.
IMG_20190415_181234.jpg

Perfectly happy with a car, made out of wire. Sometimes its these things that make us realise just how blessed we are. He was happy enough to pose for the photo.I watched him, shifting gears with his mouth as he walked away. This is Africa.

Time for a new plan.

That night, speaking with the rest of the guys around the campfire, it was clear that they would simply shoot a stag, and as they would put it, "just to get it out of their system." The Fallow Rut is a massive trip for us. Every year, we just can't wait to get in among them during their croak, up close and personal, on foot, with bow in hand. Tomorrow is a new day, and I know where an old stag has been making a lot of noise. Time to play with their feelings....
 

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