Due to a resurgence in queries regarding our Mountain Rifle Builds we thought it would be prudent to recap our September 2019 Sambar Hunt which we chronicled in our Instagram (@precision_defence_industries https://www.instagram.com/precision_defence_industries/ ) and Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/bollycompositestocks ) accounts and is compiled into a single post below.
It was a 5 day backpack hunt in the Victorian Alpine National park where we put our mountain rifles to the test in the exact environment and circumstances they were designed for. On this particular Sambar Hunt the 284 Shehane mountain rifle, 7mm SAW Trollhammer and 308 carbon stubbie joined us and we harvested two Sambar stags and packed out just shy of 100kg of venison. We were also joined initially by a 4th member with a 7mm Rem Mag (again in a mountain rifle configuration but lacking a carbon wrapped barrel), however that team members old knee issues played havoc and they were forced out early.
Day 1 Ascent
We initially drove across to Victoria to compete at a PRS match, a 14 hour drive from our homes. After two days RO’ing and one member competing at the @precisionrifleseriesaus #buchan match over the weekend (PRS Australia Winter Classic 2019), we got up early on a Monday morning, drove to the Alpine National Park (ANP), put on our packs and started our 5 day backpack hunt.
With warm and low winds predicted for the alpine we started by going up. Intermingled with some glassing of opposite faces, which is totally not a excuse for a break…
After a long hike we reached our first campsite for the trip, up on a recently burned knoll. Plenty of spring feed in the burns and plenty of sign, but also a few dead deer that didn’t escape the bushfires last summer. An evening glassing session yielded the first deer seen for the trip, a deer like brown rock that wasn’t a deer got checked in the spotter, only for a young stag to walk up behind the brown rock #luck. In the failing light plans were made for an early start and lengthy glassing session in the morning to see what we could turn up.
Day 2 Bad Knees
Day 2 of the trip and the first full day of hunting. Early morning glassing session turned up a number of deer, the first being a hind at a touch over 1000m away grazing her way through a burn. Filmed through #vortexoptics#razorspotter#iphone#novagrade#digiscopeadaptor#digiscope#sambar#sambardeer#sambarhind
After filming the hind for a bit, we split up into 2 groups so that we could cover the NW facing slopes that started to receive the morning sun. It wasn’t long before we all moved around as we watched a pack of wild dogs working the face and even found their den… #glassing#hunting#huntingaustralia#sambarhunting#alpinenationalpark#marsupialgear#swarovskioptik#el12x50#firstlite#kuiu#vortexoptics#scarpa#backpackhunting#backpackhuntingaustralia
After watching the dogs for sometime we switched back to the other side of the knoll and it wasn’t long before the @swarovskioptik_hunting bino’s picked up a young stag and hind grazing up a face at 500m. But alas it was a missed opportunity so after some more glassing and saying good bye to one of our members who’s knees had started to wreak havoc on him, our remaining team of 3 decided to shift over to a grassy knoll in the distance. That in the bino’s, looked like an incredible spot for a camp.
This campsite got marked as the BCE, best camp ever. Wind protection, flat soft ground and glassing options galore. There was one catch, we were running low on water. So much so we found some manky algae infested gloop that we charcoal filtered and then boiled to ensure dinner didn’t eat into our water reserves.
We decided we could only spend one night at BCE, so the plan was to get some rest, put in a morning hunt and then endure a long walk down back to the river. #mountainsafetyresearch #windburner #stoneglacier #kuiu #macpac #firstlite #mountainhunting #mountainrifle #hunting #sambardeer #sambarhunting #kestrelau #marsupialgear #binoharness
Day 3 Mountain Hunting
It was a glorious morning the third day of our hunt in ANP. With the added bonus of it being a cold night we spread out along a glassing knoll to cover as much ground as possible. Then 2 deer were spotted, a larger and a smaller. The larger hung around while the team gathered to all be onto the deer with optics but as soon as the guiding onto the deer began the larger deer melted into the scrub, not to be seen again. The smaller younger stag however started feeding right into a little clearing 634m away.
After a brief check for alternative shooting positions the decision was made to build a position where we were.
All the little things made a difference especially when you cannot justify carrying things like rear bags up a mountain.
-A backpack with compression straps so it can provide solid but comfortable fill of space
-An accurate range from a rangefinder that you trust 100%
-Trued ballistics data from the Kestrel
-Bubble level to ensure in an awkward position you are level as all your references are skew
-A bipod that panned and can fold it’s legs back 180 giving fine control over the point of aim
-A scope that you trust can take all the abuse the trip has given it, without shifting zero or impacting the precision of your dial
-a mountain rifle which is designed for exactly this type of hunting
-practice, practice and more practice
The shot was perfect, just behind the shoulder. He fell where he stood, dropping into acacias and other brush below. Tangled up in a precarious position and being too heavy to move we took a couple photos and then got to work.
#284shehane #proofresearch #bollyuph #area419 (rail) #apalittlebastard #bixnandytrigger #pmwrings #tangenttheta #triadstockpack #atlasbipod #terrapinx #kestrelballistics #bergerbullets #168grVLD #lumleyarms
Between the three of us we loaded up the meat into the game bags and onto the meat shelves of our packs; Rear legs, boned shoulders, backstraps, tenderloins and as much neck meat as we could handle. We later weighed the rear legs at 17.5kg each (bone in). With packs loaded and waning water supplies we began the slow walk back to camp along some “sketchy” slopes.
Whatever goes up must come down. After the sketchy meat haul back to camp and water down to a couple 100ml each, we packed up camp bringing our packs up to the heaviest weight of the trip over 36kg for two of us and 28kg for the third. As our third member was chewing through water and started to show early signs of heat stress, the decision was made to ensure he had a reduced packload and PLB. The two heavies then went out in front as the plan was to get to a creek and hopefully find water and start the sterilisation process before number 3 got there so he could rehydrate as soon as possible.
It was a brutal descent where the mantra #embracethesuck got repeated regularly on the way down. Dumping elevation fast we found water in the stream we had all decided to use to get out. We quickly filled a nalgene, dropped a couple steri tabs in and left it on a rock as obvious as possible. A quick radio confirmation that heat stressed compatriot was ok and would get to that water ok was a relief for everyone. So we filled up another litre each, steri tabbed and kept on our way. It was another hour before we got to the vehicle. A mere hour later our somewhat refreshed and obviously no longer heat stressed companion caught up. Water is amazing stuff.
After a short relaxation period where we refilled water from the river and hung out meat in trees we commenced a 2 hour hike in the dark to a known campsite along the river. Got a fire going and had a relaxing drink thanking #packraftaustralia for the belly warmer and celebrating our first pile of venison for the trip.
Day 4 Up River
Day 4 was a mixed bag for our party of three, old mate who suffered a bit of heat stress slept in. 1 sat around the fire keeping it roaring and drying out gear soaked through in the many river crossings during the night prior. 1 got up early and stalked some flats, almost getting a stag early on then having a pleasurable walk really.
After a old mate awoke and gear was dried 2 set off along a burn heading south trying to find new areas for glassing and found ‘the spot’. It was glorious, easy access from camp, good shooting spot and 210 degree views all a hundred metre’s above the waterline. Some time was spent glassing in the midday sun to no avail before heading back to camp to catchup as a team. After a refreshing lunch the decision was made to put in a solid afternoon session right till dark glassing from “the spot”.
It really was a glorious spot, we had to put rain gear on with the rapidly changing weather but watching a hind feed at 500m is always a great experience, pity she was in an unrecoverable location with bluffs all around.
With the precipitation we were lacking in photo taking and just glassing in our little rain gear cocoons having a relaxing afternoon. Then the @swarovskioptik_hunting EL 12×50’s picked their way through some thick country across from a sand wallow/scrape and it all got intense. A stag was spotted at 460m grazing his way through with good cover, superb cover is probably a better description. Over an hour was spent with rifle dialed in and tense periods spent waiting on him to just turn broadside in a clearing, but it wasn’t to be. Right until the end of shooting light the stag we nicknamed Barry never presented a shot. It was an awesome hunting experience. Regularly checking range, wind and building ever changing shooting positions. It never came to pass that a shot was presented.
With the 4th day done and dusted, we walked back to camp with the decision to be up early and get straight to “the spot” to try and add another deer to our packs.
Day 5 Last Day
Day 5, the last day of the trip. With heavy falls predicted and a wet misty morning already getting things wet, our plan was to hunt until 9:30am at the latest. Any deer seen after that point would require careful discussion about if it was feasibly recoverable so that we could be back at the car before the storm hit. We waited for walking light and then headed to “the spot”. Getting honked in the predawn light and seeing the back end of some deer is always better than coffee at getting you going.
Within minutes of glassing a young stag a 318m away was picked up. He was giving a sapling a thrashing and was in an easy access location. A shooting position was built quickly. The 7 SAW was impressive, a perfect shot, point of impact plainly seen in the binoculars. The stag decided to live up to Sambar reputation and lurched, then ran. He covered over 150m on a straight line across the face before slowing and then stopping. He stood there for what felt like an eternity but was probably less than a second.
He fell tumbling down the slope towards us. We could see him plainly lying there so after a quick glass to see what the shot scared off, we went down to the river, crossed and then straight uphill to the stag.
A superb young animal, interesting antler and gorgeous lighting for photos with drizzling rain and rolling fog. Incredibly picturesque spot and a wonderful location for bagging the groceries.
We took a number of photos during the butchery of this deer as its answers a number of questions we get about handling animals as large as Sambar.
We employ the, what would keep the most meat clean and what’s easiest next method of field butchery.
For example in these photos we started by using the gutless method, skinning the deer down from along the spine to then remove the backstraps, shoulder and hind quarter.
The realities of hunting, Butchery photos continue and we are going to get graphic here, click to reveal is your own decision but this is the reality of harvesting your own meat. We also look at terminal performance, so about as graphic as it gets. #sorrynotsorry
After removing the shoulder, backstraps and hindquarter, we got curious about the damage the 7SAW launched @sierra_bullets 160gr Tipped Match King had done. This bullet had been tested on multiple species prior as well as the wet newspaper test, but this was the first sambar taken with the bullet for us. So we gutted the deer from the side the meat had already been removed and revealed an astonishing mess. The terminal performance was extensive damage and certainly a very rapid death. The lungs were the definition of gloop and the top of the heart had been shredded. In terms of lethality and damage to vital organs, the shot was perfect and the bullet performed, in our estimation, perfectly. It’s amazing how Sambar deer in particular can function for even a few seconds with such internal damage.
Another advantage of deciding to remove the guts meant any easy tenderloin removal plus the deer was significantly lighter and easier to roll over to get at the remaining legs.
The later stages of breaking the young stag down, skinning the other side and removal of the final quarters. Once off, we ensured everything was left out of meat bags until ready to pack out, to dump heat as fast as possible and drain excess blood. For reference, yakka bushes make exceptional meat racks. Then carefully jointing the rear legs below the hock keeping the Achilles intact to ensure hanging is easy is the final step.
The first river crossing and the last crossing we would get to do with daily gear and meat weight.
With the weather rolling in we took the time to cook a fresh tenderloin for lunch. There is nothing quite like completing the hunting experience by consuming meat for lunch in the countryside where it roamed and grew. It really is one of the most incredibly immersive meals one can have.
One Sambar tenderloin easily feeds three hungry blokes!
The walkout. With multiple river crossings and very heavy packs of meat and all our gear it was best described as a trudge. Mercifully the rain backed off but the ground was muddy and the rivers cold. With heavy packs there was no chance of moving fast enough to avoid wet boots. We checked some wallows on the way out and pleasantly surprised to bump a reasonable stag, the perfect image to trigger discussion on when we will return. After a few hours of trudging we reached the vehicle, as we did the rain decided to return with a vengeance. As fast as we could we packed the meat away, retrieved the first stags meat from the meat trees and quickly changed out of our sodden boots and hunting clothes. Then we were off, we decided to drive through the night making regular driver changes and arrived back home at 5am Saturday morning. It had been possibly the best backpack Sambar hunt we had been on, it had it all, it was an epic week.
We reconvened a week later after a very busy work week playing catchup. Got a young goat cooking on the rotisserie and then pulled the meat out the chiller and started cleaning up the prime cuts and boning out the quarters. With silver skin removed from the backstraps and topside of one leg from the younger stag kept, we ended up with 12kg of prime venison. Why so little? We had plenty of fallow in the freezer and what our priority is when chasing sambar is sausages and small goods.
Of interest the rear legs of the first stag shot weighed 17.5kg each (bone in) while the younger final day stag’s rear legs were only a touch behind at 15kg each (bone in).
With everything boned out we moved on to cutting into chunks for mincing and blending. We also did that painful check of weighing how much bone we carried, 10kg on the dot.
After chunking the remaining meat we cut similar sized pieces of pork back fat and distributed it through at a 20% fat to meat ratio. Spices were then added (+curing agents for chorizo) and we performed two batches of grind, one for chorizo and one for sausages and burger. Step one is the course plate for both chorizo and sausages/burger, this also acts as a mixing step. We also keep the meat as cold as possible returning the product to the chiller between processes. Final grind for chorizo is a medium while the sausages/burger totally change complexion as they receive a fine grind.
The last of our backpack hunting trip posts, the sausages and small goods. First up is chorizo, slightly larger casing than the sausages, we tie these off about a foot long. Then they are placed in a cold smoker. The sausage filler, big red makes quick work of 40 kg of sausages creating long snaking chains of deliciousness. A quick twist, cut off section of 4 hook them over and then hung in the chiller over night to set (51×4 = 204 sausages). The burger (also known as extra sausage grind) is bagged into family friendly portions and frozen. Finally after smoking the chorizo’s (98 of them) we distributed them between a wine fridge (pictured) and a couple old fridges for curing. We use Kestrel Drops to monitor temperature and humidity during the curing process. We also saved some grind with minimal spices as a kids burger grind, done right at the end, it also flushed some extra burger through the system that was promptly cooked and eaten for dinner.
Final product from 2 sambar snags carried on our backs during an awesome adventure in the Victorian alpine plus some pork from the local butcher;
30kg of snags
30kg of chorizo
20kg of burger
7kg of kids burger
12kg of prime cuts
Total product for eating; 99kg also known as enough for 3 families for a 1.2kg meal of sambar every fortnight for the next year.
Sambar quantities only as an FYI;
-20% pork fat addition; 82.5kg
plus the Lucky dogs ended up with;
5kg of sinewy trimmings
10kg of bone
Total sambar venison; 97.5kg.