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Sambar: Bowhunting in Australia's Victorian Backcountry

Posted by Ford Van Fossan on

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I knew my first Sambar hunt into the Victorian High Country wasn’t going to be easy. Big mountains, hot days, cold nights, long walks and all while trying to get it done with a bow and arrow, it would take it's toll on anybody. It was to be a 5 day pack hunt into some remote backcountry. The weather in Victoria can be very unpredictable which makes it hard when packing as you need absolutely everything from wet weather gear to puffers or you could be just down to light weights everyday and still too hot.


We all headed off, Jared (the local) Alfred, Aaron and myself. There was no warm ups; it was all straight up from the car, 400 meters up over 8 kilometres to our spike camp. Reaching the top of the mountain it all seemed worth it with the view we had all worked hard for. Down in Victoria they have cabins scattered throughout the national parks for anyone and everyone to stay at as they wish. They are not much but on a cold winter's night in the snow they would be a warm welcome. We pushed on knowing we needed to set up camp and we also wanted to get out to a certain bluff point to be able to glass the surrounding valleys for deer before dark.

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The last 500m before where we were to set up camp was all down hill. It led down onto a beautiful plateau on the top of the mountain. We could see a good wallow up in front with plenty of tracks around which was a good sign for the area. As we were about to move off from the wallow one of the boys spotted a nice young stag up ahead. We all dropped down into the grass and pulled out the cameras. The other boys I was hunting with were all using rifles but told me that given the situation, I may as well have a go with my bow.


Sounds easy right? Wrong! Sambar deer, introduced from Asia, are arguably the hardest deer to hunt in Australia. Indeed, I know of a lot of people that have tried for many years to get a Sambar with little luck. One thing that makes hunting Sambar so hard is they make no noise during their rut period, so its like hunting other deer out of their rutting season.


I left the group and dropped back and circled around to get the wind right before making my way in. Walking in amongst the snow gums was like walking on cornflakes, every step made a huge crunch sound at which point the young stag would look up in my direction to see what was making the noise.

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The Sambar are very cunning, he knew something was up but my camo blended well in amongst the foliage. Every now and then he would take a few steps and even hide behind a tree to see if I would make a move so he could catch me out. At this stage I had closed into about 65 yards, I made it in another 5 or so to a small tree and just sat and waited to see if he would make the mistake and come within bow range, there was no point on me pushing it as the ground was so loud under foot. I kept ranging him...60...50...45.


This was it, if he gets to 40 I'm taking the shot, I drew back and held steady on him but there was that much dead timber in the way I couldn't get a clear shot so I let down. Fortunately, he kept coming in even closer. One shot with the range finder at 35 yards was it, he was still closing in so as soon as he cleared the trees I drew quietly, settled and released. The shot was good and the young stag jumped and bounced about 20 yards away and looked back to see what had happen. He heard something but couldn't work out what had happened and seconds later I had my first ever Sambar stag and ultimately a freezer full of venison.

First Lite Pro Staffer Chase Lorensen lives in Queensland and hunts across Australia and New Zealand.


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