24hrs after we had expected the chopper started its descending circles down into the steep sided Ecology stream. Below I could see a small mossy clearing next to the flowing water Cloaked in shade and dusted with ice –the words from Cam Speedy 30 minutes before started to develop meaning. “Who’s going to Ecology stream? OK you guys are in for an interesting time”
What we had expected was in fact reality. Due to its remote location and challenging contour Ecology stream would see very few hunters and less trampers. We quickly got busy and 30 minutes later 4 tents and a camp fly were up just as a few rays of sunshine broke the ridge and lifted morale. Plans were quickly discussed around a map and the 4 of us headed in different directions.
My 3 companions had an average age of 30. I had another 30 years of joint deteriation on them so elected to sidle around a North facing terrace just behind camp. At 30 I would have automatically headed for the tops – which two of the others subsequently did.
I grovelled up a small bank and was confronted with a wide and likely looking terrace. I eased forward slowly and to my amusement came across deer fencing! A small area fenced off to evaluate deer damage I guessed.
This was later confirmed and I also learned that it was built by Cam Speedy himself back in the day – circa 1985. I slowly moved forward a few more meters. A lone hind appeared – quietly browsing on the move.
She was unaware of her company and slipped inconveniently behind a tree. I took the invitation to find a steady rest and waited and waited and waited. She eventually presented her head. The swirling breeze worried me so happy with my rest I took the shot.
First impressions were good as she seemed well rounded. I then sat down and had a chuckle to myself. 5 minutes( and according to my phone) 210m from camp. Tin arse or just a good listener? She was exactly where we had been advised to look. On a north facing terrace just above the stream. We had been asked to collect a bit of info so I set to with the aim recovering all the meat and uncovering her internal secrets.
She had been in milk but no weaner was sighted. Going by her teeth and size I had put her at about 4yrs old. She later proved to be 7.5 years. Dangerous ground guessing a females weight but I would have put her at 20kg carcass weight and on a scale of 1 to 5 on condition about 3. Given where she was living I was surprised at her overall condition. Her stomach contents revealed less than hoped. About all I could recognise was Beech leaves. Her uterus was small and appeared empty.
I hung the legs and back steaks on the conveniently supplied deer fence (Thanks DOC) and carried on with my business. The rest of the day yielded a pleasant boil up next to a stream and a fleeting glimpse of a departing stags arse. The bush went cold pretty early in the afternoon so I headed back to my deer fence and loaded up for the big 210m punch back to camp. I had seen enough to conclude that this area had been hammered by deer. There was surprisingly little sign but virtually nothing left for deer to eat and I saw more dead fawns than live deer.
Overall for our 1.5 days of management hunting we shot 7 deer between us. A 6.5 year stag with about 12 inch antlers with 3 lumps for tines, a 2.5 year stag we nicknamed “Muntjack” that was about the size of a Red fawn and had 2 inch spikes. The rest were hinds ranging in age from 18 months to 14.5 years.
In conclusion if you want insight into what overpopulation does to Beech forest and the resident deer herd then head for Ecology stream.
Thanks to the Sika Foundation for a well organised weekend.