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Deer Hunting in Australia

Angela Maiden Deer Hunting Leave a Comment

Deer Hunting

Deer hunting is a very popular pass time especially during the roar/rut season which usually occurs during the autumn months across Australia. There are six members of the deer family wild in Australia and it is estimated that around 85% of these are descendants of the animals originally imported into Australia for society hunting properties. Of the six deer species there are 3 main members hunted in Australian bushland for venison or trophies, these are Sambar, Fallow and Red deer. With smaller numbers of Chital or Cheetal (Axis axis), Rusa and Hog found across Australia. It is estimated that the wild deer population in Australia is around 200,000 in 218 areas spread across all the States and territories. With most of these populations scatter throughout the South Eastern states and territories.

The feral/wild deer populations increased markedly after the collapse of commercial deer farming in the 1970s and 1990s when a lot of deer were illegally released and this is responsible for 90 percent of the current wild deer populations in Australia.

Some of the state’s and territories consider feral deer as a pest. Victoria and New South Wales have the largest deer populations and manage deer primarily for recreational hunters. These states also give deer a full or partial protection. This goes against environmental legislation in Victoria and New South Wales that states that deer (Sambar) threaten the process of biodiversity. In some areas it has been suggested that fences be used to protect plant species against deer populations.
Very little is been done to manage the abundance and growth of deer populations across Australia or reduce the environmental impact of their grazing of both native vegetation or agricultural pastures.



Species of Deer

Of the 3 main deer species in Australia Fallow deer were the first imported into Australia from England in the 1830’s and are now found in all states except the Northern Territory.



Fallow Deer

Fallow deer are a medium sized deer that come in four different colour variations red, black, white and menil (spotted). With mature bucks weighing up to 90 kgs and hinds up to 40 kgs. The bucks/stag antlers are moose like in shape thus different than any other deer in Australia. A trophy set are usually around 20 inches in size and have around 12 or more points. The Douglas score system is used to measure how good a trophy antlers are, it promotes symmetry.

The best time to hunt Fallow deer in Australia is during the rut or main mating period which usually occurs around the middle of April and lasts around three weeks this is dependent on the state and seasonal conditions.

Fallow deer are a herd animal inhabiting semi-open scrub land, and are also known to graze pastures that are close to cover. This is where interactions with agricultural occur where a property includes bushland or is in close proximity to state parks.

Red Deer

Red deer were introduced into Australia from England in 1860, there were just 6 red deer sent to Werribee Park in Victoria. From there they were released in Queensland in 1873, in to New South Wales in 1886, into Western Australia in 1873.

Red deer are listed on the world’s worst invasive alien species, so where ever a population is established they will cause damage to the natural environment. As they travel across habitats so this environment can be cultivated pastures/crops or native flora. They prefer open grassy glades in forests. They also poses risk to vehicles and humans.

Red deer are the larger of the deer family found in Australia, with a stag standing up to 120cm at the shoulder and weighing up to 220kg and hinds around 90 cm weighing up to 180 kg.

Sambar Deer

Sambar deer are the prevalent deer hunted in Australia, they were introduced from India, Ceylon and Malaysia in the 1860s.Sambar are a solitary animal by nature and are usually found in inhabit difficult terrain.

They can be identified by their uniform dark brown with ginger and cream under parts. A mature stag can stand up to 130 cm at the shoulder and weighing up to 230kg. The hinds are smaller and are 110 cm at the shoulder and weighing up to 180 kg. The antlers are usually six tined ( or three on either side) are heavy, and may reach greater than 30 cm.

It is estimated that 41000 deer shot in Victoria per year around 34,000 are Sambar.



With the increasing numbers of feral/wild deer in Australia there is an increased risk to the natural environment by grazing on native vegetation, damaging trees, dispersing weed seeds and fouling waterways. They also can carry diseases that impact on agriculture and humans as well the main one is the risk of foot and mouth. There is also concerns that the wild deer may have ticks that carry lymes disease.

It is said that the current wild deer populations only occupy a fraction of the potential areas of Australia they could inhabit especially in Northern Australia. This with the escapes from properties and translocation has an impact of the growing numbers of wild deer in Australia.



With the hunting of wild deer in Australia different states have different minimum legal calibre, to maintain compliance with all states regulations it is best practice to take no less than a 270. With the smaller species in Tasmania a 240 can be used and a 243 in New South Wales.

Always check with state authorities to ensure you remain within current regulations. This is also true with hunting seasons and other regulations imposed on hunters across the state’s with some requiring game hunting licences. While farmers require permits to cull deer that are impacting on their properties.

The most important time to hunt deer is during the rut/roar when the stags/bucks are most vocal, and can be traced by calling out to them, this is also the time when both males and females are in herds together. So the choice of taking a stag for a trophy or getting a hind for the venison.



Conclusion

When stalking deer it is always important to stay down wind from an animal, taking your time and not spooking the animal is important. Some people prefer to find a location and scan the surrounding area where there has been recent deer activities. An sit and wait for an animal to come across the trail, this is when a good pair of binoculars is essential. I find an area close to water and enclosed open pasture is perfect, especially during the dawn and dusk times when deer are most active and are seeking out new grazing areas. A position that can scan a large area and several trails is ideal but not also suitable for clear sighting of deer through the scrub.

As when shooting deer always clearly identify your target before taking aim. When hunting in dense scrub for safety reasons it is advised not to wear camo, and where something that stands out from the surroundings, as meaning deer are shot at distance so being able to identify the target through a scope gets difficult. So make sure you can be visible to other hunters as accidents do happen.

Before heading out wild deer hunting make sure you have a current firearm licence and understand the current states regulations and seasons.

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