Morning frosts, blood pumping hunting

“Just listening to it had me itching to toss the laptop, leap through the front door and slam into first as I made a beeline for the nearest patch of public land.”

At the time I’m writing this, it’s early June. The morning frosts are well and truly back, the poplars have lost their golden autumnal shine, and the quiet of winter is here.

As the chill settles in it’s the perfect time to reflect on this years’ rut. The greys and browns and winter rains couldn’t be more different from the high octane, blood pumping, almost technicolour experience that is April in Australia. It’s a time when legends are born and hearts are broken, and when I think for many of us an inclination for hunting becomes an addiction. 

And this is where we find ourselves in Episode Three of The Huntsman – smack-bang in the middle of the rut (and the roar), and it is most definitely high octane, blood pumping hunting. 

This episode we find ourselves in South Australia. It’s arid country full of sand, sun and mallee scrub, and not exactly the place I would go looking for an ungulate. Yet from the word go, this patch of country is hunting heaven. 

The fellow in charge of this unfamiliar habitat is Nabil Teffaha, who was among the most chatty and gregarious guests I’ve seen yet. Although Chris and Nabil were hunting together for what seemed the first time, they struck up an easy and humorous banter which helped lift the mood and set the tone for a hunt that was just fun. While all hunts can have their fair share of drama, heartbreak, and disastrous weather or terrain, vehicle issues, gear issues, shot placement, pack outs (the list goes on) this one seemed to go down without a hiccup. 

Nabil Teffaha
Nabil Teffaha, Happy Hunting Adventures.

This was definitely helped by the fact that the joint was seemingly crawling with chital, fallow and red stags, with the latter two sounding off throughout the episode. 

For those who haven’t experienced a red stag roar or a fallow buck croak, they’re among the most exhilarating sounds you’ll ever hear. Deep, primal and often shockingly loud, it feels like you’re being shown a window into deep time. Your blood sings and your step quickens and you remember you’re a mammal – at least that’s the way I’ve experienced it. It’s sometimes so awe inspiring that you laugh. 

And that’s exactly what Chris Waters does as he listens to reds and fallow bellowing away in an incredible pre-dawn chorus. Just listening to it had me itching to toss the laptop, leap through the front door and slam into first as I made a beeline for the nearest patch of public land. 

Fallow buck on the run after being spooked.

The start of the episode kicks off in ‘show and tell’ mode – given Chris has somehow found hunting nirvana, it makes sense he share some of that with the audience. We get a better sense of the country we’re in, and are treated to some close calls with fallow bucks.

Soon though we’re in the thick of it, sitting in a patch scrub and practically surrounded by deer. Everywhere the camera points there’s another buck croaking and scraping and harassing what few females hadn’t already made for the exit. While the footage was incredible, it also reminded me of every highschool dance I’d ever been to – a bunch of young men huffing and puffing with, it must be said, often limited success. 

Fallow deer in South Australia, mid croak.

But it would be a mistake to underestimate the force of nature that powers these impressive displays each season. The drive to compete in this genetic ‘Hunger Games’ far outweighs, for example, the drive to eat. Bucks regularly lose up to around 25% of their body weight, and I’ve seen numbers as high as 30%.

With so many deer around it’s clear Chris is spoilt for choice, and he explains this hunt is selective – we’re looking for a big mature male who is ready to pass the baton to the younger generation. But when Chris spies an impressive chital buck bedding into a patch of timber, the focus quickly switches to this much more elusive and highly prized species.

Chris Waters with his Chital stag.

I think we can all agree that deer are beautiful – fallow are pretty, reds are impressive, sambar are beasts, but chital are simply exquisite. This buck in particular is a stonker anyone would be happy to have on their own wall.

A clean shot from less than 40m (I clearly need to start stalking in sandy country) and Chris ticks this animal off the mental list I think we all keep as we search for the next species, next meal, and next outdoor experience. 

Suffice to say with the show delivering the goods, I’m also keeping an eye out for the next episode.

David Barnott-Clement is a hunter, science communicator and conservationist.

You can watch episode 3 from Season 2 below, or check out all of the episodes from season 2 here.

The Huntsman, Episode 3, Season 2.

Watch the Huntsman videos on YouTube

Or search ” The Huntsman “ in YouTube