THE SAMBAR HUNTERS 10 MOST ASKED QUESTIONS
Below we have tried to answer 10 of the most commonly asked questions by people who are starting to hunt Victoria’s premier game animal, the Sambar Deer. The answers are fairly short to give you a basic idea of the various subjects. As any seasoned hunter will tell you, each and every time you head into the bush there are new things to be learned about the “Ghosts of the forest”, the only way to do that, is to get out there and hunt!
Q1. What is the best time of year to hunt Sambar Deer, and is there a season or bag limit?
A1. The hunting of Sambar by stalking has no defined closed season, and the hunting with the use of hounds, or scent trailing dogs is also legal, however, hunting with hounds has a few more regulations and restrictions. Check the Game Management Authority for more details (http://www.gma.vic.gov.au/hunting/deer). There is also no defined bag limit, as finding and processing one in the field is generally hard enough. While Sambar deer can be hunted all year round, during the summer months the ground litter in the bush is dry and crunchy and this makes stalking very difficult. However, ambush and hide hunting has proven very successful in feeding grounds or permanent water sources. By far the best time to hunt is during the winter months (Late May to end of September). During this time of the year, the ground is usually wet and stalking is a great deal quieter than during the summer. This allows the hunter to get a lot closer to deer and increases shot opportunities. As many a seasoned Sambar hunter will tell you, being cold, wet, and utterly exhausted is what Sambar hunting is all about!
Q2. Where can I hunt?
A2. While there is a huge range of Sambar in Victoria, and even in South New South Wales now, the areas in which you can legally hunt is limited by a number of things. If you are a stalker, then there is much more range open to you, including some national parks and most state forests. However if you are a hound hunter, then you have to abide by even tighter restriction on where you can hunt legally. These areas change frequently and for the most up to date information please check with the Game Management Authority for maps applicable to the area you wish to hunt in. (http://www.gma.vic.gov.au/hunting/deer/where-to-hunt/deer-hunting-locations/deer-hunting-in-eastern-victoria).
Q3. How big do Sambar stag antlers grow?
A3. Actually, no one really knows. Each year there seem to be more and more Stags taken with antlers well into the 30+” length, so it is reasonable to assume that this would be pretty much what a stag can grow to given the right nutritional circumstances. However, if you consider the entire size of the Sambar range and that the areas hunted makeup only a small part of this, it is a very strong possibility that there could be stags with antler length well beyond the mid 30″ mark.
Q4. What is the best calibre for Sambar deer?
A4. The minimum legal calibre in Victoria for hunting Sambar deer has a minimum diameter of .270 using no less than a 130-grain projectile. Essentially any calibre from this and beyond will do the job given good shot placement. Larger and more powerful cartridges do allow for a bit more room for error, but a bad shot will still result in the wounded game running off and suffering needlessly. With this in mind, it is essential that you are able to shoot the calibre you choose quickly and accurately. If you are scared of the recoil, you will develop a flinch and potentially miss or wound game. A good starting point is the 30-06 Springfield, or 300 Winchester Magnum, once you work out how to get closer, and choose your shots, a 308 Winchester is more than capable.
Q5. What is the best projectile for Sambar?
A5. Projectile choice also plays a large part in making the caliber suitable for use in harvesting Sambar deer. In general terms, most commercial ammunition manufacturers make a suitable loading for Sambar, usually marketed for Elk or Bear in the USA. However, a good quality bonded bullet like the Nosler Accubond, Hornady Interbond or a solid copper expanding bullets like the Swift Sirrocco or Barnes X-Bullet is a pretty safe option when it comes to selecting ammunition. Speak to the gun shop staff for their recommendation on projectile choice in factory or hand loaded cartridges, all our gun shop staff are hunters, with a few passionate deer stalkers!
Q6. Where is the correct spot to place my shot?
A6. Generally speaking, the best shot placement is through the heart and lung region, this will give the most ethical and humane death to the animal, other than a head/ neck shot. If you can try to imagine a grapefruit tied between the shoulders of the animal, about halfway down from the shoulders to the brisket. If you rotate the animal around to the aspect to are looking at it from, try to visualize where that grapefruit would be and work out the angle you need to shoot at to hit it. See the attached diagram for a rough guide. You can see the heart in the center mass of the animal, that’s the grapefruit your aiming for!
Q7. When do Sambar Stags Rut?
A7. Unlike many other deer species around the world, a Sambar Stag can be in a rut at any time of the year. This is almost certainly due to the fact that there can be a hind in season at any time of the year. Remembering that the Sambar is a deer species that originated in India, where it was hunted by Tigers if it’s safe to breed they will. In Australia, there are no natural predators of the Sambar deer so they breed all year round.
Q8. What does a Sambar track look like?
A8. Pretty much like many other twin hoofed animals, a sheep, pig, and goat are very similar in appearance to the untrained eye, but the way in which a Sambar print is laid can tell you a lot about what the animal is doing at any particular time. The only way to work that out is by experience, or by the coaching of a seasoned hunter or guide. See this image for what a Sambar deer print looks like. The cartridge next to the print is a 300WSM for size comparison.
Q9. What does Sambar deer poo look like?
A9. Generally, dark green jelly beans. However, the size, shape, and appearance of the deer bum beans can tell you much about the animal’s size, and how recently they were in the vicinity. When you start to find lots of slimy dark green jelly beans, stop looking for poo and prints and start looking for the deer that made them. Check out the deer poo!
Q10. What does a Stag rub look like?
A10. Sambar stags use rub trees for two main reasons. The first is to strip velvet from their antlers, as deer drop and grow their antlers each year, it’s a good way to track if the area you are hunting has an active stag in the area, to more rubs, the more active the area is. The second is to mark their territory, they do this by both scarrings up the trees, and rubbing their scent against it and generally a “preaching” tree located nearby. See the photo for a pretty good sort of “rub”, as can be seen by the shavings on the ground and the green marks on the tree, this one has seen some recent use. Now get out there and get hunting, a bad day’s hunting is still better than a day at work