Virtual Scouting Part II

By: Mark Valenzia

This is a follow up to my previous post on virtual scouting. I had the opportunity for a whirl wind hunt with the focus on gathering some "boots on the ground" information of what I had scouted from my PC.

A Late Start

The ute was packed, maps were printed and the anticipation of getting out and seeing how I’d go was exciting. I’d finally got some time off work and managed to secure a weekend on one of the paid properties I do some work for Jackals Hide. After speaking to the land owner Rod and booking in for a Friday to Sunday hunt I couldn’t wait to make the 3.5 hour drive out. I checked the weather reports and was happy to hear a cold front coming through over the weekend so packed the car with great anticipation of what might lay a head.

After saying goodbye to my little boy and wife, I hit the road a little later than I hoped. I’d planned on getting out to the property late morning to say hi to Rod, and then spend the afternoon scouting some of the identified locations I had on my maps, with the hope of finding sign and setting up my tree stand. Unfortunately getting away late would mean arriving mid afternoon instead of late morning and with the days getting shorter, left little time to make decisions and set up camp.

Out at Jackals Hide

It was an uneventful trip out to Jackals and I ended up arriving around 2:30pm which only left me 2.5 hours of daylight. I had a good chat with Rod on arrival and showed him the maps I had made. After quizzing him on most of my identified locations for stands and bedding areas, I made my way to a rather remote location on the property.

Due to my late arrival I had to choose one location only as the sun was getting low in the sky. I picked a somewhat remote location on the property which held a limited water supply in the way of a dam. I thought this would be my best option as I could set my tree stand up off the dam and wait to see what came in to drink. The drive up held a few step rocky climbs and a number of over grown tracks. This in itself was somewhat comforting, as I knew not many others had been up this way for a while and hunting pressure wouldn’t be as great. The drive up took longer than I expected and after locating the water source I had to find a decent camp site. With limited options I set up camp 300 metres from where I was going to hang my stand.

Camp was set up in no time as I only bought my tarp, hammock and under-quilt and a small camp cook set. After stringing up the tarp and hammock I quickly grabbed my tree stand and screw-in tree steps and made my way to the dam. There were a number of game trails leading there way directly to the dam and plenty of fresh scat around the place. Once reaching the dam I found a small wallow in one area and plenty of pig sign in the green grass patches lining the dam wall.

As this was the first time I had been to this location it was going to be difficult to predict the wind direction but I had 2 possible options. The first was a tree north of the dam with plenty of foliage for coverage, good shooting lanes to the wallow and game trails. The only downside was the tree had a good lean on it and would make it difficult to set up the camera arm. It was also going to be much more difficult to get to in the morning as I’d either have to walk past the dam or circle further down past the dam and cut back in to the stand.

The second option was on the south east side of the dam and again gave good foliage for cover, excellent shooting lanes and wasn’t in the direct path of the rising or setting sun, and was much easier to access the next morning. It was also a large gum with a nice straight trunk and had plenty of room to set up the camera arm and other gear. I started with the first screw in step and I must say these things are cheap but bloody hard work to screw in. It took me about 20 minutes to screw in the 6 self drilling steps and if I had my time again I would have bought my sectional ladder instead. There is a bit of a trade off between the screw in steps and the section ladder I made. The screw in steps are lighter and smaller to pack in, but take longer to set up and you have to drill into the tree. The sectional ladder is set up in 5 minutes but weighs much more and is bulkier to carry in. I think in the future I’m going to look at some Muddy Climbing Sticks as they are lightweight and easy to carry in and I might even attempt to make my own.

With the stand and camera arm set up it was now prime time with last light fast approaching. I hung my bow up on my bow hanger and sat back to see what would come in. The wind was pretty much non existent and there wasn’t much activity except a few roos coming if for a quick drink before taking off for a feed. I waited till well after dark before climbing down and heading back to camp.

Once back at camp it was on to the task of cooking up some dinner and getting ready for the next morning. I used my DIY alcohol stove to boil some water for my instant rice, and while waiting for it to cook I set about sharpening broadheads and readying my kit for the next morning. I finished dinner and packed away all my food and scraps as there were reports of wild dog activity in the area and headed off to the hammock for a good nights rest.

A Day in the Stand

I turned the alarm off without it sounding as I was eager to have some breakfast and get into the stand well before first light. After a quick coffee and some porridge, I picked up my day pack containing all my equipment for the day, my bow and made my way quietly to the stand. Once reaching the stand I strategical tied my camera arm, day pack and bow on my hoist line and climbed into my stand. I have a long hoist line and tying off each item in a certain spot allows me to hoist up my camera arm and fit it, continue hoisting my day pack and hang it and finally hoist up my bow. Each item remains on the ground until the above item is removed and this means I only have to climb the tree once.

Sitting there in the early morning darkness you could hear a pin drop. The was no wind and you could feel the temperature drop as the sun started to poke it’s head up. With a cold front coming in and the temperature as cold as it was I was worried I didn’t have enough warm clothes on to sit here comfortably and how likely were the animals to come in and have a drink?

Both questions were eventual answered through out the day with the first one apparent straight away as I could feel the cold air starting to penetrate my jacket and pants. It was bearable and once the sun’s raise finally filtered through the trees I started to warm up.

The morning sit was uneventful to say the least, I saw only 3 roos and a few birds but I put this down to the swirling wind. Having not hunted this area before and only having weather reports and virtual scouting to go by this was understandable. There were several times I heard crashing off in the distance so the wind was taking it’s toll.

The afternoon session kicked off pretty much the same way and again with the wind changing direction every hour it was starting to get annoying. I should have actually got down from the stand and did some stalking but thought, ‘I’ve been up here this long lets stick it out till dark’. As the sun started to sink below the tree line the cold started to role back in. I got down out of the stand and decided I would remove the set and try a new location on my last morning. Once packed up I headed back to camp and gave my wife a call to report in. Our little boy wasn’t well with a bit of a temperature, and with my wife being 23 weeks along with twins, I felt it best to pack up and head home to help out.

Breaking Camp

Camp only took 15 minutes to pack up and I started my way back out of the property under the cover of darkness. It was a bumpy and sometimes scary ride down off the hill in the dark. I was nearing another location I had identified on my map when out of no where, 6 deer ran directly across the track in front of me. This was somewhat satisfying to see as I’d highlighted this area on my map and had identified 3 possible stand locations. Unfortunately for me, this would mean setting up here next time I get the chance to head back out to Jackals Hide.

I’m still learning the ropes of this virtual scouting stuff, and I’m happy I was able to identify at least one location which held deer. Next time I make my way back out to the property, I’ll be armed with an updated map with the info I gathered and better hopes of seeing and taking deer.

Until next time, happy hunting.

Mark Valenzia

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