Jonno Butt - HUNT SMART COURSE Success Story #38

Late last year my son Levi was lucky enough to win the Arthur Bentley Memorial Literary Award which is a position on Errol Mason's Hunt Smart Sambar Training Course. Not wanting Levi to gain all that knowledge on his own, I made a call and luckily Errol made a space for me on an already booked out weekend.

My normal hunting mates Paul and Jonno travelled with us and dropped us off and continued on to our regular hunting property - private property near Omeo. We had arranged to meet late on Sunday after Levi and I completed Errol’s course.

Both Levi and I have hunted sambar with some varying level of success, we believed that if we wanted to land a quality trophy we needed to learn more. Errol’s course not only taught us some basic stuff that we have known for so many years, but it also some real tactics that we had no idea about and were keen to get to the bush to try.

We left Errol’s on Sunday night determined to stop wasting our limited holiday time bush walking with a rifle up those hills and getting honked at. Yes - we were determined to put Errol’s tactics to use and improve our success rate.

The course was a great insight into the many years Errol has spent studying sambar and their habits. I must also say our hosts Lynne and Errol made this a great two days. Everything from accommodation, great food and wine and tuition was first class. We wanted for nothing.

On both days of our course we were treated to some great real-life "in the bush" hunting scenarios and were lucky enough to witness up to 12 sambar ? including two stags a spiker and hinds. These deer were unalarmed, within shooting range and gave all the guys on the course some exclusive insight into their behaviour and effective methods for hunting them.

This proved to be so true for my mate Jonno Butts. Jonno has hunted sambar for the past 14 years and the last 6 years hunting with our group. He has walked up a few spikers and 2 small stags but this was to be Jonno’s chance for a long awaited upgrade using some of the tactics picked up on Errol’s course.

We walked into an area that was remote and not hunted by us over the past few days. We set up on some farm fringe with a large gully funnelling out into a regular feeding area. We knew the level of rubs and deer sign in this area was too much for just one stag. As Jonno and I sat quietly waiting we heard a few sticks breaking in the gully floor below us and then a wombat appeared feeding out through the hole in the fence.

Jonno and I were ready to pack up and head back to camp as the light in the bottom of the gully was fading quickly. Thinking we would have an additional 10 to 15 minutes more light if we climbed higher up off the gully floor we did so. Then in low light through my Vixen Artes 8.5x45 binos I saw a calf walk out into the small clearing. I pointed it out to Jonno.

We could then see two deer and finally what we had been hoping for - a big stag. He was very keen on staying with the mature hind who was doing everything she could to protest his advances. We only had about a minute and they were through the hole in the fence and our chance was gone as we could not see past the opening. The light was that low when I called Jonnoo to shoot he couldn’t make out the stag in his scope. I handed him my rifle to try but it was two late - they were through the hole in the fence and into the bush in the paddock to feed for the night.

Thinking our night was over we started to make our way up the gully and back to camp. As we climbed out of the gully we were able to take advantage of better light to scan the next gully. As we looked into the fringes Jonno picked up some movement. We froze and scanned as he walked into a small clearing giving us a look at his head and neck only as the rest of his body was covered by dogwood. The decision was made to take him. I whispered, "Jonno, he’s a good one." With that Jonno fired and the stag disappeared from view. As we didn’t hear him run off we pushed through the dogwood to where he had been standing when Jonno fired and found him dead - killed instantly with a well-placed neck shot. Jonno finally had his upgrade, some ten years in the making.

The next night saw us sitting in the same gully waiting for the big stag that was chasing the hind - the one that Jonno could not see the night before. This time Levi was with me and Paul and Jonno went one gully further over. We headed in around 3:30pm to set up. As the light was fading a few roos fed past but the deer had chosen a spot 600m further around the fringe to enter the feeding area, even though it was a very well worn game trail that had been used continually over a long period and we were using low impact techniques. It seemed that we had disturbed the area enough for the deer to move.

Luckily for us the hind and calf fed out just behind Paul and Jonno’s spot. This time the large stag was spotted by Jonno just standing in the tree line, keeping an eye on his girls but not wanting to enter the clearing while there was a trace of daylight. With the light extremely low by now Paul was unable to get a shot at the stag.

We were off home the following day so this big old guy had made it through. Jonno estimated he was around 28 to 30 inches with big tops and heavy antlers. We were so close but maybe next year. With a little bit more time or luck we had the opportunity to harvest two stags just after completing our course.

We have all now decided that we will no longer waste our precious time trying to walk them up, but armed with knowledge from Errol’s course I will spend my time scouting and planning smarter hunts.

Jonno’s Stag was 25 x 25 x 25.

Thanks Errol and Lynne for a great weekend and much better hunting in the future.

Jonno Butt

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