It had been a while since the lads had been out on a mission. So, despite the large recent snowfall and a poor weather window, we headed out anyway. Our plan was simple: we would go hunting by motorbike to cut time and spend two nights looking for a mature stag or red hind for the freezer.

Upon arrival at our spot, we were somewhat worried about the amount of snow around – riding motos with 20kg packs in slippery conditions is hard enough, add in 20cm of snow and ice and it becomes a serious challenge. Especially for the likes of me (Gabe) as I have done very little riding. Raz and Thomo boosted ahead of me making good time, while I was not too far behind but racking up the team’s crash tally.

The ride to where we would leave the bikes was a physical three-hour stint. We made it much further than we previously thought we would, saving us a lot of time on our feet. After a quick lunch, we strapped up and started a gradual climb. As it was winter, we assumed the stags would be mobbed up feeding high, the types of places we normally wouldn’t even think twice about. As we walked the history of the area started to unveil itself: we came across some rusty old wheelbarrows and several large mining tunnels that allowed us to navigate through the bluffs. Eventually, we positioned ourselves on a high point to do some glassing.

Quickly we picked up a few pesky goats – not the target species. After another 30 minutes or so we found our first deer. Three, in fact: tasty-looking red hinds grazing on what small foliage poked through the snow. We decided we were gonna have a crack. As we closed the gap from around 700 yards to 300 the wind changed, and they were out of there. Unfortunately, this was to be our final opportunity of the night. We set up camp in an epic old miner’s bivvy and made plans for the following day.

The next morning, we woke early so we could get to a glassing spot on first light but were quickly faced with an issue. None of us could get our feet into our boots as they had all frozen solid – yes, we slept with our boots under our sleeping bags, but it was so bloody cold that it didn’t help. We managed to thaw them out around 45 minutes later and set out. The morning brought a promising number of stags through, all in solid mobs, however, none were even close to maturity. We made a stalk on one animal that showed some of the characteristics we were looking for but quickly realized we were mistaken when we got closer.

As the morning drew to an end, no more stags were picked up and the animals had bedded for the arvo. We mished back to the tents to re-fuel and prepare for the evening hunt.

We decided to head down the valley in search of a meat animal. The evening started slowly with only a few goats moving around. Then, just as we crested the final ridge of the night, we spotted another mob of young stags. We watched these awesome animals go about their business for a while until Raz let out an urgent whisper, “Hinds! Just here, close as! Lo and behold, there was a mob of four perfect candidates grazing 150 metres away, completely unaware of our presence. We sorted out the camera gear and Raz let loose with his rifle. He smoked the first one and thought, why not grab another, and so he did – with perfect precision.

The recovery was simple and 10 minutes later we had a hind and a yearling prepped for the butchery. The three of us carried as much meat as we possibly could back to the tents for a much-needed rest.

The next day was no easy feat. We had to get around 45kg of venison, ourselves, and all our hunting gear back to the bikes and then ride the 16 kilometres back to the car in blasting snow and rain. The whole process took us around 5 hours with plenty of falls for all.

This really was an epic mission and a great reminder that you can always have a bit of fun in challenging conditions.