I was asked to do a story on summer hunting, but the problem I am faced with as I write is:   WHERE THE HECK IS SUMMER?

Bill McLeod, left and the writer
Bill McLeod, left and the writer

I hope it is just around the corner, because summer can be one of the most rewarding and memorable times of year to hunt. If you have been lucky enough to get out hunting, the freezer should be full of spring meat, so summer hunting is for making memories with friends and family. At this time of year the stags are growing velvet, so it’s a waste shooting a stag for its antlers, and the hinds should have young in tow. But summer weather is (hopefully) just too good to waste by staying at home.

KIDS AND NEWBIES

I recommend using this time of year to get a newbie or the kids into hunting. And while you are at it you can explore new ground, or maybe check out some of those areas you’ve been meaning to look at but never got around to.

Young Mack and Angus McMillan with the fruits of an evening rabbit hunt
Young Mack and Angus McMillan with the fruits of an evening rabbit hunt

Kids love summer hunting and daylight savings can give you a few hours after school to get them out looking for a rabbit or two, turkeys or goats. And hey, hunting doesn’t always have to be with a gun: you could do your bit for the environment by going back to basics and setting snares or traps for possums. Teach the kids how to pluck or skin possums for fun or for a bit of extra pocket money over the summer holidays – even start a bounty on them for a bit of extra incentive.

This summer I will make the most of the long days and teach my kids how to tan possum skins. Do you have a mate who’s been nagging you about tagging along on a hunt but you keep telling him “next time” as you are unsure what he’s like in the bush? Well, now’s the time to take him. Go and scope out some spots for the roar or explore a new area.

I was told years ago by a friend that every time you return to hunt the same, familiar spot that’s one more new place you will never see. Some of the places you never see could offer fantastic hunting.

RIFLE OR BOW

Summer might not always be the most productive time to hunt with newbies, as the forest floor can crunch like cornflakes, but at least you have a better chance of seeing something in the bush than at home. Remember that all it takes is one animal to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to turn what began as you taking your gun for a stroll into a successful hunt.

If you are more the solo kind of hunter, or just want to try something fun and challenging, why not give bow-hunting a try? There is a lot of small game available virtually everywhere and that makes for plenty of practice. Wallabies can be a lot of fun to hunt in summer. They can also be quite a challenge with the bow. If you are a duck shooter, why not talk to some farmers and find a spot to hunt feral pigeons?

Lance Wilde, left, and the writer with a summer deer. Note Barry’s replica flintlock rifle
Lance Wilde, left, and the writer with a summer deer. Note Barry’s replica flintlock rifle

THE BACK COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

Another great thing about summer hunting is the way it builds up the fitness levels up for the autumn and winter, so why not dust off some of those maps and look at the huts a day or two’s walk in? Just do it! Back country huts can be amazing in summer time, especially if you’re also a fisherman. Some of the streams offer amazing dry fly fishing and are nice and remote, so you’ll have them to yourself.

When I’m summer hunting for deer I tend to stay low and walk stream beds or flats in the early morning or evening. In summer I can normally see quite a way and I can often be a bit more quiet than is possible at other times of year when I need to move around more. If you have the patience, find somewhere to hole up and watch for activity on slip faces: a nice east facing slip to capture the morning sun is perfect and hunting them can be very successful.

The writer, left, and Pat Forde with a couple of back country brown trout
The writer, left, and Pat Forde with a couple of back country brown trout

One thing to remember is that the flies are bad at this time of year, so if the hut doesn’t have a meat safe, it might pay to take one yourself. Also, be sure to cool your meat down before carrying it or laying it in a pack. The best way to do this is to hang the carcass in the shade opened up – there are plenty of videos online illustrating how to do this.

One of my best summer hunting-fishing trips was with a group of good friends. W we took the boat down to a lake and we spent a week hunting and fishing and just enjoying the camping life. Food cooked over the fire, brown trout attacking streamers in the shallows and a deer that stood in the wrong place at the wrong time made for one of the most memorable hunting trips I have ever had. Enjoy the summer and get out there because “winter is coming!”