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Hunting For Hog Deer on Snake Island



Not Your Average Island Getaway...

Hunting Hog Deer in Snake Island, Australia 🇦🇺

It all began with entering my name in the Blond Bay Hog Deer Ballot of 2023. I entered last minute, so I didn’t expect much. However, luck was on my side and when the draw came around, my name made the ballot list for Snake Island! Suddenly, the opportunity of a lifetime became a real possibility. 

Snake Island is well known to most Australian hunters as being the ultimate Hog Deer hunting destination. People have tried for years to obtain the opportunity to access its rich hunting through the GMA-led ballot system, and many simply never get the chance to experience it. It is Victoria’s largest sand island, situated a couple of kilometres offshore from Port Welshpool. This unique bit of land is a sanctuary for several threatened species, pretty cool, right? 

Despite the quantity of animals on the island, hunting on the island can be extremely challenging. Due to the dense vegetation, the ‘spot and stalk’ method is useless. Adopting an ambush strategy is encouraged, especially from high off the ground as the size of these deer makes them difficult to spot in the waist-high tussock. This style of hunting calls for long days sitting still, plagued by mosquitoes and sand flies – but if you can endure this you will be able to observe the abundance of wildlife going about their routine undisturbed. Especially those elusive Hog Deer…

The following weeks were filled with anticipation as I awaited the phone call to inform me of my allocated hunting period. The anticipation was finally released on December 20th when the phone rang and I was told that I’d been given the second hunt period in early March. Woohoo! We’re on! 

I wasted no time on my preparation for the hunt. Between communicating with the other hunters who were allocated the same period and consulting with hunters from previous years, I was able to make my plan and organise my equipment weeks in advance. All I needed to do then was kill time while I waited for the big day.

Thanks to some non-hunting related leisure activities (yes, those do exist!) the time did fly, and before I knew it, it was time to embark on my Island Adventure!

Before setting foot on Snake Island, I was required to attend a mandatory information session where I finally got to meet the 7 other balloted hunters. This took place on Sunday, March 3rd – the day before our hunt was to commence. We were all handed our Hog Deer tags and Park access permits, then got to discussing with one another our final plans for the week ahead. Armed with knowledge and excitement, I embarked on the journey late that afternoon, accompanied by another balloted hunter and a mutual friend – who had been nice enough to allow me a spot on their boat. Battling rough surf conditions and high winds, we navigated our way to camp just before nightfall, ready to begin our quest at dawn the next day.

The first light marked the commencement of the hunt. I left camp eager and optimistic, making my way to an area known as "Long Flat". True to its name, it was open and offered a great field of view. It appeared to be the ideal spot for an ambush, with plenty of feed and adequate cover surrounding it. I staked the area out from 9:30 am until 7 pm, only to find myself surrounded by snacks but devoid of any deer sightings. Undeterred, I resolved to try a different approach the next day.

On Tuesday, I decided to venture to a small waterhole nestled in the southeastern corner of the island. With the help of a campmate, I was transported by boat around to the area, avoiding the excessive on-foot travel and any possibility of disrupting other hunter’s zones.

Shallow waters meant some wading was necessary to make it to shore, but once on the beach I quickly located my access track and started making my way to the planned location. However, I quickly realised I had read the maps wrong and found myself confused as to the whereabouts of the waterhole. Shit! 

Taking a moment to reassess my plan, I realised the contour of the land I was on kept its location well hidden from the track, and I was soon able to find it again. After getting back on track, I settled near the small waterhole, and wildlife began to emerge, signalling the promise of the hunt. Then, in a moment of luck, I spotted a Hog Deer stag amongst the tussock on the dam’s embankment.

Heart pounding, I assessed the situation, I couldn't help but admire the stag's unique antler formation. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I decided to take the shot, marking my first encounter with a Hog Deer. The crack of the rifle echoed through the air and was heard at camp over 3km away. As the stag succumbed to its fate, a mixture of excitement and reverence coursed through me.

With precision and care, I tended to my harvest, ensuring its preservation for inspection at the Port Welshpool Hog Deer checking station.

With the stag placed carefully on the meat shelf of my pack, the journey back to the beach and the boat was a challenging one. Once out of the bush and back on the trail, I was grateful to see my camp mate - who had started to make his way to my location to assist on hearing my gunshots. With each step, I felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the opportunity bestowed upon me.

As I reflect on my Snake Island Hog Deer hunt, I find I am filled with a profound sense of fulfilment and appreciation for the experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and one I am incredibly lucky to have enjoyed. This is only the beginning of my Hog Deer journey.

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