Chasing Velvet - Chris Burns

A weekend away with mates has changed for us over the years. When we were fresh out of high school a long weekend would see three or four car loads of us heading on a poorly planned adventure, with little more than a swag, a day or two worth of snacks and maybe a jerry can of back up diesel. Now we need to organise it months in advance to lock everyone down and we’ve got more gear than we really do need. As the trip gets closer more people can’t make it and it ends up a lone car with three blokes in it! This may sound like a negative but it’s far from it. Regardless of who can get there, time spent in nature is far more important than how many people tag along. We should consider ourselves extremely lucky to live in a country where a weekend like this one can occur.

The night prior, our group arrived at almost midnight. The after work night time dash hasn’t changed much, we still do that! Camp was hastily set up and sleep occurred soon after. The morning greeted us with a steep uphill grind to our vantage. The first push of the hunting season was felt heavily in the lungs!

The plan was to get high, glass some openings with vast vistas, enjoy the first hunting day with good mates and find a big old velvet stag cruising around his domain. We glassed the vistas and talked a lot. What the deer were doing was the main topic along with how previous hunts played out from this position & where we would like to explore on the next one.

By mid morning a handful of deer were spotted but with none in an accessible position, we headed back down the rough mountain trail to fish for some stream trout and explore the low creek country.

We located a campsite and started preparing lunch before flicking some flies around. The Lane’s BBQ Q-NAMI rub was perfect for the t-bones cooked on cast iron over coals. The stream fish were rising and relatively easy to entice a take out of however setting the hook proved harder. With a few fish landed we went for a quick reconnaissance hunt to help plan the mornings efforts.

Awaking early to a still morning we roll out of bed and prepared for the hunt. Starting low was the plan and ascend as the temperature rose. Towards the end of our morning stalk we spotted three deer amongst the ferns but none presented an ethical shot before departing out of sight. We stopped for a bush coffee before venturing back to camp. The afternoon was spent fishing for stream trout and inhaling a couple of radix dehydrated meals. The winner for flavour was chilli beef followed closely by rosemary & mint lamb.

Unbeknownst to us, our last day in the bush was to be rather special. We set off up a creek toward where our hunt ended the morning prior. On our previous walkabout, one of us had found a fresh bed of what we believed to be a velvet sambar stag. We discussed how this bed would be used by the big boy and we must’ve only been a few minutes late to catch him. We’d talked it up so much that the myth became more believable with every passing moment.

Danny was leading the stalk and spotted a hind on the opposite face. We weren’t far from camp so we positioned for a shot. The deer meandered up the face and into some thick bush, never to be seen again. As we pressed on, Tommy spotted a deer across the creek, got steady and squeezed off the shot. Danny and I didn’t see the deer but Tom said it had velvet antlers. Tommy waited where he shot from and directed us to where the deer was standing. You wouldn’t believe where the stag was. It was standing in the bed found the day prior.

We searched for a blood trail and found some small specs consistently spaced along the exit route, evidence the deer was running. Eighty metres on the specs became more closely spaced indicating the deer had slowed down to a walk. We found the deer piled up, not fifteen metres further, lifeless after a perfectly placed shot. Even though he is only a spiker, Tommy was stoked to get his first hard velvet deer and the meat will be divine. This animals life & death will be remembered, he didn’t leave this world in vein, we will enjoy the nourishment of his organic meat and thank him with every mouthful.

When we got back to camp we prepared the heart for breakfast. A tradition shared by our hunting crew for the last five or so years. A little bit of seasoning & a hot pan is all you need to make a truly memorable meal.

This hunt stood out for how relaxed the vibe was, no pressure of getting a result, just good old fashioned time in the outdoors. We sometimes make hunting harder than it needs to be but this trip was a perfect way to start our season. We managed to land a couple of trout and bagged some fresh meat off a young deer on the last morning. We ate like kings, laughed a lot, drank too much coffee and reconnected with nature in a way that most people never will. This was the perfect start to the 2022 hunting season!

Get out there an live wild! But before you go, call in to Mansfield hunting & fishing to stock up on all the gear you need!


The Radix meals were great, didn’t use excess water and were very flavoursome. Light in the pack and easy to prepare. The chilli meat was rated best followed by rosemary lamb and then Turkish lamb. All are good though. The only problem… there wasn’t more of them!

The Atlas Wild powder sachets weren’t at all bad. The lemon lime rise was the pick for flavours but the arctic blue is also easy to drink. They are perfect for backcountry hunts where masking the taste of dodgy stream water is required. I personally didn’t get the energy hit that was expected, I’m no scientist but I’m sure all of the ingredients helped in the way they are supposed to.

Gear list:
Hunters Element camo

Hunters Element Jumper/Cap
Hunters Element boots

Hunters Element Game bag

Hunters Element Knife
Tikka T3 lite
Vortex scope & binos
Barebones 28cm cast iron frying pan
Yeti 65 cooler
Yeti go box
Atlas wild
Lanes bbq rub
Wind checker
Garmin rino 750
Norma ammunition
MH&F apparel
Jetboil cutlery set

Blog by: Chris Burns 

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