13 March 2017
Hunting Fallow Deer in Australia
Fallow deer are one of the most abundant species of deer on the Australian continent and offer incredible hunting opportunities for those looking to break into the sport of deer hunting, or experienced hunters looking to chase a reclusive and wary animal.
Though Fallow deer are abundant, they can seem like ghosts at times in the field and is one of the many reasons hunters enjoy chasing them.
This article is not a substitute for personal hunting experience chasing Fallows, but we hope this article provides a brief guide for those looking for the basics and fundamentals of Fallow deer hunting in Australia.
Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
Fallow deer are found throughout Europe as well as Australia and often in high populations. The Fallow buck is somewhat small when compared to other deer species and has an average weight of 90kg. The Doe is quite a bit smaller with an average weight of 55kg.
The coats on Fallow deer can vary around the world and within Australia. Most fallow deer retain fawn coloring, with white spots surrounded by a light or dark brown coat, while some might have a light to darker brown coat without the spots. Most also contain a black stripe that runs along with backbone.
Fallow bucks have unique antlers compared to other species of deer. While they have normal brow and trez tines, they differ with their beautiful palming along the main beam and guard tines that are similar to moose, though obviously not as large. These antlers make Fallow bucks very prized as trophies.
Fallow deer thrive in grasslands that are broken up by hardwood forests with dense undergrowth, ideal for both food and cover. They mainly feed on grass or new foliage and will also key in on cereals, berries, and nuts.
When not in rut, Fallow deer will group up with other members of the same sex. Sometimes these can be fairly large herds, especially if they are in areas with a large abundance of food, especially around farmland.
Hunting Fallow Deer in Australia
Fallow populations are abundant in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Capital Territory. There are also smaller populations in Western Australia.
Hunting seasons for Fallow deer vary between the states. Some categorize Fallow deer as a feral or pest animals and have a year long season with no bag limit. Other states employ a specific season that usually falls around late February to the beginning of March and extends through most of April for bucks, while antlerless hunting might be extended into May and June. Be sure that you check the restrictions on Fallow deer hunting with the state before heading out.
These dates usually coincide with the Fallow mating season, most often called the rut. The rut often begins around between mid to late March or early April. It's tough to pin down an exact date, but it often coincides with the first big cold spell of the season.
While rifles are allowed, you should stick with calibers such as the .243, .270, .308, and 30-06. Fallow deer are smaller in size, and these calibers are more than enough to bring them down with a well-placed shot. Be sure to check which calibers are legal to hunt Fallow with in certain states before heading out.
.Fallow Deer Hunting Tactics
It is critical that you scout the land that you are planning on hunting. Tracks, bedding areas, scat, and sighting deer are sure ways to know if deer are in the area. Deer need to stay relatively close to sources of food, water, and cover to survive. Look for these three needs, and you will more than likely find Fallow deer.
There are several popular tactics to use when hunting Fallow deer. One of the more popular tactics includes spotting and stalking. This tactic is quite a bit more nuanced and having an experienced guide or friend on the hunt with you can improve your chances for success. The second tactic is to ambush the deer. If you scout and have an idea of their travel lanes, you can setup up a blind or tree stand with clear shooting lanes and wait for the deer.
Regardless of these two tactics, there are several aspects of the hunt you should keep in mind.
You should always try to stay downwind of the animals. Fallow, like any deer, have an excellent sense of smell, and if they catch wind of you, they are going to scatter to the wind. While using some type of scent control is helpful, it does not make you completely invisible. Stay downwind of the deer, and your chances greatly go up.
Fallow deer also have excellent sight, and because they are usually grouped up, several pairs of eyes make it difficult for you to stalk up to close ranges. Be sure you are using camouflage patterns that match the surrounding foliage and break your silhouette as often as possible.
If you are spotting and stalking, do not spot and immediately try to get into position for a shot, especially when you will lose sight of the deer when moving. You will more often than not be spotted, have your scent picked up, or just put yourself in the wrong position.
Hopefully, you have been in the area enough to have a general idea of where they are moving. If not, keep your distance, move slowly, and monitor the deer movements, at least half an hour, to better estimate what the deer are doing and where they might be going. If you don't get the shot this go round, you have learned where these specific deer are coming from and where they are going, and you now have the advantage for the next hunt.
You should hunt early and late when rut is not in progress. These are the prime feeding times during legal hunting hours. If you have done your scouting homework you should be able to catch the deer moving from feeding grounds to bedding grounds. This scenario changes during the rut when the deer are in full breeding mode and leads nicely into our next section dedicated to hunting Fallow deer during the mating period.
Maximize the rut
This tip has several aspects. The first is scouting; Fallow deer movements will differ during the rut than at other times of the year. The important part is to be aware of areas that are holding deer. One of the best ways to determine where bucks are hanging out is to listen for their vocalizations. Fallow bucks will grunt, snort, and call heavily during this period to attract females as well as intimidate other bucks.
During the breeding season, bucks will fight and carve out pieces of territory where they will hope to attract and protect groups of does. Scrapes on the ground that the bucks have made with their hooves, as well as rubs along small trees and shrubs are all signs of Fallow bucks in the area.
Deer calls are the most effective during this period. Bucks become aggressive during this period and if you have areas holding deer, doe bleats will bring in bucks close by during the rut pretty efficiently. In the peak of rut, buck grunts can be just as effective as doe bleats. If any of these calls are used in the area of a dominant buck's territory, he is going to come and check it out.
Doe estrous scents are also effective during this time if used with the correct wind direction. You will find that bucks in rut can become almost oblivious to anything when they think a willing doe is nearby.
Given the range and size of the population of Fallow deer in Australia, they are a great game for beginners looking to hone their hunting skills, great for filling the freezer with meat, and can even prove a worthy adversary for hunters with years of experience under their belt.
We hope this article is a clear and useful starting point for gathering information on hunting Fallow deer and will be something you can build your own experiences off of. Good luck and happy hunting!