We all want the perfect outcome in hunting yet few of us give attention to proper preparation for the hunt.  Success is largely determined by planning and preparation.  Yes, hunting is about the whole experience, but giving yourself the best chance of a good shot is proper for the animal, our sole and the budget.  My preparation for an upcoming red deer hunt in Deliblatska Peščara, Serbia.

Blaser is my choice of serial rifle … choosing the barrel is part of my preparation.

About the hunting area. Deliblatska Peščara is a large sand area stepped in grassland plains and forests. Once a vast prehistoric desert which originated from the withdrawal of the Pannonian Sea, it is now home to many endemic species of plants and animals which are rare or endangered.  It is the largest sandy terrain in Europe.

Choosing the most appropriate caliber from what you own.  I asked about the shooting distances and the terrain. Shooting distances could vary from 50-300m, but most likely in the range of 200 meters plus. I always default on larger calibers although the trend is to lighter calibers; the theory is that you achieve better shot placement with lighter recoiling calibers.

Shoot big guns and discover that recoil is more mental anticipation than real.

Here is why I go bigger.  I am an average shooter due to older eyes and not enough trigger time.  Recoil is much less a factor in my shooting ability.  Bigger is more effective than smaller for the same shot placement. I accept that a shot in the vitals with any caliber will do the job, but I have enough experience and self reflection to know that the perfect shot (many variables) is not a given.

Man or mouse?

I planed on using my 338 Blaser Magnum for longer shooting ranges and down range energy, but the delay in the export permit for the ammunition means contingency PLAN B. In Slovenia any firearm permit takes a maximum of 5 working days. No more of that because I get frustrated and pissed off every time I think of the process in SA.

LRF binoculars are always a given … no preparation thought needed.

Referring to my 9.3×62 using Balistix 230 grain UltraHunt bullets as PLAN B is not fair to this great round, but I prefer this caliber for shooting distances of up to 200m (maybe 250m). The velocity of my current load averages 2660 fps.  Accuracy tested out to 200m is 1 MOA. BUT having recently acquired QuickLoad I discovered that pressures are in the RED zone (no pressure signs on the primer or from extraction) and the velocity is not on a “theoretical” node.

I use QuickLoad to get to optimum barrel time.

I have been reloading for over 40 years yet I keep finding out new stuff; not sure if that means I was doing a shit job all these years, or I am a slow learner (probably both), but with new data and new tools I find myself keep wanting to try new stuff. My plan is to load and test at a velocity average of 2583 (node).

New tools, evolution in reloading equipment is no different to other new product development.  

If I have the time I will shoot the new load out to 200m (limited ranges in Europe > 100m) otherwise I will rely on a ballistics application given a bullet drop of 20cm expected at 200m and dropping fast after that.  If I had more practice time I would not use a ballistic turret (hold-over is quicker), but until then I will use the Kahles ballistic turret.

My favorite hunting optic is no-longer produced by Kahles (Helia 5  1.6-8 x 42).  No money will get this scope off me and believe me you I can do with some of that. I have been trying to get my hands on this model in the steel edition which they stopped after a limited production (too high a cost).  Owners of the steel edition hold onto their scope; no amount of begging and pleading has got me one.

Whatever caliber I finally get to use it will have a Kahles Helia scope.

Many hunters spend the majority of their time proving their gear over a bench.  We all love to shoot 0.5 MOA groups but for hunting it is better to spend time practicing from expected hunting positions.  My quest for perfection in reloading gets me shooting more off the bench (testing loads), but I am aware of this shortcoming.  My success in the field is less related to marksman competence (which is average), but rather in my preparation for the hunt.

Time to get off the bench and to practice over shooting sticks.

Selecting shooting sticks for the hunt. Jakele are the most stable shooting sticks I have used.  I have confidence to shoot 300-400m off these sticks.  The fastest shooting sticks to get ready on is my Javelin tripod with the length preset, but I don’t like to take shots over 200m with the Javelin UNLESS I find a position that stabilizes the back elbow. I have thought long and hard about which shooting sticks to take. A bad decision would be to take both.

My daughter in training off the javelin tripod.

Hunting in the rut period means the stag deer will be in a grouping of female deer. The hunt will be challenging, many eyes and noses will be on the lookout. One snort and the group will be gone.  Choosing between the Jakele sticks and the Javelin tripod was difficult because the shot is likely to be far and quick. That is until I removed the fog with one overriding criteria – how to be sure of my shot?  Jakele shooting sticks.

Focused on practicing with the Jakele shooting sticks to increase my speed of using them.

Why travel to Serbia to hunt Red deer?  For me hunting is all about good company and new experiences. Combining this with the opportunity of my first Red deer stag is something I am looking forward to and good reason to invest in preparation.  After my Mouflon hunt on Dugi Otok island in Croatia I realized that filling your life with adventures was more meaningful than “things” and having stuff to tell was more important than having stuff to show.

Memories from Dugi Otok Island, Croatia.

Packing clothing for the hunt is easy because I choose layers.  The advantage of layers is that you can quickly adapt to conditions by taking off or adding layers. Good clothing is never compromised in Europe.  I choose lightweight clothing that is stretchy and quick dry. I always pack the smaller stuff well in advance because these tend to get left behind (hat/mohair socks/gloves).

They don’t come any better,  technical tracker pants from www.alles-mooi.com  (green for hunters)

The world can learn a lot from Europeans about outdoor and hunting clothing.  Similarly the world is going to learn a lot about mohair socks from South Africa.  Mohair socks have so many important benefits and features that I am dumbfounded that they were until now largely unknown, especially given the extreme outdoor conditions in Europe.

Technical Tracker mohair socks from www.alles-mooi.com

No hunt is complete without good food and drinks.  The habit in Europe, especially in winter, is a “snaps” early on.  Everyone has their own reason for a snaps … always a medicinal twist. We hunt where the local hunter and his family cook local cuisine, but we plan “padkos” for the long road. Travel time to Deliblatska Peščara will be 6-7 hours.

Fitness is an important part of life and any hunt.  I have established that we will walk for hours, waking at 4 am each morning.  The territory is sandy and I am told that the vegetation will remind me of Africa.  Fitness does not have to be that Virgin Active stuff;  every Slovene walks in the mountains and this is perfect exercise for mind and body. I am not spoiling this hunt with heavy breathing in the moment of truth.


At every hunt we test a new item of gear.  We test only one item in order to limit the variables.  Better to have 1 bird in the hand than 2 in the bush . Time to get on with the 3 P’s … planning, preparation and practice.

One bird in the hand is better than two birds in the bush.