The stars have aligned! The crew of Southern Draw has all drawn tags to hunt Sambar Deer on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. For those of you who are not familiar with Sambar deer or St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge for that matter, than let me explain….St. Vincent is a barrier island off the northwest Gulf coast of Florida. It is a 12,300 acre National Wildlife Refuge that many species of wildlife call home. You see, before St. Vincent was a wildlife refuge it was a privately owned island. The early owners were quite the recreational sportsman and introduced exotic wildlife to the island. One very unique species introduced, which still thrives on the Island today, is the Sambar Deer.
Sambar deer are native to Southeast Asia. They are much larger that than the typical whitetail deer but smaller than elk or moose. Adults can range anywhere from 200 to 700 lbs. Their antlers are similar in structure to elk antlers, extending high above their heads. The Sambar prefers the marsh and wetland areas of the island, making it a perfect environment for them to thrive.
Once a year, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) has a special opportunity drawing where hunters get a chance to apply for a Sambar Deer tag using a lottery system. These tags are issued to keep the Sambar population in check. This year we applied as a group and our number was pulled!!! That means all five team members are getting tags for this hunt! Load up the boat; we are heading to St. Vincent for a rugged, three day, primitive weapon adventure. That’s right, I said “BOAT”! How else would you get to an Island?
This will be quiet the adventure and we are planning to capture the whole trip on film. This is not a guided trip either, so don’t get confused. We arrive on the island and set up our primitive camp the day before the hunt starts. There is no running water, no electricity and nowhere to moor a yacht. As if any of us have one to begin with. We are loading up a couple of bay boats with all of our hunting gear, camera equipment, bicycles and plenty of thermacell butane canisters and pads. That wasn’t a typo, we are taking bikes. All the research, and forum posts, I have laid my eyes on say that bikes are a must on this hunt, especially when you are trying to get as far away from the other hunters as possible. Basically we are traveling as light as we all can. My gear setup will look very similar to my backcountry elk preparations, with the exception of the bike. Who knows the bike might frustrate me and spend its day on the boat. Wouldn’t be the first time I walked 15 miles in efforts to arrow an elk.
All in all the Southern Draw crew is excited, especially as early December draws closer. Regardless of the outcome, the whole experience will be an adventure nonetheless. If any of our readers have some knowledge or have ever participated in this hunt, than feel free to shoot us a line with any advice you might like to share. Be sure to stay tuned as this hunt approaches, especially when we storm the beaches of St. Vincent. We will be sure to bring you play by play details as events happen.
Go shoot your bows!
Adam, SD Pro Staff