Mia Anstine reports from New Zealand, where she is currently hunting. We thought you’d like this recent account of the LG’s red stag hunt.
The Little Gal (LG) and I have dreamt of chasing red deer stags for quite a long time. We met a friend a few years back, who happens to be a New Zealand outfitter. Each time we saw him, we’d inundate him with questions. We wanted to know all about the hunt and began formulating a plan. As we learned more we established clarity. We would be chasing stags, with bows, during the roar.
Jason Kidd, of New Zealand Custom Outfitters, was fabulous to work with. Our plan became defined and before we knew it we made the arduous flight to the other side of the world.
New Zealand is comprised of two islands, North Island and South Island. We arrived in Christchurch, loaded our gear into the vehicle and headed a few hours south. After a day of recuperation from the arduous flight, we made our way up the mountains to what would be base camp for the next 5 days.
It can be hit or miss to plan a hunt during a certain phase of an animal’s rutting cycle. Although we truly wanted to hunt during the roar, there were no guarantees. We were happy to learn the beasts had just fired up. Our guide chuckled as he attempted to teach us to roar. We had little understanding because we had never actually heard a real stag.
Our first morning on the mountain deep guttural growls cut through the mist. We’ve heard plenty of bull elk bugle, growl and chuckle. They’re nothing like the sound of a stag roar. Our eyes lit up and the hunt was on.
The deer would emerge from the timber and feed out onto the plains. We slithered and crawled into range to identify a mature stag. Then Jason and LG would cut the distance to bow range. They made the trek just as the wind changed, blowing their scent the wrong direction. They watched, silently, as the alerted animal trotted away.
Another hunt. Another animal located. Another stalk. Skylined in the prairie, the pair of hunters now had to lay on their bellies, moving only when the stag’s antlers turned away from them, inching their way closer. Hank and I watched through the prairie grass from another knoll. LG and Jason found a tall clump of grass to hide behind as they watched a stag.
From our location, we spied another stag. It came from their side. Two-hundred yards away from LG and Jason it moved and we whispered, and wished they could hear us: “To your left. Look left. He’s coming. Draw! Draw!” The great stag was just yards from the pair who had their eyes peeled, looking at another target.
He crested and then LG saw him. It was too late to draw. The stag had them busted. They held their location and Jason let out a hind (female red deer) call. The stag backed off several yards but circled back, looking for the hind. He was still within bow range and LG was ready.
She drew and the large stag came near. His hormones, adrenaline and lust led him forward, looking for the hind. He walked directly toward the LG and Jason. LG sat, holding her bow at full draw.
Hank and I watched from the distance. We again whispered our commentary from afar. “Turn. Turn.”
The great stag never turned. LG held relentlessly as he stood, straight on, at 40 yards for about two minutes. Finally, he turned and trotted off over the hill. LG let down on her bow and sighed, smiling with excited exhaustion.
LG had another 2 or 3 close calls. Each day we hiked several miles up and down the mountains, looking for an opportunity. The weather socked in and temperatures dropped. Fog hung on hills and the roar fell silent. We hunted on.
Wet, cold conditions caused our muscles to stiffen. Finally, on the second to last evening, LG decided to take the rifle. Jason located a herd. LG said, “Let’s go!” and the pair climbed a mountain in hopes of getting a quality animal.
Imagine their excitement when they spotted a quality stag when they crested the top. There, at just 150 yards, sat a gorgeous animal.
He rested as the hinds held watch, keeping their big eyes on alert around their male. Another belly crawl and the 2 hunters finally found a good angle. LG found her shot.
She connected with a monster, realized her dream and made all her hard work come together.
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