Big Country Little Time,
It was that time of year again, time to start planning our 2014 roar trip. Micheal Standish-White and I had been throwing around a few good options for big stag locations but a spanner would get thrown in the works every time and our grand plans were dashed due to work commitments. We spent any spare moment studying maps so when the time arose where we could get away for a crack at some good stags, we were ready for action.
Using Mikeys knowledge of an area in North Canterbury we hatched a plan to head up to the tops and hunt a nice looking catchment with some other back up options available. With both of our bosses being good buggers we managed to get a couple of days off in late March. As the trip drew closer I found myself checking the weather forecast every spare minute I had, with fingers crossed for a fine crisp couple of days. It was one of those sleepless nights before we set off where all I could think about was getting up to the tops and hearing some big stags roar. I couldn’t wait to get into the thick of it and with the forecast looking perfect we were pumped, so a bit of sleep deprivation didn’t worry us. It was pretty easy going getting up to this catchment and we found ourselves at a good vantage point glassing for the illusive red stag by mid-afternoon.
It was a calm, crisp afternoon so we were expecting to hear some big boys going for it amongst the brown tussock grass. After a mere 10 minutes of glassing the first animals were seen. Tucked up in a tight rocky gut keeping out of the Canterbury sun stood four animals, a scrubby stag and 3 hinds. Even though he wasn’t a big lad it was enough to get us pumped up with anticipation, as this was a sign that we had picked a catchment that was holding animals. A few more scrubby stags were spotted over the next hour and a half of glassing, when down in a creek about a 1000m away we heard our first roar! “You beauty, we’re on the money here”, Mikey whispered. Over the next hour the stag piped up several more times and our eyeballs were glued to the binos furiously scanning the suspected direction but we couldn’t pick up where he was bedding down. The sun was now roasting us and the stag was obviously staying out of it under cover. We carried on glassing this catchment hoping to pick up something else and another hour went by with no sign of any more animals. With the temperature increasing the original stag shut up shop for the afternoon and we were out of luck, well so we thought.
It was around 4:30 pm and we’d had a feed and taking some footage of some hinds when suddenly we heard another stag let go a roar and it sounded like he was almost directly below us. I looked down and there stood a grunty stag that, with the naked eye, looked to have some big timber. “There’s one”, I whispered, quickly grabbing the binos to assess his potential. It didn’t take long to realize that he WAS a shooter and we quickly ranged him at 386 yards, it couldn’t have worked out any better. The shot still had to be made and it was a steep downhill angle so it was by no means a sure thing.
After some footage was gathered of the big lad Mikey set up for the shot. It was one of those low stress shots as the animal had not seen us and he was happy just basking in the sun looking for some hinds so there was plenty of time to get set up. Mikey let rip a perfect shot placed right on the shoulder, the stag sucked up the 270 WSM and staggered about 15 meters into a gut and he was down. We didn’t bother being quiet anymore and let rip a few yells, as what looked like a good animal was on the deck on the first day of our hunt!
Slinging our packs back on the shoulders we made our way down to the stag. He sure was as good as he looked on the hoof, a nice wide 10 pointer, so Mike was pumped. Once the photos and the butchering were out of the way we made our way up a couple hundred meters to a flat terrace with a nice wallow on it and made it our camp site for night. With a few hours of day light left and camp all set up, both of us grabbed some light gear and set off to another vantage point to glass down the valley with hopes of me bagging a good animal as well to top off a perfect day. This was turning out to be a productive area as within five minutes I spotted four animals up in a gut approximately 1.5km away. These deer were all very hard to pick out but we were sure one was a stag and it looked like a big bodied animal too. It was a long way and with light fading we had to make a quick call as to whether we would go after him or not. Another two closer stags were spotted but they were young so we left them be, but we still weren’t able to get a good look at the stag further down the valley. I was really keen to check him out while Mike stayed behind at a vantage point and kept in coms on the radios. With around an hour and a half of day light remaining I had my work cut out to reach him in time, so I cranked up the pace and cut the distance.
As I made my way over a gnarly wee climb I spotted 3 hinds about 300m away so I sat and waited until the stag finally came into view. To my disappointment he was only a scrubby young stag and not worth a shot. Now there was only 30 minutes light left, I was hungry and had a long way to hike back to camp. Mike and I made it back to the tents well after dark and devoured a decent feed before pitting up for a good night’s sleep. Waking up to a fine clear morning we were both keen to see what the day would bring and hopefully we could get onto another good stag. Camp was packed up before day break and with our packs left behind we took lite gear to another vantage point to check out some new ground for our last day of hunting. With us wandering around near this area the previous day, it’s possible that the animals had spooked and we heard no roars and saw no deer after hours and hours of glassing. Eventually Mike picked up 3 Chamois bedded down over on a nice sunny face and I was keen to get a bit chamois meat for the freezer. We grabbed our packs and closed the distance to the chamois. I stalked in the final few hundred meters while Mike stayed back and kept an eye on the sunny face. I took out a young chamois and was half way through butchering when the radio piped up, “I’ve spotted a shooter” said Mike. “You ripper!” I replied and Mike relayed the details of the stag’s whereabouts. Quickly finishing the butchering of the chamois, I scoped out a good route and climbed up to find a point where I could get a look at this stag. Within an hour I crested the spur and searched through the binoculars in the direction Mike had told me.
I soon found him tucked up in the high tussocks a under a sheer cliff face. He was definitely a great looking stag with plenty of tines and good length so I got into a position to take the shot. Suddenly I heard the last noise you want to hear when lined up on a big stag! A 44 helicopter came flying over the ridge and the stag immediately started to bolt. I fired a shot on the moving target, luckily making decent contact and with much relief I saw the stag go down. Mike was straight on the radio recounting the events about the crazy timing of that chopper to fly over. The stag stayed down and I made my way over to find a good 10 pointer with long thick tines. Photos and butchery done, I loaded up a massive haul of meat and antlers and sidled back along a tussock face for about an hour to get back around to Mike. We got the last of our food down the hatch and with the heads strapped to our heavy packs we made our way down off the saddle towards the truck. After negotiating a few nasty sections we got down in around 4 hours which made for another big day on the hill. With 2 decent heads, packs full of meat and some good yarns to tell it was a bloody good short trip. It just shows what you can achieve in a couple of days and it has left us plenty of options to think about for the 2015 roar, bring it on!