Fallow Deer, New Zealand
by Pam Metcalf, SCI Lansing Chapter Member, and avid hunter
An animal of a lifetime, a hunt of a lifetime, an experience of a lifetime.
Passports, check; 3 suitcases, check; Bow, arrows, hunting gear; check, check and check. So where are we off to? Spring Break! New Zealand style. No swimsuit or sunblock required. New Zealand will have a cool moist climate. However, the Stags should be in full roar. Thus, our quick trip during spring break. A Family trip promising to be memorable, as Daughter (5yr old) is on her first international excursion. Husband, Brian is also looking forward to a great trip with Roaring Stag dreams.
Ideally, we like to schedule 2-3 weeks for a big trip, especially of this magnitude; we really look forward to and enjoy new environments and take in all the sites and sounds. After all, it is a big part of the whole experience. However, that was not possible this time if we wanted to witness first hand, the tremendous Roar of the Red Stags. We had heard it was something spectacular to hear these magnificent animals first hand. So off we went on a long flight for an experience of a lifetime.
This trip started out super smooth
As with many trips, as much as we plan ahead there are always unplanned hiccups. This trip started out super smooth. The long flight was very comfortable as we were in Business class with lazy boy recliners, or so it seemed. As our daughter recalls, a full lay down bed, pillow included, not that she slept much as there was a video screen she took full advantage of and watched the lion king until she could recite every scene. Brian and I were quite comfortable as well. Upon arrival, we were welcomed with a lost day as we traveled. At least the return trip would recover the “lost” day.
The First Day
The first day/night was spent in Auckland, the largest city on the north island of New Zealand, as tourists. We did our best to stay active and acclimate to our new time zone. Much to our surprise, it was quite easy, there were many things to see and experience in this beautiful port city. We even took in the views from the Sky Tower. A booming:1076 feet high telecommunications tower with multiple observatories, a restaurant, and cafes, built by Craig Craig Moller Ltd.. We walked the impressive glass catwalk 610 ft. And then took a break for ice cream in the cafe, as we viewed in the city from 620ft. All in all very impressive.
As morning broke the following day, we looked forward to our hunting adventure. We were greeted by our transport car; highly recommended by the way, as they drove on the other side of the road, we traveled along the winding road to our Hunting chateau for only 2 hours, with great anticipation, there were many mountain and ocean views to soak in along the way. Our driver, Laura, was more than expected, she shared facts about the island as we traveled. Finally, we arrived at the Hunting lodge, greeted by our host Mort Moon. We quickly transferred our belongings to another vehicle, and off we went to the lodge on the beautiful private game hunting estate.
We were greeted by a lovely woman, Mel Moon, our hostess and she quickly settled us into our private rooms. Our daughter had her own space as well. We would be the only group in the lodge. Before we could relax, we were whisked away on a tour of the property. An impressive 250,000 acres of wild free-range hunting land, Kuranui traverses the rolling foothills of the Mamaku Range in the North Island. As the afternoon sun faded we quickly fell in love with this new territory. And as night fell we heard the amazing, unforgettable ROAR of the Red Stag. An impressive, load call to all those near. Truly an unforgettable sound, to be heard the next 5 days and nights. We were in heaven for sure, very impressive, exciting, and impressive. Our trip of a lifetime!
Calling the Stag
Monday started out on foot as we traversed the new land with a gentle stroll from the lodge in search of a Red Stag/Fallow Deer. Brian was after the Stag and I was on the hunt for a Fallow Deer. Our first sighting was a Stag, or should I say we heard him calling loud and proud, as best we could tell he was worth a look. As we continued walking, anticipating each turn to produce the impressive yet very vocal Stag.
Then, out of the brush, was an impressive, Roaring Stag, with a tag in his ear. Several years previous the local Conservation officers tagged several Red Stag to track their genetics. This Silver class Stag would be known as the “tagged” Stag. He was Roaring, racking the bushes, and tearing up the trees. All an impressive first encounter of a glorious Stag. Brian chose to pass, after all, it’s day one. (I liked this Stag, by the way)
On we go, watching and listening to numerous Stags and encountering several gold class Red Stags. However, we are also on the hunt for a good Fallow Deer, preferably within Bow Range as I am toting a Mathews Bow. There are many animals along the way, but when we see two Fallow Deer fighting in an opening it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up. So off I go with guide Mort to see if we can get close. Brian to stand guard and watch from a distance.
As we get close to the Fallow Deer, they scurry away. No worries, Mort has a plan, he will circle around and push them back to the opening. He disappears into the thick bush and I pick a tree with brushes to hide within. As I wait in anticipation, I hear Red Stags roaring, sending my heart rate to a new level. Then as I am listening intently, I hear the bushes rustle, and an impressive chocolate Fallow Deer appears in the trees. He quickly passes into the opening, facing away from me at 50 yards. Just out of my comfort zone, with no shot. Darn! He scampers off without a shot. But what an encounter, my heart still pounding as Mort appears from the trees.
Continuing on our walk, we encounter many more Roaring Stags. We take a lunch break upon a hillside where we can see these Red Stags and hear them Roaring. As we sit and enjoy the moment we encounter several good stags. Some worth tracking and others that need a few more years. As we sit on the hillside upon our lookout, we can’t help but be impressed with the number of Red Stags. They are so impressive and majestic, how lucky are we to be experiencing this first hand. We continue on our journey through the Preserve. Encountering many Gold plus Red Stag before night’s end.
We have our first animal on the ground.
On the return trip to the lodge, Mort spots a Rag Horn Red Stag. These Rag Horns are known for tussling with the adult Red Stags and on occasion, fatally wounding them. Mort looks at me and asks “would you like to take this one”? to remove him from the population. He turns to me and asks “would like to take this one as a favor to the ranch?” I surveyed the situation, range the small stag, and respond “sure”. I pick my spot and release an arrow with my Mathews. SMACK, right on target. The young Stag runs a few yards and lays down. We have our first animal on the ground. And have saved several larger Stags.
The night brings numerous Roars of the Red Stag. As morning approaches we have great expectations of the day ahead. We begin the same as the day before, walking from the lodge. We hear multiple Red Stag and Fallow Deer vocalizations. As we traverse the now wet terrain and hills we come upon the tagged Stag from the previous day enjoying a mud wallow. Brian is up, and he really likes this Stag. The Stag is unaware of our presence, we sit and take it all in waiting patiently. Brian, always keeping a watchful eye through the Leopold scope atop his Sako 7MM.
At last, the Stag exits the wallow and to our surprise, struts toward our position with his impressive muscle-bound body supporting the massive impressive antlers. This is the moment dreams are made of, Brian brings the majestic animal into sight. Settles his breathing, and then BANG! As the sound echoes through the Hills, Mort and I watch intently, we are sure the Stag is hit. A few minutes later, down goes a dream of a lifetime, a stunning RED STAG on the ground! We congratulate Brian on a successful hunt and honor the Stag with a fern in its mouth. A custom of honoring the last meal of the fallen animal.
A quick trip to fetch the tractor and the Stag is positioned for pictures. In short order, we were back in the hill country on the hunt for an equally impressive Fallow Deer. To no avail, we come up empty, despite an attempt to stalk a nice Fallow feeding on the hillside. No worries, we have stories to share about the day. As the sun begins to fade we retreat to the chateau for the evening. Still, the Roar continues long into the night. We rest knowing that there are more days to come for the Fallow Deer hunt.
Another morning, Brian, having his Stag, planned to fish with our daughter.
I on the other hand will hunt, one on one with Mort for the elusive Fallow Deer. We are hopeful, there are lots of deer on the property we just have to find one and get close. Mort’s strategy is to start out on foot behind the chateau in hopes to catch a Fallow Deer warming itself by the morning sun. Not an easy task as we need the deer to be within 45 yards. As we walk we spot a nice chocolate, Fallow Buck, resting on a flat. However, he is on a hillside, several hundred yards away. To reach him and reposition downwind, we must go 100 yards uphill, cross 100 yds on the hillside, then back down 100yds to approach from downwind.
Mort and I start our climb up through the thick steep terrain. Finally, after 35 minutes we pause to glass the hill. Our target deer is still in place, now to walk quietly above the deer for another 30 minutes. As we climb up, then search for the marker, a tree, we start to cautiously return down the hillside. Mort stops me; I have a camouflage mesh face mask and fern camo from head to toe. Mort insists I go alone, he can watch from the top. I start my descent staying out of the deer’s view and in the shadows of the scraggly trees. I spot the flat, carefully peaking over the scrubs only to find the deer has moved. Where was he? I glance back up the hill to Mort. He is out of sight as well.
Spotted Brown Fallow Deer
As I sit and contemplate my next move, I spot an exceptional Spotted Brown Fallow Deer working his way up the hillside. I hold my position, range the bushes around me, and wait. Waiting, waiting, then finally he approaches from the lower left. If he comes in front of a small group of trees, he will be 30 yds. If behind the trees 35yds. I draw my bow and wait, seeming like an eternity. I even use my knee to aid in holding the full draw. Then, the Buck turns and heads uphill, right into my crosshairs.
Without a second thought, I find the vitals through the peep sight, align the 30 yd pin, steady my breathing, and touch off the release…. Smack, I hear the arrow make contact with The Fallow Deer. He spins, heading downhill, disappearing across the hill below. I pick him up as he stops short of a deep thick ravine below and lays down, obviously injured. This confirms my shot connected with the Deer. Scanning with my binoculars, I spot the exit wound, my arrow still visible, as the fletching has held the arrow from a complete pass through. Definite confirming sign from the opposite side of the deer.
Mort rushed down the hill with great excitement. He heard the shot and caught a glimpse of the Buck. He and I sit and wait, as any hunter knows this is the hardest part especially of archery. Mort is not experienced with archery, admittedly he is used to quick follow-up shots with a gun. He wants to start tracking the Deer sooner than later. I caution him, and we wait a ½ hour before leaving the hill. Incredibly the animal has now disappeared into the ravine.
A quick walk down the hill, and straight to the blood trail. Expecting to find the deer in the ravine we enter cautiously, following the blood trail. Only to find the deer has found its second wind and has left the ravine. The only option now is to back off and survey the situation. As we discuss our next move the Deer scampers across an open field and labors through the tall grass. We wait once again. We split up and stand guard in two locations. Mine is streamside in hopes that the deer will look for water. Mort follows the deer’s trail through the tall grass. If you hunt long enough, it is inevitable that this scenario is likely a reality. A fatally wounded animal has super strength, becoming ghostlike. I keep the faith, watching intently as I scan up the hill and then towards the stream and trees. Minutes seem like hours and then…….
A YELP and a YaHoo. Mort! , I scamper quickly in his direction, my heart beating out of my chest, I can hardly move fast enough, clearing the stream in two bounds. I round a block of trees to spot Mort and a smile beaming from under his mustache. I increase my tempo to a jog but now I’m scanning the grass. I first catch the antlers above the fern, then the full spotted brown body; an incredible Fallow Deer at rest in the New Zealand ferns. I stand over the deer taking it all in when I am overcome with a multitude of indescribable emotions. I have just harvested a beautiful New Zealand Fallow Deer.
A quick call to the lodge and Mel (Mort’s wife and hostess) arrives with the tractor and trailer to gather my harvest. Once back at the lodge, we begin the skinning process. As the morning has now turned to afternoon. The sun is heating up quickly, we need to get the hide off and preserve the meat in the cooler. I can only think, as I am watching Mort work his magic removing the hide, this was so very surreal. All the previous days spent practicing with the bow. Working on the many distances, planning and preparing for this very moment. I was also anxiously awaiting my family’s return from fishing to enjoy the moment with me.
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