Hunt for a record deer head.

The 'roar' startled me, I was on a fence line looking down at a patch of rimus and totaras. The noise seemed to be about 50 feet below me, then I saw him or correctly I saw the lower tines and the nose of a stag, the stag had the rest of his antlers in the lower branches of the tree. I couldn't see enough to shoot and then the wind started to swirl. I knew I didn't have much chance of getting this stag ' it had happened to me heaps of times in the past, the wind changes and your stag is gone. This particular stalk had been seeded at least 4 years before when I had been pig hunting this block. I saw a huge stag mark beside a riverbed, the stag had very recently walked over the river boulders, the water that had dripped from him was still damp on the rocks. This area has had huge pressure from goat cullers, 1080 drops and hunters in general. Yet there are still odd pockets of hinds. I have had my own policy of not shooting hinds and spikers if possible in areas where I know good stags frequent for the last 20 odd years. If you are lucky it usually produces results come the roar. My father was a very patient deer stalker which is gradually rubbing off onto me; mind you I have had a bit of practice. I can remember hunting at 5 years old and am now 53 years old. Getting back to the present stalk, I had prepared myself for a possible encounter with a stag. I had waited until nearly dark, cleaned my scope, had my rifle on ' bolt and was waiting for my prey. Everything happened quickly. The stag stepped out from under the tree, rolled his head back and roared. I shot at the middle of his back, he disappeared, and my instant reaction was I had missed him. Lunging to my left to get a better view, reloading as I went there he was wounded but definitely mobile. I shot him in the front shoulder, down he went, up he jumped, and I shot him in the neck which put him down. Running down to the now thrashing stag, I started to panic thinking it was going to get up again, so I put a coup de grat in the back of his swede. All of a sudden everything was silent. Bleeding and gutting this monster I instantly felt the double edged sword which seems to happen when you finally achieve your goal when hunting. Elation that you have got your animal and then regret at shooting such a magnificent beast. At least he didn't die from 1080 poison or helicopter hunting. By now darkness was creeping in, thinking he must be at least a 12 pointer, I started to count the tines. When I got to 11 on one side, I had to sit down beside him thinking this was ridiculous - a 20 pointer, The biggest head I had ever seen was a 16 pointer. My friend, a local Maori named Phil Crown and myself went to National Park and brought back some maire to be carved by the locals, he arrived at my place with a taiaha which he had carved for me from some of the maire. This taiaha will look after your family and bring you good luck he said. Well Phil, I think I have had the good luck! The area where the maire came from is 'Manganui o Te Ao' which is the name I have given to my 20 pointer. I dedicate this trophy to my late brother Matt Dunn who loved everything to do with deer and the outdoors. Thanks to all the old hunters who have taken the time to come and look and share their stories with me. Thanks also to NZDA and D Bruce Banwell.

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© Copyright Steuart Laing 2005




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