Comments 0 | Posted by: Global Administrator,
It is the end of day 2 at Poronui Ranch, and our group of talented bow hunters already have 2 out of 3 Red Stags down, and very respectable stags at that. This is truly an amazing feat. Bow hunting is hard enough on average game, and these animals are very wary. The incredible habitat and expert guides make the hunt possible for a bow hunter, and the quantity and quality of the animals is exceptional. With only myself left to tag out and 3 full days to hunt, we decide to hunt for a trophy stag that is not only unique, but scores higher than Stephen's and Aaron's for bragging rights. Here is a photo of Aaron with his red stag measuring SCI 348:
And here is a photo of Stephen's red stag measuring SCI 365.
Two days of scouting, stalking and listening to the roar has given us a great idea on the times, places and movements of these majestic animals and we waste no time making a new ground blind in a promising, high traffic area. My father ( camera man) and guide Mark, help set up our ambush on a group of deer with world class racks, each unique in their own ways - anything from lots of mass and points to long main beams and drop tines. Poronui is loaded with trophy class animals.
We make our way to our ground blind on the afternoon of day 3 with warm sunny weather and a perfect wind, ready to sit for hours if necessary for a hopeful 20-40 yard bow shot on a monster stag. Due to warm weather, our guide Mark is the first to take advantage of the peace and quiet of the outdoors by lying in the green grass and catching a catnap while waiting for that well known "dusk prime time". My father and I follow shortly after, slowly dozing off in the breezy sunlight.
We are all familiar with the saying "good things happen when you least expect them" and that is exactly true! 45 minutes into our hunt/nap, out of the draw behind our blind, comes a roar, followed by another and yet another. "Here we go!" says my father and Mark as I grab my bow and turn on all three of the GoPro cameras capturing different angles of the encounter. Within a few very short minutes there stands a young Stag, 15 yards away, appearing suddenly from the dense forrest! My guide Mark quickly whispers he is too young and not to shoot. My heart is pounding through my chest with adrenaline as the stag walks by and we all look at each other in disbelief that our blind placement was working so well. The closeness of the encounter shakes my composure.
Suddenly, another roar rips through the trees! With only enough time to clip my release back onto my 70# Mathews Z7Xtreme, Mark is now saying "Shoot Him Shoot Him ", while I am still unaware of what or where he is talking about. Then over my left shoulder, less than 12 yards away is a huge stag walking towards me! Instinct kicks in as my guide keeps whispering for me to shoot. I draw my bow and Mark roars for the stag to stop. WHACK! goes my Rage extreme broadhead into the chest of the massive animal that was now less than 10 yards away coming right towards me! It was done ! I had just stuck "The Long Boy" as the guides who had spotted him on occasion before had named him. My dad is right there next to me recording the event.
Any seasoned bow hunter will confirm that the moment after a quick shot brings extreme excitement followed by extreme doubt. Did I get good penetration? Was my arrow placement correct and will it be fatal? Should I have waited for him to take another step? Along with a million other questions, all of which were quickly answered by a review of the incredible HD quality video was father had successfully taken.
The verdict is in. The shot was high but appears to have the penetration needed to do the job. With still some doubt in mind, the waiting game starts. 5-10-15-20 minutes go by and, with great anticipation, we slowly start to creep down the trail the stag took after receiving the 100 grain rage. We find blood at the point of impact, followed by the back half of my arrow soaked in blood. Everything looks great as we creep down the trail, ensuring the wind is in our face and listening very carefully so as not to jump or push a wounded animal.
A bow hunter’s worst nightmare eventually becomes reality as it is obvious the wound is starting to clot and blood becomes more and more difficult to find, extending sometimes to 50-75 yards between spots. Past blood trailing experience tell us the animal is most likely to take a familiar trail of least resistance after traveling such a great distance, almost 600 yards now, and this knowledge helps us pick up the trail again and again. The animal appears to be heading to a well known water hole along with a thick patch of pines where he had been seen before. It has now been 3 hours since the shot and getting dark. The blood has been lost and we have been joined by my brother-in-law Aaron and friend Stephen. With no more blood and no animal in sight, I am heart broken and wishing I could take back the shot and aim inches lower. After a quick search through the pines with no luck, we make our way back to camp for dinner and to collect our thoughts for the morning plan on tracking the animal.
After a long sleepless night, morning finally comes and to my surprise every guide and tagged out hunter at the property has come together to help me find my trophy. The group of 8 of family, friends, guides and fellow hunters split up throughout the area this particular stag has been known to frequent, anything from bedding areas to his summer velvet hangout. We jump many stags with similar characteristics as mine, bringing short lived bursts of excitement and adrenaline. Each time the static filled two way radio comes on followed by a "never mind mate, he was big but he was not our boy" and I sink a little more inside. I will have to say that the constant effort to check the same areas over and over by the guides and their diligent searching in new areas made me feel very hopeful. My father repeating "nobody knows these animals habits better than these guides" actually seemed to help also.
Lunch has come and gone yet again and the sun creeps towards the horizon as we overlook a large valley that the stag frequented during the summer. As we glass the valleys and hillsides the stags begin to roar for the afternoon, one after another after another. The hills are alive with animals and I think one just has to be mine. By this time our guide has burned through a full tank of gas in first gear, driving the high roads and glassing the valleys. It has been an exhausting day, and my hopes are starting to fade. I am standing in the back of the truck as we creep along a road on the edge of a huge canyon. Something catches the corner of my eye, and I look down the draw to my left. There, standing in the sunlight 150 yards below the truck, is a huge stag with his head hanging low. I quickly tap the truck cab asking Mark to stop as I jump out of the moving truck, running back to get another view at the animal.
At first glance I get the same image I have had in my head for the last 27 hours, the very stag I shot the day before, still alive and a second chance to redeem myself! A quick look from my guide, my father and Stephen all confirm that it's my stag. A quick decision had to be made. The stag is facing us and the wind is in his face. Wounded and weak, the potential for a bow finish is there but risky due to the 20 ft drop behind him into a dense draw and the risk of losing the animal once again do to low light conditions. The obvious answer is on my guide’s shoulder, his .300 Winchester magnum. We quickly get into position for a clean 100 yard finishing shot and I squeeze the trigger.
It is over - the longest 27 hours of my hunting career has ended in success. With great excitement we rush to get our hands on the trophy. Accompanied by my father and Stephen, two men I am most grateful for in my life, I hold my trophy stag for a few sunset pictures. We snap pictures until we lose light and return to camp for an amazing dinner and red wine with incredible hosts, family and friends to celebrate the outcome of a truly once in a lifetime opportunity - to hunt one of the greatest trophies the world has to offer - Red Stag from Poronui ranch on the north Island of New Zealand.
As a point of interest, my stag scores 452” by SCI measurement standards – an amazing trophy to attempt with a bow.
Comments 0 | Posted by: Global Administrator,
New Zealand has public and private land free-range red stag hunting available to visiting hunters but there is a problem with one of these choices. Overseas clients are used to free-range situations in their homelands where effective game management and government regulations ensure a healthy and visible population of animals and plenty of harvestable trophies. On public land here in New Zealand that is not the case, and unless you have some local knowledge then seeing animals is relatively rare, and shooting a good one even rarer - and you will be competing with others for the resource.
There are plenty of excellent red stags on estates but if red stag free-range hunting is your preferred drink of choice then go private land, guided hunting. There are such locations in both the North Island and South Island though they are in limited supply. Popular locations are Central North Island: East Coast North Island: Wairarapa: Marlborough: Canterbury and Otago. On private land a guided client can expect to see numerous animals over their safari, and experience several opportunities to harvest a good sized red stag. It will not be a world beater; size wise, but should carry an even 10 or 12 point head, be reasonably heavy, and have good width and length. In an estate it would be considered a bronze medal trophy but in the wild New Zealanders would consider it a meritorious success.
One such free-range location is Glazebrook Station, which lies one hour inland from the town of Blenheim in Marlborough. It is huge in size: and consists of wide river beds, long valleys, steep hillsides and vegetation made up of grass, scrub, and stunted forest. It is great wild game country and holds red deer, fallow deer, goats, pigs, and small game such as rabbits and hares. Quail are also common, and Canada geese, paradise duck and trout are other sportsmen targets. There is a Lodge on site and clients book in hunts that traditionally last from 4 to 7 days long. Shorter hunts are also common. Bookings can be made by email
or call Steve on +64 21 888 669.
The red deer herds in this area are not renowned for massive heads, but this is improving with infiltrations of better breeding from surrounding areas, and culling. Numbers were once very high, then drastically reduced during the helicopter venison recovery era, and now with sound game management are on the increase once more. Clients will regularly see red deer,(also fallow, goats and pigs) which is something that cannot be promised on public land. Stags mob up in December-February, sort out hierarchy, and then in March separate and begin drifting back to the rutting areas. Spikers turn up first and tease the hinds, but until a hind comes on oestrous there is no sign of the big boys. There are often lots of stags standing around watching at this time of year, checking out if the spiker has found a cycling hind. He won’t have her long.
The roar (rutting season) will commence in mid-March, and by the end of April will be over. Dominant stags will control a harem of hinds and see off potential interlopers. The biggest stags often begin the rut early and have done the deed by the time all the noise starts in early April. The noisy stags are often young 8 pointers on the wander. Waves of different stags often turn up, stay awhile, and then disappear again. Often hunters secure a trophy that the guides have never seen before. Stags stay in hard antler from late February to September. The hinds are territorial throughout.
Another good time to secure a big stag is post rut (May-June) when stags are desperately out feeding trying to put on condition before winter. Guides are often amazed to see a cunning stag that evaded them all roar now feeding at 2pm in the middle of the afternoon on a clearing. Usually the guide has no client then so the big boy survives. It is worth booking a hunt at this time of year if you want a big head. The roar is fantastic, but most of the noise comes from the teenagers, while the boss stag stays hidden in deep cover with his girls. Two months later he is hungry, worn out, and has no hinds warning him of danger.
Stags are full of testosterone during the roar and thrash each other, bushes, the ground and even fences. Last year I found a fine Glazebrook 12 pointer tangled and dead in one such fence. A common hunting technique on Glazebrook is dropping hunters off high and allowing them to sidle hill faces, explore gullies and valleys as they work their way back down to the river flat. Good binoculars and good boots are essential. Most shots are taken at ranges from two hundred to three hundred metres. Most hunts are “spot and stalk” operations.
Free-range hunting is priced accordingly and is a very affordable option for many overseas and local hunters.
Comments 0 | Posted by: Global Administrator,
I saw my first chamois in 1973. I was 17, it was April, and I was on my first independent big game hunt armed with my father’s open sighted .303. The location was the West Branch of the Matukituki River in the Wanaka region of Otago. In the middle of a snowstorm, just above the bushline I plundered on to four surprised black and white animals which disappeared unscathed in a hail of poorly aimed bullets. That first up big game experience has meant chamois are a species I always think of fondly.
A Bit of Chamois History
Introduced in 1907 near Mount Cook chamois established themselves quickly and today inhabit a large chunk of East and West Coast alpine terrain, though only in the South Island. Numbers have traditionally been highest on the West Coast but the intimidating weather and challenging bluffs, gorges, rivers and mountains have many choosing the East Coast for their hunt. The regions west of and north of Christchurch get particular attention and some big bucks are being shot inland from towns such as Cheviot, Kaikoura, Ward, and Blenheim and close to Hanmer Springs, Arthurs Pass and Lewis Pass. The fact there are no tahr in these areas is a major reason for moderate chamois numbers as tahr will bully chamois out of their territories and take them over. Many once great southern chamois areas now only have tahr.
Defining a Chamois Trophy
The trophy challenge is to shoot a mature buck with horns approaching 10 inches in length and 4 inches in base circumference. It will be an old animal. I was lucky enough to shoot such a buck near Molesworth and he has 11 growth rings on his 10.5 inch horns. The bull tahr may be the king of the peaks, but a chamois buck is the prince of the bluffs and scrub-line. I once read him described as the pretty boy of New Zealand game animals and it is a good metaphor. Slim, strikingly coloured in winter and summer, inquisitive, sure-footed and hardy, he is a trophy to admire. He is no softie however and many hunters have lost hard hit animals.
Tips for Hunting Chamois
Some of the chamois hunting tips I picked up along the way were the following. Chamois have favourite spots and in the off-season you should try and found where the chamois in your target region hang out. Once you know where the different mobs live you can stop going to all the dud places and put your energy into productive hunting. Chamois does are very territorial and only excessive hunting pressure or bullying tahr will move a mob. A property like Glazebrook Station falls into this category. A lot of perfect looking chamois territory but the mobs that live there occupy just a few hotspot areas and traditionally have always done so. Good guides are worth their weight in gold here by putting you straight on to the money.
Thirdly chamois like cool, dark faces and contrary to belief will not be up real high or feeding out on the sunny slopes. Steep guts, exposed scree slides, dirty waterfall gulches, and bluffy creeks are popular with chamois. Fourthly, where possible hunt down from above, either by gaining the height by walking up a barren valley and sidling over to the hotspot or using a helicopter to drop you up high and hunt down.
Secondly May is rut time, and if you know where a group of nannies and offspring live then that is where you should be in May, as that is where those nomad bucks will be heading as well. No bomb ups on the girls if you want the top buck. Done right, you could shoot this spot year after year, big buck after big buck, if you leave the girls alone. They are your bait, and the dominant buck wants them all to himself. If he sees a perceived rival he will chase him vigorously and even approach a hidden hunter in an aggressive way. Wave that plastic bag if nothing else is working. May is also the time to score that magnificent black cape with the white facial markings.
Lastly, January is also a good time to hunt the wily buck. He is on his own, full of good tucker, often on the move, likes sitting on ridge lookouts, and his bright yellow/tan coat is often easy to pick up with the binoculars. At this time of the year he is also quite goofy and does strange things. Maybe bucks are just kids at heart. One afternoon a big buck I was watching moved into a gully, chased out the resident red hind and fawn, and followed them making a strange bleating sound as he herded them along. When they fled at speed he turned around and sprinted four hundred metres at full gallop in the opposite direction. Go figure.
The photographs are of winter and summer chamois. The summer buck is a top trophy and was the one that chased the deer.
Above: Winter chamois at Glazebrook
Above: a top chamois trophy
Above: a deer-chasing summer buck!
Comments 0 | Posted by: Global Administrator,
It's tough to find the right outfitter. It all starts with asking the right questions – especially of yourself.
Focusing just on price and species isn't always the right approach. You need to be clear about the elements you want from the hunt – whether it's a trophy, a unique environment, an experience you can share with a non-hunting partner. Some elements - like trophy size - are easier to quantify. Others, like the quality of the hunting experience, are much less so. It's also imperative to dig deep into a potential outfitter’s passion, knowledge and problem-solving skills. You need to find out if the outfitter is a strong fit for you. And to do that, you need to ask some tough questions.
Here are the seven steps you should follow:
1. Know Yourself
These questions will help you determine your fitness levels so you can be realistic about your capabilities.
Are you in good shape? How far could you hike with gear and maybe a trophy on your back? Are some kinds of hunts out of your reach in terms of fitness levels? Are you willing to get in shape so you can achieve the kind of hunt you want? Maybe you should have a thorough Physical, or consult your Doctor or a trainer at your gym about your physical capabilities – it can be hard to accurately assess your own health and fitness. Maybe your gym can put together a program to help you with the rigours of a hard backcountry hunt.
2. Know Your Budget
What are you are willing to spend on a hunt? Be very realistic about exactly what your budget should be for the type of hunt you want. Are you willing to accept a budget hunt where you may save a few dollars and forego a few amenities, or would you wait until you have the budget to afford the right outfitter and the right hunting experience? Be honest with yourself about what you will accept. Focus on value for money not lowest price. You do pretty much get what you pay for.
3. Know Your Skill Level
Why spend good money to hunt and not be able to make the most of it? Your opportunity to take the trophy of a lifetime can sometimes happen in a matter of seconds. Success in the field - at the moment of the shot - is yours alone. Are you a great shot? Are you willing to do the practice necessary to be successful? Have you practiced for all kinds of conditions and all kinds of distances? Would you push yourself to shoot at distances outside your comfort zone?
Those are the toughest questions to answer realistically. But before you step out into the world looking for an outfitter - you do need to ask yourself a few more questions...
4. Choose Your Species
What species do you want to hunt? Maybe you’re looking for a combination hunt for several species? Answering this question will narrow down your options significantly by eliminating whole countries or even continents. Are you looking for an Artic adventure or African safari, or maybe stalking majestic red stag or wily sika in pristine New Zealand wilderness?
5. What Type of Hunt?
What exactly is your dream hunt? Do you want an easy hunt or a hard one? Free range or a trophy hunt on a game estate? How important is the environment? Do you want a back-to-nature adventure sleeping in a swag, with no toilet or running water, and only a stream to bathe in? Or would you prefer a comfy bed with pure cotton sheets in a well appointed private cabin? A hearty meal around a shared table in a quality sporting lodge, and a nice glass of red wine and a cigar to celebrate a great days hunting? Maybe even a massage and sauna to take the edge off the aches and pains...
Many hunters find their ideal hunt changes over time. And often there is a non-hunting partner to consider. Some outfitters like Poronui provide a wide range of quality options - from fly fishing to beauty treatments, geothermal sightseeing to Maori cultural experiences, horse trekking and guided walks to shopping expeditions, golf and wine tasting tours.
Have a think about transport options too: would you hike into hunting country for a few days with your pack, or ride on horseback? Are you willing to helicopter in to remote locations? Or 4WD and walk? You can work hard in the field all day but still be back at base in the evening. What about river crossings, bugs, heat, snow, rain and altitude?
Remember, this is your hunt and you want it to be the experience of a lifetime. Don’t settle for less than the dream.
6. Define a Trophy
Define early on what you consider a trophy to be. Are you looking for a representative head or do you desire an SCI record? Maybe the trophy of your dreams is simply one large enough to hang over the fireplace or in your office. Spend some time looking at trophy galleries and try and define exactly what you’re looking for. Work out what you would take on the first few days of your hunt, and what compromises you would make on the last day of your hunt.
Now you’re ready to choose an outfitter!
7. Do Your Research
There are three main ways to do due diligence on which outfitter is the best for you:
• Online - use the Internet to research outfitters
• Word of mouth - ask friends or family who have hunted with an outfitter
• Face to Face - attend hunting an outdoor shows.
All three have advantages and disadvantages and the following questions and advice will help you in researching your hunt of a lifetime.
Use of the internet in pre-trip planning and booking is increasing and will continue to do so. Smart outfitters will at least have their contact details online, and many will have comprehensive websites with trophy galleries and testimonials, photos of the accommodation they offer and bio's of the guides, plus more. You can get pretty much all the background information you need from a good website. Remember to check the currency of the testimonials and trophy images - make sure they are from the most recent seasons – not ten years ago.
Once you have defined the species, location and trophy size you want, you have narrowed down your search to outfitters that offer these kinds of hunts. Send an email, asking for pricing, a digital brochure and some references. Again, remember not to focus on price but on value. What is it worth to you to get the experience you want? Check out those references, narrow your options down even further, then call them and make a choice.
Word of Mouth
Ask around. If your friends and family hunt, they can be a great source of trusted advice about where to go hunting. They know you well and can give you honest feedback about where you might be happy hunting. They might have contacts they trust who hunt that they are happy to refer you to. However, watch out for those who might steer you onto an outfitter so that they can get a discount hunt in return. Also, check the currency of their recommendation – a lot can happen in the five years since they went and conditions could have changed dramatically. If a friend recommends an outfitter, do your due diligence just as you would on any outfitter.
Most reputable, professional outfitters will attend at least the major hunting shows. Smaller outfitters may only attend local shows. Shows are simply the best ways for outfitters to connect with hunters face to face, so take advantage of the opportunity if you can.
Before attending a show, look at the exhibitor list and look up any outfitters of interest online first. Check their testimonials and go with a plan in mind. Talking to people at shows helps you get a feel for attitude and personality. Just remember:
After you’ve talked with an outfitter, it's important to pay attention to whether they follow up to convey how much they want to work with you. Are they passionate or perfunctory? What will help you achieve the hunting experience of a lifetime?
- Always talk to the outfitter himself and not just the guides he has brought to the Show
- Get a feel for the type of hunting they offer and find out if it matches what you're looking for
- Ask about the experience level of his team
- Ask for a list of references you can follow up
- If this outfitter is offering a show special, ask for a few days to check his references and even have him follow up in writing
- ALWAYS actually check the references!
- Ask questions! If the outfitter is busy, ask him to spend time with you after the show, or call you later in the evening or the next day.
- Don’t judge an outfitter just by the display of heads in the booth or their pictures - they may or may not be a good representation of what they have to offer. Do get a feeling for how professionally presented they are, and their attention to detail – this is the kind of attitude you want displayed in the field
- Remember the outfitter wants to talk to as many people as possible. Have your questions ready and don’t waste his time if you’re not actually interested in booking a hunt
- Be very honest with the outfitter about your expectations and your physical limitations. Will the guide work with you?
- Ask if there are any hidden fees – is all food and house wine or beer included, what about airport transfers?
- Ask about trophy preparation and shipping back home
- Ask about group rates and/or bringing a friend or your partner who doesn’t hunt. Many top lodges will offer a wide range of activities for non-hunting partners, this makes it easier to stay that bit longer if you need to secure a top trophy.
Identifying the perfect outfitter isn't easy; it starts with asking smarter questions – of yourself and finally, of them.
Comments 0 | Posted by: Global Administrator,