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A life well lived
– Hunting Experiences

“Let them age” makes good sense to trophy hunters. There is no gain in hunting big game that has antler or horn potential yet to be realised.

Hunters and hunting operations believe five- or six-year-old animals should be the entry-level age requirement for taking a trophy. Seven would be better. They know the top trophies are old trophies and an extra year or two of life can turn a great trophy into an exceptional trophy.

Sought-after trophies are those aged individuals who reflect the concept of a life well lived. This attribute is usually displayed through physical appearance, inherent cunning, hierarchical status, battle scars, and antler or horn size. Many are trophies of a lifetime.

Here are some examples.

A few years back I snapped a rare photo of a spectacular Poronui red stag who had lived a long life mostly through cunning. What was known about him from guides was brief as he was elusive and was seldom seen in the open during daylight hours. Human scent or a sighting had him disappear for days and he traveled with just one young lookout stag. He had vine marks on his antlers from a near-fatal entanglement, was showing the pot belly and old posture of an aging animal, and had magnificent antlers.

Last year, guide Mark McGlashan showed me the horns of a huge bull tahr he had secured on an alpine, free-range, public land hunt in Westland. It was a forest bull who hid out in thick, impenetrable scrub, had 14-inch horns, age rings stacked up, and a massive, maned frame. His only mistake was that some climbers had seen him at a certain place at a certain time and told Mark of the encounter. The next day Mark was waiting at that same place at that same time and was rewarded with success.

Fallow bucks are vicious fighters. Any buck that reaches old age is going to show that hard life on his body. The most vulnerable part is the face, particularly the ears. A great old buck I shot in March 2022 had shining new trophy antlers, but his ears are not renewable each year. Both of his were shredded from numerous past rips and stabs. One was split in three places while the other was very tatty. He was huge in body and hiding out until the rut began in earnest. Looking at his antlers it was obvious he had been a dominant animal in the area for many years.

Old sika and rusa stags also have bulk, presence, and aggression. When one of the old boys of either species comes out of the bush he oozes power and demands respect. Their purposeful strut makes the other younger stags suddenly look smaller. Hunting these special trophies will take time as they are the least numerous of any age group.

Greg Morton
One of New Zealand’s longest serving hunting/fishing profile journalists. Outdoors writer since 1987. Past positions include New Zealand correspondent for The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report, and The Angling Report, and writing a regular hunting article for New Zealand Outdoor for 30 years. Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui, while continuing his passion for hunting, fishing, and wildlife photography. Lives in Alexandra, Central Otago.
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